The 12th annual Upper Bay Rockfish Tournament, based in North East, Md., will offer a top prize of $17,500 for the heaviest rockfish, or striped bass, weighed in. The one-day event has a 5:30 a.m. starting time, and all fish must be weighed in between 1-4 p.m. at Anchor Marina's weigh station, located at the head of the North East River.
The tournament is the brainchild of Pat Doordan, who teamed with a number of Cecil County business owners to put together what has become one of the largest fishing tournaments on Chesapeake Bay. Officials expect more than 400 anglers to compete for $145,000 in cash and prizes. The event benefits the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce and the Cecil County Special Olympics.
Fishing boundaries are Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries from the Chesapeake Bay Bridges at Sandy Point, north to the Susquehanna River's Interstate 95 bridge. Anglers also can fish all tributaries to the tidal lines, except the Chester River, where the uppermost boundary is the Rt. 213 Bridge at Chestertown. Entry fee is $140 per angler.
Knowledgeable anglers work jigging spoons such as Stingsilvers and Crippled Herring tight against the bottom with good success.
Large rockfish also can be found lurking in the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay's larger tributaries during October. In the Chester River's middle reaches, particularly above Eastern Neck Island and near the mouths of Corsica and Langford creeks, stripers up to 30 inches often slam shallow-running crankbaits cast to depths of 2 to 4 feet near grass beds. The rockfish usually are feeding on tiny spot and white perch that take refuge from predators in the river's shallows, so a well placed Rat-L-Trap is among the most effective lures in this situation.
Another highly productive location this time of year should be the Susquehanna Flats, a vast delta at the North East River's mouth. While depths are just 2 to 4 feet, the channel edges drop to as much as 20 feet. If the fish are foraging on gizzard in the shallows, lures such as Bass Assassins, Sassy Shad and small, shallow-running crankbaits should be effective.
If the tide is low, the adjacent channel edges should provide some hefty stripers for those willing to try their luck with jigging spoons. Keep in mind, however, that there often are big white perch, catfish and carp in those channels, fish that could result in a sizable tournament paycheck.