The first weekend of May had been marked on my calendar for several months. The highly anticipated date was reserved for a camping and fishing trip to Janeâ€™s Island State Park located near Crisfield on Marylandâ€™s Eastern Shore. The park is a kayaking and fishing destination with over 30 miles of water trails. The waters of Tangier Sound offer the opportunity to catch striped bass, speckled trout, bluefish and red drum at different times of the year.
The island portion of the park includes over 2,900 acres of saltmarsh and mudflats that is flooded by high tides twice a day. A watercraft such as a boat, canoe, paddleboard or kayak is needed to navigate and reach the outermost edges of the island facing Tangier Sound. Once there, an adventurous paddler will find miles of beautiful white sand beaches that resemble more of a tropical location than the Chesapeake Bay.
My fishing partner, Mark Richardson of Myersville, and I were meeting a few other friends who were camping with us and who planned to kayak the water trails that weekend. We camped in the cozy waterfront cabins at the park. I was anxious to try my new personal watercraft, the Blue Sky Boatworks Angler 360, a newly developed twin hull kayak that uses a prop powered by foot pedals. Mark brought his trusty canoe and he later wished he borrowed a kayak instead.
I have limited experience fishing in tidal waters so prior to the trip I read what I could find on the internet and consulted a few friends for their input. From the information I garnered, I learned that water clarity, water levels and water movement were all key to finding fish in tidal waters. I brought my 8-weight fly rod with a clear sinking tip line. For flies, I tied several Clouser Minnow streamers on size 4 saltwater hooks using chartreuse and white bucktail with red dumbbell eyes.
When we arrived at the Janeâ€™s Island marina, the first thing we noticed was the color of the water. The brisk wind was stirring the sediment from the muddy bottom of the islandâ€™s interior making the water murky and reducing visibility. The wind was also working against us by limiting our fly-casting range and pushing our boats quickly across the water.
We paddled north from the campground marina in the Daugherty Creek Canal in search of calmer and clearer water. As we rounded the point into Acre Creek, heading northwest towards the bay, we could see clear water across the open cove. The winds were strong and put quite a chop on the water. Mark struggled keeping his canoe on track and eventually turned back. He chose not to cross the cove for fear of not being able to get back across. My watercraft was not as negatively affected by the wind and I had no trouble working my way across the open water.
Once across, I beached the boat on a long sand bar that extended from the upper point of the island. There I saw a few horseshoe crabs moving slowly through the shallow water. I waded along the sandbar, casting into the deeper water with no hits, just a few curious needlefish would follow my fly. I sat on the beach and ate my lunch, wondering if Mark was paddling his canoe back to camp.
I fished for a few more hours before deciding to head back to camp myself. I knew if we could find the fish, we could catch them. The wind and more importantly my lack of experience in this location was not helping.
A new day, new water
The next morning, we looked at the map of the island and chose a new route. This time we headed to the Rock Hole Cove on the bayside of the island. Mark paddled a kayak this time, although the wind was substantially calmer that day.
Fortunately, we found what we were looking for. The incoming tide created a strong current in a deep but narrow channel on the edge of a wide flat shallow area. We anchored our boats and waded, casting into the deeper water from the shallows.Â The â€śschoolieâ€ť stripers were eager to take our flies.Â Schoolies are immature striped bass under the legal size that live in tributary waters for a time before journeying into the ocean.
We fished for more than an hour catching and releasing dozens of young stripers. The fish were small but fought hard, striking our streamers on almost every cast. The fishing gradually slowed as the tide rose and the current became sluggish in the channel. It was great fun while it lasted and kind of felt like fishing in some far away Caribbean waters.
There are so many channels and coves to explore on Janeâ€™s Island and learning the areas where the fish hold is key. Attention to the tides is crucial to understanding the daily water movement. The incoming or outgoing tides seem to trigger the fish into feeding so being in the right place when that happens makes all the difference.
It is important to note that the biting insects were very bad at the campground and less so on the water where a good breeze helps keep the insects at bay. I am told that they get worse with the warmer weather. I will need to bring a headnet on my next trip to Janeâ€™s Island.
The trip was an exploratory adventure with a perfect combination of good company and the great outdoors. I am pleased that my new watercraft performed well, allowing me to navigate miles without extraordinary effort even in windy conditions. The fishing wasnâ€™t epic, but has that potential in an incredibly scenic environment. These are the experiences we will relive in daydreams as we return home, glad to be back, but full anticipation of a return trip.
Contact Dan Neuland at firstname.lastname@example.org.