The Intrepid Angler- Gettin' Jiggy at the CBBT
by Michael Thron
Light tackle jigging at the CBBT is a rite of passage for Chesapeake Bay fisherman, you haven't seen the maximum angling potential of the Bay until you have fished the CBBT in the late fall or winter at least once in your life. However, this time of year can easily make your trip more a battle against mother nature and survival than about fishing but the last few years our group has lucked out with the weather. Usually, when we plan a trip in the Fall, Winter or early Spring we are dealing with gale force winds, sub-zero temperatures and usually a below par fishing experience.
For this trip we decided to go out with a veteran of the CBBT, Capt. Walleye Pete Dahlberg of Four Seasons Guide Service
http://walleyepete.com/ I had seen a presentation that Capt. Pete had given for the CCA a few years prior where he talked of this “Promised Water” known as the CBBT. After that evening I knew I had to give this legendary area a try while the Striped Bass were migrating down the East Coast headed for the offshore waters of NC. During this migration many of the ocean going Rockfish will turn right and head towards the bay in search of schools of baitfish. What they encounter when they make that right hand turn is a plethora of fish holding structure that was created some 40 years ago when the 17.6 mile long bridge-tunnel-bridge-tunnel first opened. The CBBT with its 4 islands, 5,189 concrete pilings and 2 tunnels has created one of the best man-made structures fishing has ever seen. This attracts schools of baitfish and in turn many species of fish eager to gorge themselves on this ever present supply of baitfish including the legendary Striped Bass.
The trip would be a marathon event with everyone’s schedule a little busy after the holidays and the day before New Years eve so we had to make the most of our time. We left Annapolis for the long drive down the eastern shore at 2am Sat. We arrived at the fishing command post which is the Kiptopeke Inn http://www.kiptopekeinn.com by 5:30am after driving all night, sometimes in very dense fog to make the trip even more exciting.
This motel/fishing camp is located right outside of Kiptopeke State Park
http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/kiptopek.htm and is a very busy place during the Fall/Winter season with boats on trailers littering the parking lot and an overflow of angler’s filling the continental breakfast. We overheard a waitress say that they had been through 15 pots of coffee since 5:00 am this morning and it was only 5:45. We met Capt. Pete at the Inn and proceeded to get in the ever growing line at the boat ramp in the state park. We launched slightly after 6:00am and were soon headed towards the CBBT.
I guess the stars had aligned for us because the weather forecast was for sunny skies, waves 2ft and a temperature in the upper 50’s to almost 60 degrees- are you kidding me- this was the second to the last day of the year.
One of the main reasons we choose Capt. Walleye Pete is because he specializes in light tackle fishing, don’t get me wrong I like almost any sort of sport fishing that catches fish; bait when necessary, chumming, trolling you name it. However I find it much more rewarding and exciting when you are using 6ft medium action rods with 12-15 lb test mono on a spinning reel (Capt. Pete cursed our mono in favor of braided line, but the mono held and did well overall). When fishing like this it is up to you to present the bait in a manner to attract the fish, you can get into a groove with your jigging and learn what makes the fish strike unlike other types of fishing where you are just waiting for something to happen. Another great thing about Capt. Pete is that he is always ready to make a move to find more or better fish. He was zigzagging around chasing birds and moving more than any other captain I have fished with, his enthusiasm for the sport really shinned through and made for an excellent day of catching, not just fishing!
We started out over at 9ft shoal and found fish within a few casts. The first few fish were in the 18-22in range.
From here on out things are a little hard to keep track of and to describe mainly because it was non-stop action until we called it quits around 4:00pm.
We were jigging with 6in and 10in chartreuse and white BKD’s otherwise known as Bass Kandy Delights
and found that they really stayed on the hook well, much more than some other similar baits.
The big fish of the day (pictured at top) was caught by Steve Logan who was using a 10in chartreuse BKD, you know what they say, big bait = big fish. The fish hit down deep where Capt. Pete said there might be some big ones lurking. Steve fought the fish to the surface and finally got it beside the boat for Capt. Pete to lip it and bring it into the boat. It would have been easier if we had a net but apparently that was lost overboard a few days earlier. This fish was a Monster and was a personal best for Steve and one of the largest of the year for Capt. Pete this year at the CBBT. After you see a fish like that being caught your blood pumps a little faster and you cast and jig a little harder in hopes of finding one in the same size class. Unfortunately that was the only other one greater than 40in however we did catch several in the mid to upper 30’s and countless slot fish in the 18-28 in range.
The oddest catch of the day was when I reeled in a Hickory Shad, seems a little early for them to be heading up the bay but I guess with the warm weather they can't figure out which way to go.
We chased birds for a while and found some nice schools of fish including some breaking on the surface. This is when I broke out my fly rod for a little long rod action and was treated to 4 or 5 nice fish on the fly before they went down deep again. Around noon a think dense fog rolled in out of the north which made for an eerie atmosphere.
Once the tide slacked a little we went into the bridge and started catching a very nice grade of fish jigging down in between the pilings. This action was non-stop on every drift for several hours and our hands and arms actually were sore from the jigging and fighting of so many fish. It is truly hard to describe the amount of fish that were caught between the four of us this day, easily over 200 fish and probably many more than that in reality. This was an awesome day especially for 3 CBBT first-timers and one that is certainly burned into our memory as one of the fabled fishing trips of a lifetime. In all, we logged over 500 miles, were awake for over 42 hours straight but in return caught a record number of quality Rockfish on a picture perfect day.
I would encourage every serious angler to get down to the CBBT at least once in the late fall or early winter and try this incredible fishery. I would also highly recommend Capt. Walleye Pete as a guide, not only at the CBBT but also in the spring and summer when many people think that good fishing has slowed down in the bay. Pete has some secret locations where you can catch Red Drum into July and also big rockfish well into summer.
Targeted Species: Striped Bass- Hopefully Super Sized
Location: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
When: Late Fall through Winter
The Intrepid Angler Tackle Bag:
Medium action rod with a good backbone to set the hook on deep jigged baits. Braided line works well so that you can feel every bump. bite etc. Use a mono leader in the 10-20lb class.
BKD's or Bass Assasins are the preffered soft plastic to jig but my opinion is that the BKD's are much more resilient to the constant ripping and shreading from the mele of hungry striped bass.
Rinse all of your gear, especially your reel, with clean cool fresh water immediately after fishing. Salt water ruins equipment quickly.
The Intrepid Angler Archives
The Intrepid Angler on Tour - The Hells Canyon Sturgeon Enlightenment
The Pursuit of the Poor Man’s Tarpon
Flat Fish on the Fly
Gettin' Jiggy at the CBBT
Copyright© 2009 The Maryland Angler's Network. All rights reserved.