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This happy group helped celebrate an anglers’ notable blue catfish catch at the North Point State Park fishing pier. Photo by Badesh Latchman

The wonderful spring weather is inviting Marylanders to come outside and enjoy all the wonders nature has to offer – like walks through state parks, or fishing along an inviting shoreline or fishing pier.


Forecast Summary: April 26 – May 2:

Moderate weather ahead will keep Chesapeake Bay waters temperatures stable for gamefish including striped bass, shad, and herring, which are spawning or finished spawning in Maryland waters. As reported from the NOAA buoys, main Bay surface water temperatures are holding at about 60. degrees. The story continues to be the prolonged dry weather and the resulting low flows and higher than normal Bay salinities. Rain is predicted this Friday and these increased flows may help bring shad into Maryland’s creeks for waiting anglers.

Expect average clarity for most Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, however, expect temporarily reduced water clarity from algal blooms on the Gunpowder, Bush, and Back rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.

Expect continued below average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. However, look for localized higher flows because of likely rain on Friday. There will be above average tidal currents on Monday and Tuesday as a result of the upcoming full moon on May 6.

As always, the 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

At the Conowingo Dam, anglers are enjoying catching and releasing a mix of hickory shad and American shad. The hickory shad can be found in the river and are running up Deer Creek and Octoraro Creek on the warmest days with good flows, where recent rain may offer some hope of a renewed run. The American shad tend to be at the Conowingo Dam pool. Small shad darts rigged in tandem with small silver spoons work well for the hickory shad and heavier shad darts are needed in the dam pool.

Photo of man standing on a concrete terrace holding a snakehead fish

The Conowingo Dam pool is often full of fishing surprises – Randy Slaysman holds up a big northern snakehead he caught in the dam pool. Photo courtesy of Randy Slaysman

White perch are now found in the lower Susquehanna and are being caught on bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm, or on small jigs tipped with pieces of bloodworm, or minnow. White perch can also be found in the middle to lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. There are plenty of large flathead catfish to be caught in the dam pool and a mix of channel and blue catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna River, the Elk River, the upper Bay, and the region’s tidal rivers. Fresh-cut bait of menhaden, gizzard shad, or white perch work well, as will chicken liver or breast meat and scented baits. 

Striped bass season will open on May 1 in the waters of the upper Bay below the Brewerton Channel. There is a 35-inch minimum and a limit of one fish per person per day. The Susquehanna Flats areas will not open to striped bass fishing until May 16, with a slot size of 19 inches to 26 inches, and a one fish per person per day limit. Check the Department of Natural Resources website for a map to locate areas open or closed to striped bass fishing

Anglers looking for their trophy striped bass will be trolling large parachutes and bucktails dressed with equally large sassy shads along the steep channel edges. There is a good chance post-spawn striped bass from the Susquehanna Flats area will be traveling along these channel edges. Other anglers may try their hand at chunking or chumming for striped bass at Podickory Point, while others will be fishing with bait from the shores of Sandy Point State Park or Matapeake Fishing Pier.

Middle Bay

More than a few anglers will be taking the day off from work May 1 for opening day of the trophy striped bass season. No doubt there will be a lot of boats out trolling the edges of the shipping channel and that engine noise will drive the striped bass deeper, so get out there at dawn if possible. Tandem rigged parachutes and bucktails trolled a variety of depths will be the most common way to fish, and planer boards will be popular. Boats trolling with planer boards will need plenty of room for turning, so keep that in mind when your paths cross. 

The striped bass have finished spawning in the Choptank River and will be traveling out to the shipping channel to head south. The False Channel and the RN2 Buoy steep edge will be good places to look for these fish. Bloody Point, Buoy 83, the Gum Thickets, Stone Rock, and the western shore side of the shipping channel in front of Chesapeake Beach and Breezy Point are also worth some attention.

Light-tackle anglers will be drawn to the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge or concentrations of fish spotted on their depth finders. Anglers not wishing to troll may also choose to chum or chunk along steep edges and points. The tidal rivers will still be off-limits to striped bass fishing. The Department of Natural Resources website contains a map to help anglers understand where they can legally fish for striped bass

The tidal rivers are open to fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish and white perch. Channel catfish and white perch can be found in all the region’s tidal rivers. The white perch are working their way towards their summer habitats. The blue catfish can be found in the Choptank River and the best fishing this week is in the area from Martinak State Park to the town of Denton. Fresh-cut fish bait tends to work best for catfish, but chicken liver or breast meat and scented baits also work well. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm are working well for white perch fishing.

Lower Bay

Anglers anxiously await the opening of the trophy striped bass season on May 1. By Sunday, cockpits of charter and private boats will be festooned with dangling chartreuse and white parachutes and bucktails dressed with large sassy shads, all ready to go for Monday morning. The steep edges of the shipping channel and the main channel in the lower Potomac River will be the destination for many. The steep edge at Cedar Point, Point No Point, Buoy 76 south to the HS Buoy, Smith Point, Tangier Sound, and the channel edge between St. Georges Island and Piney Point will be just a few of the location’s anglers will be trolling. 

Anglers are reminded of the boundary lines for the Patuxent River, Nanticoke, Manokin, and Wicomico rivers that are closed to striped bass fishing and those waters that are designated as catch and release only. Check the Department of Natural Resources website map to locate areas open or closed to striped bass fishing

If catfish have your attention, there certainly are plenty of them in the region’s tidal rivers. Channel catfish can be found most anywhere but the Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers are loaded with blue catfish. The Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge to the Route 301 Bridge is full of blue cats along the channels; sometimes they are so thick that jigging with soft plastic jigs can be an excellent way to catch them. The upper Patuxent River from Benedict to Jug Bay has a large population as does the Nanticoke River near Sharpstown. Fresh-cut oily fish such as menhaden and gizzard shad are top baits, but cut white perch and chicken liver and breast meat can work well.

White perch are approaching their summer habitat areas, and the lower sections of the tidal rivers still hold the best fishing options with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. Docks in deeper waters and prominent points are good places to check for white perch that may be holding there.

Freshwater Fishing

Fishing for trout in the many put-and-take waters continues to be very popular with many freshwater anglers. Many of the marginal trout waters will continue being stocked this month but those will slow down in May as community ponds and waters in the central and southern regions become too warm for trout survival. These community ponds are often near population areas and offer easy family fun when time is short. 

Photo of boy next to a pond, holding a fish on a line

Gavin Chiola went fishing with his dad at Bynum Park Pond in Bel Air and was very excited to catch and release this golden rainbow trout. Photo by Dave Chiola

The trout management waters in western Maryland will often provide good water quality for trout throughout the summer months and provide excellent fishing opportunities for fly casters. Many of the areas are delayed harvest or catch-and-release and provide plenty of trout for those who want to enjoy the catching part and forgo the keeping part of fishing.

Deep Creek Lake is a great place to enjoy fishing this week – vacationer boat traffic is at a minimum, water temperatures are optimum, and the weather is pleasant. Walleye can be found along steep rocky shores and deep grass lines. Smallmouth bass are holding near floating docks and largemouth bass are in the shallower parts of the lake, often near structure.

In most waters of Maryland, largemouth bass are either finished spawning or are just about done. They can still be found in the shallower spawning areas protecting fry that have not retreated to the safe haven of nearby grass beds. The areas just outside the shallow spawning areas are a good place to find hungry largemouth bass looking to build up body stores after the rigors of spawning. Largemouth bass can be found holding along the edges of grass beds, sunken wood, and similar structure. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and lipless crankbaits are all good lures to use when covering these areas. Soft plastic worms, stick worms, grubs, and soft plastic craws are good choices when working close to structure.

Photo of man in a wooded area holding a fish

David Sturm caught this large snakehead in the Susquehanna River. Photo courtesy of David Sturm

Northern snakeheads are becoming more active each week as we approach May, the premier month to fish for these invasives. The warmer water is to their liking, the thick grass mats have not completely formed, and they are in a pre-spawn mode, actively feeding. Casting white paddletails is a tried-and-true method of fishing for them, but a large minnow under a bobber is snakehead candy and can be dead-sticked while casting paddletails. Snakeheads are spread across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed now, found in almost every tidal water, and they unfortunately are showing up in non-tidal waters as well. The tidal creeks of the Potomac and Patuxent, and those in lower Dorchester County, currently hold the greatest populations of snakeheads.

Fishing for crappie is very good this time of the year and they can be found holding near structure such as fallen treetops, marina docks, and bridge piers. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a bobber can be a relaxing way to fish for them, and casting small lures on a slow retrieve can be fun.

Fishing for channel catfish in the upper Potomac can be a grand day out this time of the year. The C&O Canal towpath offers many places to park and walk to the river’s edge, just bring a good lawn chair or 5-gallon bucket to sit on, something to carry your fish, and plenty of drinking water. A medium-sized spinning rod is a popular choice and in non-tidal waters you can use up to three active fishing rods. Bring your own forked sticks from home, as cutting up nearby bushes is frowned upon by the park service. Be prepared – fresh cut bait is popular but chicken liver, breast meat, or nightcrawlers all work well. 

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

There is some exciting news this week for surfcasters,as large post-spawn striped bass have made the left turn around Cape Charles and are beginning to pass by Maryland beaches. These striped bass are most likely the early spawners that were in Maryland tidal rivers the last two weeks of March. Cut menhaden is a favorite bait and the head tends to hold up best from the pesky clearnose skates.

Photo of man on a beach holding a large fish

Pierre Caron holds up a nice black drum he caught recently in the Assateague surf. Photo by Pam Caron

The run of black drum that surfcasters were enjoying along the beaches of Assateague has slowed down, but a few are still being caught on sand fleas. There was a report over the weekend of at least one large bluefish caught in the surf.

Anglers have been catching an increasing number of legal-sized striped bass in the Ocean City Inlet and the Route 50 Bridge area by casting soft plastic jigs and working them close to the bottom. They are also catching striped bass near the Route 90 Bridge, but those fish tend to measure below the 28-inch minimum. 

Tautog are being caught in the Inlet near the jetty rocks, and,and if you’re in a boat, the South Jetty is the place to be. Tautog are also being caught near the Route 50 Bridge piers and bulkheads. Most of the tautog being caught are coming up a little shy of the 16-inch minimum. Sand fleas are the most popular bait.

Flounder fishing improves each week as warmer water temperatures bring the summer flounder into the coastal bays. The channels leading from the inlet have been the most productive with the Thorofare a top choice for good fishing. A variety of baits are being used, including white and pink Gulp baits, and traditional squid strips and minnows. 

Outside the inlet, anglers catching a ride on party, charter, and private boats to the offshore wreck and reef sites are enjoying excellent fishing for tautog. Some of the anglers are catching large, double-digit weight fish. White-legger crabs are the preferred bait.

The 2023 black sea bass  season will open on May 15 and run to September 30, then close until October 10, when it reopens until December 30. The daily creel limit is 15 fish per day per angler, with a 13-inch minimum length.

“I’ve never known an outdoorsman who owned all the gear he thought he needed. Even if he owns it, the odds are that he can’t find it.” – Charley Dickey

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

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