Maryland Fishing Report – April 24
There are a lot of exciting fishing opportunities in Maryland and perhaps one most dear to any parent is helping a son or daughter catch their first fish. Our hatchery and trout stocking crews work hard to provide wonderful trout fishing for everyone. There are special areas spread around the state that are stocked with trout and set aside just for our younger anglers.
The much anticipated opening day of the 2019 spring trophy striped bass season has come and gone without much fanfare, and now fishermen can settle down and wait for the post-spawn striped bass to exit the spawning rivers in the next couple of weeks.
If you’re catching and releasing your striped bass, be sure to follow measures for helping protect the population.
Continued mild temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s are expected in the upcoming week with some windy conditions for Wednesday and again on Friday, along with a chance of rain. These conditions continue to warm the bay to the peak spawning temperatures of 60.64 degrees for striped bass and 64 degrees for American shad. The Maryland portion of the bay continues to have suitable oxygen conditions from surface to bottom. Bay salinities are still below average from the continued above-average rainfall.
Bay water temperatures continue to rise as recorded at the real-time National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Maryland Department of Natural Resources buoys. For the middle-to-upper bay, from Thomas Point north, water temperatures are rising to the low to mid 60s. For the middle-to-lower bay, the surface temperature at the NOAA Gooses buoy is holding in the high 50s while the bottom temperatures have increased to 50 degrees. Choptank River area water temperatures are also holding at the low 60s. For the Potomac River, from Little Falls to the mouth of the river, surface water temperatures have risen to the mid-60s. Surface waters are now warmer than most bottom waters.
Expect good water clarity in most of the bay except on the Potomac River from Quantico down to Colonial Beach, on the main Bay from the Flats down to the Bay Bridge, and also on northern Tangier Sound and nearby rivers. Expect elevated flows for the Susquehanna and Potomac due to recent rains farther up in the watershed. Smaller rivers and streams entering Maryland’s portion of the bay will be normal but likely rising due to predicted rains on Friday. There will be above average tidal currents on Wednesday as a result of the recent full moon and next Tuesday as a result of the upcoming new moon on May 4.
The Conowingo Dam is releasing a lot of water, causing stained water and cold temperatures in the lower Susquehanna River and Susquehanna Flats area. Heavy rains in the upper Susquehanna River watershed have reached the Conowingo Dam and several gates are open.
Those looking for catch-and-release fishing action in the Susquehanna Flats areas are reporting poor conditions like those mentioned above, plus wind. A few of the smaller male fish are being caught and released but generally fishing has been poor for striped bass.
Catch-and-release fishing for hickory shad has been fair at best in Deer Creek and Octoraro Creek this week. The recent warm and sunny weather may spur this fishery into action. White perch are moving into the lower Susquehanna River; when water flows in the river calm down and water temperatures rise there should be good fishing. There are plenty of catfish to be caught in the region of the lower Susquehanna as well as the Elk and Northeast rivers. Channel catfish are the most common species found in the upper bay and can be caught on fresh cut bait. Flathead catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna and Conowingo Dam Pool. Blue catfish are becoming more common.
Smallmouth bass are being caught in the lower Susquehanna on a variety of soft plastic jigs and crankbaits. Largemouth bass are also being caught on the Susquehanna Flats on lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.
The start of the striped bass season was very slow with windy conditions making fishing uncomfortable. Boats were out bucking the choppy waters and trolling channel edges at Love Point, Podickory Point and near the Bay Bridge.
Windy conditions have made for tough going out on the open waters of the bay. It is still a bit early to expect a lot of post-spawn striped bass to be available to those trolling the steep channel edges of the middle bay. Although the peak of the striped bass spawning activity has been over for about a week in the Choptank River, there is still spawning going on. Better fishing is ahead and most would agree that the first full week of May offers the best chance of catching a trophy-sized striped bass. The minimum length is 35 inches and one fish per day per angler.
White perch are filtering slowly into their summer habitat and the largest are the first to arrive, offering some of the best fishing for quality-sized white perch. A simple one-hook bottom rig with a one-ounce sinker and a No. 4 hook baited with grass shrimp near docks and piers in relatively deeper waters is the ticket to catching some filleting size white perch.
Fishing for northern snakeheads is excellent this week at Dorchester County creeks and ditches. They are also being found at places such as the Wye Mills spillway and similar waterways. A large minnow behind a bobber or popping cork is the best way to catch them. As water temperatures climb in the next few weeks, buzzbaits and similar lures will also be a good choice.
Fishing for channel catfish is good in most of the tidal rivers, and they may be found slightly downriver of traditional locations due to low salinity values. Fresh cut white perch is one of the more popular baits right now.
The lower bay offers one of the better locations to intercept early post spawn striped bass exiting the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent or Potomac rivers this week. They all have to pass through the region. So far the fishing has been very slow as boats grind out the miles with little results to show for their efforts. Somewhere around the first week of May should offer better success. There is still some spawning going on in the spawning rivers, especially the Potomac River.
Trolling large parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads rigged in tandem or behind umbrella rigs is the best way to fish for the large striped bass. Planer boards will help get the baits away from the engine noise of the boat. The early morning hours and evenings often offer better fishing opportunities off the planer boards, before the fleet drives the fish deeper. Due to relatively stained water conditions, chartreuse will be one of the better choices for lure color.
Some of the more traditional and successful trolling locations include Cove Point, Point No Point, Buoys 72, 74 and 76, and off of Smith Point to name a few. They all have steep channel edges in common. In the Potomac River the steep channel edge from Piney Point down past St. Georges Island will also be a good place to give trolling a try.
Fishing for northern snakeheads in the upper reaches of the tidal creeks of lower Dorchester and Somerset counties continues to be excellent this week. Fishing with a large minnow behind a bobber or popping cork has been the best way to fish for them. As summer approaches casting topwater lures such as frogs and buzzbaits will be a great way to fish for them. Good information on northern snakeheads is available on our website.
Fishing for blue catfish continues to be excellent in the Nanticoke and Potomac rivers this week. Fresh cut bait on a simple bottom rig is the key to success. Blue catfish make excellent table fare and there are no limits to size or quantity you can catch. The hickory shad run in the tidal Potomac near Fletchers Landing is beginning to wind down but there is still good catch-and-release fishing to be found.
Trout fishing continues to be excellent in many areas as more trout are stocked each week at a variety of locations. Water flows have been good with cool water temperatures, which is good for the trout. Warm and sunny weather is good for the anglers, making for comfortable and enjoyable outings. A selection of ponds and creeks are set aside for youth under the age of 16 so they can have a fun and rewarding experience. To find one of these locations be sure to check out the trout stocking website.
Fishing at Deep Creek Lake is entering a new stage, as warmer water temperatures tease several species of fish to become more active. Smallmouth bass are active along rocky shores and points. Largemouth bass can be found in the cove areas. A mix of crankbaits, spinners and jigs are good lures to use. Northern pike can be found at the mouths of coves near deep grass edges. Stocked trout can often be found holding on humps or along the dam face.
The upper Potomac River has been running hard but providing good fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye if one is careful. A mix of small crankbaits and soft plastic jigs are excellent choices for lures.
Largemouth bass are entering their spawning phase in most areas of the state except for the western region. The males have carved out spawning beds in the shallower areas and female largemouth bass are moving into those areas. If one chooses to fish for them, a mix of topwater lures can be a good choice in the shallow areas. Frogs, buzzbaits, poppers and lipless crankbaits work well in the shallows. To target the slightly deeper waters in the transitions zones, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and a mix of crankbaits and jigs can be a good choice. Targeting sunken wood, deep grass and the mouths of creeks with these baits can offer success.
Once the spawn is over, largemouth bass fishermen can look forward to aggressive female largemouth bass putting on the feed to make up for lost body stores from spawning. Grass beds are growing and water temperatures warming which will make for some excellent fishing in the coming weeks. Fishing for largemouth bass in nontidal waters is catch-and-release only until June 15. In tidal waters anglers can keep up to five largemouth bass per day with a minimum size of 15 inches until June 15, and then 12 inches from June 16 through the last day of February.
Crappie fishing remains good as they hold near structure in the slightly deeper waters of Maryland’s ponds, lakes and tidal waters. Sunken wood, fallen treetops, docks, marina piers and bridge piers are all good places to look for them. A simple slip bobber rig with either a small marabou jig or minnow is all that is needed to catch them.
Inshore fishing opportunities are greatly improving this week as warmer water temperatures entice some of our summer time visitors to arrive. Surf anglers are catching black drum on clam and sand flea baits in the surf, kingfish on bloodworms and a mix of striped bass that usually fall short of 28 inches and a few bluefish on cut bait.
Striped bass are being caught in the inlet and in the coastal bays near the Route 90 and Route 611 bridges, and the Verrazano Bridge. Casting bucktails and swimshads have been a popular way to enjoy this catch-and-release fishery, since most of the fish are under 28 inches long. A few bluefish are beginning to show up in the inlet and back bay areas for those fishing for striped bass.
Flounder have been moving through the inlet and following the channels into the back bay areas. Those fishing for them report that an ebbing tide often presents the best fishing success. Large white Gulp baits and similar soft plastics have been catching the largest flounder. Tautog should be showing up at the Ocean City Inlet any day now, and this weekend would be a good time to give them a try. Pieces of green crab or sand fleas are good baits and one would suspect that the bottom of an ebb tide might offer the best opportunity for success.
Fishing for tautog continues to dominate the offshore fishing scene this week. They are being found holding to the offshore wreck and reef sites. Windy conditions have been a problem lately but hope springs eternal that the wind will die down for some good fishing this weekend.
“Angling is tightly woven fabric of moral, social and philosophical threads which are not easily rent by the violent climate of our times.” –A.J. McClaine
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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