by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist
Summertime fun continues across Maryland, and it is a great time for dads and moms to spend special moments while fishing with children and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Remember to check the striped bass fishing advisory forecast for excessively hot weather, and help protect our smaller catch-and-release fish for future seasons.
Forecast Summary: August 24 – August 30:
Warmer weather is predicted all week with daytime temperatures in the upper 80s. There will be stable temperatures and calm winds, with a chance of rain and thunderstorms on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have warmed to the low 80s. Maryland rivers are also currently running in the mid to low 70s. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, or fish deeper waters or upwind areas.
At the following locations, adequate oxygen conditions can be found from the surface down to these depth ranges: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, 30 feet to bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 15 feet to 45 feet; Bloody Point, 20 feet to 30 feet; Bay Bridge, 15 feet to 20 feet; Swan Point, 15 feet; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. Poor deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, where there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet. On the Potomac River, there is adequate oxygen down to 15 feet from the Route 301 Bridge down to the St. Mary’s River. It is likely that in most locations, gamefish will be deeper 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 and 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.
Most of the fishing action in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River is related to blue and channel catfish. Striped bass have been a bit sparse, so most anglers are focusing on seeking catfish using cut bait and a variety of other baits. There are anglers casting a variety of lures during the early morning hours in the Susquehanna Flats and picking up a few striped bass on the edges of the grass and channels. The shorelines of the Elk River are also providing a little action for those casting topwater lures, crankbaits, and paddletails.
Striped bass action continues this week from Pooles Island to Tolchester in relatively shallow water, due to lower oxygen levels in deeper waters. The Patapsco River near the Key Bridge and Love Point have been good places for live-lining spot and eels, or drifting cut baits or soft crab baits. Jigging is also an effective way to fish for striped bass at these locations. Catfish will be part of the mix when drifting baits that get near the bottom. Anglers are also having good luck trolling along channel edges with a mix of bucktails with twistertails attached, hoses, or Drone spoons. Warm water conditions prevail this week so care must always be taken when releasing fish – visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
Casting along shorelines during the early morning hours in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers has been a good tactic. The lower Patapsco, Chester, and Magothy rivers are good places to fish this week. Most are casting poppers over the shallower waters and a mix of paddletails and crankbaits in deeper waters near points and structure.
White perch are being found on oyster reefs and knolls in the Bay, and anglers are getting good results fishing with bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or peeler crab. Fishing with dropper rigs that contain small soft plastic jigs is another good way to fish in deeper waters. White perch are also being caught off Sandy Point State Park and the mouth of the Magothy while fishing for spot. The mouths of the tidal rivers are also a good place to fish on the bottom where hard bottom can be found. In the morning and evening hours, casting small spinners and roadrunner type lures is a good way to catch the larger white perch.
A mix of blue catfish and channel catfish can be found throughout the upper Bay. The lower Susquehanna River and the Chester River tend to hold the greatest concentrations of blue catfish, but populations are increasing in all the tidal rivers. We encourage everyone to help curb this invasive species by catching them.
The Bay Bridge piers continue to draw anglers drifting to the pier bases with live spot, eels, or cut spot or soft crab. Casting soft plastic jigs near the pier bases is also a good tactic. The best action occurs early in the morning on a running tide; fishing success tends to diminish in the heat of the day. The most productive fishing is occurring on the eastern side of the bridge near the six-legged piers that are in relatively shallow water. Oxygen levels are down in deeper waters, so the striped bass are holding in 20 feet or less, and the current swirling around the multiple pier legs helps oxygenate the water. Water temperatures are warm and oxygen levels at a premium for striped bass so anglers are urged that care must always be taken when releasing fish – visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
Anglers are enjoying good striped bass action during the early morning hours by casting poppers over shallow grass and structure, and paddletails and crankbaits in deeper waters near shoreline structure. There is a fair percentage of striped bass that fail to meet the 19-inch minimum, but it does not take long to catch a legal fish. The rocks off Poplar Island, Thomas Point and the lower sections of the Miles, Choptank, Severn and South rivers are all providing good early morning fishing this week.
Spanish mackerel and small bluefish are being caught in the middle bay Bay up to the Tilghman Island area. They are found mostly along channel edges where schools of bay anchovies are being swept along by currents. Troll with No. 1 and No. 2 planers with small gold Clark and Drone spoons at about 8 mph for Spanish mackerel, and 5 mph for bluefish. Both fish make excellent eating if the filet is skinned, and some prefer to remove the dark meat. The filets are good baked, on the grill, or in a smoker.
White perch provide plenty of fun fishing this week. They can be found holding over oyster reefs in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. They’ll be close to the bottom and a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp, peeler crab or pieces of bloodworm is a good way to catch them. A dropper rig with small flies or soft plastic jigs in chartreuse, pink, or yellow is another method to target them. Fishing close to dock pilings with baited bottom rigs can reap rewards of white perch, and casting small spinners and spinnerbait type lures is always fun along shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish are providing a lot of good fishing action this week. The tend to be spread throughout the main part of the Bay, but some the best action is reported in the eastern edge of the shipping channel from the HS Buoy south past Buoy 72 and south to beyond the Target Ship. The Spanish mackerel and bluefish are chasing schools of bay anchovies and can often be seen breaking water with the mackerel clearing the water in leaps. Trolling is the most popular way to fish, but it pays to have a couple of spinning rods rigged with metal jigs in case you come upon such action.
Trolling for Spanish mackerel entails pulling small Clark and Drone spoons behind No. 1 and No. 2 planers. Gold tends to be the best color in the Bay and a trolling speed of about 8 mph will entice Spanish mackerel, and slower speeds for bluefish.
Catch-and-release fishing for large red drum is giving anglers a real thrill this week, and anyone thinking about giving it a try should do it now since their numbers will dwindle once fall begins. The area on the eastern side of the lower bay region around the Target Ship and Tangier Sound tend to hold the greatest numbers of red drum. One can troll for them with hose lures and large spoons behind inline weights or locate them by depth finders or by spotting slicks or disturbed water and cast large soft plastic jigs. The jigs being used are in the ¾-ounce size range with soft plastics of 8” or more. Another trick is to locate a school with a depth finder and drop a soft crab bait down to the fish.
Fishing for cobia in the lower Bay continues at the same slow pace that has persisted through most of this summer. Anglers hoping to tangle with a cobia in Maryland waters have until September 15. Most anglers near Smith Point and the Target Ship are chumming and drifting with live eels to the back of their chum slicks. Others are lucky enough to spot them on the surface and are casting live eels or large soft plastics with a lightweight jig head.
Fishing for a mix of spot and white perch is good in the lower sections of several of the tidal rivers over oyster reefs. The lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers are offering great fishing as is the Tangier Sound region. Peeler crab, grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm are excellent baits for white perch, bloodworms work best for spot, but some have good luck with small pieces of squid. A few persistent anglers who take the time to target them are catching flounder along the hard shell and sand channel edges in Pocomoke Sound.
Recreational crabbers are finding they must be flexible when exploring this week. Most are catching a mix of females, small crabs and legal-size crabs on edges in 8 feet to 12 feet of water. Razor clams continue to be the solid ticket for the best catches, and chicken necks are still the standard for many because they work. Bull lips are starting to show up at crabbing supply shops due to baits getting chewed up so quickly. Other crabbers are going deep, often to 17 feet to 20 feet to find the largest crabs, if there is good oxygen down there. There are mesh bags for razor clams that are a thicker plastic and a smaller mesh size. Small fish and crabs cannot get at the razor clams as easily, but the temptation of juicy razor clams is still there for the crabs.
There is plenty of fun fishing from the western mountain reservoirs and small farm ponds to the Eastern Shore. Vacationers at Deep Creek Lake are enjoying fishing for a mix of species. The best fishing for smallmouth bass is during the morning hours where they can be found on rocky points and near structure. As the day wears on they will seek cool shade by going deep near grass and similar structure. Largemouth bass can be found along shorelines during the early morning and evening hours and will often be seeking shade during the day under floating docks. Bluegills can be caught throughout the day in a variety of locations, near floating docks, grass beds, and shorelines.
Fly fishing anglers can enjoy the cool mountain streams of the western region and the trout residing in the catch-and-release areas that cater to fly fishing only equipment. There are few angling experiences more gratifying than fooling a trout with a dry fly or similar offering.
The upper Potomac River is running low and clear this week and it will take some stealth and getting up early to fool smallmouth bass into taking bait. Long casts and light lines are standard, and poppers are a good choice in the early morning hours and tubes; small crankbaits and soft craw jigs as the morning hours wear on.
Largemouth bass provide the lion’s share of the summer fishing activity since they are so widespread and provide so much action. Casting frogs, buzzbaits, and weedless soft plastics over shallow grass or lily pads is always a fun and exciting way to catch them whether one is fishing a small pond, a reservoir, or tidal waters. As the day heats up they will seek shade by going deep, loafing under thick floating grass, hiding under overhanging trees, fallen treetops, or a convenient dock. Wacky rigged stick worms or soft plastics will entice them to pick up a bait; small crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices when working edges.
Fishing for snakeheads in the tidal waters offers plenty of action this week; they tend to be holding in grass so buzzbaits and frogs are good choices to work these areas. They are now spread throughout all the tidal waters of the Chesapeake so they can show up almost anywhere. The tidal waters of lower Dorchester County, the tidal Potomac tributaries, and the Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers are a few of the places where they are found in great numbers.
Surfcasters are catching a mix of kingfish, spot, and croakers this week along the beaches on pieces of bloodworm and squid. The best kingfish bite is occurring during the morning hours. Bluefish are being caught on cut spot or mullet and flounder on squid.
At the inlet, sheepshead, striped bass, and bluefish are being caught near the South Jetty. The sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas and the bluefish and striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs, bucktails, or by drifting cut bait.
Flounder fishing in the channels leading towards the inlet and the back bay channels is good this week. The East Channel and the Thorofare are always popular places to drift for flounder. Minnows and squid are traditional baits and Gulp baits often entice the larger flounder to bite. The channel area in front of the Ocean City Airport is another good place to fish.
Outside the inlet, anglers that are trolling small silver Clark spoons behind planers at speeds of about 8 mph are catching Spanish mackerel, and if trolling slower they are catching small bluefish. The anglers fishing the offshore wreck and reef sites are enjoying excellent fishing for sea bass, flounder, and small dolphin.
There is some good chunking action for yellowfin tuna at some of the 30-fathom lumps and farther offshore. Trolling for a mix of offshore species has been good, with the Washington Canyon being a standout this week for yellowfin tuna. A mix of bigeye tuna, blue marlin, and wahoo are also being caught at various offshore canyons.
“It is just possible that nice guys don’t catch the most fish. But they find far more pleasure in those they do get.” – Roderick L. Haig-Brown
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.