Weekly Fishing Report: June 7
The weather forecast looks very promising for this coming weekend. For those looking for some family fun, there could hardly be anything better than participating in one of Maryland’s free fishing days, or going to one of many other children’s fishing events also being held this Saturday. Those fishing in the upper reaches of the bay near the Susquehanna Flats and the lower Susquehanna have been enjoying good fishing for striped bass. The best fishing has been early in the mornings with topwater lures and to a lesser degree in the evenings. Some have been having luck in the rivers with soft plastic jigs and swimbaits. There are still plenty of white perch in the river that can be caught on small jigs or shad darts. Channel catfish are plentiful as are flatheads near the dam pool and lower river channel.
A little farther down the bay drifting live eels near the deeper edges near Pooles and Hart Miller Islands where striped bass can be found suspended has been productive. The bridge piers of the Francis Scott Key Bridge have also been a good place to drift live eels. These same locations are also excellent places to find white perch. The charter fleet has been anchoring up at Swan Point as well as Love Point. There tends to be a lot of sub-legal striped bass in the chum slicks but enough legal-sized fish to make fishing worthwhile. Some of the better success in regard to larger striped bass has been occurring for those who allow their baits to drift to the back of the chum slick and rest on the bottom.
There has been some trolling action in the upper bay region but generally speaking the action is a slow pick at best. The channel edges in the neighborhood of 30-35 feet tend to be the best depth to target and the fish are holding close to the bottom so inline weights are required to get baits down to where the fish are. Umbrella rigs with a swim shad or a bucktail dressed with a twister tail make good trailers. Tandem rigged bucktails and swimshads as well as spoons are a good option also. There can always be some striped bass suspended near the Bay Bridge piers when a good current is running. Jigging tends to be the most popular way to work the bridge piers and those that keep at it and work the pier bases correctly more often than not can come up with a few nice fish. In recent seasons the plastic skirted jigs made by “Jigged Up Customs” and other similar local Maryland lure makers have been very popular and effective. The plastic skirts on these jigs are similar to the skirts on freshwater largemouth bass lures such as spinnerbaits and “jig and pigs”, and the jig is tipped with a plastic trailer such as a BKD or Bass Assassin.
Below the Bay Bridge, the 30 foot outside edge of Hackett’s Bar has been a popular and productive place to chum for striped bass this past week. Others have been having luck in the same general region trolling a mix of bucktails, swim shads and spoons. One thing of note is that there are a lot of striped bass in the 16″ to 19″ size range in the region and whether chumming, jigging or trolling they tend to abundant. Generally speaking this is a good thing since they represent the future, so handle them with care when releasing them. Breaking fish are being spotted at times and most anglers have learned the larger striped bass can often be found underneath the surface action. Light tackle jigging with soft plastic or metal jigs as well as spoons are a good bet and topwater lures always offer plenty of excitement on top. The channel edge of the shipping channel from Holland Point south to Chesapeake Beach has been a good place to look for striped bass on the western side of the bay. On the eastern side the mouth of Eastern Bay south to the mouth of the Little Choptank has been offering similar possibilities. Watching depth finders for suspended fish or keeping binoculars handy to spot breaking fish are tools of the trade.
Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 69 degrees this week and the salinity tends to be rather low. As we approach a full moon this Friday the annual may worm spawning ritual will be in high gear and as the spawning stage of our common clam worms swarm near the surface, striped bass and white perch will be gorging themselves on this easy feast. Anyone with a dock light will see them attracted to light often in huge masses.
The shallow water striped bass fishery continues to be good in the early morning and late evening hours near shoreline structure. Sunken breakwaters, prominent points and marsh edges are good places to cast topwater poppers. There tends to be so much grass and algae in these shallow areas that topwater lures are the best way to fish them. Sub-legal fish can dominate the catch at times but larger fish are out there also. White perch abound in the tidal rivers and creeks near piers, rocks and similar sunken structure both deep and shallow.
Black drum showed up at the Stone Rock area and Sharps Island Flats this past week and should stick around for a while. This fishery offers those who sign up, a major tussle with a bruiser of a fish in a knock down drag out fight. A baited hook with a portion of a soft crab attached with enough weight to get it down is dropped on them when they are spotted on a depth finder. Although not a common bait here in the Chesapeake, a shucked clam will receive the same response from a hungry black drum. This fishery is mostly a catch and release game for most but there is some good eating meat on them. Unfortunately there is a lot of waste due to the fact that they are often infested with flesh worms from the anus rearward. The meat above the ribs is a solid white meat that has a definitely different taste and texture than most fish. The scales are large and thick so the cuts must be made from within and out when filleting. Black drum have enameled pharyngeal plates about where our tonsils are that they use for grinding up clams and other shellfish. Take the time to extract them, they make a great trophy and conversational piece. The scales are so large that their growth rings are clearly visible and are a great thing to show children. The scales can also be used as guitar picks.
The lower bay region is offering some variety this week in the form of methods of fishing and species to target. Striped bass has been the main focus and small fleets of boats can be seen chumming at Buoys 70 and 72A, the Middle Grounds, Cove Point and Point No Point or anywhere fish can be spotted suspended along channel edges. There is a mix of striped bass of varying sizes along with 2 pound bluefish being attracted to the chum. There tends to be a lot of sub-legal striped bass in the region so the throwback ratio can be high at times.
Trolling deep with medium sized bucktails, swimshads and spoons along channel edges has been productive in the region and especially in the lower Potomac near St. Georges Island and Piney Point. There has been action from Cedar Point to Cove Point and north along the western edge of the shipping channel. Inline weights will be needed to get baits down to where the fish are and planers can be a good option also.
Jigging is a very good option this week when fish can be found suspended along channel edges in the bay or in the lower Potomac or Patuxent Rivers. Breaking fish are also part of the equation and jigging underneath can provide hook ups with larger striped bass. Casting to the surface fish with topwater lures or spoons is of course fun but the fish tend to be in the 16″ to 19″ size range. Medium size bluefish will also be part of the action.
Those that can get up early this time of the year are finding good shallow water striped bass action at places like Point Lookout, Cedar Point rocks, the lower Potomac, Patuxent and anywhere there is good structure and current. Topwater lures are the first choice for this kind of fishing. The evenings will also provide action.
Those looking for some bottom fishing in the lower bay region are finding a few small to medium size croaker and a few small spot are showing up around Point Lookout. There is excellent bottom fishing for white perch in the lower Patuxent River on oyster bottom and in the St. Mary’s River and tidal creeks throughout the western side of the bay. Blue catfish are abundant in the lower Potomac, near the mouth of the Wicomico River and farther north.
Over on the eastern side of the bay there has been some wonderful speckled trout action along the marshes and islands in the Tangier and Pocomoke Sound areas. Drifting soft crab or peeler crab baits on an ebbing tide at the mouths of tidal creeks and guts is a great way to catch them. Casting Gulp Swimming mullet swimbaits also is very productive. There are reports of a few puppy drum being caught along with medium size bluefish. There are a lot of small striped bass in the area and can provide a lot of light tackle fun on topwater lures and some keepers are in the mix.
There is excellent white perch fishing in the tidal rivers and creeks in the region whether one I bottom fishing or casting small lures near shallow structure. Those that take the time to fish for them are finding a few summer flounder along hard bottom channel edges in the region.
Recreational crabbers have been doing well this week in the tidal rivers and creeks of the middle and lower bay regions. Recently recreational crabbers are starting to see catches improve in the upper bay region. Water temperatures are warming up and crabs are now being found in a variety of depths. Razor clams still reign supreme in regards to the most productive bait and although bait bags and snoots can be a pain they are catching the best. Unfortunately it is no secret to recreational and commercial crabbers that they catch so well and at $50 a bushel dockside it is a significant expense.
In the western region of the state there is some wonderful fishing opportunities for a wide range of fish species. At Deep Creek Lake water temperatures have warmed up to the middle 60’s this week. Boating traffic is not too bad and there is good fishing. Smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found near shoreline structure and floating docks. Casting tubes and whacky rigged stick worms are good lure choices to target them. Large yellow perch and walleye can be found along deep grass edges by drifting minnows. Slow trolling along the deep waters of the dam face is a good way to catch some nice trout. Back in the shallow coves there are largemouth bass, chain pickerel and in slightly deeper waters, northern pike.
The upper Potomac River is in good shape this week, although slightly stained it is showing improvement with water temperatures approaching 60 degrees. This is a great time to fish for smallmouth bass that are now in a post-spawn feeding mode. Targeting current breaks, submerged ledges and rock flats with tubes, jerkbaits, crankbaits and even topwater poppers is a good bet.
When fishing for largemouth bass in the tidal rivers an ebbing tide can draw largemouth bass out of shallow grass and spatterdock fields and they can be found along deeper edges. Casting spinnerbaits and small crankbaits along those edges can be a good choice to target them. In the tidal rivers and creeks of the lower Potomac and the lower Eastern Shore northern snakeheads will be found in the same areas of shallow grass and spatterdock fields. Topwater lures such as chatterbaits, buzzbaits and frogs are a loud dinner bell for these ambush predators.
There are plenty of other species to target also this week, bluegill sunfish, crappie and several species of catfish and carp. There is definitely something to be said for an upturned 5 gallon bucket on a shoreline and watching a bobber or line resting in a forked stick, a very relaxing type of fishing. Most every tidal river has a good population of channel catfish and the lower Potomac is loaded with blue catfish. It would seem hard to find a pond or lake that didn’t have a bunch of bluegill sunfish eager to munch on a hook under a bobber and baited with a garden worm.
The Ocean City area has plenty of fishing opportunities this week and the weekend looks very promising. There is a mix of striped bass, bluefish and black drum in the surf for those fishing larger baits and tackle. Cut menhaden has been a favorite bait for striped bass but surf clams are an excellent bait also if you can obtain them. There has not been a wave of large striped bass being caught in the surf recently but a fisherman’s hope and patience is endless. Finger mullet tends to be the bait of choice for bluefish. Flounder and blowfish can be caught on squid.
Bluefish and striped bass are being caught in and around the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area by those casting lures or drifting cut bait. Flounder are being caught at the inlet and back bay channels.
Offshore there is good sea bass fishing on the wreck and reef sites and a few flounder are helping round out the mix. Farther offshore at the 20 and 30 fathom line mako sharks and at least one large thresher were caught recently by those chumming there. At the canyons a mix of yellowfin tuna up to 45 lbs. are being caught as well as bigeye tuna and gaffer dolphin.
“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” -Aldo Leopold
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.