Maryland Fishing Report – Oct. 28
by Keith Lockwood,
We have some rain in the forecast, but pleasant weather is just around the corner so try not to miss a single day of it. Taking youngsters out for a little fishing fun is often at the top of the to-do list.
Expect cooling, cloudy conditions with some rain through Saturday and then sunny and slightly warming conditions the rest of the week. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have dropped to the mid to lower 60s and will continue to decline. Local rivers are cooling faster than the bay so there will be movement of some fish towards the bay as they prepare for winter in the warmer river mouths or nearby waters. The bay’s waters have adequate oxygen for fish at all depths. This will result in cool-water preferring fish being able move throughout the water column. As surface waters continue to cool, deeper waters will remain slightly warmer. As a result of the below normal flows from the Susquehanna River, main bay salinities are slightly higher than normal. As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams except for the lower Potomac and on the lower Eastern Shore. There will be above average tidal currents as a result of the Halloween full moon Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
Expect temporary reduced clarity from algal blooms on the Northeast, Sassafras, Bush, Back, and upper Nanticoke rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
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.
Those fishing in the morning and evening hours near the Susquehanna Flats are enjoying some fun topwater action for striped bass. Many of the striped bass are short of the 19-inch minimum size but still provide fun catching and releasing them. As the sun rises in the sky, the action diminishes as the striped bass head for deeper waters in the channels. Jigging and working crankbaits in the deeper waters is working to some extent, but generally slow.
Fishing for catfish in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower river is very good with plenty of blue and channel catfish being caught on fresh cut bait. Flathead catfish can be found in the dam pool. The other tidal rivers in the upper bay region are holding large numbers of channel catfish, and they offer fun fishing and good eating. The Chester River holds quite a few blue catfish, which of course can grow to much larger sizes than the channel catfish. Fresh-cut bait tends to work best, but nightcrawlers and clam snouts can often produce good results.
Striped bass fishing is reported to be a little bit tough in the upper bay. The best opportunities for jigging and trolling are at the mouth of the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor, as well as the mouth of the Chester River and the Love Point area. Diving seagulls and breaking striped bass can be seen popping up along channel edges in the mouths of the tidal rivers and out in the bay. It can be frustrating when the action quickly dissipates. That is the time to check one’s depth finder to locate fish suspended close to the bottom. Most are using soft plastic jigs, but others prefer metal. Those trolling usually are using umbrella rigs pulled behind inline weights to get the rigs down to where the fish are holding. Many have switched to using hookless spoons on the arms of the umbrella rigs, and spoons for trailers. Tandem-rigged bucktails in medium sizes are also part of most trolling spreads.
The Bay Bridge piers and the sewer pipe are always good places to check for striped bass. There are striped bass holding there and most anglers are having good success casting soft plastic jigs close to the bridge piers. The rock piles are also a good place to check, and this time of the year large white perch are usually holding there. White perch can also be found near the mouths of the tidal rivers in deep water over hard bottom. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm is one of the better ways to get to them.
Angler Phyllis Archambault-Folland with her striped bass. Photo by Sam Folland, Captain, Keepin’ It Reel
It’s a common questions among anglers on the bay: “How old is that striped bass?” Biologist Eric Durell, who heads up Maryland’s striped bass project, offers some answers from survey results. Based on age and length studies of the fish, 79% of two-year-old striped bass measure between 10 inches and 14 inches. About 55% of age three striped bass measure between 14 inches and 16 inches, and 55% of age four striped bass measure between 16 inches and 19 inches. Also worth noting is that 18% of the three-year-old striped bass can achieve lengths of 20 inches to 21 inches. You can learn more about Maryland’s striped bass program on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Using these statistics, a lot of three- and four-year-old striped bass are setting up a chow line along channel edges near the mouths of the tidal rivers and the shipping channel edges in all regions of the bay. They tend to be intercepting schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden that are exiting the tidal rivers and being swept along by the strong currents. Everyone is on the lookout for swarms of diving seagulls, which can be difficult to spot with the morning fog conditions we’ve been experiencing. Finding seagulls sitting on the water or slicks can also lead to fish suspended close to the bottom. A good depth finder is a valuable tool if you know how to read it.
The Eastern Bay, the mouth of the Choptank, Little Choptank, and the Severn and West rivers are good places to enjoy some fall jigging action. Soft plastic jigs, paddle tails, and metal jigs are all effective lures. Braided line and a fast-action rod helps with sensitivity. The main shipping channel edges in the bay are also a good place to look for breaking or suspended fish. The outside edge of Hacketts Bar, Thomas Point, Bloody Point, Buoy 83, and the west side of the shipping channel from Chesapeake Beach south are good places to jig or troll. Those trolling are mostly using umbrella rigs, spoons and tandem rigged bucktails.
Casting topwater lures in the morning and evening hours in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers provides a fun and successful way to fish for striped bass. Casting paddle tails and jerkbaits are also a great choice for lures when shallow grass is not a problem.
White perch have moved into deeper waters in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers . Some of the best fishing opportunities exist over oyster bottom in the tidal rivers. One of the best places to fish for them from shore in the lower Choptank River is the Bill Burton Fishing Pier. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm tend to be the best way to catch white perch. Fishing for channel catfish is good in most of the region’s tidal rivers, and they tend to be in the upper sections of the rivers due to higher salinities.
There are several areas in the lower bay where striped bass fishing is reported to be very good. Those casting along shorelines on both sides of the bay are enjoying fun light-tackle action while casting topwater lures, paddle tails and jerkbaits. The lower Patuxent and St. Marys rivers are particularly good. The morning and evening hours tend to present the best opportunities. Speckled trout and puppy drum can often be part of the mix, especially in the Tangier Sound area.
The Potomac River is offering good fishing for striped bass and many are having the best success by trolling umbrella rigs along the channel edges. Anglers should note that Potomac River Fisheries Commission regulations allow two striped bass per day that measure 20 inches or larger in the main stem of the tidal river. If you are fishing within a Maryland tributary to the Potomac, the daily creel limit is one striped bass per day at 19 inches.
Breaking fish made up of sub-legal striped bass and the last of the bluefish are popping up throughout the region, chasing bait in the form of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden. Bait is pouring out of the rivers and headed down the bay. The edges of the shipping channel often provide the swiftest currents to sweep schools of bait along on a falling tide.
White perch are providing plenty of great fishing opportunities in the lower reaches of the tidal rivers. Most have left their summer habitat in the creeks and shallower areas of the rivers and are holding over hard bottom in the deeper waters of the rivers. Pieces of bloodworm on a two-hook bottom rig are the most popular way to catch them. Anglers report that most of the larger spot have left the region.
There are plenty of blue catfish waiting for anglers in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers. Cooler water temperatures have blue and channel catfish feeding aggressively, building up body stores for the coming winter. Fresh-cut bait of spot or white perch are two of the easier baits to obtain, but fresh menhaden also makes good bait.
The fall trout stocking program continues as crews are busy stocking the various trout management waters around the state. It appears that the western and central regions of Maryland may get some much-needed rain which will help stream and river flows. Trout stocking updates and maps can be found on the department’s website.
Fishing for a variety of species at Deep Creek Lake continues to be good, Northern pike, smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout, and yellow perch are all being caught. The upper Potomac River is still running low, so light lines, long casts, and small lures are standard fare for those fishing for smallmouth bass.
Largemouth bass fishing continues to be very good. Largemouth bass are being found in slightly deeper water between the shallow areas and drop-offs into deeper water. Crayfish are No. 1 on the menu for these bass, and light mushroom jigs of ⅛-ounce or similar jigs with soft plastic crayfish baits are a very popular way to imitate crayfish moving through these transition areas seeking deep cover. Small crankbaits are also a good choice and spinnerbaits can work well in feeder creeks and the outside edges of existing grass.
Surfcasters are still enjoying good fishing for kingfish, although some report it is beginning to diminish. Small bluefish are being caught on cut bait and flounder on squid strips. There will always be those soaking large cut baits hoping for some catch and release fishing with large red drum and perhaps some large bluefish or striped bass will show up.
At the inlet, sheepshead are still being caught near the South Jetty on sand fleas and pieces of crab. Flounder are moving through the inlet and since it is a pinch point, the inlet is a great place to intercept them. Casting white or pink Gulp baits, or drifting live bait in the form of spot or finger mullet is a great way to target the largest flounder. The channels leading towards the inlet are also a good place to drift for flounder.
Sea bass fishing at the offshore wreck and reef sites has been exceptional. Limit catches around the rails of headboats are common. Anglers are also catching a mix of flounder and triggerfish at the wreck and reef sites. Boats heading out to the offshore canyons are still catching small dolphin and some are reporting a yellowfin chunk bite. Those deep-dropping are catching blueline tilefish.
“Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” — Mark Twain
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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