Weekly Fishing Report: March 28
It’s safe to say that more than a few trout fishermen will spend a restless Friday night glancing at their alarm clocks. Opening Day holds all the promise and anticipation one can imagine, like something out of our youthful fantasies.
A carnival-type atmosphere will greet most anglers as they arrive at the more popular and heavily stocked locations. There can hardly be a better time to gather up young anglers and have them take part in such a great fishing opportunity, and find success in catching some stocked trout.
Here’s hoping everyone enjoys their opening day experience.
Before we get into this week’s fishing report, I want to remind everyone that they can submit their own fishing reports and photos to the Maryland Angler’s Log. To post a report, please email your name, hometown, photos, location information and additional content for your report. All information is optional, but encouraged. New reports are posted daily during the busy fishing seasons.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
The news from the lower Susquehanna River area has been good this week, as flows from the dam have been minimal and water clarity has been good in the areas below the dam. The water temperature in the Susquehanna Flats has been holding about 45 degrees but will slowly rise with warmer weather and decreased flows from the dam. The pre-spawn striped bass are beginning to arrive and catch-and-release fishing for them is getting off to a good start.
Higher water temperature in the tidal rivers flowing into the upper bay should put white perch spawning runs in high gear. Traditionally the first week of April marks this annual event and it looks like we’re right on schedule. Water temperatures right now in the upper sections of the tributaries are holding around 47 degrees so it will not take much to hit the magic 50-degree mark that gets white perch in the mood for spawning. The upper sections of tributaries such as the Bohemia, Northeast and Sassafras rivers, along with the Chester River near Millington, now have white perch showing up on the spawning grounds. On the western side of the bay the Bush, Gunpowder, Patapsco and Magothy rivers are also great places to fish for white perch. Shad darts tipped with a piece of bloodworm or a small piece of cut minnow are a good bet since there will often be a lot of throwbacks. Grass shrimp are another good bait but it doesn’t take long to go through a batch.
Middle and Lower Bay
In the middle bay region, a few anglers are out on the main stem for a little catch-and-release action. Some are trolling and working out the bugs in their gear while others are jigging over suspended fish. Water temperatures in the bay are holding around 43 degrees this week and make it hard for resident striped bass to feed. Some anglers have reported success using large soft plastics near channel edges.
Perhaps the biggest show for striped bass in the middle bay region is the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant warm-water discharge. It’s no secret that large, pre-spawn striped bass can’t help but nose into the warm water there for a little warmup. Rumor has it that the discharge has increased recently so this fun catch-and-release fishery should continue. Most are using large soft plastics with good success.
We should remind everyone to take precautions to protect fish they catch-and-release, and follow the rules. The Maryland Natural Resources Police have issued a statement to help guide those fishing during the catch-and-release season, which ends April 20. One should also be forewarned that practicing catch-and-release fishing in the closed spawning areas can result in fines and license suspensions.
The trophy season will run from April 21 to May 15, and the department has submitted an emergency action to the Maryland General Assembly that will make changes to several regulations, including a circle hook requirement for chumming and livelining from May 16 through Dec. 15. Striped bass anglers should often check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for updates on regulations.
Perhaps one of the most productive fisheries in the lower Potomac River this week is blue catfish. There certainly are plenty of them and they are relatively easy to catch. Perhaps the biggest key to unlocking this type of fishing is fresh bait, the fresher the better. Fresh-cut white perch is perhaps one of the easiest baits to obtain on-site, but bluegill sunfish from a local pond will assure you’ll have bait and lessen fishing day bait anxiety. Anywhere along channel edges from the Wilson Bridge south are good places to fish. The medium-sized catfish make for excellent eating; be sure to bring a big ice chest.
This coming weekend promises to be any exciting one for white perch fishing, as water temperatures are expected to rise to more comfortable levels for spawning runs. Last weekend water temperatures were down to as low as 41 degrees in the upper sections of the region’s tidal rivers, and by now have risen to 47 degrees. As noted above, it’s commonly understood that 50 degrees is the threshold for white perch spawning.
Traditional locations on the upper Choptank River at Greensboro and Red Bridges promise to be busy this weekend, along with the Marshyhope and upper Nanticoke River, as well as the Severn and West rivers. Shad darts are among the most popular lures to use and tipping them with a piece of minnow or bloodworm for a little scent goes a long way. Bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp work well as does the same baits under a slip bobber.
Channel catfish are active in the tidal rivers and creeks and can be caught on cut bait or when fishing bottom rigs for white perch. Crappie will often be part of the mix also when fishing with shad darts. Those fishing with minnows in areas downriver of the spawning areas may still be able to intercept post-spawn yellow perch.
Striped bass are moving up the Potomac River and this is one of the only spawning rivers that is open to catch-and-release fishing. Water temperatures are still in the low 40s, which means fish will be sluggish. The warm-water discharge at the Morgantown Power Plant near the Nice Bridge might be worth checking out for a
The upper reaches of the tidal rivers in the region are coming alive as water temperatures should near the 50-degree mark this weekend. The Nanticoke, Wicomico and Pocomoke on the eastern side of the bay should be offering good fishing for white perch. The tributaries that flow into the Potomac River should also be offering the same good opportunities for spawning white perch. Shad darts fished bare or tipped with pieces of bloodworm or minnow will be in order under a slip bobber or cast out into the current and worked along the bottom.
Crappie fishing in the tidal Potomac and the tributary creeks is very good this week; the fish can be found around deep structure. Fallen treetops, sunken wood, marina docks and piers are all good places to look for them. The classic rig is a lip hooked minnow on a shad dart or small jig or just a hook under a slip bobber. The tidal Potomac and the creeks flowing into it are famous for good catches of crappie this time of year.
Fishing for blue catfish has been good and warmer water temperatures will increase their feeding activity. Don’t be surprised to find them following the white perch up the tidal creeks, and fresh cut baits of white perch will be what they are looking for.
Weekly Fishing Conditions Forecast Summary: March 27 – April 2
The weather for the second week of spring should finally start moving those water temperatures upward, with for the upcoming week with daytime temperatures in the upper 50s to low 60s. Expect some spring-like rain Thursday and Friday and again Monday. These conditions will start warming Maryland bay waters for gamefish preparing to spawn here in the next several days and weeks.
The Maryland portion of the bay continues to have suitable oxygen conditions from surface to bottom. In addition, there are slightly warmer surface water temperatures so anglers may want to scan these shallower areas for fish.
As reported from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys, main bay surface water temperatures are holding at 43 degrees in Annapolis, Gooses Reef and Point Lookout. However, smaller streams will warm faster and will often hold water temperatures in the upper 40s. Expect normal flows for streams and rivers entering Maryland’s portion of the bay. There will be above average tidal currents conditions Wednesday through Tuesday as a result of the full moon March 31.
For the full weekly fishing conditions summary and 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. You can now see temperature and oxygen levels by depth. Just click on any station on the Temperature by Depth or the Don’t Fish Below this Depth map.
This coming Saturday will be the traditional opening day with all closures lifted in the put-and-take trout management areas. The weather looks good; here’s hoping you find some fun and good fishing, even with your fellow trout angler standing right next to you.
Many areas are being stocked this week in preparation as crews work hard to get trout spread out over wide stretches of creeks and streams. Numerous community ponds are being stocked also making for some fun fishing close to home, especially for the younger set who can sit comfortably pond side watching a bobber for telltale signs of a bite. If you are not sure where you might try your opening day luck the trout stocking website lists area stocked and there is a map link to guide you there.
The reports from the upper Potomac have the river running strong and fishing may be best left to experts who are familiar with fishing the river under difficult conditions. The catch-and-release fishery for large walleye has been very good but takes some careful boating. There have been some reports of good fishing for northern pike at Deep Creek Lake this week. Targeting the mouths of coves seems to be a good tactic with large spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.
Largemouth bass are steadily responding to warmer water temperatures. Small ponds tend to warm up the fastest, and the many farm ponds that dot the Maryland landscape are offering excellent fishing opportunities this week. Once water temperatures reach 45 degrees or better largemouth bass begin to enter a pre-spawn phase where they start to feed aggressively. Crawfish that are beginning to emerge from their winter sleep are going to be one of the top items on their menu. A variety of craws, crankbaits, grubs and jigs worked close to the bottom near structure can be a good tactic. Sunken wood, bridge piers, rocks and steep channel edges all offer good largemouth bass holding structure. Transition areas in slightly shallower waters can be targeted with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastic swimbaits where largemouth bass may be feeding on small baitfish.
Crappie fishing is always a fun spring activity as the fish begin to school up near structure in deeper waters. They are common in many of the ponds, lakes and tidal waters throughout Maryland. Fallen treetops, sunken brush, bridge piers or marina docks all offer great structure to find crappie. Fishing minnows under a slip bobber near such structure is a great tactic. Rigging a small jig under a bobber can also can also offer a good chance at enticing crappie.
Atlantic and Coastal Bays
Windy conditions and cold water temperatures have tended to keep tautog fishing at the offshore wreck and reef sites hindered this week. Water temperatures are still in the low 40s and captains report that they can read fish holding near wrecks but they refuse to bite. Water temperatures will be warming in the near future and good fishing is expected. The tautog season will run to at least May 15, with a limit of four fish per person per day and a minimum size of 16 inches. There are some expected changes in the tautog season and as soon as they are firm we’ll report.
“All of the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is no way shared by the fish.” – Harold F. Blaisdell
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.