The arrival of summer provides plenty of opportunities for special family time in the great outdoors. This past Sunday was a wonderful Father’s Day for dads, grandads, and other father figures to spend fishing with sons and daughters.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is teaming up with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to host its second annual snakehead derby at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County. Snakes on the Dundee II will take place June 25 at Dundee Creek Marina.
Remember that hot summer weather creates tough conditions for striped bass survival, which is why DNR once again will run its striped bass fishing advisory forecastfor the warmest months, so anglers can better plan their fishing for striped bass to lessen mortalities.
Forecast Summary: June 22 – June 28:
As we welcome the first week of summer, enjoy the sunny, warm, and relatively calm weather with chances of rain on Wednesday, Thursday and Monday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures decreased slightly to the low to mid 70s, and Maryland rivers are currently running in the low 70s. However, expect warming as the week progresses. If you are seeking the warmest waters, fish the surface later in the day as well as downwind areas. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, and deeper waters or upwind areas later.
Coolest oxygenated bottom waters can be found from about Kent Island north to near Tolchester. In most Bay rivers, there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet. In the main Bay adequate oxygen conditions are found: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, 40 feet to bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 20 feet to the bottom, and down to 10 feet near Cambridge and upriver; Bloody Point, 15 feet to 35 feet; Bay Bridge, 20 feet to bottom; Swan Point, 15 feet to bottom; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. It is likely that in some locations, gamefish will be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures.
There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the Back, Patapsco, North East, and Sassafras rivers.
To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the Bay, be sure to check out Eyes on the Bay’s Click Before You Cast.
There is fast-paced fishing action for flathead and blue catfish at the Conowingo Dam pool and lower Susquehanna Flats area, making up for the slow striped bass fishing reported in those locations.
There are plenty of striped bass further south in the Pooles Island area and the lumps between the confluence of the two shipping channels that lead to the Elk River and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. There is also striped bass action being reported at the Tolchester lumps. Most anglers fishing for striped bass are live-lining spot; they are reporting that a fair percentage being caught are undersized, so care must be taken when releasing them. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks. There is also good action for striped bass at the Love Point rocks for those live-lining spot or jigging – the action tapers off south of that location.
Spot are readily available off Sandy Point State Park, around the corner in front of the Podickory Point Marina, and at the mouth of the Magothy River. They tend to be holding in about 12 feet to 15 feet of water on hard bottom. Pieces of bloodworm on a small hook bottom rig will get you into the action. Bloodworms can become scarce and expensive this time of year, and some seasoned anglers will cut their bloodworms in a tray to save the juices and then mix a few pieces of nightcrawlers in to soak it up and help extend their bait supply.
White perch can be part of the mix when fishing for spot, and small white perch can also be used for live-lining. The shallower ends of the Bay Bridge hold good numbers of white perch, large and small. The tidal rivers are a good place to look for white perch near docks and piers, including the Key Bridge piers. The deeper areas of the Key Bridge are also holding striped bass, offering a good place for live-lining spot, small white perch, or eels.
There has been some fun early morning and late evening fishing for striped bass at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers, along shoreline structure. Casting topwater lures and white paddletails is a popular way to fish. Northern snakeheads can be part of the mix, especially as you fish farther up the tidal rivers near grassy flats.
Blue catfish and channel catfish are prevalent through the upper Bay and tidal rivers and offer plenty of fun fishing the bottom with cut bait of other preferred baits. Chumming is a sure way to attract catfish whether on purpose or when chumming for striped bass. If you’re new to cleaning catfish, you will have a mild-tasting filet after removing the red meat and silver skin.
The Bay Bridge pier bases are getting a lot of attention from anglers drifting live spot or cut baits of soft crab, spot, or menhaden. Everyone is reporting a lot of sub-legal striped bass so care must be taken when releasing them. Circle hooks are required and must be of the non-offset variety. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
Casting soft plastic jigs and paddletails near the bridge piers is another option and also works well near shoreline structure such as the rocks at Thomas Point and Poplar Island. The early morning and late evening shallow-water fishery for striped bass is still good near the mouth of the Choptank River, and on the western shore in front of the Naval Academy. Topwater lures are a good choice over shallow grass, and paddletails and jerkbaits work in deeper waters.
Trolling is another good option in the middle Bay this week, since the striped bass seem to be so spread out. Dragging umbrella rigs behind inline weight to get down to the 30-foot channel edges is a good tactic. Most anglers are using bucktails dressed with sassy shads as trailers; white and chartreuse have been working well.
Many anglers around the Bay are reporting what they think is a reduction of white perch numbers this year. White perch are providing plenty of action for those fishing off docks and piers in the tidal rivers and creeks. Dropping straight down with a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm off a dock or pier will often entice white perch to bite. This is a great way for our youngest anglers to fish and have success. Casting small spinners and roadrunner type lures with ultra-lite tackle along shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours is great fun for adults. A good running tide is very important for any fishing.
Fishing for channel catfish is good in the region’s tidal rivers and blue catfish can be found in the Choptank River. It seems that a bulk of the large blue catfish have moved upriver to the Denton area recently. Those casting topwater lures and white paddletails near shallow grass are catching a northern snakehead now and then. The tidal creeks and rivers of Dorchester County continue to provide good fishing for northern snakeheads in the shallow grassy areas.
One of the best places to fish for striped bass is the lower Potomac River. There are a couple of channel edge locations that are producing good fishing but the steep channel edge from St. Georges Island to Piney Point has been an excellent place for live-lining spot. It can be fairly quick to catch a daily limit so many anglers are motoring up to places like the St. Marys and Wicomico rivers, using cut spot to catch blue catfish to round out the day.
Trolling along the main channel edges in the lower Potomac can pay dividends. Trolling with umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weight can work well with bucktails dressed with sassy shads as trailers. Single Drone spoons behind inline weights offer another viable option.
Good striped bass fishing has been found in the lower Patuxent River around the Solomons Bridge piers and also the channel edges. Live-lining spot close to the bridge pier bases has been productive. Trolling with weighted umbrella rigs down deep along the 35-foot channel edge is also another good option. Jigging with soft plastics can also work when fish can be spotted suspended off the edges of the channels.
Spot are readily available in the lower Patuxent River over shell bottom, along with white perch and a few small croakers. Spot can also be found in Tangier Sound and up towards Hooper Island. White perch can be found in the tidal rivers and creeks near structure such as docks, piers, and rocks. Casting small spinnerbaits, roadrunners, and spinners is a fun way to catch them on light tackle in the morning and evening hours.
A mix of striped bass and speckled trout are being caught in the lower Bay in the morning and evening hours by casting paddletails and topwater lures. The lower sections of the tidal rivers are excellent places to cast white, pearl and pink paddletails. Topwater lures work well over grass. The largest speckled trout are coming from the eastern side of the Bay.
The 2022 cobia season got off to a reasonable start and a number of them were caught in Maryland waters near the Target Ship and the Middle Grounds. Most anglers are chumming and fishing with live eels in the back of their chum slick. Chum attracts cownose rays and small sharks which can be pesky at times. Some of the best cobia fishing is still in Virginia waters.
Large red drum are still being caught and released in the Tangier Sound area and near the Target Ship. A popular tactic is slowly motoring over likely-looking areas and watching depth finders for signs of red drum, then dropping a soft crab bait down to the drum, Trolling large spoons is another good way to fish for them as is jigging with large soft plastic jigs when a school can be spotted. Troubled water, slicks, and cloudy water often are signs of a school of large red drum in the area.
Fishing for blue catfish has been very good farther up the Nanticoke River above Sharpsburg and up the Patuxent and Potomac rivers. Baits of fresh cut spot, menhaden, or gizzard shad work well, and even clam snouts and chicken meat will work. Snakeheads are being found in the shallow grassy areas of the upper tidal waters of the Wicomico, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers. The snakeheads are beginning to spawn in the shallow grass so weedless paddletails, buzzbaits, and frogs can be good choices to fish over grass.
Recreational crabbing continues at a rather slow pace but there are blue crabs out there to catch. The best catches are coming from the lower bay region and catches tend to decline as one goes up the bay. About the best one can hope for is a half bushel per outing, with catches declining as you go north.
Anglers are enjoying trout management waters that cater to fly fishing with artificials and catch and release in the western and central regions. This is a wonderful time to fish with dry flies mimicking various hatches and also terrestrial insects.
The upper Potomac River is running low and clear this week with water temperatures in the 70s. Anglers who are out on the river at daybreak are casting poppers and enjoying some fun action with smallmouth bass. When waters are clear, long casts and light lines are often a good choice. Tubes, grubs, and small crankbaits can be a good choice in deeper waters.
Deep Creek Lake offers a variety of fishing options, and being out on the water at daybreak is a must this time of the year because of boat traffic. Drifting minnows along deep grass edges is a good way to fish for smallmouth bass, yellow perch, crappie and largemouth bass. The coves hold largemouth bass and chain pickerel and the floating docks are always a great place to slip wacky rigged worms under them to fish lounging in the shade. Trout can be found deep along the dam face by slow-trolling nightcrawlers on a worm rig.
As waters warm in tidal rivers, ponds, and reservoirs across Maryland, largemouth bass are slipping into a summer mode of behavior. The early morning hours will find them lingering in or just outside the shallow grassy waters and targeting them with poppers, frogs, and buzzbaits. Northern snakeheads are holding in thick grass in the tidal rivers and will be part of the topwater mix.
Largemouth bass tend to retreat to cool shade as the morning wears on; old docks, fallen tree tops, and thick grass will provide overhead cover. In the tidal Potomac, the hydrilla grass beds are becoming thick and if you can drop a weighted wacky rigged stick worm down through it, you may find a largemouth bass lounging underneath. Casting spinnerbaits, paddletails, and tubes near hard structure is another good way to target largemouth bass holding nearby.
Just about every body of freshwater in Maryland holds populations of bluegill sunfish and a variety of other sunfish species, which can provide easy fishing tuned to our youngest anglers. The worm-and-bobber rig is hard to beat. Our more experienced anglers enjoy catching them on light tackle while casting small jigs and other lures.
Surf fishing is transitioning to a typical mix of summer species this week. Kingfish have been very plentiful in the surf of Ocean City and Assateague and there is also a mix of small bluefish, spot, and blowfish being caught. The kingfish and spot are being caught on bloodworms, the bluefish on cut spot of finger mullet. Squid strips are catching flounder, blowfish, and plenty of skates and cownose rays.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, flounder are being caught by working Gulp baits and traditional squid strips along the bottom. Large bluefish and a few striped bass are being caught by casting and jigging bucktails and soft plastic jigs. Anglers are dressing their bucktails with squid strips with good results.
The waters in the back bay areas are clearing up from the weekend blow and good flounder fishing is resuming. Many are working the channels with white or pink Gulps or using squid and minnows on bottom rigs. There has also been some bluefish and striped bass action at the Route 90 and the Route 611 bridge piers.
Outside the inlet and relatively close to shore, trolling small spoons for Spanish mackerel has been productive with some nice catches. Others are drifting over the shoal areas and catching flounder. Farther offshore at the wreck and reef sites, sea bass fishing has slacked off a bit and limit catches are but a memory. Most are able to catch a half dozen or so chunky sea bass with a flounder now and then.
The Baltimore Canyon has been the focus of the boats trolling for yellowfin tuna this week. Some very nice catches have come into the docks. Dolphin should start to be more common and for those with lines out at dawn, bigeye tuna will start to grace the docks at Ocean City. Those choosing to try a little deep drop fishing are finding blueline tilefish.
“You can always tell a fisherman, but you can’t tell him much.” – Corey Ford
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.