Maryland Fishing Report
by Keith Lockwood
This week holds the promise of fishing for a variety of species. The trout put-and-take areas have been generously stocked and blue catfish and northern snakeheads are very active. Chesapeake Bay anglers are excited to be able to fish for the large post-spawn striped bass as they exit the spawning rivers and head out of the bay for the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Chesapeake Bay is now open for striped bass fishing from Brewerton Channel to the Virginia state line, excluding all bays (other than the main stem), sounds, tributaries, creeks and rivers, except Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound, is open to striped bass fishing for fish 35 inches or larger, with a one fish per person per day creel limit. Further information on areas and dates for striped bass fishing can be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Forecast Summary: May 5 – May 11:
Cool and windy conditions for the upcoming week will slow the warming of bay waters for gamefish spawning now in Maryland lower salinity waters. In addition, these cool air temperatures will slow the warming of ground temperatures towards 64 degrees, necessary for the brood X cicada emergence. Bay surface water temperatures are in the lower 50s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s. Preliminary April monitoring data showed that bottom waters are several degrees cooler than surface waters, so it is likely striped bass will be higher in the water column to find their preferred water temperatures.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents from Friday through Tuesday as a result of the upcoming new moon May 11-12. Expect average clarity for the bay and rivers, however expect poor water clarity due to algal blooms in the Patapsco River east to the mouth of the Chester River; in the lower Potomac River between Colonial Beach and Caledon State Park in Virginia; the Patuxent River from Battle Creek upriver; the Choptank River above Cambridge; and the Back, Bush. and Gunpowder rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
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The Conowingo Dam continues to release diminished amounts of water this week, causing the lower Susquehanna River to exhibit low flows. Fishing for blue catfish continues to be very good in the river from the dam pool down past Havre de Grace. Most anglers are using fresh cut bait of gizzard shad, white perch, or menhaden. Blue catfish can also be found in good numbers in the Chester River and can show up in any of the other tidal rivers and main stem of the bay in the upper bay region. Channel catfish can be found in good numbers in the bay and all of the region’s tidal rivers. Circle hooks must be used when fishing with bait, and a fish finder rig or a sliding egg sinker rig gives an advantage to let the catfish swim off a bit allowing the circle hook to engage in the corner of its mouth.
Northern snakeheads are being caught near the Conowingo Dam pool this week. Something seems to be attracting them to the area, whether it simply is the end of the road or the flows and a food source is attractive to them. Northern snakeheads can be counted on to show up here and there in the region’s tidal rivers and the Susquehanna Flats.
The white perch have arrived in the lower Susquehanna River and can be caught on a wide variety of lures. Colorful sinking flies, spinners, spinnerbaits, jigs, and a simple bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm. Hickory shad were being caught in the main river but seem to have diminished, and their absence at Deer Creek remains a mystery at this time.
Local observers report that the striped bass spawn in the lower Susquehanna River and surrounding areas has yet to occur so post-spawn striped bass heading south in the upper bay region will be scarce. Striped bass can swim in any direction and they are not always in such a hurry to leave the bay when there are schools of menhaden about, so some may travel up the bay. The steep edges of the shipping channel near Podickory Point, the Dumping Grounds, and of course the Bay Bridge area are good places to troll.
White perch are moving into the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and can be found near structure. Old piers at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor near the Key Bridge is an excellent place to find them as well as any kind structure in the region’s other tidal rivers. Small jigs tipped with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are something white perch find hard to resist, bottom rigs baited with the same also work well.
The opening day of the trophy striped bass season got off to a blustery start with plenty of rocking and rolling out on the bay. Boats are trolling large spreads of parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads in white and chartreuse. Steep channel edges at Bloody Point, outside of Hacketts Bar, Thomas Point, the edge at Buoy 83, the CP Buoy, and the western side of the shipping channel from Chesapeake Beach south were all popular and fish are being caught there.
Post-spawn striped bass will continue to be moving out of the Choptank River and Nanticoke River this week and will be providing fishing opportunities for another week or two. Most everyone is trolling large parachutes and bucktails in tandem or behind umbrella rigs this week but a few light tackle anglers are jigging and chunking. Remember if you are fishing with bait you are required to use circle hooks. Catfish may also be part of the mix when baits are allowed to rest on the bottom. Those fishing from Sandy Point State Park, Matapeake Fishing Pier ,or private docks and piers along the shores of the middle bay can fish with cut menhaden or bloodworms.
Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river in the middle bay region and always provide plenty of fun fishing, and make good table fare as well. Most any kind of fresh cut bait will work and clam snouts also make a fine bait. Most everyone uses a simple bottom rig, but hair jigs with a piece of cut bait on them can do wonders when working snags or simply on the bottom in a likely location. Blue catfish can be found in the Choptank River in the general area from the Dover Bridge to Denton and in the Nanticoke near the Marshyhope Creek and Sharpsburg.
White perch are moving into their summer habitat locations and can be found near structure. Docks and piers over deeper water, especially on prominent points, are a great place to find them on a moving tide. Grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm fished down near pilings are a good way to catch them. In the morning and evening hours, casting small spinnerbaits, soft plastic jigs, and spinners near shoreline structure can offer some wonderful light tackle action.
Fishing for northern snakeheads is excellent in the lower Dorchester County tidal rivers and creeks. The snakeheads are in a pre-spawn mode of feeding activity so they are actively feeding. Casting white paddle tails is perhaps one of the easiest ways to fish for snakeheads and now that water temperatures are up and grass beds are thickening, casting chatterbaits is becoming another good option. Those fishing in the upper sections of the tidal rivers always stand the chance of running into northern snakeheads while casting lures in the shallower areas.
Boats loaded with hopeful anglers are out trying for a chance at a trophy-sized striped bass. The eastern and western edges of the shipping channel with Cove Point and the HS Buoy are hotspots, as are Smith Point and the steep edge from St. Georges Island to Piney Point at the mouth of the Potomac River. The most popular trolling options are large bucktails and parachutes in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. The tandems are usually pulled off planer boards and umbrella rigs trolled deep with inline weights. Post-spawn striped bass are exiting the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers. so the lower bay offers perhaps the best opportunity to intercept striped bass headed down the bay. Schools of menhaden will help entice them to stick around and build up body stores after an exhausting spawning activity and before their migration to New England waters.
Anglers are still catching and releasing hickory shad in the tidal Potomac River within the Washington, D.C. line. Shad darts cast across current tends to be the most efficient way to fish for them from shore or small boats. Many are tying in another shad dart or small spoon in for a tandem rig and doubling their chances. A few American shad are also being caught and released as well, although they are not as common.
Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers could hardly be better. The blue catfish are very active in a pre-spawn mode and aggressively taking baits. Anglers fishing in the deeper parts of the channels are catching some rather large fish; small to medium sized blue cats can be found along channel edges and humps near the channel areas. Fresh cut baits of gizzard shad, white perch, or menhaden tend to work best. Channel catfish can be found in all tidal rivers and creeks.
Northern snakeheads are very active in the tidal areas of the Potomac and Patuxent and the Eastern Shore rivers. Most anglers are casting white paddle tails or chatterbaits as well as fishing with large minnows under a bobber. Snakeheads will be spawning in most areas next month so this pre-spawn window of time tends to offer some of the best fishing opportunities for snakeheads.
The last phase of intensive trout stocking was completed April 30 and put-and-take anglers will enjoy the rewards of those stockings through this month. Flows have been good in most trout streams and rivers and the ponds that have been stocked offer plenty of fun fishing trips, especially for our younger anglers.
The upper Potomac is expected to crest at about 7 feet by Thursday and water temperatures are in the low 60s. Smallmouth bass can be found along shoreline structure, current breaks, and along emerging grass beds. The bass should be hungry and attempting to build up body stores after spawning. Tubes, jigs, and small crankbaits are good choices for baits.
Deep Creek Lake is warming up nicely and pleasant weather makes for some comfortable fishing. Largemouth bass are getting ready to spawn and are actively feeding in areas close to the spawning shallows. Floating docks and fallen wood are excellent places to cast a variety of lures. Crappie are holding to structure, yellow perch and walleye can be found deep along grass edges, and trout on humps and along the dam face.
In most waters of the central, southern and eastern regions of the state, largemouth bass are actively spawning. They can be encountered holding in or near shallow areas where spawning beds are established. Casting a variety of lures, including spinnerbaits, small lipless crankbaits, suspended jerkbaits, and soft plastics are a great way to target them.
This is a wonderful time to target crappie and the rewards can be great, whether just for enjoyment of catching these scrappy fish or if they are destined for a frying pan. A variety of lures work well, including small marabou jigs under a bobber, small suspended jerkbaits, and the traditional minnow under a bobber.
Along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island, surf casters have been soaking baits of clams and sand fleas for black drum and some nice medium-sized fish are being caught regularly. There are some small striped bass in the surf also and certainly plenty of clearnose skate. There have been rumors to our south of bluefish moving along the coast, so they may arrive in Maryland waters shortly.
At the inlet. striped bass that fall short of the 28-inch minimum are being caught and released on a variety of lures, and there is similar action at the Route 90 Bridge and the Verrazano Bridge. Paddle tails and soft plastic jigs tend to be two of the most popular lures. Anglers are reminded that they must use circle hooks in the Atlantic Ocean, its coastal bays, and their tidal tributaries when using fish, crabs, or worms as bait, or processed baits (treble hooks are prohibited) when targeting striped bass.
Tautog are being caught at the inlet and the Route 50 Bridge area on sand fleas and pieces of green crab. Most fail to meet the 16-inch minimum but anglers that wait it out are bringing one or two fish home. Flounder are moving through the inlet in earnest now and the inlet area is a great place to intercept them. Casting Gulp shrimp baits works well for the larger flounder, and of course minnows and squid will always work. The channels leading from the inlet and the Thorofare in particular are great places to drift for flounder.
Offshore tautog fishing remains good on the offshore wreck and reef sites, with some specimens weighing 10 pounds or better. The tautog season closes May 16 until June 30. Black sea bass season will open on May 15 and continue to Dec. 31, with a 15-fish creel limit per day at a 12.5-inch minimum.
“The true fisherman approaches the first day of fishing with all the sense of wonder and awe of a child approaching Christmas.” — Robert Traver
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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