Maryland Fishing Report
by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist
This promises to be an exciting week for fishing, no matter what species of fish you hope to catch. The trout stocking program is finishing up an intensive stocking program this week, warm summer-like temperatures beckon all to the outdoors, and the trophy striped bass season begins in portions of the Chesapeake Bay May 1.
Starting Saturday, the Chesapeake Bay from Brewerton Channel to the Virginia state line, excluding all bays, sounds, tributaries, creeks and rivers, except Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound, opens up to striped bass fishing for fish 35 inches or larger, with a one fish per person per day creel limit.
Please join us on April 29 at noon for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar with guest biologist Jim Thompson of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources fish passage program. We will discuss the efforts to encourage anadromous fish populations to reach their spawning grounds via fish ladders and dam removals. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.
DNR has recognized a new state record fallfish that was caught by 13-year-old angler Maxwell Diegel in Harford County. More information about this great catch is available on the department’s website.
Forecast Summary: April 28 – May 4:
Warm and windy conditions for the upcoming week will continue the warming of bay waters for gamefish spawning now in Maryland lower salinity waters. Bay surface water temperatures are approaching the upper 50s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures in the upper 50s up to the high 60s. In addition, the main bay still has slightly warmer bottom waters, so anglers may want to scan these areas for other gamefish.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents Friday through Tuesday as a result of the recent full moon April 27. Expect average clarity for the bay and rivers, however expect poorer water clarity due to algal blooms in the lower Potomac River between Colonial Beach and Piney Point, the Patuxent River, and Back River. 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, continue 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.
In the lower Susquehanna River, anglers are now enjoying good catch-and-release fishing for hickory shad at both Octoraro and Deer creeks. There have been low flows from the Conowingo Dam which helps produce warmer water temperatures in the lower Susquehanna River. With air temperatures in the 80s and sunny weather, conditions should be ideal for a large spawning run of hickory shad up Deer Creek. Anglers fishing with spinning gear will be casting shad darts or a small flashy spoon rigged in tandem with a dart. Colorful flies will be popular with those using fly fishing equipment.
White perch are moving into the lower Susquehanna River and providing plenty of fun fishing for those using light tackle. Shad darts and small jigs tipped with grass shrimp or a piece of bloodworm will work well, as will a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm. Smaller white perch also make excellent fresh-cut bait for flathead and blue catfish. The other tidal rivers within the upper bay region are seeing white perch moving into their typical summer habitats in the lower sections of the rivers.
Fishing for flathead catfish in the Conowingo Dam pool continues to be good with some rather large ones being caught on fresh-cut bait. There have been quite a few large northern snakeheads also being caught on white or pearl paddle tails. Blue catfish are being caught in good to excellent numbers in the lower Susquehanna and surrounding areas down past Havre de Grace.
May 1 is the day all bay anglers have been waiting for, as trophy-size striped bass season begins. Bay conditions look good and the weather looks favorable. Upper bay anglers must fish below the Brewerton Channel if they wish to keep a striped bass that measures longer than 35 inches. Above the Brewerton Channel is open to catch-and-release to the line drawn from Sandy Point to Turkey Point. All fishing for striped bass is prohibited above this line at this time; check the Department of Natural Resources online striped bass map page for reference. Also a reminder that circle hooks are required for any anglers that are using bait such as chunked menhaden or bloodworms for striped bass this spring.
Most large striped bass will be found close to the surface in the early morning hours until boat traffic drives them deeper. Planer boards will be an important asset to deploy lines away from the noise of the boat and keep them relatively close to the surface. Large parachutes and bucktails dressed with large sassy shads tend to be the most popular baits, usually in white and chartreuse. Most anglers will also deploy lines in deeper water, pulling baits either in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. The steep channel edges will be good places to troll, with Podickory Point a popular location.
In the middle bay, trolling for trophy-sized striped bass will be the major focus of anglers starting May 1 with the opening of the trophy striped bass season. As a reminder the minimum size is 35 inches with a limit of one fish per day per angler. The main stem of the bay will be open, but the tidal rivers will still be closed to fishing. There was a striped bass spawn in the Choptank River the past couple weeks, so those post-spawn striped bass should be exiting the river and will be found along the shipping channel edges. The False Channel edges, the steep edge at the CP Buoy, and the shipping channel edges north to the Bay Bridge are traditional locations to troll. The steep channel edge at Bloody Point will be a busy location for those trolling, as will Thomas Point and the western edge of the shipping channel in front of Breezy Point and Chesapeake Beach.
Trolling is most commonly done using large bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads in white and chartreuse in tandem off of planer boards or flat lines. Probing the depths with weighted lines will be in order so that all levels of water depth can be covered. Typically the large striped bass will be found relatively close to the surface early in the morning until boat traffic drives them deeper.
This chunky blue catfish showed up at the Kent Narrows and into the hands of Melissa Blair. Photo by Tristan Bapst
Fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish will offer plenty of fun for those fishing in the tidal rivers. Anglers are catching blue catfish in the Choptank River from the Dover Bridge area north to Denton. The Choptank River and the western shore rivers also offer channel catfish in good abundance. White perch, gizzard shad, and menhaden are excellent for fresh-cut bait.
White perch have moved to the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and can be found near deep water docks and piers, and the Bill Burton Fishing Pier. Fishing with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are a popular way to fish in deeper waters. The morning and evening hours offer some fun light-tackle action for those casting small spinners, beetle spins, spinnerbaits, and plastic jigs near submerged rocks, fallen treetops, docks, bulkheads, and prominent points.
Fishing for northern snakeheads should kick into high gear this week with temperatures soaring into the 80s for a couple days. Last week’s cold weather tended to put the skids on fishing success but happy days are ahead. The tidal rivers and creeks of lower Dorchester County are the best places to fish for snakeheads in the middle bay, although they have a habit of showing up unannounced in the creeks and rivers of the western shore. White and pearl paddle tails tend to be the most popular lure now. With warmer water temperatures and expanding grass beds, chatterbaits will start to come into their own.
The edges of the shipping channel will be a busy place May 1 as boats loaded with hopeful anglers try to intercept post-spawn striped bass that are moving out of the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers. The western side of the shipping channel from Breezy Point to Cove Point will be a popular place to troll, as will Point Lookout and Smith Point. The Potomac River will be open for striped bass fishing below the Route 301 Bridge, with a 35-inch minimum and limit of one fish per day. On the eastern side of the bay, the channel edge in front of Hooper Island and the HS Buoy are good places to troll.
Fishing for blue catfish is excellent in the Potomac River near Fort Washington, the Patuxent River from Benedict to the Jug Bay area, and in the Nanticoke from the mouth of Marshyhope Creek to above the Sharptown area. There are plenty of medium-sized blue cats, which make great table fare, along the channel edges, and large ones can be found in the deeper parts of the channels. Fresh-cut bait of gizzard shad, white perch or menhaden make the best baits. In most areas channel catfish will be part of the mix and can be also found in every tidal river and creek throughout the lower bay.
White perch have moved into the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and can be found in most of their typical summer habitats. Docks and piers over deeper waters are great places to fish for them with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs or small jigs. Working shoreline structure is another fun way to fish for them with light tackle and small spinners and jigs. Large dock areas, bulkheads, jetty rocks, and any kind of submerged structure are great places to fish in the morning and evening hours.
Eric Packard caught and released this fine looking hickory shad near Indian Head on the Potomac River. Photo by Eric Packard
The hickory shad and American shad can still be found within District of Columbia waters in the tidal Potomac this week. The area around Fletcher’s Landing tends to be the epicenter of this fun catch-and release fishery. Shad darts, small spoons, and colorful flies are the ticket to this show when worked in a sweeping motion close to the bottom.
Fishing for crappie in the tidal Potomac near the Wilson Bridge and the nearby marinas has been excellent. Those fishing with spider-type fishing arrays are catching large stringers of crappie, and there is no creel limit for crappie in tidal waters. Slowly working the spoil area on the Maryland side of the bridge and the marina docks with small minnows under a bobber has been a very efficient way to catch them.
This week’s warm weather is sure to spur northern snakeheads into aggressive feeding activity. The edges of the Potomac and all of the tributary creeks are excellent places to fish for snakeheads. Casting white or pearl paddle tails has been the mainstay for the past month, but with warming water temperatures and grass beds becoming established, chatterbaits may be a good lure to start using. Large minnows under a bobber with a large circle hook is always a tasty treat to a marauding snakehead, especially in the more open water areas. The Patuxent River along with the Nanticoke, Wicomico, and Pocomoke rivers on the Eastern Shore all have expanding populations of northern snakeheads.
Are you planning to be on the Potomac River around the Nice-Middleton Bridge Project? For safety, a new 6-knot speed limit is now being enforcedfor 0.5 nautical miles north and south of the bridge.
Greg Dorworth is all smiles with this large 21.5-inch rainbow trout he caught recently in Great Seneca Creek. Photo courtesy of Greg Dorworth
This is a big week for put-and-take trout anglers as intensive trout stocking wraps up on April 30. It has been a tough year to complete trout stockings due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the employees of the hatcheries and stocking program appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during these difficult times. To see what trout waters near you that have been stocked this week be sure to check out the trout stocking page on our website.
Fishing at Deep Creek Lake is beginning to evolve as waters warm up. Largemouth bass are in an aggressive pre-spawn feeding phase and can be found near the numerous floating docks, fallen treetops, and transition areas near the backs of the shallower cove areas. Smallmouth bass are very active and can be found along rocky points and submerged structure. Soft plastic craw jigs tend to be at the top of the list for enticing both species but spinnerbaits, small crankbaits and jerkbaits can work well also. Drifting minnows down deep along the edges of deep grass is a great way to find large yellow perch and a mix of smallmouth bass and walleye. Trout can be found on humps and along the dam face, and crappie are sticking close to the bridge piers.
Maxwell Diegel was fishing in Broad Creek on April 19, in the Pylesville area when he hooked into this large fallfish which set a new state record of 2.14 pounds. Photo by Heidi Diegel
In many areas of Maryland, largemouth bass are now on their spawning beds. Largemouth bass will also be encountered in transition areas near the shallow areas where they spawn. Grass beds are filling out and creating much needed cover for the largemouth bass and small baitfish and crayfish.
The Maryland Department of Natural resources has partnered with Virginia and Washington D.C. and have tagged more than 300 adult largemouth bass to help monitor the population from the tidal Potomac River. Anglers can report tagged bass by calling 1-800-376-2925, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mobile survey to the department’s Volunteer Angler Survey.
Crappie fishing is about as good as it gets this time of the year — they provide a lot of fun fishing as well as excellent table fare. Fishing with small minnows under a slip bobber is the time proven way to catch them, but using marabou jigs under a bobber can work. There are some small suspended jerkbaits on the market that are only 1.5 inches long and work well when crappie are in an aggressive pre-spawn phase.
This is a great week to enjoy some sunny and warm weather on the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island and catch some fish while you’re at it. Surfcasters are catching some nice eating-size black drum on clams and sand fleas. Clear-nose skates are always part of the mix but there are also a few sub-legal striped bass being caught and released. A reminder that circle hooks are required when bait fishing for striped bass in the surf, ocean, and coastal bays.
At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, tautog are being caught on sand fleas and pieces of green crab. The throwback ratio tends to be high, but catching fish over 16 inches is possible. Flounder are moving through the inlet and can be caught from shore or small boats. Casting white Gulp shrimp and walking them along the bottom has been a favorite tactic of those fishing from shore.
The Thorofare Channel and East Channel have been popular spots to fish for flounder this week. The standard minnow-squid combination is working well but using larger baits such as soft plastic Gulp baits can help weed through the smaller flounder. There is little boat traffic this time of the year compared to the summer months so drifting for flounder in the channels is a bit more peaceful and safe. There is some catch-and-release action with sub-legal striped bass in the inlet and also the Route 90 Bridge and the Verrazano Bridge.
Outside of the inlet, the boats headed out to the offshore wreck and reef sites are finding tautog in good numbers. Those venturing a bit farther and deeper are finding some rather large tautog. Pieces of crab tend to be the preferred baits.
“Unencumbered by the knowledge that women didn’t fish, it was obvious to me, at age five or six, that it was better to be the fisherman than the rower.” — Joan Wulff
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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