How Long Does a Hard Freeze Affect the Inshore Areas In the Chesapeake?

Discussion in 'Virginia, Northern East Coast' started by WhiteDog70810, Nov 26, 2014.

  1. WhiteDog70810

    WhiteDog70810 Mostly Harmless

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    I've been trying to figure out the marsh here in Maryland based on what I know from Louisiana. In Louisiana, the oyster beds are so shallow that they are often exposed at low tide and there are oyster reefs throughout the marsh. These reefs form the structure that concentrates the little crabs and other critters that drum like. There are even small oysters and barnacles on the base of the marsh grass. We also had abundant vegetation on most flats that weren't exposed at low tide or covered with sand or oysters. This green structure also concentrates the drum. At low tide, the exposed mudflats were usually teeming with birds digging little critters out of the mud. When the tide comes in, black drum routinely are on those same mud flats grubbing out the same invertebrates.

    In Maryland, the oysters are in 30 feet of water and so are the drum. This makes sense to me as I assume this is simply because it is colder here. This takes the oysters out of the picture up in the marsh. However, last year the smaller reds were inshore based on Cedarcreek's reports, so there was something else at play. From my experience, this year the reds were not inshore, so whatever pulls the reds inshore is not always here year to year. I have found little hard or green structure in my marsh to concentrate the prey of fish like reds, black drum, croakers and spot. I frequently see dead crabs, which 1.) may indicate low oxygen and 2.) definitely indicates that nothing big enough to scavenge a dead crab is around. This is odd because 1.) there is usually enough tidal flow to aerate the water in a shallow marsh and 2.) there should always be something in the marsh that will eat a crab if given the chance. I saw very little vegetation in the shallows and I saw no large fish working this fall in my marsh despite seeing tons of baitfish. Even in brackish areas there should be some vegetation and there should be something with teeth following those baitfish. The exposed mud flats don't attract nearly as many birds as I am used to. Mud flats should be loaded with little worms, but I see very little indication of bottom dwelling invertebrates. All in all, the marsh seems rather barren. Is it always like this or is this year different? I know I am in a different world here, but while the critter filling a niche may change based on latitude, a niche is still a niche and something should fill it. All this seems to indicate unexploited niches, which is counter intuitive and should indicate something forced whatever lived in those niches out of the marsh.

    My hypothosis is that the hard freezes we had last winter changed the conditions in a manner that persisted in throughout this year. I didn't hear of any significant fish kills, but did it chase the larger fish south and kill off much of the flora and fauna of the flats in such a manner that it takes a couple of years for them to rebound? Do water conditions in the marsh deteriorate after hard freezes due to a presumably large amount of dead organic matter thereby keeping the larger fish out while smaller baitfish can thrive? Do bad years always follow hard winters historically? This makes sense to me, but this is my first year fishing in Maryland.

    Nate
     
  2. CedarCreek

    CedarCreek I Love microskiff.com!

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    Nate, I really don't have the answers. The kind of oyster reefs that you would be familiar with are over on the eastern shore of MD/VA on the oceanside inlets. The tidal swing over there is about 5 feet much more than what is seen in the Bay. My buddies on the  eastern shore never saw the slot sized reds this year like they did in the past two years but the bulls were present in big numbers but not on the "flats." I only caught two redfish this whole year. Most of them stayed south of the Rappahanock River this summer. Last year's cold winter was very typical of what i remember growing up around here. We have been spoiled recently by the warm winters. I am guessing this years will be cold again. I don't know if the presence of redfish has more to do with our local conditions or the overall status of the stock up and down the coast. But I can tell you from living here for most of my life, redfish do make an appearance in places like the mid Bay, Potomac River most years but nothing like the numbers we saw in 2013 and 2012. I don't think you will find much shallow water action around here after Halloween. Happy Thanksgiving.
     

  3. EddieSapp

    EddieSapp I Love microskiff.com!

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    Guys,

        Not sure about your neck of the woods, but the reds have been thick here on the VA side. The bite does slow down when the the water temp drops but they will still feed. Best thing about the winter is, first they school up more, less boat traffic, and if you time your trips right around the predicted weather patterns it can really makes for some great fishing!!!
     
  4. yeffy

    yeffy I Love microskiff.com!

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    2012 and 2013 were out of character years for shallow water red fish here in the bay area, i hoped for a warmer winter this year but i don't see it happening. the marsh areas in the mid part of the bay don't have the oyster beds you described, yet i did catch redfish in them in 2012' and 13'. the only shallow water game i know of in winter is to locate carp on warmer days(sunny 50) as they move onto a mud flat to feed, if you catch them too late however the water is too colored to even get a shot at fish. with your proximity to the potomac why not fish for walleye or musky?
     
  5. WhiteDog70810

    WhiteDog70810 Mostly Harmless

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    "with your proximity to the potomac why not fish for walleye or musky?"

    I swear I heard you say "nope, we don't have musky here".
    [smiley=evil.gif]
    Maybe it was someone else.

    My boat is on the eastern shore for the duration of duck season. Maybe I'll hit the river again after duck season, but I have a life altering test looming in June that I have to prepare for. I may have to focus on other responsibilities this spring.

    Nate
     
  6. yeffy

    yeffy I Love microskiff.com!

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    well if you want to waste your time chasing fish that don't exist i would be happy to show you where they don't live on my boat
     
  7. CedarCreek

    CedarCreek I Love microskiff.com!

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    I just finished a day on the New River splashing flies for those non-existent muskies. And you know what, they were nonexistent today. Kind of a long drive but a beautiful river. Next trip I'll try a little closer to home.