Fall is a great time to target striped bass in tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. A few years back, PVFF member Larry Forte showed me some photos of several nice stripers that he caught one evening in late October while standing on one of the several rocky structures that extend out into the bay at Sandy Point State Park. The fish were impressive catches in addition to the fact he was catching them from shore with his fly rod. I have had the striper bug ever since, not sure if I should thank or blame Larry?
Fishing for stripers at Sandy Point State Park is exciting when weather and water conditions align in October and into November. As fall water temperatures drop in the tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, the baitfish begin to migrate. The colder air temperatures start to chill the water temperatures and put fish on the move. Stripers are waiting to ambush baitfish such as menhaden and anchovies when they enter the Bay. The fish remain in casting distance from the jetties well into the month of November.
Colder temps are favorable but only to a point. The close to shore bite doesn’t last forever. At some point in late November or early December, the water temperatures will drop below 50 degrees and the fish will move to deeper water. The deeper water surrounding the Chesapeake Bay Bridge piers is well-known for holding stripers year-round.
I have had good luck fishing for stripers at Sandy Point both in the evening and early morning hours from my kayak. There is a soft launch located off the north parking lot at Sandy Point for kayaks. On bright days, the striper action seems to turn off soon after the sunlight hits the water and then the bite turns on as the sun sets. It is the low light conditions that seem to be the trigger, so it is best to look for overcast conditions.
Before making the drive to Annapolis for stripers, check the weather and most importantly the wave heights which are directly related to wind speed. I also check the tides as the moving tide will stimulate fish activity as well as reposition fish. I believe a dropping tide is best as the faster current concentrates the fish into a smaller area, usually downstream of the jetties and other structures that create some slack spots in the current.
For fly anglers, I recommend a 7 or 8-weight rod with an intermediate sinking line or sink tip when fishing from shore. From a kayak a full sinking line works well in the deeper water. My favorite striper fly is a chartreuse Clouser half and half.
Good to Know
Sandy Point State Park charges $3 per vehicle from October 1st – April 30th. The park closes at dusk through October but switches to a 4:00PM closure in mid-November. Park rangers announce the park closure and begin patrols to encourage attendees to vacate. The closure does not apply to active anglers who are allowed to fish all night if desired.
— By Dan Neuland