For many it seems hard to believe that the 4th of July holiday is upon us, for others it probably seemed like it would never get here. One thing is for certain, the kids are out of school and ready to have some vacation adventures with their parents or smaller outings which are often more cherished and meaningful. The important thing is to enjoy time together with family and few things offer better one on one time together than fishing.
Striped bass fishing in the lower Susquehanna River and the flats area are moving towards a summer mode of fishing as water temperatures warm. The Conowingo Dam is releasing large amounts of water for power generation in the mornings and into late afternoons which helps cool water temperatures in the river and creates faster flows in the river. Those casting with surf rods into the dam pool with weighted swim shads are catching some nice striped bass. The best fishing for striped bass has been at day break and it usually only lasts till the sun clears the horizon. Topwater lures have been a favorite around the flats edges and in the river.
It is becoming the best of times for upper bay fishermen as more striped bass tend to be moving into the upper bay this week. Chumming has been very popular at Swan Point, Love Point, the Triple Buoys and Podickory Point. There are a lot of two and three year old striped bass being attracted to the chum slicks but there are good numbers of larger fish deep and back in the slicks. Trolling is a good option and often accounts for a better grade of fish.
Working the channel edges around 35′ deep with a variety of bucktails dressed with shads or twister tails, swim shads and surge tube lures in tandem or behind umbrella rigs are admission to the show. Inline weights or planers are needed to get down to the fish where they are suspended on the steeper edges.
At the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles there are striped bass and large white perch holding and waiting for someone to drop soft plastic jigs to them. A good running current is needed and heavy enough jigs to get to where the fish are holding. Jigging there has been excellent for the past few days and with a little luck the fish will hold there through the weekend.
Below the Bay Bridge striped bass fishing has been very good on the outside edge of Hackett’s Bar for those chumming, jigging or trolling. Chumming has been the most popular way to fish and a large portion of the fish being caught are over 28″ in length. As painful as it might seem, more than a few reported that they had to toss several striped bass back into the bay that went 30″ or better while trying to catch a fish less than 28″ to finish out their daily limit.
Breaking fish are being reported along the western and eastern edges of the shipping channel and also near anchored ships in the middle bay region. The surface action tends to be 2 and 3 year old striped bass with larger fish holding deeper so jigging deep is the way to go unless you fish light with poppers and enjoy the entertainment. As most know though you can’t always count on things when it comes to fishing and some are surprised to find 30″ striped bass mixing it up on top and smashing poppers. Watching depth finders as one slowly motors along channel edges or watching for slicks which indicate fish holding deep and on bait can be a good tactic. There have not been many bluefish in the middle bay region, so sea gulls sitting in groups is also a good sign to indicate periodic action in the area.
Shallow water fishing for striped bass with poppers in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers remains good this week but it is quickly becoming a dawn and dusk window of opportunity as water temperatures creep into the 80’s this week. Eastern Bay, Poplar Island and the lower regions of the Severn, Choptank and Little Choptank have been offering some of the best action. Grass has been growing well this season so topwater lures have been the best way to fish to stay above the grass. Various poppers and Zara Spooks have been two of the most productive topwater lures.
Fishing for white perch continues to be a fun summer time activity in the tidal rivers and creeks in the middle bay region. Except for early mornings and late evenings when they might venture close to shoreline structure the perch have been holding in deeper waters over oyster bottom or near piers. Grass shrimp is perhaps one of the best baits to use but requires an investment in a shrimp dip net and time to catch your own bait. Pieces of bloodworms will fit the bill for those that wish to purchase bait. A simple one hook bottom rig that puts the hook about a foot off the bottom is near perfect presentation. A shad dart tipped with bait and worked close to the bottom is also an excellent option. The Kent Narrows, Matapeake Fishing Pier and the Bill Burton Fishing Pier are just three public areas that offers a great place to fish for white perch for shore bound anglers.
Lower bay region fishing for striped bass has been focused on chumming, trolling, jigging and casting to fish near shallow structure. Chumming has been the most popular and areas like the Middle Grounds, the channel edge from the HS Buoy south to Buoy 72, Cove Point and Point No Point as well as the steep channel edge near St. George’s Island on the lower Potomac. Bluefish are part of the mix and hopefully cobia will start to move in soon.
Trolling along channel edges with a mix of swim shads, bucktails and surge tube lures down deep with inline weights or planers has been a good way to catch a nice grade of striped bass, The lower bay region has a lot of two and three year old striped bass that miss the 20″ mark so throwbacks are common at times.
When suspended fish or breaking fish can be found or even slicks; jigging deep is a good way to find larger striped bass. Bay anchovies are being pounded by a mix of striped bass and bluefish in the region, often along channel edges with stiff currents. Soft plastics tend to be the most popular jigs to use in chartreuse, pink and sparkle pearl. The mouth of the Patuxent and the St. Mary’s River continue to hold a lot of action for striped bass and bluefish, with a lot of throwbacks.
On the eastern side of the bay, the marsh edges and tidal creeks continue to be great places to find speckled trout and striped bass with bluefish also being part of the mix. Casting topwater poppers has been productive and popping corks with a white Gulp Mullet trailing has also been a great option. Drifting peeler crab or soft crab in the ebbing currents of the tidal creeks is also a great way to catch speckled trout and striped bass. Once again though many of the striped bass fail to meet the 20″ minimum.
There are some croakers and spot being caught on both sides of the bay and plenty of white perch in all of the tidal creeks and rivers. Those that target them are catching flounder along hard-bottom channel edges in the Tangier and Pocomoke Sound areas.
Recreational crabbers continue to find crabs in a wide variety of water depths. Some have had the best luck in 10′ to 15′ of water and others report they are doing the best in shallower waters. Regardless of your preference for water depth, there is little room for discussion that razor clams are the top catching bait and early morning crabbing offers the best catches. This will be a very busy weekend for those who have promised crabs for the 4th of July holiday; please be patient and tolerant of those who cross you, for they know not what they do.
This will be a bit of a crazy weekend to try and fish at Deep Creek Lake due to holiday and vacation boat traffic so if you do go out; try to go very early and be careful out there. Smallmouth bass should be found on rocky flats in 6′ of water or more and swimbaits and jerkbaits are good baits to target them. Floating docks are a great place to cast for largemouth and smallmouth bass if no one is bouncing on the dock, again it will be a busy time at the lake. There might be some refuge in the shallower coves where largemouth bass, chain pickerel and bluegills can be targeted.
John Mullican was kind enough to send us a great report from the upper Potomac and a few fishing suggestions: The upper Potomac River is in good shape and fishing well. Fishermen are finding lots of eager smallmouth bass, walleye, and catfish. Bass can be taken on a variety of lures, but I always have a topwater tied on to one rod and a tube or similar jig on another. Weightless soft plastic minnow baits or wacky rigged stick worms will catch plenty of fish too. River temperatures are near 80°F so fish are generally in or near grass beds, boulders, and ledges with good current flow. The larger tributaries to the Potomac are also great places to take a kayak or canoe float trip. Small tubes and crankbaits will catch a mixed bag of smallmouth, sunfish, and rock bass, even a channel catfish now and then.
Largemouth bass are slipping into a summer mode of behavior as water temperatures and hot sun govern their activities. Targeting shallow grass and brushy edges with topwater lures in the early morning hours or late evening hours is the name of the game now. During brighter sun, targeting grass with whacky rigged stick worms down into the grass is the next option. Flipping a variety of soft plastics under the shade of docks, fallen treetops or overhanging brush is a sure fire way to entice a lounging bass to pick up an easy meal. When fishing tidal rivers and creeks, try and schedule your trips on a falling tide during those early morning or late evening hours.
There are plenty of channel catfish in the tidal rivers and creeks of the bay and the upper Potomac. The warmer weather definitely lends itself to a lazy shaded spot along a shoreline with a comfortable chair and good company. The tidal Potomac is home to hordes of blue catfish and they are not hard to catch and the smaller ones make excellent table fare and the really large ones will just about pull your arms out of their sockets.
Despite warm summer temperatures there continues to be some amazing trout fishing opportunities in the western region’s trout management waters. They continue to run cold enough to make for excellent trout fishing. Many are selected to be catch and release of have tackle limitations which help insure that there are plenty of trout available for those who wish to enjoy either catch and release trout fishing or fly fishing. These areas are also a great place to beat the summer heat.
In and around the Ocean City area water temperatures close to shore are about 68 degrees this week and if the weather holds, fishing should be good. It will be a busy weekend for sure as thousands of tourists descend upon the Ocean City area. If you are contemplating fishing at the inlet there will be a lot of boat traffic and if you’re going to fish for flounder in the back bay channels such as the East, West or Thorofare channels it can be downright dangerous, so be careful out there.
Surf anglers are catching a few bluefish on finger mullet rigs, cut baits will draw in inshore sharks and a few striped bass. Smaller baits of squid or clam will catch a mix of blowfish, small black drum and flounder. So far we have not heard of any reports of kingfish in the surf but they should be here by now.
At the inlet and the Route 50 Bridge area, flounder can be caught on squid or minnows as well as jigs with Gulp white mullet baits. Sheepshead and small black drum are hanging out around the South Jetty and bridge piers and can be caught on sand fleas. Bluefish and striped bass often move through the area at night and can be caught by drifting cut bait, live eels or by casting swimbaits, bucktails or Got-Cha lures.
Flounder are in the back bay channels and also off the beaches at shoal areas. Drifting with squid and or minnow baits work well and larger baits such as Gulp baits work well on the larger flounder. Small sea bass and blowfish can be pesky at times when fishing with squid but tend to keep our younger anglers happy.
The boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites are finding good sea bass fishing for their anglers and there is a healthy mix of flounder to add to catches. Farther offshore there has been a good yellowfin and bluefin tuna bite at times at some of the 30 Fathom spots like the Hot Dog.
The boats and crew that continue on to the canyons have been finding yellowfin tuna with a mix of sizes. Some are 40 pounds or better, but in many cases, they fail to meet the minimum size. Those trolling are also being rewarded with a mix of bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, dolphin and a few mako sharks. Several white marlin have been caught and released and at least one blue marlin in the past few days.
“With the exception of painting, nothing in this life has held my interest as much as fishing. Fishing with a fly, bait, a handline; I don’t care. Fishing, in my estimation, is not a hobby, a diversion, a pastime, a sport, an interest, a challenge or an escape. It is a necessary passion.” -Russell Chatham
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.