Mid-week outings are fairly limited for me due to work and home commitments, but when the stars align and my schedule works in my favor, I try and take advantage of it. Such was the case this past week. I had originally planned to target stripers at the HRBT with recent reports of multiple 30" plus specimens being seen and caught in the bay. I had been forewarned though by a good friend that I needed to be mindful of the bluefish. For those that have never tried fishing amongst bluefish, the challenge is two-fold. First, you need to get the lure past the feisty blues that sit at the surface and attack anything that comes near to them. Second, you need to select a presentation that will entice the big stripers to hit, since the larger ones are more discerning on what they will strike.
I launched at 9pm at the start of the maximum outgoing current and searched the entire length of the Norfolk-side of the HRBT tunnel complex. I didn't see a single striper but landed several bluefish in the first hour on the water. No matter how heavy a presentation I was casting, the bluefish were so thick that I barely had time to engage the reel allowing the lure to fall before the lure was hit by the voracious blues. I started out with a 1/4oz. jig head paired with a Marsh Works Bayou Thumper in Pearl. When that didn't fall fast enough, I stepped up to the 3/8oz and still kept getting nailed by blues. When my largest jig head at 1/2oz was still getting nailed by blues, I knew that I would have a very difficult time getting to any of the stripers that I could see lurking below. All of the Thumpers I was using were soaked in some leftover Gulp Alive formula I had laying around from an older Gulp container. Gulp products are very effective but are easily shredded by saltwater species, so I typically steer clear of them but love the fish attractant formula.
I made my way over to the island and the outer rocks to see if the stripers had moved away from the bridge pilings for a possible reprieve from the ravenous blues but didn't find any. I did find some slower moving current near there and figured the jig head approach might have a better chance of getting lower in the water column, so I made a few casts. I was getting subtle hits that felt different from the aggressive bluefish hits. After a couple casts, I got a good hook set and knew right away that this was no blue. This fish pulled a bit harder. Ended up with a nice Hickory Shad measuring in at a shade under 17".
Hobie Revolution 13 within a few yards of the activity and make a cast. This would last for 15-20 minutes before the bait ball would dissipate and move along the bridge span until they were located again by the bluefish onslaught. The bluefish landed were almost identical in size consistently between 12-14" with an occasional 15-16" landed sparingly.
When the jig head and scrap plastic of the Bayou Thumper made it away from the eddy, anew species of fish joined in on the party - the weakfish (aka grey trout). The grey trout is different from the speckled trout in that they have a different color to them. They are typically more greenish in tint that fades into a silvery belly. The markings are also not spots like the speckled trout, they resemble dashes more than spots. While the minimum keeper size is 12" in the state of Virginia, the maximum daily creel limit is only one per angler. Since the grey trout population has not been as plentiful as the speckled trout, I never keep any. So, the largest grey trout landed was a nice little chunk at 14" that was release to go and grow bigger.
Until next time......be safe, be aware of the environment and take a kid or service member fishing.