Rod and Reef Slam Winner

Herb Floyd shows a oyster clump that he hooked while fishing in Harris Creek during the inaugural Rod and Reef Slam fishing tournament Saturday. The Floyd team of Herb and Rhonda won the tournament by catching nine different species of fish. Oysters did not count.

Species diversity was the name of the game Saturday during the inaugural Rod & Reef Slam fishing tournament targeting three artificial reefs in the Tilghman Island area.

The team of Herb and Rhonda Floyd, of Trappe, caught nine different species of fish to win the tournament, edging Lenny Rudow and team Fishtalk, which caught eight.

The tournament allowed fishing at three reef restoration areas: the MARI Tilghman Island Reef just outside Knapps Narrows, the Harris Creek reefs, and the Cook’s Point reef ball field in the mouth of the Choptank River.

Size didn’t matter in this tournament as the hosts were more interested in how effective the restored reefs have become in attracting different species. Multiple partners have worked together to build the reefs, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office, Coastal Conservation Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All those organizations were well represented at the tournament awards ceremony and party at Lowes Wharf Marina in Sherwood.

Twelve different types of fish (marine species) were caught and recorded: white perch, striped bass, spot, flounder, silver perch, oyster toadfish, northern puffer, blue crab, spotted sea trout, naked goby, weakfish, and flounder. The oyster reefs are definitely working, not only attracting more diversity of marine life but also helping to clean the water.

The diminutive naked goby apparently fell out of a clump of oysters.

Bloodworms, crab, store-bought shrimp, and other bait attracted most of the action and anglers also jigged to try to catch as many species as possible.

With the Chesapeake Bay Kayak Anglers Rocktoberfest also going on Saturday, no die-hard paddlers competed in the reef tournament, leaving those three prizes unawarded. Andrew Miller won the youth division with three species caught: a striped bass, a white perch, and a toadfish. Second place in the youth division was won by Brian Sands and Aaron Rodenhausen and Conor Traxel tied for third.

Most of the anglers released their fish. The tournament used the iangler tournament phone app to login entries. It’s a pretty cool system that allows anglers to photo their catch with an identifying mark along with catch information, and the photo and data is instantly sent to a tournament leaderboard available on the internet.

John Paige Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which served as the main sponsor, said plans are already in the works for next year’s tournament. A tip of the hat to Hilary Gibson who put together a well-run tournament and to CCA Maryland Executive Director David Sikorski for compiling the results and calming protestors:

“No, a sea squirt does not count.”

“But it has a vertebrae in its larval stage.”

I think that backbone thing is actually called a notochord, but more research is in order.

* * *

Fishing report

Spot to catch for live-lining are still available at the Sandy Point area and also the mouth of the Chester and other Mid-Shore rivers, but they’ll probably be on the move soon. Bait is exiting tidal rivers, so jigging along steep channel edges can be productive. That tactic is already catching fish at Podickory and Love points as well as shoals, reefs, and knolls in the mid-Chesapeake region. Trolling a mix of umbrella rigs, spoons, and bucktails has also been productive at these same areas but take some weight or planers to get down to where fish are suspended.

White perch are starting to show signs of schooling in the deeper parts of the region’s tidal rivers. Jigging with either a sinker and dropper flies or a small jig is a great way to catch them. Bottom rigs baited with clam snouts, shrimp, bloodworms, or peeler crab is also a good way to catch a mess of fat white perch.

Striped bass are also being caught on the channel edges of Tolley’s and Thomas points, the outside edge of Hackett’s, and the False Channel. The shallow-water striped bass fishery is improving in many areas. Sub-legal stripers below 20 inches tend to be a large percentage of the catch but offer plenty of fun on topwater lures.

Farther south, large red drum continue to be caught and released in the Middle Grounds and Target Ship areas by jigging and trolling.

In the mid-Chesapeake, crabbing has been fairly good but bushel catches are hard to come by — what you can catch though are usually large and heavy.

On the freshwater scene, largemouth bass are becoming more active during the day. Grass beds are declining and sunken wood and channel edges help provide some cover for largemouth. Small crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and a variety of soft plastics are good choices around these types of cover.

On the Atlantic Coast, the heavy surf that pounded the Ocean City area has subsided and surf fishing is now a better possibility. Surf anglers are catching small bluefish on cut bait or finger mullet. Kingfish and spot are being caught on bloodworms.

At the inlet, fishing for sheepshead at the north and south jetties remains excellent with some impressive catches being made. Sand fleas, pieces of green crab, and clams have been preferred baits. Flounder are moving through the inlet and headed to offshore waters. An incoming tide tends to offer the best fishing. Flounder can also be found on some of the near-shore shoal areas as well as wreck and reef sites.

* * *

Duck blind know-it-all

Once the sea squirt becomes stationary, it eats (reabsorbs) its own brain.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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