Saturday, October 13, 2012

St. Jerome's Creek

I've been feeling some withdrawal symptoms from being away from saltwater too long.  I needed to do some fishing, and I wanted to catch some big fish.  Actually, I wanted to catch fish - any fish.  With all of the pictures of speckled sea trout and their reputation for being a tasty fish, I decided to try for them for the first time.  I had probably 3 options:
  • Go to MD's eastern shore to the Tangier sound.  Lots of water to cover, and 3.5 hours away.
  • Go to the October MKF Meet & Greet in Virginia Beach.  Again, lots of water to cover, and 3.5 hours away.
  • Go to MD's southern western shore.  I have heard of some small creeks holding speckled trout, and it's 2.5 hours away. 
Well, that was an easy decision...I decided to check out southern Maryland's St. Jerome's Creek.  I got some launch and fishing tips from some of the members of MKF, and I set out for Buzz's Marina at 4:30AM.  I was going to try to fish the incoming tide from sunrise until the fishing slowed.  

The bay at sunrise
Before I pulled into the marina, I wanted to see if I could catch the sunrise from one of the small roads that ran along the shore near the marina.  I was surprised to find the bay to be rather windy with plenty of white caps in the waves.  Uh oh...I might have to change my plans if the creek is this bad too.  A little worried, I decided to go check out the creek.  I had heard about a free public launch on the creek at the end of Fresh Pond Neck Rd, but there is very little information about it on the internet.  Apparently it even has a name, "Fresh Pond Neck Landing".  I decided to check out the landing as I checked out the water before going to Buzz's.  I am not 100% sure that this is the landing - there wasn't a parking lot or signs or anything, it was just a part of the road that went into the water, and right next to it was a driveway to private property.  Anyway, this is what I found at the end of Fresh Pond Neck Rd.

Fresh Pond Neck Landing...maybe

While at the landing, I took a close look at the water, and it looked calmer than the bay, but the current seemed to be flowing pretty well.  I might have a difficult time paddling in the creek.  Ehh, I drove 2.5 hours to fish - I'm going to fish.  I headed to Buzz's marina, and met Mike the owner.  He was just out by the ramp drinking some coffee while talking with some other boaters. He was very friendly, very helpful, and was happy to give some tips and advice on where the fish have been biting in the creek.  He recommended fishing the area of the inlet that leads out to the bay, and we talked about some fishing techniques that have been working for him and others.  We noticed that it was pretty breezy while we were talking.  Apparently there was a small watercraft advisory in the bay, so we talked about possibly relocating to Point Lookout, and fishing Lake Conoy where it would be more protected from the winds.  The winds were supposed to die down later, so I could come back if I didn't have any luck over there.  I thought about it for a little while in my car, and concluded that I had a plan for fishing St. Jerome's Creek, and I am going to stick with the plan.  I gave Mike 5 bucks to cover the kayak launch fee, and rigged up.

St. Jerome's Creek

The wind and current in the creek actually wasn't bad.  I guess I made the right choice to stay with the plan.  I paddled toward the inlet, which was maybe a 20-30 minute paddle.  I trolled some X-Raps on my way over, and managed to pick up a small striper.  The skunk was off, now I can fish without any pressure - haha.

Nice place!

I made it to the inlet, and found the current to be flowing nice and strong.  Perfect!  I then spent the next 4 hours just trolling around with two X-Raps and jigging some Gulp swimming mullets, and some bass assassin shads (Comeonfish from some of the forums online has had some success using these).  Well, I caught fish - and some of them gave some great fights.  But I didn't catch any speckled trout.  I caught 5 stripers (1 keeper) on X-Raps and the Bass Assassins, 3 red drums on the Gulp! bait and an X-Rap, and a toad fish on the Bass Assassin. I also had another keeper striper that I lost while trying to boat it.  The leader knot failed, and the leader slipped off my mainline braid (doh...).  He also swam off with my X-Rap (DOH!).  Here are some pictures of the day:

First keeper striper this year
First ever red drum
The largest toad fish I have ever caught. They're such ugly fish...
Pretty fish...

These were the first red drums that I have ever caught, and they are some strong fish!  They look very similar to croakers, and the pullage that these fish provided were similar to the croakers I had caught at Point Lookout earlier this year.  The last drum I caught was about 17", and it gave a much stronger fight than that 19" rockfish that I caught.  I hear the drum were plentiful this year, and I look forward to catching them in the years to come as these guys grow larger.

The current eventually died down, and I wasn't catching any more fish.  Also, I had hoped to fish the Mattawoman in the afternoon if I could make it there by a reasonable time to catch some blue catfish for dinner.  Time to head in!  On my way in, I trolled my X-Rap just in case there were any fish that wanted to play.  Just a little past the inlet to the creek, I got a hit that was pulling some serious drag...however, it came off and all I got on the hooks were a couple scales.  I think it is possible that it was a speckled trout that came loose.  I've read that they have soft mouths that easily tear if you don't set your drag very loose.  I thought maybe I could get him to hit again, so I trolled around a little longer with no success.  I finally gave up on my hopes for some speckled trout, and headed back to the marina.

When I got back to the ramp, Mike was there to ask how I did.  I told him about my catches, and he was surprised that I didn't get into any bluefish.  Apparently several others have been doing well with the bluefish by the inlet.  That would have been a nice addition to my stringer...oh well.  Anyway, Mike has a tradition of taking pictures of people's catches and posting them on his website.  Here I am with my lone keeper striper:

Taken from Buzz's Marina site
It was around 2:30 by the time I pulled out of the marina in my car, and I didn't think I'd be able to fish the Mattawoman and make it back home at a reasonable time.  My wife was watching our two boys alone, so I decided to head straight home to cook up dinner for the family.  We had grilled rockfish for dinner.  It was good, but I'm not sure that I'd consider it one of my favorite fish to eat.  I might be letting more keeper stripers go in the future...