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Maryland Fishing Report: Summer May Be Ending, But Fish Are Still Biting

Maryland Fishing Report – August 10

by Keith Lockwood

 Maryland Department of Natural Resources

 
Photo of angler Addison Rowe by Tiffany Rowe

Photo of angler Addison Rowe by Tiffany Rowe

 

Families are fitting in those last summer vacations and simple relaxing times close to home. From local ponds and tributaries to the waters off Ocean City, Maryland’s waters are ideal places to spend time with children and allow them to experience the joys of fishing.

Remember that hot weather creates tough conditions for undersized striped bass that are caught and released. From now until September, DNR will run its striped bass fishing advisory forecast again so anglers can better plan their fishing for striped bass to lessen mortalities.

Image of Striped Bass 7-Day Fishing Advisory Forecast, showing a green flag day on Saturday; yellow flag days on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; and a red flag day on Thursday.


Forecast Summary: August 10 – August 16:

Cooler weather is predicted all this week with daytime temperatures in the 80s through most of Maryland. Calm winds are expected throughout the next week except Thursday and Friday. Chance of rain and thunderstorms on Wednesday and again on Monday and Tuesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are very warm, having risen to the mid-80s, and Maryland rivers are also running in the 80s. 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 the bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 35 feet to bottom; Bloody Point, 35 feet; Bay Bridge, 15 feet to 30 feet; Swan Point, 30 feet; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, the 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. In most locations, gamefish will likely be deeper in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. 

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams all week. There will be above-average tidal currents all week due to the upcoming full moon on August 12.

There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. 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.


Upper Chesapeake Bay
Chelsea Jones caught this unusual albino channel catfish in the Chester River recently. Photo by Mike Walters

Chelsea Jones caught this unusual albino channel catfish in the Chester River recently. Photo by Mike Walters

Anglers are casting topwater lures into the Conowingo Dam Pool during the early morning and late evening hours in search of striped bass. They are catching a few with a fair percentage that are measuring under 19 inches. There is similar action near the channel edges and the Susquehanna Flats, with the bonus of largemouth bass and northern snakeheads when topwater lures are cast far into the grass.

The striped bass action picks up in the Tolchester Lumps area from Pooles Island to Tolchester. The lumps between the two shipping channels are ground zero for the best action. Anglers live-lining spot are having good success. Striped bass just under 30 inches are caught, but many fall under the 19-inch minimum and must be released. Water temperatures in the region are holding in the mid-80s. Because these high temperatures put striped bass under a lot of stress, anglers are urged to release fish quickly and without removing them from the water. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks. 

There are good reports along channel edges in the upper Bay region, where anglers are trolling a mix of bucktails dressed with soft plastics and Drone spoons behind inline weights or planers. Some anglers have even reported a few small bluefish north of the Bay Bridge. Breaking fish, often small striped bass, are being spotted now and then. Larger striped bass can be found by jigging close to the bottom underneath the surface action. Casting soft plastic jigs near Love Point rocks and channel edges is also a good way to fish for striped bass. They bite in the early morning and late evening. Most anglers are casting poppers, but paddletails and small crankbaits can work well in slightly deeper waters.

Fishing for white perch is good with fish being caught on some of the 6-foot and 7-foot knolls, Belvidere Shoals, and in the tidal rivers near channel edges and bridge piers in about 15 to 20 feet of water. Bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or peeler crab have been successful. Spot are abundant in the upper Bay region. The mouth of the Magothy River and off Sandy Point tend to be two of the best places to catch them.

Blue catfish and channel catfish offer some of the most productive fishing and can be found throughout the entire upper Bay region. The lower Susquehanna River, Elk River, and Chester River contain the largest populations of blue catfish. Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river. Fresh cut bait, chicken liver, and various other baits work well.


Middle Bay
William Katz III caught this nice Spanish mackerel over the weekend. Photo courtesy of William Katz III

William Katz III caught this nice Spanish mackerel over the weekend. Photo courtesy of William Katz III

The Bay Bridge piers are seeing quite a bit of striped bass action. Anglers are drifting live or fresh-cut spot or menhaden and soft crab baits back to the pier bases where striped bass are holding. Others are casting soft plastic jigs to the pier bases. The best fishing is on a good running tide during the early morning hours. Once the sun is up and the heat of the day sets in, fishing success declines. The same goes for the mouth of Eastern Bay and channel edges throughout the lower Bay region. It is hot out there! Be careful when releasing fish to ensure they have a chance to survive. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.

Early morning hours provide the best-striped bass fishing opportunities throughout the middle Bay region. Fishing shallow waters is a good way to target striped bass along the Bay’s shores as well as lower tidal rivers. Be sure to get out early–once the sun clears the horizon, fishing stops. Anglers are having good success in Eastern Bay, the Poplar Island rocks, Thomas Point, the mouth of the Choptank, and the waters in front of the Naval Academy. Speckled trout are also part of the mix and are striking poppers, paddletails, and a variety of soft plastics.

Small bluefish have been in the middle Bay region for a while and Spanish mackerel are arriving in increased numbers. Trolling small gold Clark and Drone spoons behind inline weights or No. 1 and No. 2 planers at 8 or 9 knots has been the ticket to catching Spanish mackerel. Trolling at slower speeds will allow the bluefish to catch up. The bluefish are spread out over a wide area, while the Spanish mackerel are being caught near Buoy 83, Sharps Island, and the False Channel area.

Breaking fish are becoming more common, as small striped bass, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel make life miserable for roving schools of bay anchovies. Casting into the feeding frenzy with metal jigs is a great way to target Spanish mackerel and bluefish. A speed-reeling retrieve from deep waters is the best way to catch the Spanish mackerel, while a slower retrieve will catch bluefish. Trolling outside the breaking fish can also work well, but be careful not to troll through them.

White perch are offering plenty of fishing opportunities. They can be found over oyster bottom in the tidal rivers or near docks and piers in 8 feet of water or more. Fishing with a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp, pieces of bloodworm, or peeler crab is an excellent way to target them. When fishing near docks and piers, the best place to fish is close to the dock pilings. In the early morning or late evening hours, casting small spinners of roadrunner-type lures near shoreline structure can offer a lot of light tackle fun. Plus, the perch are usually larger in these areas.

Channel catfish are present in every tidal river and offer plenty of fun fishing. Blue catfish can currently be found in the Choptank River. A variety of cut baits and other traditional baits on a bottom rig is all an angler needs to score these species. The best fishing at this time of the summer is in the morning and evening hours and along channel edges.


Lower Bay
Hunter Smith caught this nice speckled trout in Tangier Sound. Photo courtesy of Hunter Smith

Hunter Smith caught this nice speckled trout in Tangier Sound. Photo courtesy of Hunter Smith

Much of the fishing action in the lower Bay region focuses on Spanish mackerel, bluefish, speckled trout, and catch-and-release fishing for large red drum. Fishing for striped bass is taking a backseat as Virginia waters are closed to striped bass fishing until October 4 and the tidal Potomac River is closed to striped bass fishing until August 22. There is some striped bass action in the Patuxent River and scattered locations on the western shore of the Bay.

Spanish mackerel are steadily filling in and providing plenty of action for anglers trolling for or casting towards breaking fish. Trolling small Clark spoons and Drone spoons of various gold, chrome, and color combinations behind No. 1 and No. 2 planers of heavy inline weights at about 8 knots is a good way to fish the mackerel. Anglers are finding mackerel along channel edges at Cove Point, the HS Buoy, and Buoy 72. Trolling near breaking fish is another option.

Small bluefish and Spanish mackerel break the water’s surface when chasing anchovies. Anglers are targeting them by casting small metal jigs. Speed-reeling a lure after allowing it to sink is a good way to target Spanish mackerel, while a slower retrieve will catch bluefish. 

Fishing for large red drum is providing a lot of exciting action. The fish are enormous and fight hard. Many are being caught by casting and jigging 8-inch or larger soft plastic jigs in a variety of colors to concentrations of red drum. They can be spotted by troubled water, slicks, breaking fish, or by picking them up on a depth finder. Dropping cut spot or soft crab baits down to schools of red drum is another popular option, and trolling large spoons and hose lures is another. They are being found near the Target Ship, the Middle Grounds, Cedar Point, and Tangier Sound.

Speckled trout are caught in Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, Hoopers Island, and the lower Potomac River. Casting 4-inch plastics and topwater lures in the early morning and late evening hours near grass beds, stump fields, marsh edges, and Bay shoreline is the ticket to this show.

Anglers and boaters near Barren Island, located off Hoopers Island, should be aware that the Army Corps is on schedule to begin rock, sill, and jetty placement at Barren Island in September. This will be like the Hart-Miller and Poplar Island projects.

Cobia fishing has been a bit slow lately, but they are being caught by anglers sight-fishing or chumming near Smith Point and Point Lookout. Casting large soft plastics or live eels to cobia when they can be spotted on the surface is an exciting way to fish. Chumming is another option, as is drifting a live eel to the back of the chum slick. However, anglers do tell of bluefish nipping off eel tails. Drifting a few pieces of cut spot with a hook can help pass the time and put some bluefish in the ice chest.

Fishing for spot in the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers and Tangier Sound has been very good. Bloodworms are the most popular bait for spot and the few kingfish that show up now and then. Peeler crab is a good bait for white perch, which can often be found mixed in with the spot. White perch are also being caught in the tidal creeks and rivers on oyster beds or near docks and piers.

Recreational crabbing is good. Crabbers can catch a full bushel of large crabs in the tidal rivers of the middle and lower Bay regions. In the upper Bay, crabbers are doing almost as well in rivers such as the Gunpowder and the Elk River near the entrance of the C&D Canal. The 10- to 12-foot edges are reported to be some of the best waters to set trotlines or collapsible crab traps. Chicken necks work, but razor clams are more productive. Many female and small crabs are showing up on trotlines and in collapsible traps.


Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater fish such as trout and other relatively coldwater fish in western Maryland are feeling the heat just as much as we are. The best fishing for trout is in the early morning or late evening hours in trout management waters designated for catch and release.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River is early morning and, to a lesser degree, an evening affair. Getting out before the sun rises is very important if you want to catch smallmouth bass. Light lines and long casts with topwater lures, tubes, and craw baits are essential. Due to warm summer water temperatures, walleye are hunkered down in deep waters with little appetite. Muskellunge are barely hanging on in these temperatures and should not be targeted.

The largemouth bass is feeling the effects of summer temperatures as well. They feed at night in the shallow grass areas and retreat to cool shade by mid-morning. Overhanging brush and trees, fallen treetops, docks, deep structures, and thick floating grass mats all provide this much-needed shade.

The standard tactic to take advantage of this summer behavior is to fish the shallow areas early in the morning and late in the evening with topwater lures. Frogs, weedless soft plastics, and buzz baits are popular choices. Working the edges and slightly more open waters with lipless crankbaits, jerk baits, spinnerbaits, and whacky rigged plastics will keep anglers in the action as the morning progresses.

Northern snakehead can be found lurking in both shallow and deep grass. Use frog and buzz bait lures to catch their attention. Like the largemouth bass, they tend to be more active during the morning hours and will head for surface grass to wait out the hot sun.

As the day wears on, wacky rigged stick worms and soft plastics worked in and under branches, through thick grass, and near deep structure will do the trick to entice lounging bass to pick up a bait. Craw jigs and grubs are also good baits to use near deep structure.

Bluegills and other varieties of sunfish are always willing to take a variety of baits and lures tossed near them during the summer months. Community ponds, tidal waters, and our largest reservoirs all hold populations of these feisty fish. Something as simple as a worm under a bobber will do the trick. More experienced anglers can cast small lures and jigs or use small ant flies or rubber-legged poppers with a lightweight fly rod.


Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Michael Ly caught this large bigeye tuna a week before the White Marlin Open, a beautiful fish. Photo courtesy of Michael Ly

Michael Ly caught this large bigeye tuna a week before the White Marlin Open, a beautiful fish. Photo courtesy of Michael Ly

The big news in the Ocean City area is the White Marlin Open. This big-money event brings in anglers from ports up and down the East Coast, and even as far away as Hawaii’s Big Island. Famous charter captain and offshore lure-maker Bomboy Llanes is here, as is Michael Jordan, along with a cast of ardent offshore captains and crew. So far, bigeye tuna are dominating the leaderboard, but there are several days of fishing left.

Surfside anglers continue to catch a mix of kingfish, spot, and a few croaker in the surf on bloodworms. The best fishing is occurring during the morning hours due to the heat. A high tide is also helpful. Flounder are being caught on strips of squid and small bluefish are being caught on cut spot or mullet.

The Ocean City inlet is being chewed up with all the boat traffic headed out in the morning, so drifting in a small boat to fish can be hazardous. Anglers can catch striped bass and bluefish by jigging. Sheepshead can be caught on sand fleas. The channels leading to the inlet are the place to find flounder. Once the charter boats have headed offshore, things usually calm down. Water clarity has been good, and flounder are being caught on the traditional squid and minnow baits as well as Gulp baits. More than a few flounder anglers have moved to Sinepuxent Bay where there is less boat traffic.

Spanish mackerel are being caught close to the beaches by trolling small Clark and Drone spoons behind planers, or inline weights along with bluefish. The boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites are providing anglers with excellent catches of black sea bass and a mix of flounder and small dolphin.


“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau


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

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