By Erik Zlokovitz
Maryland Fishing Report: Oct. 31
Happy Halloween! A Nor’easter last Saturday kept many anglers off the bay. However, some boaters were able to find a lee area on the Eastern Shore, or they fished Friday or Sunday. These die-hard anglers were rewarded with good striped bass fishing, with most folks now jigging or trolling with artificial lures.
On the freshwater scene, many anglers are finding good trout fishing and more activity from coldwater species such as yellow perch, pike, walleye and pickerel in Western Maryland.
Forecast Summary: Oct. 31- Nov. 6
These shorter, cooler days are a great sign for anglers, as fish in the bay feed heavily to prepare for winter conditions or for migration. Right now there is plenty of cool water and oxygen from surface to bottom. For tidal rivers and main bay areas, focus on areas with good structure such as underwater points, oyster bottom, reefs, channel edges and large schools of baitfish. Hungry rockfish will also roam the nearby shallow water areas looking for an easy meal.
It will be windy Wednesday through Saturday as another chance of rain rolls in on Friday and then again on Election Day. Expect sunny or partly cloudy conditions most of the other days with air temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and mild night-time temperature in the 50s. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys, water temperatures continue to rapidly cool, with Annapolis now at 58 degrees, Gooses Reef at 60 degrees and Point Lookout at 60 degrees. Water temperatures should hold stable this week.
There is still poor water clarity on the main bay down to Swan Point and on the Potomac River down to Colonial Beach. In addition, expect water clarity to decline in localized and nearshore areas as another round of rain enters the area Friday. Windy conditions from Wednesday through Saturday will reduce water clarity along nearshore areas. There will be above average tidal currents from Saturday through Tuesday as a result of the new moon Nov. 7.
Water conditions at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to increased freshwater input from the most recent Nor’easter. The Conowingo Dam will have two spill gates open during the next couple of days. Water temperatures are down to 58 degrees at Thomas Point, just below the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and may be cooler in some spots.
Most striped bass anglers are now fishing with artificial lures, either trolling umbrella rigs, bottom bouncing with bucktails, or jigging and casting on pods of breaking or suspended fish. A few die-hard chummers are still picking nice striped bass in the “usual suspect” spots like Love Point, Swan Point, Podickory Point and Sandy Point. No spot are left due to cold water so anglers are live-lining eels or chunking fresh or frozen Alewife in 25 to 35 feet of water. Live-lining eels around bridge pilings has been a good method to find larger fish.
The Bay Bridge rock piles and piers continue to be a popular place for jiggers and this should continue into December. Jigging with skirted jigs and soft plastics is the technique for the suspended striped bass that are holding at 25 to 35 feet. Talk to your local tackle shop staff about best colors to use.
With water temperatures below 60 degrees, baitfish are moving out of the tidal rivers on outgoing tides with schools of striped bass waiting for them along channel edges, points, and mouths of the major tidal rivers. Jigging and trolling are productive, with breaking fish and suspended pods showing up anywhere from Thomas Point to Chesapeake Beach and down to Flag Pond.
The fall trolling pattern for striped bass is turning on from Bloody Point to Solomons Island. Reports of keeper- to medium-sized fish are coming from the mouth of Eastern Bay, channel ledges near Thomas Point, Buoy 83a, Cove Point and the Gas Docks area. Trollers are deploying umbrellas with 6-inch green, chartreuse or white shads, spoonbrellas and G-Eye jigs with paddletail soft plastic shads. Some reports are coming from 15 feet of water or less, but expect fish to move deeper with dropping temperatures.
Trolling bucktails in the Patuxent and Potomac rivers is producing striped bass on the oyster beds as well as dropoffs and channel edges. The Patuxent has been good above Broomes Island, and the Potomac has breaking rockfish in the St. Mary’s River and at Ragged Point. Casting artificials from shore and boats is catching striped bass in the 22-inch to 30-inch range on the lower western shore and along the marshes and islands on the lower eastern shore. White perch are in the deeper holes in the rivers now as the cool temperatures have pushed the perch out of the shallower creeks and coves.
As rockfish school up during the fall run, we’d like to remind bay anglers to always look for and report any tags found in striped bass. For the standard pink tags, report them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-448-8322; if you catch an old green or chartreuse tag, please call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 410-260-8304. Also, remember to measure fish first if you decide to release it.
The fall turnover has occurred in Deep Creek Lake and water temperatures are about 55 degrees. Department staff recently conducted the annual fish population survey in the lake and results show that now is the time to fish! Yellow perch are abundant and the number of 12-inch to 15-inch fish in the sample was incredible. Likewise, the walleye are now in shallow water, feeding along the edges of the aquatic vegetation beds, and sampling efforts collected many walleye greater than 20 inches. Other exceptional specimens of fish collected included largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegills, black crappies and a 27-inch chain pickerel.
The department has completed trout stocking operations in the traditional put-and-take trout waters throughout the state. A total of 32,125 trout were stocked — check our trout web page for recent stockings in your area.
There has been good action in the surf with small snapper bluefish (on cut mullet and bunker) and kingfish and stray pompano on squid, fish bites and sand fleas. The wrecks and artificial reefs continue to produce sea bass with some flounder in the mix. The sea bass are the more reliable fishery, with clams and squid working as bait.
The offshore season is coming to a close with windy, cold weather and billfish heading south. A couple of anglers were still bailing for dolphin (mahi), or trying for a last wahoo.
“Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way.” – Ted Hughes
This week’s Maryland Fishing Report was compiled by Erik Zlokovitz.