Maryland Fishing Report – April 10
The generous stocking of trout by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hatchery program has brought countless smiles to the faces of trout fishermen, young and old. These fish are being stocked in waters near you.
Get set for a beautiful week! Except for a chance of rain this Friday, mild temperatures will continue. Normal flows and clearer waters on all Maryland rivers, combined with a stretch of nice weather, will warm our favorite fishing waters. Expect windy conditions on Thursday and Friday. While the Maryland portion of the bay continues to have suitable oxygen conditions from surface to bottom, this pattern will change soon due to warming waters. Bay salinities are still below average from the continued above average rainfall.
Bay water temperatures are continuing to rise as recorded at the real-time National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Maryland Department of Natural Resources buoys. For the upper bay, from Thomas Point to the Susquehanna Flats, water temperatures are rising to the low to mid 50s. For the middle to lower bay, water temperatures are slightly higher, rising to the upper 50s, with the NOAA Gooses buoy and Cambridge at 57 degrees, and Harris Creek at 59 degrees. For the Potomac River, surface water temperatures are holding around 57 degrees, while water temperatures upstream near Little Falls are at 60 degrees. Shallow, dark-bottomed rivers and streams and downwind areas on sunny days will continue warm, often holding water temperatures from the upper 50s to low 60s. Surface waters are now warmer than bottom waters.
Expect improving water clarity on the Potomac River and the upper bay, as well as good water clarity on the lower bay. Expect normal flows for the Susquehanna, Potomac and smaller rivers and streams entering Maryland’s portion of the bay. There will be above average tidal currents on Wednesday as a result of the recent new moon April 5 and also above average tides next due to the upcoming full moon April 20.
Flows from the Conowingo Dam have been low for a while and water clarity in the lower Susquehanna River and Flats areas has greatly improved. Water temperatures are also climbing due to moderate flows in the area. Catch-and-release fishing for striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats area has been good for male striped bass ranging from 17 inches to 28 inches. Swimshads and soft plastic jigs have been favorite lures but crankbaits and jerkbaits are also working. The majority of the larger female striped bass will be arriving to the area in the next couple of weeks.
Pre-spawn white perch are slowly moving into the lower Susquehanna River. Hickory shad probably are too, but will be holding in the river until water temperatures in Deer Creek hit 60 degrees or better. Anglers wishing to participate in the Deer Creek hickory shad catch-and-release fishery will have to keep a close watch on water temperatures and weather. Warm and sunny weather can spur on a spawning run but cloudy, cool or rainy conditions can shut it down just as quickly. There have also been a few reports of American shad at the Conowingo Dam.
Channel catfish are providing plenty of good fishing in the tidal rivers of the upper bay and often in the main stem of the bay. Flathead catfish can be caught in the Conowingo Dam pool and below in the Susquehanna. Fresh cut bait tends to be one of the best baits to use on a bottom rig.
There has been a limited amount of catch-and-release fishing for striped bass at the Bay Bridge. Medium-sized striped bass can be found suspended near bridge piers and concrete abutments. Jigging with large soft plastic jigs, often skirted, tends to be the most popular way to jig.
There is a limited catch-and-release fishery going on along some of the steeper channel edges by those trolling planer boards and large barbless parachutes and bucktails dressed with large sassy shads. There has not been much action but it’s certainly worth the effort. Others are spotting medium-sized striped bass along channel edges and finding success jigging to the suspended fish.
The striped bass began spawning in the upper Choptank River in earnest and the pace will pick up in the next week or so as water temperatures come closer to the optimum 64.5 degrees. Surface water temperatures are close to 60 degrees but unfortunately salinities are extremely low due to recent runoff, which may cause spawning to occur in areas normally considered downriver of the traditional spawning areas. One good thing about all of the rainy weather this winter — the runoff caused an algae bloom in the upper sections of the spawning rivers in March, to be followed by a zooplankton bloom which feed on the algae. The zooplankton are essential food for the striped bass larvae.
White perch are moving down the spawning tidal rivers and will be spreading out into their normal summer season habitats. The largest white perch often spawn first, and last weekend the vanguard of the post-spawn movement in the Choptank River reached Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. Those fishing with bloodworms or grass shrimp on bottom rigs found success with a nice grade of white perch. The action should last for several weeks as more white perch head downriver from the spawning areas.
Low salinity values in the Choptank River and other tidal rivers in the middle bay region has led channel catfish to the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Fresh cut white perch makes for a good bait, and there are plenty of white perch available.
The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant warm water discharge continues to be a big draw for light tackle jigging. The action there for large pre-spawn striped bass has picked up as the fish make a pit stop in the warm current to break the chill on their way up the bay. Large soft plastic jigs tend to be the favorite presentation but butterfly jigs also work well.
Out in the main stem of the bay along the steeper channel edges some have been trolling with large barbless parachutes and bucktails behind planer boards. This catch-and-release fishery for the large pre-spawn striped bass moving up the bay has been spotty at best, but even catching just one fish makes the effort worthwhile. Water temperatures at Point Lookout are about 56 degrees and the salinity is a low 6.6.
The striped bass should have begun spawning in the upper Nanticoke and Patuxent rivers this week, with the Potomac River not far behind. Water temperatures are approaching 60 degrees in many areas, and with continued warm weather in the forecast the spawning activity will increase in the next two weeks.
White perch are moving downriver from the spawning areas on their way to the lower regions of the tidal rivers and creeks where they will spend the summer months. Fishing with bloodworm and grass shrimp baits on bottom rigs tend to be the best way to catch them.
Fishing for blue catfish is excellent this week in the Sharptown-Marshyhope region of the Nanticoke River. The Patuxent River in the region of Benedict has been good and the tidal Potomac River south from the Wilson Bridge been excellent. Fresh cut bait is essential and white perch is an easy bait to collect. Those seeking trophy-sized blue catfish in the deeper parts of the river prefer fresh gizzard shad baits. Channel catfish can also be found in most of the tidal rivers in the lower bay region.
Catch-and-release fishing for hickory shad and an occasional American shad is in full swing in the tidal Potomac River at the Fletchers Landing and Chain Bridge area. Shad darts and small gold spoons are the most popular lures to use.
The fishing for northern snakeheads in the lower bay tidal rivers continues to be an attractive fishing experience for those wishing to enjoy some fishing fun and some great table fare. The tidal Potomac River and its tributaries have always been a go-to place to fish for northern snakeheads, but as the fish expands its range, other areas are presenting opportunities. The tidal rivers of the middle and lower Eastern Shore now have burgeoning populations of northern snakeheads. One of the most popular locations recently is the Blackwater River area where drifting a large minnow under a bobber has been a proven tactic to catching northern snakeheads. Recently northern snakeheads have been showing up at the Wye Mills Dam and the spread will surely continue.
The stocking of trout in a wide variety of waters continues this week. Crews at the hatcheries are producing the finest trout possible and stocking crews are working hard to haul the trout from the trucks and spread them out by bucket and float stocking. Last week almost 36,000 trout were stocked in 50 locations from the Eastern Shore to the far western region. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to enjoy trout fishing in waters near you.
Trout fishermen are enjoying excellent fishing opportunities in the put-and-take areas as well as the delayed harvest, fly fishing only and catch-and-release trout management areas. River and stream flows have been good, along with beautiful weather conditions. This is a wonderful time of the year to take a trip with young anglers to ponds and streams where trout are being stocked.
Fishing for a mix of walleye and yellow perch remains good at Deep Creek Lake. Drifting minnows along steep rocky shorelines and deep grass edges has been a proven tactic. Casting small crankbaits and jerkbaits along steep edges in the evening hours is also a fun way to target walleye. Northern pike can be found at the mouths of coves, and smallmouth and largemouth bass are beginning to become more active near shoreline structure and rocky points. Trout can be found in a wide variety of locations around the lake, but lumps and the dam face tend to be two of the more popular spots.
The upper Potomac River is providing some fun catch-and-release fishing for smallmouth bass for those casting small crankbaits and small swimshads worked close to the bottom near eddy lines and underwater ledges. Walleyes are also very active and can be caught on minnows or small soft plastic jigs. There is also a mix of channel catfish and an ever increasing number of flathead catfish to be found in the upper Potomac.
Catch-and-release fishing for largemouth bass in the nontidal areas is reaching new heights this week as warming water temperatures have pre spawn largemouth bass in an aggressive feeding behavior. Largemouth bass caught in nontidal waters must be released through June 15. You can keep a largemouth bass caught in tidal waters until June 15, with a minimum of 15 inches and a creel limit of five per day. After June 15, you can keep largemouth bass caught in any waters, with a daily limit of five fish. They can be found in transition areas between the deeper winter habitat and the shallow areas. Prey such as crayfish are trying to move into the shallower waters as grass beds grow and provide cover, and the same can be said for baitfish. Small crankbaits and jigs that resemble crayfish are a good choice for targeting sunken wood and channel edges; spinnerbaits and jerkbaits are good for covering waters outside the emerging grass beds.
Crappie fishing continues to be good in tidal and nontidal waters this week. The crappie tend to be holding near most any kind of structure in deeper waters. Fallen treetops, sunken wood, rocks and marina docks are good examples of the cover crappie prefer this time of the year. A minnow or a small jig under a slip bobber is one of the better options to catch them. Some like to use small plastic jigs but the marabou jig is a time proven crappie killer. It would seem the undulating movement of the marabou drives the crappie to strike.
Water temperatures are slowly rising each week — just off the beaches they are in the upper 40s and the back bays are around 55 degrees. It will not be long before tautog begin to show near the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area. Most likely a flounder or two will be caught this weekend inside the inlet.
Striped bass are being caught and released near the Route 90 Bridge this week. Most all are below the 28-inch minimum but there is plenty of action, and that is what most are looking for this time of the year. The fish are being caught by casting out slightly up-current and walking the jig along the bottom as it sweeps past in the current. A few striped bass have also been reported at the inlet.
Offshore the name of the game is tautog fishing at the wreck and reef sites. The catches have been fairly steady, limits are sparse but some nice fish in the 8-pound to 10-pound range are being caught. Green crabs and Jonah crabs have been the preferred baits.
“The old man used to say that the best part of hunting and fishing was the thinking about going and the talking about it after you got back. You just had to have the middle as a basis of conversation and to put some meat in the pot.” —
Robert Ruark, “The Old Man and the Boy”
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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