Charles County, Maryland, September 18, 2009
The days are shorter and the weather is turning cool as Summer leaves and Fall begins. It's time for the striped bass to leave local inlets and bays and begin their annual migration out to sea and on to warmer southern waters.

Paul invited me down to Cobb Island again to fish the mouth of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay and his neighbor Dave also joined us for the outing.

We set off under a heavy overcast. The weather was in the lower 70's with minimal wind and surface chop. Possible thundershowers were forecast for the afternoon so we had to keep one eye on the weather as we fished. The water around this area gets nasty really fast and we didn't want to get caught out in the open if a strong blow came through the area.

As we pulled out into the main channel the water was calm and visibility was excellent. We made great time to Point Lookout, the mouth of the Potomac River, and soon we were in the Chesapeake heading towards Point No Point and Buoy 72. The plan was to troll along the channel edge, looking for schools of stripers on their way out to sea.
We throttled back and deployed a spread of trolling rigs--large 30+ Mann's deep divers, umbrella rigs, sassy shads, spoons and bucktail jigs. Trolling speed was 2.8 as we cut a zig-zag pattern along the outer channel face. The depth would register at 130+ feet then suddenly zoom up to 34-feet as the boat cleared the edge but you would have to continue on a straight course for awhile because your trolling lures were a good 100 to 200-yards behind the boat, still sitting in deep water.

Sonar marked a lot of fish scattered from 30 to 70-feet down and this turned out to be the normal pattern for the rest of the day. We would run across huge schools of fish then there would be long periods where nothing showed on the screen. We continued to troll along the channel edges for a few hours but luck was not with us. We changed up lures, reset the running depth and changed our trolling speed. Nothing worked.

After awhile we decided to head back into the Potomac and try to hit schools of baitfish that were being pounded by bluefish and stripers. They were easy to spot in the calm water. Just look for the ripples, splashes and diving birds.
As soon as we had our rods rigged we found several pods of breaking baitfish. Something was slashing at them from below and they were up at the surface, dancing across the water as they tried to escape. The sound they made as they broke the water surface and collided into each other sounded like frying bacon.

Paul motored us up slowly to the fish and we cast in and around the school. I had tied on a swimming shad lure while Paul and Dave slow trolled squid strips. Nothing. We pulled up and moved on to another pod of baitfish and got the same results. However Paul did get a pretty decent hit as we were pulling in lines to intercept another school of baitfish. His rod was leaning against the side of the boat when there was a huge tug at the other end. He made a grab for it but by the time he had some tension on the line the fish had cut him off--hook, line, sinker. Probably a bluefish.

We kept fishing the bait schools for the next fewhours and I kept changing up lures and presentation but nothing was working for me. The other guys weren't doing much better either. As a last resort we tried to bottom fish off the Dolly Partons (a geologic set of, well, you know...) for awhile but after another hour we decided to call it a day and headed back to Cobb Island.