Weekly Fishing Report: June 21
As we all know Sunday was Father’s Day, and sons and daughters made every effort to be with dad and to share in some time together. Dads usually get to pick what they wish to do on Father’s Day, and when they team up with their sons and daughters it is a heartwarming sight to see. To the dads out there, I hope you were able to spend time fishing and either reliving memories of being together or creating ones that will last through time.
Up at the lower Susquehanna River, the Conowingo Dam has been releasing water in above average proportions during the afternoon and evening hours, most likely for power generation. Flows through the dam are minimal during the early morning hours which is a very good time to cast topwater lures and swim shads in the dam pool for striped bass. Striped bass are also being caught in the river and at the mouth of the river in the early morning hours on topwater lures such as poppers and Zara Spooks. There are some throwbacks involved but most are reporting a very nice grade of striped bass in the area. Channel catfish are common in the river and nearby channels as are flathead catfish. Largemouth bass can be found in the grass on the flats.
The upper bay region is providing some good fishing for striped bass this week and it continues to improve in noticeable strides as more fish from the middle bay region move into the region. This has the earmarks of last year’s pattern and if it holds true there is going to be some good striped bass fishing this summer in the upper bay. Chumming has been very good at Swan Point, Love Point and Podickory Point channel edges. There are a lot of 2 and 3-year-old fish in the region and tend to swarm through chum slicks with larger fish often holding close to the bottom and at the tail end of chum slicks.
Trolling with medium sized bucktails dressed with twister tails, Storm type swim shads and surge tube lures (hoses) in tandem or behind umbrella rigs have also been a good way to score on a nice grade of striped bass over 20 inches in length. Inline weights are needed for umbrella rigs and there is the option of using planers for single or tandem rigged lures. There are breaking fish being spotted throughout the region, usually on a good running tide. Most often these are smaller fish but often larger striped bass can be found underneath them close to the bottom by jigging or trolling deep. Soft plastic jigs in chartreuse, pink and pearl seem to be favorite colors.
Down at the Bay Bridge piers and the sewer pipe there has been some successful jigging to suspended fish at times on a good running tide. Some boats have also been anchoring up and chumming to the structure with good results.
Fishing for white perch has been excellent in the tidal rivers of the upper bay and especially the lower Patapsco River/Middle River complex. The perch tend to hold in about 15 feet of water during the day, tight to structure such as bridge piers, old piers, rocks and hard bottom. Bloodworms and peeler crab tend to be the best baits when fishing with a bottom rig. Shad darts tipped with a piece of bait will also get the job done. These same areas are also teeming with channel catfish that can be caught on bottom rigs baited with cut fish bait, chicken livers or nightcrawlers.
Fishing for striped bass in the middle bay region is good this week but many are reporting it has lost some of the luster it held last week as striped bass seem to be moving into the upper bay region. Chumming is still good this week along the 35 foot outer edge of Hackett’s Bar but has dropped a notch from last week. Thomas Point has also been offering some chumming action as does anywhere suspended fish can be spotted on depth finders. A lot of two and three year old fish are a major portion of the fish being seen but enough larger fish over 20 inches are being caught. Trolling a mix of bucktails, swim shads and surge tube lures (hoses) has been a good way to catch striped bass this week along channel edges in about 35 feet of water. Most often the fish are suspended close to the bottom, so inline weights or planers are needed to get lures down to where the fish are.
Jigging is still a good option when suspended fish can be found on depth finders along channel edges on both sides of the bay. The western shipping channel edge from Thomas Point south past Chesapeake Beach continues to provide action as does the channel edges off Kent Island and inside Eastern Bay. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 77 degrees in the bay and a bit warmer in the tidal rivers. Early morning or late evening shallow water fishing with topwater lures in the tidal rivers and Poplar Island rocky shoreline continue to provide exciting fishing.
Shore bound anglers have been enjoying some striped bass fishing at the Kent Narrows in the evenings when boat traffic subsides and at sun up. Most are casting bucktails and soft plastic jigs up current at an angle and bouncing them along on a tight line. Prominent points and piers can be good places to fish with topwater or crankbait type lures. Those with small boats continue to work favorite spots in the tidal rivers for striped bass. There tends to be a fair proportion of small fish as it is most places but offers fun fishing and enough fish over 20 inches to keep everyone happy.
Fishing for white perch continues to be very good in the middle bay tidal rivers. Fishing off docks or bulkheads with a simple one hook bottom rig and just enough weight to get your offering down to where the perch are, tight to structure. Grass shrimp is one of the best baits and in most areas you can easily catch them. Bloodworms are good but of course will cost you. Shad darts and small jigs worked deep are a good tactic and even better when tipped with a piece of bloodworm or a grass shrimp.
The lower bay region has a lot of exciting fishing opportunities this week and more fish are moving in from the south. A mix of striped bass, bluefish, speckled trout, flounder, croakers and spot are being caught this week and the cobia and Spanish mackerel are on the way.
There has been good chumming for a mix of striped bass and bluefish at the Middle Grounds north to the HS Buoy were fish can be found suspended along channel edges. There is also good chumming in the lower Potomac near Tall Timbers and St. Clements Island. These same areas offer opportunities for jigging and trolling. Soft plastics tend to be a favorite choice for jigging when suspended fish can be located. Those trolling are using a mix of bucktails, swim shads and surge tube lures behind inline weights and planers. St. Mary’s River has been a good place to jig or cast topwater lures. There continues to be fun striped bass fishing around the mouth of the Patuxent and up the river. Most will agree there are a lot of fish less than 20 inches but the action whether casting topwater or jigs is lots of fun. The western edge of the shipping channel near Cove Point has also been holding some larger striped bass.
There have been a few reports of the first cobia and Spanish mackerel showing up in the region and hopefully more will continue to fill in the coming weeks. The cobia were showing up in chum slicks at the Middle grounds and the Spanish have been mixing it up with the striped bass and bluefish as they chase bay anchovies in the region.
Over on the eastern side of the bay a mix of striped bass and speckled trout are being caught from Hooper’s Island south to Pocomoke Sound near creek channels and marsh edges on topwater lures, Gulp Mullet baits and by drifting soft crab or peeler crab baits. Flounder are being found near some of the hard channel edges in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. Croaker and spot are now becoming more common for those bottom fishing, white perch, small bluefish and kingfish round out the mix. Croaker, spot and speckled trout are also being caught on the western side of the bay near the Point Lookout area and blue catfish up the Potomac.
Many of the recreational and commercial crabbers I spoke to this week mentioned that they felt crabbing has slacked off this past week and that crabs seem to have moved toward the mouths of creeks and deeper water. Razor clams are still the hottest ticket in town for trot lining or traps but chicken necks will still catch. As is usually the case some areas produce better than others and at times you manage to make the right moves and get in on a nice mess of crabs.
Freshwater fishing in the western region has been very good this week on several fronts. The upper Potomac River is in fine shape with clear water and higher flows making for some excellent smallmouth bass fishing. Water temperatures are about 76 degrees and tubes tend to be the most popular bait near current breaks and submerged ledges. At Deep Creek Lake there has been good fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass near floating docks and fallen tree tops. Large yellow perch and walleye can be found deep along grass edges by drifting minnows and trout are being caught deep by trolling along the dam face.
The tidal Potomac has been offering some fine largemouth bass fishing lately and now that the FLW Tournament is over, there will be plenty of elbow room at fishing locations and boat ramps. Targeting grass tends to be the number one tactic with topwater lures or dropping stick worms down through the grass. Fishing on a falling tide early in the morning or late evening is often a great combination for success. Back in that same grass, northern snakeheads can be found lurking waiting to ambush any noisy chatterbait, buzzbait or plastic frog that might come their way. The northern snakehead can also be found over on the lower Eastern Shore Rivers from the Choptank south, and soon to a tidal river near you, if their range continues to expand as in past years. The Nanticoke, Pocomoke and Wicomico rivers have been offering good largemouth bass fishing on falling tides and as water temperatures steadily climb, early morning hours are becoming the best time to fish. Not to be left out, the Susquehanna Flats have always offered good largemouth bass fishing in the thick grass that grows there.
For those of you who missed the brief mention in last week’s report, we now have a new state record white catfish from tidal waters which has been discussed recently in the Maryland angling community. Jacob Vosburgh of Lexington Park was fishing recently in the lower Potomac River for catfish and did he ever catch a notable white catfish. Jacob was fishing with bloodworms when he landed an 8.27 lb. white catfish, which has been established as the new Maryland state record in the Chesapeake Bay (Tidal) Division.
Other species of freshwater fish such as bluegills, crappie and chain pickerel inhabit most ponds and lakes as well as the upper reaches of the tidal rivers. They can offer plenty of fun angling for all ages, whether one is using a spinning tackle of a fly rod. Channel catfish abound in most tidal rivers and selected reservoirs like Piney Run Reservoir in Carroll County.
Over at Ocean City the summer species are steadily moving in and fishing is hopping. In the surf there is a mix of bluefish, striped bass, flounder and blowfish. The bluefish are being caught on finger mullet rigs, the striped bass on cut bait and flounder and blowfish on squid. Inshore sharks are beginning to be caught on cut bait rigs meant for striped bass so be careful when releasing them since most are protected.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area there are flounder and sheepshead being caught. The flounder are being caught on bait rigs or by working white Gulp mullet baits, the sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas. At night when boat traffic calms down bluefish and striped bass are being caught by casting bucktails or Got-Cha lures or by drifting cut bait or live eels. In the back bay channels flounder fishing has been good when water clarity is also good, there is also a few weakfish and red drum being caught.
Out at the wreck and reef sites, fishing for sea bass has been good and flounder and triggerfish are becoming a more common part of the mix.
The boats heading out to the canyons are having some exciting fishing and the action should only get better as water temperatures climb. The first white marlin was caught last week and then a second one shortly after. There has been a run of bluefin tuna ranging from 50 lbs. to giants and they have been providing some great fishing opportunities. Bigeye tuna and also yellowfin tuna are also being caught and with a mix like that, anglers must be careful in being able to tell the difference from a bigeye and bluefin tuna. Gaffer sized dolphin have been part of the trolling mix. Those stopping for some deep drop fishing have been bringing tilefish back to the docks and mako sharks are being caught from the 30 Fathom Line out to the canyons.
“So if escapism is a reason for angling, then the escape is to reality. The sense of freedom that we enjoy in the outdoors is, after all, a normal reaction to a more rational environment.” -A. J. McClane
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.