Location: Chesapeak Bay Area – Virginia & Maryland Guide
From the Susquehanna Flats to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Capt. Kevin Josenhans guides both fly fishing and spin casting charters for Striped Bass and Red Drum. There are a lot of different flats in these specific areas that he will fish but from Cape Charles, Virginia to Crisfield, Maryland, sight casting for large, post-spawn stripers is where you’ll have the most success.
Known as the lower eastern shore, you can find striped bass in these areas throughout the entire season but as the large, 40lb stripers head towards New England towards the end of May, you’ll most likely only find small schoolies come June. The best time to fish in this area is the end of April into early May which is when those big, post-spawn fish are coming out of the rivers and getting ready for their long trek up the coast. They won’t be very hungry and they won’t be very lively, but when they key in on that topwater Hogy Original…
Tides: This area is very tide dependent, especially in regards to the Susquehanna Flats and various other flats in these areas. Capt. Kevin focuses predominantly on the seaside flats which is pretty much where the fish can be found moving onto the flats with the incoming tide and moving off of the flats with the outgoing tide, where they’ll end up staging in deeper channels. On the incoming tide, you’ll want to stage yourself at the beginning of the flat because once they get on top, they tend to spread out and they’re harder to find. On the outgoing tide, it’s almost the same thing as they bunch up at the beginning of the flat before dropping off into deeper water.
Approach: Mostly sight casting! Work into the tide no matter what you’re doing but especially on the incoming tide. Most often, you’ll want to move with the current, as the fish often do but sometimes, you’ll want to move against the current depending on the time of day and the stage of the tide. It’s easiest to make the call when you get to the fishing location rather than going in with a set plan. The biggest thing is to keep the sun behind you so you can see a good distance ahead of you. The further ahead you can see, the better approach you can make. Once you set yourself up, it’s best to cruise around the 2 to 3-foot mark before the 6 to 12-foot drop off and look for fish topwater. The fish are so big and sometimes so close to the surface that you can see them on cloudy days, too. They are very hard to spook so don’t be afraid to run up on them fast (using an outboard motor only) but you’ll unintentionally steer them meaning if you are too close and you turn left, they will turn left. It’s important to try and get in front of them if it’s a large school and if it’s a small school, run up on them as fast as you can, throw the engine in neutral and fire off some casts. You will never see them feeding on bait or crashing on the surface.
Rigging/Lure Selection: Hogy Original 10-inch and 14-inch with an unweighted swimbait hook
Why This Bait? There is a very specific time to use this bait and it is immediately after the large 40+ fish spawn and are making their way towards the ocean. They are tired and hungry and this subsurface lure most often creates a reaction strike, either due to annoyance or curiosity. The Susquehanna flats are a shortcut around the peninsula on their way up north. They’re not feeding, but they’re also not full of food so more times than not, they’re just staging there on their way out. The nice thing about this lure is that it draws an aggressive reaction strike.
You want to drop it directly in front of them and sometimes they’ll strike at it while sometimes, they’ll just ignore it but that’s the nice thing about the Hogy Original, according to Capt. Kevin. You can put it right in front of them, with no weight, and it’ll just hover. It doesn’t make a loud splash and if you twitch it back and forth like an eel, that tantalizing tail action will irritate them enough to draw a strike. Granted, sometimes you want a loud splash to draw them in but more often than not, the irritation alone is enough to produce a reaction.
Colors: Bone and Bubblegum
Retrieve: The retrieve is pretty basic. Cast the lure out, let it settle down at eye level for a second or two and although sometimes they’ll hit it the second it hits the water, you’ll want to entice them with a juicy, walk-the-dog style, back and forth action. Eventually, it’ll drive them nuts and they’ll hit it. If they don’t hit the Hogy Original, they won’t hit anything.
Rod: G. Loomis
Reel: Shimano Stradic 5000. It’s a light reel and more convenient than then heavier, 6000. Perfect for a single, sight cast like you’ll be doing with these fish.
Line: 30lb PowerPro braid. Just the traditional, basic brand. Sometimes Capt. Kevin will use the SuperSlick on the lighter outfits. He finds that over filling the spools will result in losing 40 to 50-yards of braid within the first few trips of the season. Keep it simple and not over spooled.
Leader: 3-foot leader of 40lb Rio Saltwater Leader. The 40lb works best when catching and releasing because you can avoid losing the fish with the hook still in its mouth if it shakes its head.
Connection: Uni-to-Uni Knot. The Uni Knot is a multi-purpose fishing knot that can be used for attaching the fishing line (braid) to the leader (mono).