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CNB Fishing MD: Summertime and The Living is Easy, Fish Are Jumping, and the Cotton is High

Maryland Fishing Report 

by Keith Lockwood

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

 
Photo of girl holding a bluegill fish

Young angler Lucy Perez recently caught this bluegill, which are found in quiet waters such as lakes, ponds, and slow-flowing rivers and streams.​ Photo by Nick Perez.

Summer weather is upon us and many are seeking a little relief near water. That little bit of sanctuary can range from enjoying the ocean waters of Ocean City and Assateague Island to exploring small creeks and streams from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has two more free fishing days coming up, which allows folks to fish anywhere in Maryland without a fishing license, on June 12 and July 4. This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce someone new to the world of fishing.


Forecast Summary: June 9 – June 15:

Despite a chance of rain on Thursday and Friday, long days and warm weather in the forecast should continue to warm Chesapeake Bay water temperatures. Bay surface water temperatures and river and stream temperatures are in the upper 70s, and will continue to rise this week. Early June monitoring data is showing main Bay bottom waters are slightly cooler than surface waters and beginning to show some poor oxygen conditions, so it is likely striped bass will be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. Due to low bottom oxygen levels, avoid fishing below the following depths in these locations: Susquehanna Flats to Gunpowder Neck, 30 feet; Swan Point, 16 feet; Bay Bridge to Bloody Point, 40 feet; Choptank River to Point No Point, 35 feet to 70 feet. Conditions can vary daily so be sure to check the depth to oxygen level online prior to your next fishing trip.

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. However, there may be higher than normal localized flows in some areas from Thursday’s predicted rainfall. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the new moon June 10. Expect average clarity for Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, however expect very poor water clarity due to algal blooms in the along the west shore of the Bay from Chesapeake Beach south to Ridge, and in the lower Potomac River between Leonardtown and Point Lookout. Since large algal blooms can result in low dissolved oxygen or fish kills when it dies off, avoid fishing in these areas. 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.


Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of man holding a large blue catfish by the riverside

Joseph Baughers holds a nice blue cat caught from shore near Port Deposit. Photo by Summerlyn Drury

Anglers are enjoying good fishing for striped bass during the early morning hours at the Susquehanna Flats. Casting topwater lures offers the most exciting way to fish, but casting soft plastic jigs and paddle tails are working well into the later morning hours. Live lining small white perch along the deeper channel edges is also producing good catches. Sub-legal striped bass that are usually in the 17-inch to 18-inch size range make up a percentage of the fish being caught. 

Blue and channel catfish are providing plenty of action in the lower Susquehanna River and the channels leading away from the mouth of the river. Fresh-cut white perch, gizzard shad, menhaden, or simple baits of chicken liver and nightcrawlers are all working well. The upper Chester River near Crumpton is another excellent place to fish for blue catfish.

Northern snakeheads are now spawning or protecting fry balls in the shallow grassy areas of the Susquehanna Flats and shallow shoreline areas of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. Fishing for them can be tough during this time — using obnoxious lures that seem to threaten their progeny would be a tactic to get them to strike. 

There are plenty of white perch in the lower Susquehanna River and all of the tidal rivers in the upper Bay region. The lower Patapsco near the Key Bridge is a great place to fish for them, as are the shallower bridge piers at the Bay Bridge or the breakwater jetty at Sandy Point. Pieces of bloodworms on a simple bottom rig work well in deeper waters, or jigging them with dropper fly rigs. One note on dropper fly rigs — only two flies are legal if a sinker is used to get the rig down to the bottom, or one dropper fly when using a jig that has a hook. Commonly sold Sabiki rigs with more than two hooks are not legal in Maryland. Beetle spins, small spinnerbaits, and spinners work well on light tackle along shoreline structure in creeks and tidal rivers. 

Anglers looking for striped bass in the upper Bay are finding them in a few locations, with the Love Point Rocks and Swan Point at the top of the list. Casting jigs at the Love Point Rocks and working them along the bottom in the current is paying off for light-tackle anglers. Skirted soft plastic jigs in the 6-inch to 8-inch size range in pearl and chartreuse color combinations or white are working well, and don’t forget a little menhaden juice to make baits a little more enticing. 

Casting soft plastic jigs near the bridge piers at the Key and Bay bridges are also popular ways to fish this week. The best action is very early in the morning with a good running tide right up close to the piers. As the morning wears on, one can expect crowded conditions, especially on the weekends. Others are live-lining white perch and spot, and those chumming or chunking are catching quite a few catfish. Striped bass coming up short of 19 inches will be a large part of the action. A lot of boats started moving farther north earlier this week to live-line at Love Point, Swan Point, and the Triple Buoys.

In those areas, anglers trolling for their striped bass are working the shipping channel edges and looking for fish holding at 30 feet to 40 feet, so weighted umbrella rigs with bucktail trailers are popular.


Middle Bay

Jigging or casting jigs and paddle tails provide popular ways to fish for striped bass in the middle Bay. Anglers are finding suspended fish at the Gum Thickets, Thomas Point and the False Channel, and the Diamonds at the mouth of the Choptank River. Most anglers are using 6-inch to 10-inch soft plastics in white, pearl, and combinations of chartreuse color schemes. Anglers are casting jigs and paddle tails in shallower waters near Poplar Island, the Thomas Point rocks, and areas in Eastern Bay. 

Photo of two large catfish that were caught

Photo by Keith Lockwood

Shallower waters in Eastern Bay, the lower Choptank River, and western shore areas are drawing the attention of those casting a variety of lures near shoreline structure. In the early morning and late evening hours, topwater lures offer fun fishing for striped bass, as the morning wears on, casting paddletails works well. Speckled trout are in the mix and offer additional opportunities, most of them far exceed the minimum size of 14 inches and four speckled trout can be kept per day. 

Those who are trolling for their striped bass are doing so along the edges of the shipping channel, the outside edge of Hackett’s and Thomas Point, the Buoy 83 area, the False Channel, and out in front of Breezy Point. Weighted umbrella rigs are being used to reach depths of 35 feet and tandem rigged bucktails in the upper part of the water column. Those trolling the shallower channels near the mouths of the tidal rivers are also pulling bucktails and storm shads. 

When striped bass can be found suspended off the bottom of channel edges, live-lining spot and small white perch are a good way to fish for them. Reports of striped bass from the weekend were sparse. Traditional steep channel edges at Hacketts, Bloody Point, Thomas Point in the Bay, and channel edges in Eastern Bay at Hollicutts Noose and Tilghman Point may see better fishing shortly. It seems a bit early for such things to happen, but middle Bay anglers are hoping the striped bass are not moving north so soon.

Fishing for white perch is about as good as it gets this week; the perch are spread out in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and creeks. In the morning and evening hours, casting beetle spins, spinners, and small spinnerbaits with light tackle is a fun option. Fishing off docks and piers with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm is always fun and a perfect fit for our younger anglers. 

Blue catfish have moved up the Choptank River in the lower Denton area, and the upper Tuckahoe Creek between the Route 328 Bridge and Stoney Point is providing a lot of good fishing for an excellent eating fish. It does not take much to fish for them from shore or a small boat with fresh-cut bait, nightcrawlers or chicken liver, and channel catfish will also be in the mix.


Lower Bay
Photo of boy holding a speckled trout in a boat

A happy Cooper Senter holds up a nice speckled trout. Photo courtesy of Justin Senter

Most of the best fishing action in the lower Bay is taking place in the shallower waters along the eastern and western shores. Casting paddletails and soft plastic jigs in white, pink, and pearl color combinations is a very popular way to fish for a mix of striped bass and speckled trout. Often the speckled trout are taking center stage since most are longer than 20 inches with a daily creel limit four fisher per day, while catching a striped bass above the 19-inch minimum can be tough at times. The morning and evening hours usually offer the best fishing opportunities.

Some are trolling along the channel edges in the lower Potomac River and the Bay shipping channels with fair results. Most are trolling deep with umbrella rigs and closer to the surface with tandem rigged bucktails and swimshads. Spot and small white perch can be live-lined and anglers are searching channel edges looking for suspended fish to set up on. 

Large red drum are being caught and released near the Target Ship and Mud Leads on soft crab baits, jigging with large soft plastic jigs, or by trolling large silver spoons. There are a lot of cownose rays in the neighborhood so make sure you have locked in on the drum with your depth finder before dropping soft crab baits over the side. 

White perch can be found in the tidal rivers and creeks. Casting small lures during the early morning and evening hours along shoreline structure is great fun with light tackle. They can also be found in deeper waters in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers, usually on hard bottom. In the lower Patuxent and Potomac, spot and croaker can also be in the mix when fishing with bloodworms or peeler crab on a bottom rig. 

Fishing for blue catfish could hardly be better in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers. They offer plenty of action and make great table fare. Fresh-cut gizzard shad, white perch, or menhaden make excellent baits, as are nightcrawlers, clam snouts, and chicken liver. 

The recreational crabbing season is slowly picking up momentum this week, and each week tends to be a little better than the previous. In the middle Bay, trotliners are generally catching a few dozen to a half-bushel of heavy crabs. The best catch is in shallow water with razor clams, and those crabbing on the Eastern Shore are doing better than the western side of the Bay. Lower Bay catches are up a notch from the middle Bay, with catches of a half-bushel fairly common, and some have gone home with a full bushel of crabs.


Freshwater Fishing
Photo of a smallmouth bass about to be released back into the water

John Mullican takes one last look at this beautiful smallmouth bass before slipping it back into the upper Potomac River. Photo by John Mullican

The trout management waters of the central and western regions are still offering good trout fishing. The put-and-take areas in the central region offer good fishing for those who can cover water, looking for trout that have eluded previous anglers. Casting small spoons and spinners is a great way to fish for them. The western region offers a lot of options for those fishing the delayed harvest areas that are now open to anglers who can keep up to five trout per day. The catch-and-release and fly-fishing-only areas hold plenty of trout and offer enjoyable fishing opportunities.

Even though put-and take trout stocking is over until the fall, the hatchery programs has been busy in other areas. The upper Potomac River was recently stocked with 40,000 walleye fry and the Savage Reservoir received 50,000 walleye fry. Antietam Creek was stocked with 40,000 rainbow trout fry and Triadelphia Reservoir was stocked with 800,000 striped bass fry under a put-and-grow program. 

Fishing for smallmouth bass on the upper Potomac River is good. Maryland DNR biologists John Mullican and Josh Henesy were out on the river and reported there are plenty of 10-inch to 12-inch smallmouth bass, which holds promise for the future of this fishery. Also, cicadas are crash-landing into the river along shorelines and the smallmouth bass are starting to key in on them as a food source. Flathead catfish are concentrated at the dams and offer excellent fishing.

Biologists are trying to determine whether catch-and-release mortality for muskellunge is higher during summer months in the upper Potomac River.  They have another sample of fresh radio-tagged fish in the river this year and are hoping the program’s muskie anglers will report their catches. You can read more about the 2020 muskie update on the DNR website. 

Fishing for largemouth bass is good and bass holding in a summer pattern of behavior. As dawn breaks at 5:30 a.m. it can be hard to get out on the water for the early morning shallow water bite, which is always fun since few things are as exciting as a surface strike on a topwater lure. 

As the morning wears on, vibrating jigs and soft plastics can entice bass to strike in slightly deeper waters containing grass, lily pads, or spatterdock fields. Largemouth bass are seeking cool shade during the day so sunken wood, fallen treetops, thick grass mats, and the shade of a dock are great places to cast soft plastics, craws and grubs. Few things entice a lounging bass to strike more than a wacky rigged worm or stick worm dangling in front of them.

Northern snakeheads are busy protecting the fry balls this week so they tend to stay put in thick grass. Since they are so protective, casting chatterbaits or perhaps a soft plastic lizard near their brood may get a strike. 

Fishing for crappie remains good this week and targeting sunken brush, fallen treetops, bridge piers, or marina docks are great places to look for them. Fishing a small minnow or marabou jig under a slip bobber is a good way to fish for them in the tidal Potomac River near the Wilson Bridge and nearby marinas. The bridge piers at Loch Raven and Liberty reservoirs and small lakes such as Wye Mills are just a few of the other good places to fish for crappie.


Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Surfcasters are enjoying excellent fishing for kingfish, using a mix of bloodworms, Fishbites, and strips of cut spot for bait. There are also northern blowfish, spot, and flounder in the mix. Those soaking large cut baits of menhaden continue to fish for large striped bass moving up the coast, and some beautiful fish are being caught. 

Sand tiger sharks are also moving along the beaches at night, and anglers should keep in mind that sand tiger sharks are a protected species that must be immediately released in the water. It is illegal to haul them up on the wet sand part of the beach for photographs, to sit on them, or hold open their mouths. Allowing them to be unsupported in the water can cause damage to their internal organs. 

At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, catch-and-release fishing for striped bass measuring less than 28 inches is providing plenty of fun fishing for those casting soft plastic jigs and bucktails. Flounder are constantly moving through the inlet so that is a great place to target them from shore.

Flounder fishing in the back bay channels has improved greatly since the waters have cleared. Drifting in the channels and jigging along the bottom with soft plastic jigs in white or pink is a great way to target the larger flounder. Traditional baits of squid and minnow also work well. The East Channel, the Thorofare, and in front of the Ocean City Airport are just a few of the places to find good fishing. Boat traffic is up so be careful in the channels leading towards the inlet. 

Offshore fishing for black sea bass is very good this week with limit catches being common. Farther offshore near the canyons Bluefin tuna are being caught along with a yellowfin now and then. Those deep-dropping are catching golden tilefish.


“I suspect that a sense of humor is the most valuable thing an angler can own.” — Jim Harrison


Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. 

Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: If you wonder where the headline came from listen to this song performed by Sam Cooke. This song was released in 1958, very fitting we think for a column about fishing...CNBNewsnet

 

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