By Keith Lockwood
Although the mornings can be a bit nippy, good fishing opportunities exist from the mountains of western Maryland to the waters of the Atlantic. The Chesapeake Bay striped bass season has a little more than two weeks to go before it closes, and anglers are bundling up and enjoying the fun.
Forecast Summary: Nov. 27 – Dec. 3:
As the holiday weekend approaches, Bay temperatures continue to drop down to the upper 40s. This cooling will continue through the next week.
Warmest waters continue to be found in the bottom quarter of the water column. Anglers should focus on prime habitat areas for larger concentrations of baitfish and hungry gamefish as they migrate to their winter holding areas. As always, make sure to focus on moving water periods for best results.
Expect normal flows from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams until Sunday, when they will begin to rise as a result of the rains beginning this weekend. There will be above average tidal currents through next Tuesday as a result of the new moon Nov. 26. Bay surface salinities are largely back to normal conditions.
There will be reduced water clarity from the bottom of the Susquehanna Flats down to Tolchester as a result of the recent spill gates being opened at Conowingo Dam.
To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
For the full weekly fishing conditions summary and more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. You can now get regular updates on Maryland’s waters and the creatures that call them home sent to your inbox with our new Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
Fishing for striped bass is slowing down at the Conowingo Dam Pool and the lower Susquehanna River, as water temperatures drop. A few fish are being caught in the early morning hours by casting sassy shads and topwater lures into the pool. The dam is on an early morning release schedule and reports say water clarity is improving. The channel edges leading from the mouth of the Susquehanna are providing some jigging action in the deepest parts of the channels, with a larger grade of striped bass than are being found at the dam pool.
The mouths of the Patapsco and Chester rivers are providing some light-tackle jigging action along the deeper parts of the channel edges. The edges of Love Point, Swan Point and Podickory Point are also holding striped bass, often suspended slightly off the bottom in the deeper waters of the channels. Quite often schools of bait can also be detected close to the bottom. Most are jigging with 6-inch soft plastic jigs in white, pearl, or chartreuse color combinations with good results.
Trolling is a very effective way to work the deeper edges of the shipping channel and those channels leading out from the tidal rivers. It takes quite a bit of weight to get umbrella rigs down to where the larger striped bass are holding. Bucktails dressed with soft plastics trailing behind an umbrella rig is the most popular way to troll.
There is good jigging action for striped bass and white perch at the Bay Bridge. A mix of smaller striped bass and large white perch tend to be holding deep at the rock piles and piers. Larger striped bass can often be found near the concrete abutments and some of the bridge piers.
Yellow perch are moving into the tidal rivers and creeks in greater numbers, now that the water temperatures are colder. Those fishing with small beetle spins, jigs, and live minnows are enjoying good fishing. A mix of channel and blue catfish are also very active and providing plenty of action.
There is plenty of striped bass action, and predicted strong winds may be the only inhibitor to some spectacular fall light-tackle jigging. The winds are supposed to subside just in time for the weekend. The mouth of Eastern Bay and the Choptank River are excellent places to jig along the deeper sections of the channel edges.
Keep an eye on the seagulls — there is still quite a bit of bird action, with 3-year old striped bass chasing juvenile menhaden. You’ll find some striped that measure 20 inches; some call these fish “dinks” but one should remember that they represent the future of striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and the coastal states from New England to North Carolina. They are beautiful examples of what a healthy striped bass should look like.
The larger 5- to 7-year-old striped bass are holding deep, whether they are under the surface action or suspended just off the bottom. Light-tackle jigging is a great way to get to them and some are seeing that it may take more than a half-ounce jig to get down to them. Many are now using 1-ounce or heavier jigs with up to 10-inch soft plastics; using skirts on the jig head can certainly help. White, pearl, and chartreuse tend to be the most popular colors to mimic small menhaden.
Trolling deep with heavy inline weights and umbrella rigs is a fall tradition, and it is usually a very effective way to cover the channel edges for suspended striped bass. It takes a stout trolling rod and a strong arm to reel in all that gear and weight with a striped bass holding onto the trailer. Bucktails dressed with sassy shads tend to be one of the best trailers to use. The shipping channel edges are one of the more popular places to troll.
White perch are now holding deep at the mouths of the tidal rivers and can be detected holding off the bottom with a good depth finder. They tend to prefer oyster bottom and can be found as deep as 40 feet. Jigging with dropper fly rigs or using bottom rigs with pieces of bloodworm are the best way to catch them. Yellow perch are moving up into the tidal rivers and creeks and can provide some good shore-based fishing with small lures or live minnows.
Striped bass fishing fortunes are excellent right now. Bird action and breaking fish are a common sight throughout the region. The surface action tends to be made up of 3-year-old fish, with the upper limit of that age class reaching 20 inches. Larger striped bass tend to be holding deep along channel edges where bait is being swept along those deeper edges.
The mouth of the Patuxent River, the lower Potomac River, the Little Choptank, Point No Point, the HS Buoy, Buoy 72, and the shipping channel edges are good places to find striped bass holding close to the bottom. In these deeper waters with swift currents, many have found they can hold bottom better with 1-ounce skirted jigs with 8-inch or 10-inch soft plastics to entice the larger fish. White, pearl, or combinations of chartreuse and yellow are popular colors.
Trolling is an excellent way to fish for these deep holding striped bass, but it will take heavy inline weights to get an umbrella rig down to where the fish are holding. Braid helps with line drag, as does slowing trolling speeds. A bucktail dressed with chartreuse sassy shad is the most popular trailer behind an umbrella rig.
White perch are being found in some of the deepest waters near the mouths of the region’s major tidal rivers. Hard bottom such as oyster shell has been a great place to find white perch on a depth finder. Once found, a dropper rig with a metal jig and one dropper fly or small soft plastic works well. A 2-ounce sinker with two dropper flies also is a white perch killer. A two-hook bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm is another classic way to catch them.
Blue catfish are very active in the middle regions of the Patuxent, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers; they can provide plenty of fun fishing action and also help fill freezer space with fillets of mild-tasting meat. They can be caught on almost any kind of fresh cut bait or clam snouts.
Fishing for walleye and yellow perch is good at Deep Creek Lake, along the steeper rocky shorelines and the remaining deep grass. Drifting minnows or fishing them under a slip bobber is a good way to target those species. Casting small crankbaits is a good way to fish for walleye in the evening hours in these same areas. Smallmouth bass are holding near drop-offs at rocky point and near deep structure. Jigs and crankbaits that resemble crayfish are working well this week.
Trout fishing in the special fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release or delayed harvest management areas are offering a wonderful experience to fishermen looking for a little peace and solitude. A sunny afternoon can offer increased trout activity due to slightly warmer waters, and it is also great for the fisherman to enjoy a little extra warmth for themselves. The trout will often be found in some of the deeper pools and can be caught on a variety of flies, as long as they are fished deep. There are still trout to be found in the put-and-take areas, especially those that were float stocked, such as the middle Patuxent River. Casting a variety of small spinners and spoons is a great way to cover water and attract the attention of a trout. The different trout management areas can be found in the Maryland Guide to Fishing and Crabbing or by checking out our online access map.
Largemouth bass are becoming more oriented to deeper waters and to structure. Grubs, jigs, and blade lures are some of the best ways to reach them in deeper waters. Jigs, small crankbaits, and grubs can work well along drop-offs and transition areas. On a sunny afternoon, casting lipless crankbaits in the shallows can find bass that are seeking warmer waters.
Chain pickerel are holding near sunken wood along shorelines or fallen treetops waiting to ambush anything that comes by. Crappie are schooled up near deep structure — fallen treetops, sunken wood and marina docks are great places to find them.
Ocean City area fishermen anxiously await the coastal migration of striped bass. They are stretched from Long Island to New Jersey this week and although most tend to follow a migration route far beyond the 3-mile limit, many will still be found along the beaches and close to shore. A few are being caught by surf casters and by those fishing at the inlet, but they tend to be local fish that are often under the 28-inch minimum. Others will be getting ready to troll the nearshore shoals with parachutes, umbrella rigs and Stretch lures.
Tautog are being caught at the inlet jetties and the Route 50 Bridge area. Many are undersized but there are keepers in the mix. Sand fleas tend to be the favored bait with pieces of green crab a close second.
The boats taking fishermen out to the wreck and reef sites are picking their days, and it looks like good weather for the weekend. Limit catches are still common but sometimes captains have to pull anchor and move due to the presence of spiny dogfish. Flounder are present at some of the sites, and a few porgies can be added to the mix at times. Other boats are targeting tautog at similar sites with good results. The boats headed out to the canyons are focused on fishing for swordfish in the deep waters of Poorman’s Canyon.
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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