By Capt. Bob Reed
and May the elusive migratory stripers challenged us as they moved
from their spawning grounds to the deep channels and out of the
bay. The Maryland season produced an abundance of healthy fish
as they moved toward Virginia waters in early May. The early Virginia
trophy season produces some good catches but as we moved in into
the second week the bite dwindled to a halt as the bulk of the
fish moves around Cape Charles and to their northern dwellings.
The search techniques that worked so well for these monster fish
June brings a totally different kind of challenge. We now target
structure-orientated species the resident school rockfish,
the spadefish, the flounder and the croaker.
The challenge here is to know their habits, like when and how
they feed, how to present the food, and how to hook-up. Understanding
the fish is the real key to their capture.
The species that is the most challenging for me is the spade.
It is also by far the most exciting! It is not difficult to get
bit by the spade. It can be extremely to capture one especially
Start by going to structure especially prominent ones. Try the
old stand-bys like Plantation Light, Wolf Trap Light, the Cell
and the Range Light. Try the target ships, rocks around lighthouses
and state reefs. If you go to the traditional places, get there
early. These critters will be tight to the structure and you must
anchor up so that your baits drift exactly to the fish. Whatever
you do, do not get close behind a boat that is already catching.
Anchor up with a wreck anchor so that your baits drift right on
top of the structure. The current speed is critical. The best
time is shortly after the beginning of a tidal movement so that
the current is very slow moving and your presentation will slowly
drift down. When the current is moving full force it will move
your clam baits too quickly and too far away from the feeding
fish. You can make some adjustment by adding weight to hold your
baits below the surface and just out of site but still close to
Arrange baits at different depths to determine exactly where the
fish are feeding. On some use bobbers and free line on others.
Do not put out too many lines. You can have a mess when you get
several bites at the same time. You can hold your rod or simply
place it in the rod holder. Most fish are not hooked because of
premature hook setting. If you place your rod in a rod holder
always keep an eye on it. When the spade gets hooked up he will
go wild and move in erratic directions. He will often go deep
and get broken off in the structure. The hard part is to get hooked-up.
The really hard thing is to get the 7 to 10 pounder in the net!
Attract the spade to your boat and keep them there. The very best
thing to do is to put your captured fish on a stringer and let
them flop in the water at your stern. Computer discs tied together
and weighted, so they stay beneath the surface work well as an
attractant. You will see the spades splashing around and swimming
up to the flashers. Be patient and continue to drift your baits
just out of sight of the surface and youll get bit!
Rig up with #4 and #2 XXX strong red hooks. Use a #7 barrel swivel
and 3 feet of 15 to 30 pound fluorocarbon leader. Use a 400-size
Shimano conventional reel such as a TR-100/200. Use a rod with
strong backbone that will enable you to keep the fish out of the
structure. Always use a net on the larger fish.
Accept the spadefish challenge! Get bit and get them in the boat.