by Keith Lockwood,
The weather forecast for the next week predicts summer temperatures and offers a wonderful
time to bring our younger anglers outdoors for some family fishing fun.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers license-free fishing days on June 6, June 13, and July 4 — a free option to explore Maryland’s diverse and unique fishing experiences without needing a fishing license, trout stamp, or registration.
Finally, a reminder that the Department is encouraging all anglers to target and harvest invasive fish species such as northern snakeheads, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are supporting an invasive fish tournament from now through Dec. 5 in partnership with the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland.
Warm temperatures are expected through this first week in June. Main Chesapeake Bay water temperatures have warmed slightly since last week. Bay surface water temperatures have risen to the upper 60s and will continue to rise over the next week. Due to limited rainfall, several rivers, including the Potomac and Susquehanna, are running warmer, into the mid-70s,
The Maryland portion of the bay continues to have suitable oxygen conditions from surface to bottom. Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the western shore rivers from Back Riverdown to the Rhode River. The poorest water clarity will be found in the Chester, Magothy, and Severn Rivers and also in the mainstem of the bay from the mouth of the Chester down towards Parkers Creek. In addition, expect poorer than normal water clarity from Colonial Beach over to Cobb Island. Expect normal flows all week from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents as a result of the full moon June 6.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. Get regular updates on Maryland’s waters sent to your inbox with our Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
The Conowingo Dam is on a midday power generation schedule which most likely will be more pronounced as warmer weather approaches towards the end of the week. Anglers are often finding the best fishing during the down times at the dam pool and the lower section of the river during the morning hours. Most are focusing on fishing for striped bass and flathead catfish in the dam pool and a mix of blue, flathead, and channel catfish in the lower Susquehanna River and the channels near the Susquehanna Flats.
Around the Susquehanna Flats, anglers are having good luck casting topwater lures in the early morning and late evening hours for striped bass. Jigging with white or pearl-colored soft plastic jigs along the channel edges has been very productive. All boundary restrictions were lifted effective June 1, so anglers are now free to fish for striped bass up to the Conowingo Dam and south through the entire bay with a minimum size of 19 inches and limit of one fish per day.
Those trolling along channel edges are describing their success as a slow pick. Most are trolling umbrella rigs with medium-sized bucktails or storm shads as trailers in white or chartreuse. Usually a couple of large parachutes or bucktails dressed with equally large sassy shads are part of most trolling spreads, in the hope there are still a few large striped bass in the region.
Anglers looking for light-tackle jigging action are having success at Love Point Rocks and the Bay Bridge piers. Skirted soft plastic jigs are a favorite offering at these popular locations. Boats are anchoring up at the channel edge at Podickory Point and the Sewer Pipe and chumming with some success for striped bass. A mix of blue and channel catfish tend to dominate chum slicks. Anglers using live bait or cut bait are reminded that they must use non-offset circle hooks at all times.
Fishing for white perch has picked up in most tidal rivers and creeks in the upper bay. Most are enjoying light tackle action by casting small spinners, spinnerbaits, and small soft plastic jigs. Others are having fun fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig near deep-water docks and piers.
Anyone fishing or boating on the Magothy or Severn rivers recently could not help noticing the reddish-brown color of the water, which is usually called mahogany tides in Maryland. There have been some localized fish kills as the algae die off. Our website has more information about this dinoflagellate algae.
Fishing for striped bass is good and some new avenues of fishing opportunities have evolved recently. Trolling along the edges of the shipping channel continues to be one of the most popular ways to fish for striped bass. Most are using umbrella rigs behind inline weights and using medium-sized bucktails dressed with sassy shads or storm shads as trailers. Larger bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads are also part of most trolling spreads and are often trolled in tandem. White has been one of the most popular colors, with chartreuse a close second.
The west side of the shipping channel from Thomas Point south past Breezy Point is a favorite area to troll along the channel edges. The eastern side of the shipping channel near Bloody Point south past Buoy 83 and south to the CP Buoy are also good places to troll. Other channel edges near the mouths of the major tidal rivers are also offering trolling action for medium sized striped bass. A few bluefish have been caught — they’re classic spring runners that seemed to make a left turn into the bay, perhaps following schools of menhaden. New bluefish regulations for 2020 set the daily creel limit at 3 bluefish per day for recreational anglers on private boats or shorelines, and 5 bluefish per day if on a charter boat, with an 8-inch minimum size.
Now that all tidal waters are open to striped bass fishing, casting a variety of lures in the tidal rivers is popular. In the early morning and evening hours, casting topwater lures in the shallows is providing plenty of action. Casting white swimshads or crankbaits near shoreline structure is also effective. A few boats have been anchoring up at Hacketts and Thomas points chumming for striped bass. Striped bass are being caught but the chum slicks are also attracting channel catfish and cownose rays.
Light-tackle jigging is an effective way to fish for striped bass; Most are using skirted soft plastic jigs near channel edges when fish can be spotted suspended along those edges with depth finders. Water temperatures in the middle bay are holding around 67 degrees this week so striped bass are very active. Biologists have instituted several volunteer angler surveys to help them understand and better manage some of the important fish species to anglers as well as blue crabs and horseshoe crabs.
Fishing for white perch offers a lot of fun and bountiful opportunities in the tidal rivers and creeks. This is a wonderful time to fish from docks and piers casting small spinners, spinnerbaits, or soft plastic jigs. Shoreline structure such as fallen treetops, submerged rocks, or prominent points are always great places to target, and early mornings and evenings are often the best times to fish. Fishing with grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig in deeper waters around piers and docks offers fun fishing. The best place to drop your bait is right next to the dock piers.
Fishing for striped bass is good in a variety of locations and methods. Many are trolling along the steep edges of the shipping channel in the bay and the channel edge in the lower Potomac River from St. Georges Island to Piney Point. Trolling umbrella rigs behind inline weights with medium-sized bucktails and storm type lures as trailers is popular, and most trolling spreads have a few large bucktails of parachutes rigged in tandem in hopes of encountering a few lingering large trophy striped bass. Those trolling on the eastern side of the shipping channel and in Tangier Sound are also adding large spoons for a little catch-and-release action with large red drum.
A few boats have been anchoring up and chumming for striped bass at the mouth of the lower Potomac, the Middle Grounds, and the rock piles above Point Lookout. Some striped bass and bluefish are being caught but chum slicks are also attracting cownose rays.
Casting a variety of lures along shorelines in the lower sections of the Patuxent and Potomac rivers and the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds are offering exciting action for striped bass and speckled trout. White and pearl swimshads tend to be the most productive bait. Marsh edges, grass beds, and the mouths of small creeks on the eastern side of the bay tend to be the best places to find speckled trout. Drifting pieces of peeler crab on an outgoing tide in the tidal creeks draining from the marshes has also been a great way to target speckled trout and red drum.
Flounder are being found in increasing numbers in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds along channel edges. Small spot are showing up in the shallows on both sides of the bay, the perfect size for live-lining. Very few croakers are being seen and if they are they are small.
Fishing for white perch in the tidal creeks and rivers is excellent. The white perch have moved into their summer habitat and can be caught by casting small lures or fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig. The tidal creeks of the Nanticoke, Wicomico, Patuxent, and Potomac offer plenty of white perch fishing opportunities.
Blue catfish can be found in abundant numbers in the tidal Potomac from the Wilson Bridge south to the Bushwood area of the Wicomico River. The Patuxent River holds a lot of blue catfish as does the Nanticoke River in the area near Sharptown.
Recreational crabbing continues to improve. The best catches of blue crabs are coming from the eastern side of the lower bay, with a half bushel haul per outing being common. The middle bay’s tidal rivers are averaging slightly less than that.
Deep Creek Lake anglers are finding good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass near floating docks that dot the perimeter of the lake. Casting a variety of crankbaits near the docks or flipping soft plastics under the docks where the fish are seeking shade and structure has been working well. Rocky points can be a good place to look for smallmouth bass as well as deep grass edges. Drifting along deep grass edges with live minnows is a good tactic to target large yellow perch and smallmouth bass.
Trout fishermen are enjoying many of the delayed harvest trout management areas now that they are open to keeping up to 5 trout per day. Others who enjoy the fly fishing catch-and-release trout management areas are finding hatches of midges and having good luck using them as well as Copper John flies or copper bead midges.
Largemouth bass are feeding aggressively after spawning and can be found in transition areas near the spawning flats. They usually can be found holding near grass or if the water is deep enough they will be found underneath. Great tactics include flipping soft plastics and stick worms into the grass or working spinnerbaits and small crankbaits near the edges. In the morning and evening hours largemouth bass will be up in shallow grass feeding; topwater lures are a great choice. Water temperatures are still relatively cool so largemouth bass have not shifted to a typical summer mode of behavior yet, so the bass will linger in the shallower areas longer into the morning hours.
In tidal waters, grass beds are the key when fishing for largemouth bass, but feeder creek mouths can also be a productive place to fish. Small lipless crankbaits and soft plastics are a good choice when fishing these areas. Northern snakeheads will be found in the shallow grass areas; they are spawning and might take exception to a buzzbait making a lot of noise in their honeymoon suite.
Fishing for channel and blue catfish in many of the tidal rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is very good. They are plentiful and eager to take a variety of baits being offered by anglers. Crappie fishing in the tidal rivers has been reported to be slow.
Kingfish are now being caught in the surf by those using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms. Those using finger mullet or cut bait are catching bluefish and there is still hope the large striped bass will move along the beaches any day now. New bluefish regulations for 2020 set the daily creel limit at 3 bluefish per day or recreational anglers on private boats, beaches or shorelines and 5 bluefish per day if on a charter or party boat, with an 8-inch minimum size.
In and around the inlet, those casting bucktails, Got-Cha lures, and swimshads are catching a mix of bluefish and striped bass. Most of the striped bass fail to meet the 28-inch minimum. Flounder fishing is what everyone is talking about at the inlet and the back bay areas – it’s been very good in the channels and in Sinepuxent Bay.
Fishing for sea bass at the offshore wreck and reef sites continues to be exceptional, with limit catches common as long as the weather cooperates. Better weather is also allowing boats to venture out to the canyons where they are finding a mix of yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Several white marlin have also been caught and released.
As a reminder: Any harvested bluefin tuna, billfish, swordfish, or shark (except spiny dogfish) must be reported via the Catch Card Census before it is moved from a boat, or point of landing if fishing from shore, to be in compliance with state and federal regulations. Catch cards and tags are available at tackle shops, marinas, and kiosks around Ocean City, and online. Please use the kiosk at the Colonel Jack Taylor Boathouse located in west Ocean City when businesses are closed. Simply fill out the card found in the kiosk and tear off the receipt on the edge of the card, and leave the card in the kiosk. Identification and compliance information is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Dusky and sandbar sharks look similar, and both sharks are prohibited from harvest. If you cannot identify a shark, let it go in the water. State and federal regulations require shark anglers to use corrodible, non-stainless circle hooks except when fishing with artificial flies and lures, and any shark that is not being kept is to be released in the water. Anglers must have a device capable of quickly cutting either the leader or the hook. Identification and compliance information is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“A friend of mine, an ardent purist, was challenged once by a golfing acquaintance as he turned loose a large trout he had just netted: ‘Why go to all that trouble to catch a fish if you don’t want to eat it?” the exasperated golfer demanded. ‘Do you eat golf balls?’ my friend inquired.” — Corey Ford, 1958
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”