Fly fishing gear

Chris Dollar: Bait and tackle tips for a successful bottom fishing trip

The curtain is closing on another summer angling season, and this one wouldn’t be complete without a good old-fashioned bottom fishing trip.

In our part of the Chesapeake Bay, that usually means settling on a patch of live bottom or casting from shore, and it’s catfish, stripes, white perch, and blotch that bite. Although the occasional black drum or even the croaker or something else that hits your line.

When I say the best bottom fishing from a boat is on live bottom areas, I mean oyster bars or artificial reefs. Of course, historically, the Chesapeake was famous for its prodigious oyster “rocks,” and while it’s sadly just a shell of its own, ongoing efforts to rebuild the marine habitat of the bay are encouraging.

Still, the bay has plenty of good bottom fishing spots and as such they are also popular. Above the Bay Bridges, the shoals of Sandy Point, Podicory Point, Snake Reef and Belvidere Shoal draw a crowd. Below bridges, wet a line at Hackett’s Point, Tolley Point or Thomas Point Bar.

On the other side of the bay, just inside Chester and Eastern Bay, you will find fish. Further south, Holland Point bar, Lower Choptank and Cedar Point do the same. Locating that good piece of living background means the difference between catching on and wondering what you’re doing wrong.

If there are already boats installed in your “place”, be courteous and choose another one nearby that does not clutter them too much but still allows you to play. If you arrive empty but your neighbor catches up to you, make a strategic change – rising tide, falling tide – or leave completely for another location.

As for the gear, again simple, that’s all you need. I like the six to seven foot medium-fast action rod paired with a size 2,500 reel loaded with a 12-pound test braid, which is more sensitive than mono and lets you feel the shot better. But if you have kids or beginners aboard the mono, the braid can be a lot more hassle than it’s worth.

The type of bait you use depends on the type of fish you are looking for. For example, place the animated bloodworms. But these have been way overpriced and of poor quality in recent years. Most bait and tackle stores now carry hookworms.

Catfish will eat cut alewife or chicken livers works well. Night owls, clams, soft or peeler crabs, squid, prawns, regular shrimp – all used by bottom anglers – can catch a variety of species. Sip! and FishBites also bring strikes.

Commercially manufactured upper/lower platforms are easy to use. I really like the Chesapeake sabikis made by Hayabusa. Designed as ocean-style sabikis, these versions feature only two hooks in order to comply with Maryland regulations.

Bottom fishing is definitely on the more docile side of Wild Chesapeake. It doesn’t take much effort or equipment, and frankly that’s the point. There is a serenity that comes with anchoring, placing a rod in the holder and relaxing for a while as the world spins.

I can hear the moans and moans now, and believe me, I feel you, really. I, too, look forward to the day when stricter regulations — if not an outright ban — are implemented on the industrialized menhaden fleet that operates in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

And many people are working diligently to achieve this goal.

Until then, you can voice your opinion on the latest menhaden management plan being reviewed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. You can do this by attending a public hearing – the one in Maryland is a hybrid between one-person and a webinar, or send a written comment via email to [email protected] In the subject line, type Atlantic Menhaden Draft Addendum I.

Comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on September 30.

Sept. 1-Oct. 15: Dove Season, Premier League. Fifteen birds a day.

September 7: Free State Fly Fishermen’s Reunion. Captain Tom Hughes on fly fishing in Chesapeake. Davidsonville Family Recreation Center (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road, Davidsonville. Contact Ryan Harvey at [email protected]

The best daily stories


Get today’s local news, sports, views, reports and events.

September 13: “Celebration of Conservation” from CCA Maryland Central Region Chapter. 1623 Brewing Company, Eldersburg, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets at

September 17: Free State Fly Fishers monthly knotting session with Tim Ruthemeyer from 10 a.m. to noon. Davidsonville Family Recreation Centre, 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road, Davidsonville. Contact Ryan Harvey at [email protected]

September 17: The Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s “Children’s Fishing Derby”. 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Fort Smallwood Park.

September 22: “Past, Present, and Future of Striped Bass: A Chesapeake Perspective.” Join the bay experts for the third episode of the three-part series about the future of this iconic game fish. Sign up at

September 23-25: Fourth Annual Tangier Classic, Crisfield MD. Details at

September 26: Maryland and Potomac River Public Hearing for Menhaden Fisheries Management Plan. 6-8 p.m. Hybrid meeting, in person at the DNR Tawes Building, C-1 Conference Room, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis.

Send calendar listings, news and photos to [email protected].