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Maryland Fishing Report: Trout Season Open


Youth Trout Day

Many parents, mentors, and young anglers braved the cold rain for Maryland’s first youth trout fishing day. Our young anglers, despite cold fingers and wet weather, had a great time, and it is sure to be a day everyone involved will long remember.

You can check out our online collection of photos of smiling young anglers on Youth Trout Fishing Day

On Saturday, March 30, the fun and excitement starts all over again with Maryland’s traditional opening day of trout season. Anglers young and old will be fishing for put and take waters generously stocked with trout by the trout hatchery program and biologists. Fishing starts at 6:30 a.m.

Luke Bradford’s smile says it all about his first youth trout fishing day. Photo by Jason Bradford​

Forecast Summary: March 27 - April 2:

As the days grow longer and increasingly warmer, Chesapeake Bay waters will continue to slowly warm up for gamefish activity, like the ongoing white perch spawning run, and the upcoming shad run in Maryland’s lower salinity waters. Main Bay surface water temperatures have risen to the upper 40s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures in the low 50s. Such areas in low salinity areas will be prime areas to look for spawning white perch as they move up from their wintering areas in the downstream portion of rivers. Also, there are still slightly warmer bottom waters in the main Bay so anglers may want to scan these areas for other gamefish.

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. Expect average clarity for most Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps. There will be above average tidal currents conditions through Sunday as a result of the upcoming full moon on March 25.

For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area, continue to check out Click Before You Cast.

Upper Chesapeake Bay

Anglers looking for some catch-and-release action with hickory shad are finding it in the lower Susquehanna River and Octoraro Creek this week. Currently the discharge rates at the Conowingo Dam are reasonable but could change when or if turbid waters flow down from the Susquehanna River watershed. Casting a variety of small and shiny spoons, shad darts and colorful flies are several of the most popular lures to use along the shorelines of the river.

White perch continue to be caught in the lower Susquehanna River and tidal rivers of the upper Bay. White perch can still be found in the spawning reaches at the uppermost waters of the rivers by casting small jigs tipped with artificial bloodworm baits, pieces of real bloodworm, grass shrimp or cut minnow. Many of the white perch are moving downriver this week and as they enter deeper waters of the rivers, fishing with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are the most popular way to pursue them.

Photo of man with fishing rod on a beach, next a cooler full of large fishWarmer water temperatures are causing catfish to stir this week. Flathead catfish are being caught at the Conowingo Dam pool by anglers using fresh cut baits of gizzard shad. Blue catfish are being caught in the lower Susquehanna River and surrounding tidal rivers in the upper Bay. The Chester River holds some of the largest populations of blue catfish in the region. All tidal rivers have populations of blue catfish and channel catfish. Fresh cut baits of gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, chicken liver, and various other baits work well. A circle hook with a 2-inch float close to the hook and a sliding sinker rig are the most effective and popular bottom rigs to use. The catfish are still holding deep in channels and holes.

The lower Susquehanna River area is open to striped bass catch-and-release fishing through March 31. This area is bordered by a southern line from Turkey Point to Sandy Point and a northern line from the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp at Lapidum to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. Most anglers are fishing with soft plastic swimbaits and crankbaits rigged with single inline hooks. Anglers are urged to release these fish in the water and use heavy tackle. All catch-and-release fishing for striped bass ends April 1.

Middle Bay

Fishing for white perch is showing signs of slowing down in the tidal rivers and the Choptank River. Most of the spawning activity at Red Bridges and the upper Tuckahoe have diminished and the white perch are moving downriver. Most anglers are now fishing in the deeper areas below the spawning reaches with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm.

A mix of channel and blue catfish are offering plenty of fishing action in the Choptank River this week. Anglers are also seeing white catfish as well. Spawning striped bass are now in residence in the Choptank River and they will be actively spawning soon. Anglers fishing for catfish are requested to use circle hooks; they have proven excellent results with catfish when rigged with a small cork float and a sliding sinker rig. 

Anglers searching for catch-and-release action with pre-spawn striped bass making their way up the Bay are finding fewer opportunities this week, as many of the large female striped bass have made their way into the Choptank River and the Susquehanna Flats areas. All catch-and-release fishing of striped bass will end at midnight on April 1. Anglers are probing the deep channels and shallower waters with depth finders looking for fish to jig to, the warm water discharge at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant is always a draw to jig in the discharge current. Most are using 1.5-ounce jig heads with 6-inch to 8-inch soft plastics.

Lower Bay

Anglers looking for catch-and-release action for pre-spawn striped bass are finding tough fishing opportunities this week. Finding a few marks on a depth finder and jigging with large 1.5-ounce soft plastic jigs close to the bottom in waters 40 feet or deeper has been offering some action. All catch and release of striped bass in Maryland waters will be open through March 31. The main stem of the Potomac River will be open to catch-and-release fishing for striped bass until May 15 from the Wilson Bridge south. Jigging will be one of the most popular ways to fish for them and those deciding to use cut bait must use circle hooks. 

Hickory shad and blueback herring can now be found in the Potomac River near the popular fishing area known as Fletcher’s Landing. Hickory shad and blueback herring are also showing up in Mattawoman Creek. Casting small gold spoons, shad darts and brightly colored sinking flies are some of the most popular lures to use. Angler Daniel Neuland, an outdoor columnist and Maryland DNR hunting education specialist, reported to us about a friend who fished Fletchers and caught and released about 40 shad.  “Saturday the water jumped to 4.6 feet - note the boathouse when open will not rent boats (when the level is) above 4.5 feet. Levels are dropping, currently at 4.3, still high and swift for kayaking.”

The tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers are home to large populations of blue catfish and there is plenty of opportunity to catch a mess of tasty blue catfish for those who fish for them this week. Water temperatures in the tidal river are in the mid-50s now and blue catfish are beginning to become more active. They still will be found in the deeper sections of the rivers but will begin to venture along the channel edges. Cut bait of gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, or chicken liver on a circle hook employed with a 2-inch cork float to keep the bait off the bottom and a sliding sinker rig. 

Freshwater FishingPhoto of boy and girl each holding a fish they caught

Trout anglers waiting to begin fishing the traditional opening day of Maryland trout season will most likely spend a restless Friday night. The weather looks favorable for the weekend, although it might be a bit chilly, so prepare to dress warm. Fishing is scheduled to begin at 6:30 a.m. on March 30 and ends at 10 p.m. for all closure 1 and 2 put and take trout waters. Times for fishing on all other days during trout season is 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Trout stocking crews have been busy making sure there are plenty of trout for opening day.

Greyson and Harper Punsalen actually found a moment when it was not raining to pose for this memorable picture. Photo by Wiljohn Punsalen.

Our young trout anglers had a great time on Maryland’s first youth trout fishing day. Yes, it was cold and raining, but whether they were dressed for the weather or not, it was a memorable day that will never be forgotten by our young anglers or their parents and mentors despite cold fingers and toes. You can check out our online collection of photos of smiling young anglers on Youth Trout Fishing Day

Parents with young anglers will have the opportunity to spend a fun day in the next few months of fishing with their young anglers and enjoy a family day together. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing and Boating Services partners with local community organizations to introduce children to fishing at youth fishing rodeos. These fishing rodeos provide fishing opportunities and experiences in a safe controlled environment that offers a positive fishing experience and encourages future interest in fishing and outdoor family activity. A list of Maryland’s 2024 fishing rodeos can be found on the DNR website. 

According to Michael Anderson, who runs the fishing rodeo program, “As April quickly approaches, hatchery staff continue to stock trout statewide for all anglers. However, staff are also gearing up to begin stocking for their youth fishing rodeo program. Nearly 3,500 youth anglers will have the chance to test their skills at catching nearly 10,000 stocked fish throughout 14 different counties in Maryland.”

The purpose of this program is to support our community with events throughout the State of Maryland that give our youth and handicapped individuals the opportunity to learn the sport of fishing. These events are sponsored by all kinds of different organizations such as civic organizations, outdoor schools, community associations, municipal and state agencies, and many other groups of individuals. Events are held between Mid-April to October. Early events are stocked with rainbow and golden trout because of the optimal water temperatures. Hybrid sunfish and native catfish are stocked any dates after May 1 due to the rising water temperatures.”  

Photo of a man on a boat holding a large fish

Fishing for largemouth bass is quickly providing plenty of fishing opportunities as water temperatures are almost ideal for them to move through a variety of areas. Much of the best fishing occurs in mid-depth areas close to the shallower waters. Largemouth bass are actively feeding so they are looking for baitfish near the shallows. Grass beds are still in the preliminary stages of growth so cover for baitfish is at a minimum. A variety of lures will work well this time of the year, but spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastics are at the top of the list. Any structure you can find such as fallen treetops or brush along shoreline or sunken wood are good places to target, feeder creeks also should not be overlooked.

Northern snakeheads are beginning to become more active this week. The cold nights are causing them to be lethargic but the sunny sides of creeks during the afternoon hours can offer them some warmth. The thick grass beds they like to reside in are yet to develop so look for shoreline brush and sunken wood. A large minnow under a bobber is a good way to fish for snakeheads that are slow to react to baits and casting white paddletails remains the most popular lure to use.

Springtime is one of the best times of the year to target large crappie, often with excellent results. They can be found in waters close to structures in the form of fallen treetops, bridge piers, and marina docks. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber provide a great way to fish for them as is casting a variety of small lures with a slow retrieve.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Surfside anglers are seeing the first vanguard of black drum moving up the beaches this week. Sand fleas, clams, peeler crab and cut bait will be popular baits. These baits unfortunately will also be popular with dogfish and clearnose skates.

The talk around the inlet this week is when the first flounder will show up. There already has been some action south of us, so it will only be a matter of time. In the meantime, tautog are being caught along the jetty rocks and bulkheads inside the inlet. Striped bass also provide some action, most of them fail to meet the 28-inch minimum size but they offer fun catch-and-release action. The inlet and the Route 90 bridge piers have been two of the better locations to cast soft plastic jigs and paddletails for striped bass.

Anglers that are hitching a ride out to the offshore wreck and reef sites continue to catch tautog this week. Most trips offer good fishing opportunities; captains report that some days the tides and currents make it a little more difficult. Often a move to another site will bring better results for the anglers aboard. 

“You will find angling to be like the virtue of humility, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of other blessings attending upon it.” – Izaak Walton

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.