Field Agent: Trey Downey (@t_downeyiii)
Time zone: Eastern
Location: Chesapeake Bay
The draw: Nothing screams ‘holidays’ like 70° weather and “jigging” or “trolling” for stripers in the Chesapeake Bay for what Captain Jim (my retired Naval Captain stepfather) calls “Bounty of the Bay” or “Treasures of the Chesapeake.” I was fortunate to grow up on the east coast where I’ve taken full advantage of the hard-shell blue crabs, the infamous soft shell crabs, stripers, oysters, and flounder. In our house, if it came from the bay, we eat it, and luckily for guests (and myself), there are always seafood goodies in the freezer.
3:35 AM - Balls. I just went to sleep two hours ago and the whiskey still has its death grip on me. My phone rings and Captain Jim says, "Let's go, we're waiting for you." Being prompt for striper fishing is a non-negotiable with Captain Jim. If you’re not early to the dock, you’re late. And little did I know, the dock is two and a half hours away, so we left at 4:00AM sharp.
6:45 AM - After missing an exit or two and stopping at the marina bathroom we finally arrive at the 21-foot vessel, better known as, "BioThreat.” Captain Jim is a microbiologist and works as the Director of the National Bioforensic Analysis Center, hence the name “BioThreat.” Pretty badass if I do say so myself. “BioThreat” poses no environmental danger but striped bass should fear it.
7:45 AM – We finally made it to the secret fishing spot with tribulations along the way. We endured a heavy northern wind, which produced three-foot swells. We navigated Jerome’s Creek (which is only five feet deep at its deepest) through heavy fog and mist, with two near runs aground (which Captain Jim navigated through with ease). I swore to the fishing gods not to reveal the exact spot, but I will say it is somewhere in or around the mouth of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, specifically between Point Lookout, MD and Smith Point, VA. It is only 11 miles wide, so good luck.
10:38 AM - After enduring some harsh conditions the Captain decides to switch our fishing technique from trolling to jigging. Typically trolling is the go-to for striper fishing but the Captain has had some great success with jigging where the baitfish are. The question arose, “How do you find the baitfish?” Simple, just find the seagulls.
11:15 AM - Baitfish located. We are on fish and let it begin! I've never jigged for stripers but let me tell you it's a rush. The fish hit hard and fight regardless of the size. The fishing continues for hours, pulling in stripers upon stripers. Not all were keepers but catching fish sure beats not catching any at all.
2:36 PM - We reel in the last striper of the day. I can say with confidence that more than 20 fish were caught, and we walked away with 5 keepers. I think it’s safe to say I have officially become a member of the “BioThreat” crew.
3:20 PM - We successfully navigated back to the marina on instruments because of the dense fog rolling in. We quickly dock at Buzz’s Marina, unload the goods and get on the road back to Western Maryland.
6:47 PM - Arrived back home. Captain Jim has a fillet station situated in the garage, shows how successful his season has been. We throw down some "crab paper," as we call it in Maryland and start filleting the "treasures of the Chesapeake.”
11:00 PM – A much needed hearty family dinner was had at one of Baltimore’s finest restaurants. Although the meal didn’t consist of our proudly caught stripers, the wait staff did request we bring them in next time for us to enjoy. The night ended by the fireplace with two (or five) well-deserved beers.