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Maryland Fishing Report – May 1

Photo of Boy holding fish

Photo courtesy of Jayden Venable

Welcome to May — a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors with family and especially children. There are few things more fun than taking children to any of Maryland’s many fishing derbies or rodeos. These events are usually held at a community pond and sponsored by a local service organization. Trophies and prizes for various categories are handed out, and it is just a great time for all.

The department has a schedule of fishing rodeos posted online. Gather up your kids and enjoy some of these events. 

Forecast Summary: May 1 – 7

More warm weather and possible rains are expected for the upcoming week. These conditions continue to warm the Chesapeake Bay past the peak spawning temperatures for species in the upper bay – 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 water temperatures continue to rise as recorded at 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 holding near the low to mid 60s. For the middle-to-lower Bay, the NOAA Gooses buoy surface temperature is holding in the mid-60s, while the bottom temperatures have increased to the high 50s. Choptank River water temperatures have risen to the middle to upper 60s. For the Potomac River, from Little Falls to the mouth of the river, surface water temperatures holding at the mid-60s. Surface waters are now warmer than most bottom waters.

Expect reduced water clarity as far south as the Choptank River due to recent rains entering the bay and also regional algal blooms. Expect elevated flows for the Susquehanna due to recent rains farther up in the watershed. The Potomac River and the smaller rivers and streams entering Maryland’s portion of the bay will be normal but likely rising due to predicted rains all week. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the upcoming new moon May 5.

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 Click Before You Cast

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of man holding up a big largemouth bass caught and released on the Susquehanna Flats

Striped bass are not the only bass in the Susquehanna Flats area. Don Goff holds up a big largemouth bass caught and released on the Susquehanna Flats. Photo by Don Goff

The flows out of the Conowingo Dam are finally beginning to moderate after being burdened with flood waters coming from the upper Susquehanna River. Many anglers have been wondering what is going on with the hickory shad spawning runs at Deer and Octoraro creeks. Water temperatures in the lower Susquehanna are about 62 degrees and there has been sporadic catch-and-release action at the mouth of Deer Creek and Octoraro Creek near the Route 222 Bridge.

For the Susquehanna Flats striped bass catch-and-release fishery, conditions are improving but time is running out as the catch-and-release season closes this Friday, May 3. Large numbers of male striped bass are being caught this week on jerkbaits as water conditions improve. The fishery will not reopen until May 16.

Those choosing to troll for striped bass over 36 inches in the upper bay region below the Brewerton Channel have been experiencing what can best be described as a very slow pick. The channel edge at Love Point has been getting a lot of attention and boats can also be seen trolling near the sewer pipe near the Bay Bridge. The striped bass spawn at the Susquehanna Flats and Elk River complex has not started in earnest yet, so it will be a week to two weeks before anglers can expect post-spawn striped bass to be moving through the region. Some anglers have been trying chunking for striped bass at steep channel edges at Love and Podickory points, but they reported large numbers of channel catfish for their efforts.

Don’t forget that if you’re catching and releasing your striped bass, be sure to follow measures for helping protect the population.

Middle Bay

The water temperatures are just above 60 degrees and the salinity is very low. Those who have been out trolling are starting to catch more post-spawn striped bass now that the fish are exiting the spawning rivers — mainly the Choptank River for the middle bay. There is still a little bit of spawning going on in the Choptank, but the bulk of the fish are done and moving out into the bay.

The steep channel edges are the target of most boats that are trolling arrays of tandem-rigged parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads or umbrella rigs towing a large parachute or bucktail as a trailer. Chartreuse tends to be the most popular color choice lately as bay waters tend to be stained or clouded with algae. The channel edges at Bloody Point, Thomas Point, Buoy 83, the False Channel, Breezy Point and the inside edge of the CP Buoy have been popular places to troll. A few anglers have tried chunking at some of the above locations with fair to poor results for striped bass but excellent results with catfish, which are spread throughout the bay due to low salinity.

Fishing for catfish has also been excellent in the tidal rivers of the middle bay region. Fresh cut bait tends to be the most popular bait, often white perch fits the bill. White perch have filtered down the tidal rivers and have moved into their typical summer haunts in tidal creeks and rivers. Grass shrimp and pieces of blood worms tends to be a favorite bait. Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park has been producing good catches of large white perch and channel catfish.

Northern snakeheads are showing up in the tidal rivers and creeks with increasing abundance this spring. Some waters contain higher populations than others, but the snakeheads are widespread. Most anglers are catching them by using live minnows under a bobber, often when fishing for crappie. Warming water temperatures lead to more success with topwater lures such as buzzbaits or soft plastic frogs over grass or through spatterdock fields.

Lower Bay

The best chances of intercepting post-spawn striped bass in the next two weeks will be in this region. The striped bass heading down the bay from the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent and Potomac rivers spawning sites will passing through the lower bay region. They will be followed by post spawn striped bass leaving the upper bay spawning sites.

Some of the most consistent actions is found at the mouth of the Potomac River off Smith Point and the steep channel edge from Piney Point to St. Georges Island. The steep channel edge on the eastern side of the shipping channel near Buoy 76 as well as Cove Point have also been good places to troll.

Large parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads have been the traditional baits pulled in tandem or behind an umbrella rig. Chartreuse has been the standout color due to slightly stained water conditions in the region.

Fishing for northern snakeheads in tidal creeks and rivers of Dorchester and Somerset counties is extremely popular and productive for those wishing to enjoy the exciting action. What more could anyone ask? No limit, no minimum size, it is almost an angler’s conservation duty to get out and catch a bunch of them. The easily accessible areas near bridges tend to be a bit crowded — it almost looks like opening day of trout season at times, so it is a good idea to bring a kayak or canoe to get away from the pack. When fishing from shore, please respect private property owners and always pick up any trash you see.

Popping corks or bobbers with a lip-hooked minnow trailing behind remains the most popular way to catch them. Warming water temperatures are creating a good topwater bite this week and pulling a weedless buzzbait or soft plastic frog through spatterdock or over grass is an exciting way to catch them.

Photo of young girl and catfish she caught

Madeline Harris and her family went fishing for catfish on the Naticoke. Photo by Jim Thompson

Fishing for white perch has been very good. They can be found in all of the tidal rivers and creeks of the lower bay. When fishing deeper waters, it’s hard to beat pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp on a bottom rig. In the morning and evening, a shallow water bite is developing along shorelines that have some structure such as sunken wood, rocks or prominent points. Casting small spinners or small rattletraps is a fun way to catch them on ultra-light tackle.

Blue catfish tend to be spread throughout the entire lower bay, with the Potomac River being ground zero for the largest populations. The Patuxent and Nanticoke river systems also hold large number of blue catfish. Fresh cut gizzard shad, white perch or bluegills are three of the most common cut baits used.

The boat ramp underneath the Route 4 Bridge on the north side of the Patuxent River in Solomons is now open after extensive repairs and improvements. The adjacent pier is a popular and productive place to fish.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of boy with trout

Darrian Corkadel went trout fishing for the first time with his dad in Big Elk Creek, and judging by the heavy stringer and smile he had a great time. Photo by Samuel Corkadel

The 2019 spring stocking program continues to provide trout each week to a variety of waters across the state. As water temperatures warm, anglers will see a trout slowly shift towards colder water habitat, which will provide more prolonged survival during the warmer months of May and June. Crews are out this week stocking trout in the put-and-take areas as well as other trout management waters set aside for catch-and-release or tackle restrictions.

In the central, southern and eastern regions. female largemouth bass are starting to move away from the spawning beds to begin their post-spawn foraging to build up the body stores they lost in spawning. Grass beds are filling out as are spatterdock fields. Water temperatures are still cool enough that bass will linger in these shallower areas longer into the day and earlier in the evenings.

Photo of Largemouth bass

Photo by Eric Packard

Casting topwater lures is always the most fun way to catch largemouth bass, and nothing beats that explosive topwater surface strike. Poppers, lipless crankbaits, buzzbaits and chatterbaits are all good lures to use when working the shallower waters. The mouths of creeks, transition zones between deeper water and the shallower areas are good places to target with crankbaits, various soft plastic craws and jigs, especially near sunken wood.

 When fishing tidal waters, a falling tide is a great time to find largemouth bass holding along the outside edges of grass beds or spatterdock fields. Spinnerbaits and jerkbaits are great ways to work those edges. Northern snakeheads and chain pickerel will also be a part of the mix when fishing these areas.

The central region has a few jewels when it comes to fishing for largemouth bass and other species. The Baltimore County Department of Public Works allows fishing in Loch Raven Reservoir and has boat rentals available at what they call the Boat House. You can rent boats with electric motors, rowboats or kayaks to get out on the lake. Shoreline fishing is also a good option. Liberty Reservoir is another wonderful place to fish but rental boats are not available; both reservoirs require a boating permit if you wish to use your own boat. Regulations can be found on their websites.

The upper Potomac River flows have moderated enough that there are excellent fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass and walleye this week. Soft plastic jigs and small crankbaits are two of the more popular lures to use near submerged ledges and current breaks. Fishing for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass has been good at Deep Creek Lake. Floating docks are being deployed, making for good cover for the bass.

Crappie fishing remains good this week and offers some fun fishing in both tidal and nontidal waters. Crappie are schooled up near structure this time of the year. Look for structure such as fallen tree tops, marina docks, bridge piers or sunken wood in semi-deep water. Crappie fishing rather relaxing when one works a small jig or minnow under a bobber near the structure.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Black drum continue to be caught clam and sand flea baits in the surf from Ocean City to Assateague Island. There is also a mix of bluefish and sub-legal striped bass being caught on cut bait. Smaller offerings of bloodworms are accounting for some kingfish, and northern blowfish are also part of the mix.

Photo of biologist holding a Tautog

Photo by Steve Doctor

Tautog have arrived at the inlet, and catches have been good at the South Jetty and inside to the Route 50 Bridge. Pieces of green crab or sand fleas have been popular baits. Flounder continue to move through the inlet headed for the back bay areas. White Gulp baits have been very popular as have minnows and squid. Bluefish and a few striped bass are also being caught by those casting bucktails and swimshads.

Flounder catches have been good in the back bay channels and seem to get better each week. Many anglers are having the most luck by slow trolling white Gulp baits in the channels near the inlet. Catch-and-release fishing for striped bass that miss the 28-inch minimum, along with a few bluefish, has been fun near the Route 90 Bridge and inlet area.

As ocean waters warm, the tautog have moved closer to shore and can now be found on many of the wreck and reef sites. This is a welcomed event that eliminates those long boat rides offshore. A few boats have ventured out to the canyons for some successful deep-drop fishing. Some anglers have even caught a few dolphin while trolling. It will not be long before the bluefin tuna pass by, followed by the yellowfin.

“The thing about fishing”, the Old Man said, “is not how many fish you catch or what kind of fish. I, for one, think that making a hardheaded profession out of fishing is a waste of time, because a fish is only a fish and when you make a lot of work out of him you lose the whole point of him.–Robert Ruark

Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. 

Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.

This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”