Maryland Fishing Report – May 29
Summertime temperatures are settling in this week and many will be looking for some relief from the heat — water provides that and fun as well. Many will be headed to Maryland’s state parks, the Chesapeake Bay or Ocean City, while others will seek the solitude and cool temperatures of western Maryland.
Also, the state is hosting three license-free fishing days on June 1, June 8 and July 4. These annual events allow everyone the chance to test their fishing skills or reinvigorate their love of fishing without needing a license, trout stamp or registration.
Chesapeake Bay waters will continue to warm with expected daytime air temperatures in the mid to high 80s and night temperatures around 70 degrees, with a slight cooling early next week. Salinities are still running low for this time of year. In most Maryland bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen for gamefish from surface to bottom. However, to avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line, avoid fishing deeper than 25 feet.
For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures continue to rise to the low to mid 70s. For the middle-to-lower bay, surface water has warmed to the mid-70s while the bottom temperatures are stable at the low to mid 60s. Choptank area water temperatures also are rising to the mid-70s. For the Potomac River, at Little Falls and Point Lookout, surface water temperatures have risen to the upper 70s. Expect decent water clarity in the mainstem with the potential for degrading conditions from localized thunderstorms and algal blooms beginning to appear between the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, in upper western shore rivers and the middle Patuxent River. Expect elevated flows from the Susquehanna, Potomac and most other western shore rivers and streams due to recent and upcoming rains farther up in the watershed. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the new moon June 3.
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Runoff continues to cause areas of stained water on the western side of the bay and low salinity values throughout the region. These conditions may be the reason finding striped bass can be difficult. Trolling is proving to be one of the best ways to connect with striped bass in the region along channel edges. Swan, Love and Podickory points have been good places to troll and the various knolls and reefs west of Baltimore Harbor have also been worthwhile places to look. The striped bass seem to be on the move so it pays to be flexible when scouting. Spoons pulled behind inline weights or planers have been a good choice, as are bucktails and Storm type swimshads behind umbrella rigs.
Chumming has been popular along channel edges where striped bass can be found suspended. The 30-foot channel edge at Podickory Point has been a good place to chum, as have the sewer pipe, Love Point, Swan Point and anywhere suspended striped bass can be spotted on a depth finder. Blue and channel catfish will be a part of the mix of visitors to chum slicks and they tend to be a bit pesky at times.
Fishing for white perch has been good in the deeper waters of the bay and lower regions of the tidal rivers. The white perch have been holding on hard bottom in about 15 feet of water. Pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp on a bottom rig have been the most popular way to fish. Casting small spinnerbait-type lures along shoreline structure in the early morning or late evening hours is always a fun light-tackle way to catch white perch.
The Bay Bridge piers have been an attractive place to fish. Jigging near the pier bases has been fun and productive for some. The 30-foot channel edge on the east side of the bridges is always a draw and some have been chumming there with moderate success. The piers are numbered, and if memory serves the piers on the east side in the low 40s mark the general area — a depth finder will confirm. The rock piles and concrete abutments have also been a draw for those jigging.
Striped bass fishing action has picked up quite a bit despite low salinity values and stained water conditions in some areas. Striped bass are being found suspended along channel edges in a wide variety of locations. Many anglers are enjoying fun light-tackle jigging opportunities, while others chum or troll.
Jigging along channel edges where depth finders can spot fish off the bottom is perhaps the most popular and successful way to fish this week. A few of the more popular locations include the outside edges at Hacketts, Thomas Point and Bloody Point. Most are using very light jig heads often as light as ½-ounce with 6-inch or more soft plastic bodies.
Chumming has been popular on the western side of the bay at the 30-foot channel edge at Hacketts and Thomas Point and also on the eastern side of the bay at Bloody Point. Catfish and cownose rays are uninvited visitors to chum slicks this week and have been taking baits intended for striped bass. Anglers are reminded that non-offset circle hooks are required when chumming or live lining this year. More information can be found online.
Trolling can be a viable option for striped bass, especially when the fish seem to be on the move. The channel edges and ballast stone piles are good places to try. Spoons pulled behind inline weights or planers are popular and bucktails or Storm type swim shads trailed behind umbrella rigs are working well. The outside channel edges at Hacketts, Thomas, Bloody and Breezy points as well as the channel edge near Buoy 83 and south are good places to try trolling.
The middle bay’s shallow water fishery for striped bass in has been slow for those casting topwater lures. Reports from popular shallow-water fishing locations tell of small fish and little action, except for cownose rays muddying up the waters. Hopefully this fishery will gain speed in the next week.
Fishing for white perch remains good this week for those fishing over hard bottom or near structure with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs. Casting beetle spins along shoreline structure is another good way to catch them in the morning and evening hours. Fishing for northern snakeheads in the upper tidal areas of Dorchester County continues to be a bit slow due to spawning activity. Harassing the preoccupied fish with noisy buzzbaits seems the best way to get them to strike.
Trolling for school-sized striped bass in the lower bay has been one of the more successful ways to fish. Trolling a mix of spoons behind inline weights or planers and bucktails or swimshads as trailers behind umbrella rigs along the 25-channel edge from Piney point to St. Georges Island has been very productive. The eastern edge of the shipping channel from the CP Buoy south to Buoy 68 has also been a great area to troll.
Chumming at the 25-foot channel edge from Piney Point to St. Georges Island has been good, with a nice grade of striped bass being caught. Blue catfish will be a part of the catch also and will keep anglers busy. There has also been some chumming action to be found near the mouth of the Potomac and on the eastern side of the bay at the Buoy 72 area.
Jigging over suspended striped bass is another fun way to fish this week. The same areas anglers are chumming and trolling can offer good jigging action. Large soft plastics tend to be the favored type of jig body being used on light jig heads.
On the eastern side of the bay in the Tangier Sound area, those casting swimshads near marsh edges or working topwater lures over shallow grass are catching striped bass under 19 inches. A few speckled trout are being caught, along with a red drum now and then. Drifting soft crab baits near some to the creeks and guts flowing out of the marshes are one of the better ways to target speckled trout.
Fishing for white perch throughout the lower bay region’s creeks, tidal rivers and sounds has been very good. Using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms has been the preferred way of fishing. In shallower waters in the creeks, grass shrimp are a good bait. Those that have been bottom fishing continue to look for the first croakers and spot. There have been reports of croaker being caught in Virginia waters, so hopefully they will arrive soon. In the meantime, blue catfish are taking up the slack in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers. There certainly are plenty of them and they make great table fare.
The pace of recreational crabbing continues to gain momentum this week. The best crabbing opportunities are still on the lower Eastern Shore tidal creeks and rivers. Most report the best crabbing has been occurring in waters less than 15 feet deep. They also report that the heaviest crabs are in the 5-inch to 5-1/2-inch size range. and that larger blue crabs tend to be light. Chicken neck baits and razor clams do fine, and there are a lot of small crabs chewing up baits.
Recent heavy rains have swelled many creeks, streams and rivers to flood conditions, and with that flooding comes stained waters and dangerous fishing conditions in some cases. Western Maryland seemed to get the worst of it over the weekend. Unless we receive more heavy rains this week, flow conditions should improve by the weekend.
Anglers will start to see trout stocking shift to the western region trout management waters as water temperatures begin to elevate in the central region put-and-take areas. Many of the western region trout waters provide cool water temperatures throughout the summer months and provide wonderful trout fishing opportunities. This is especially true for those who enjoy fly fishing. Currently, sulphurs and caddisfly hatches are occurring in the evenings.
The upper Potomac River is running strong this week and flows are increasing. It may calm down by the weekend but care should be taken to watch river levels before considering fishing from a boat or shorelines. Smallmouth bass will be found along flooded banks during early morning hours but will retreat to deeper waters as the day progresses. Topwater lures are a good choice in the mornings and plastic jigs and small crankbaits in the deeper waters.
In the tidal areas of the Potomac, high water and swift currents are making for some difficult largemouth bass fishing. Bridge piers, old marina piers, rocks and sunken wood are good places to target in the river depths with grubs, jigs and small crankbaits. Fishing the milfoil grass beds is one of the more exciting places to fish buzzbaits, frogs and where possible, lipless crankbaits for largemouth bass. Dropping stick worms and assorted plastics down through thick grass beds is also a good way to catch largemouth bass seeking shade and cover under the grass.
The many small ponds and larger reservoirs that dot the Maryland landscape offer excellent fishing for largemouth bass, now that the fish are in a post spawn phase of activity of building up body stores. A variety of lures work in a wide range of conditions. When fishing outside cover spinnerbaits and crankbaits tend to top the list of proven performers.
The tidal rivers of the Eastern Shore offer good fishing for largemouth bass and are less fished than popular rivers like the tidal Potomac. The quiet waters of the Nanticoke, Wicomico and Pocomoke rivers offer plenty of peace and quiet while presenting excellent fishing opportunities. Chain pickerel and northern snakeheads will be part of the mix, along with scenic views.
A few other species that offer great fishing fun include carp, which are always willing to give anyone plenty of line-stretching tussle. They can be caught on simple canned corn or specialized sweet baits. A forked stick, simple bottom rig and a lawn chair or a five-gallon bucket to sit on is all you need to fish from shore. If perchance you spot a mulberry tree hanging over the water, a small puffy fly tied to look like a mulberry will give many more than they bargained for on a fly rod.
There are plenty of catfish to be found most anywhere and it is no secret that blue and flathead catfish are quickly expanding their populations and range. The upper Potomac for example offers great fishing for channel catfish and flatheads are quickly expanding in the same area. Large reservoirs such as Liberty, Loch Raven and Piney Run have healthy populations of channel catfish. Fresh cut bait, chicken livers or gizzards, nightcrawlers or specialized blood baits all work well.
Surfcasters continue to enjoy pleasant weather and good fishing along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island. They are catching a wide range of species this week. In the early morning and late evening hours a few large striped bass are being caught while casting plugs, and bluefish are being caught on metal. For those dunking large cut baits of mullet, menhaden or clams, there are some large striped bass being caught. Bluefish are also being caught on cut baits or finger mullet, black drum are being caught on clams or sand fleas. There are cownose rays in the mix now and a small cobia was caught recently. Kingfish can be caught on bloodworm baits, blowfish are also present in the surf.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, bluefish continue to move through the inlet on incoming tides. They are being caught on Got-Cha lures, swimshads or by drifting cut bait. Tautog are being caught at the South Jetty and bulkheads inside the inlet on pieces of green crab or sand fleas. Flounder are always moving about in the area and can be caught by working white Gulp type soft plastics from shore as well as classic squid or minnow baits.
Flounder are the main target in the back bay channels and are being caught on squid, minnows or white soft plastic baits. On windy days, an incoming tide tends to offer the clearest water conditions which are needed for good flounder fishing. Bluefish are being caught in the back bay areas close to the inlet along with the occasional sea trout and striped bass.
Outside the inlet, those trolling the inshore shoals are catching bluefish. Sea bass fishing has been very good on the offshore wreck and reef sites. Limit catches are not uncommon and many have been remarking about the nice grade of sea bass being caught.
There are still some bluefin tuna being caught out at the Baltimore and Poormans canyons but it would seem that the main body of northward bound school-sized bluefin have passed through our waters. A few small yellowfin tuna are being caught along with some dolphin. The deep drop crews have been catching a mix of blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, snowy grouper and large sea bass.
Offshore anglers are reminded to turn in catch cards for bluefin tuna, billfish and sharks.
“What was big was not the trout, but the chance. What was full was not my creel, but my memory. ” — Aldo Leopold
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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