Maryland Fishing Report – July 24
Maryland offers a wide variety of fishing adventures right now, from the western mountains to the deep ocean waters of the Atlantic.
Anglers will experience another week of warm water and weather with low winds. Bay gamefish will continue to hold in areas with adequate oxygen and the coolest water just above the “Don’t fish below this depth” line. Since rockfish will avoid water temperatures above 84 degrees, at this time of year they are being squeezed into small areas with adequate temperature and oxygen. Recent monitoring indicates that the coolest oxygenated water is found around Kent Island. The other way to find cooler water is to fish the shallows at first light.
Bay surface salinities are well below normal for this time of year but improving slightly. In most shallower Bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen for gamefish from the surface down to 20 feet. Exceptions are the Magothy River, with adequate oxygen down to about 15 feet, and the South River, down to about 10 feet. To avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet. On the Potomac River, from Colonial Beach downriver to Tall Timbers, avoid fishing below 15 feet.
Bay water temperatures have temporarily cooled from recent rains, but remain very warm. For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures are in the low 80s. Choptank area water temperatures are in the mid 80s. For the lower Potomac River at Lewisetta, surface water temperatures are in the low 80s while at Little Falls they have risen to the mid to upper 80s.
Expect average water clarity on most areas of the Bay. Expect normal flows from most Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. There will be above average tidal currents from Sunday through Tuesday as a result of the new moon on Aug. 1.
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. You can now get regular updates on Maryland’s waters and the creatures that call them home sent to your inbox with our new Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
Striped Bass Summer Fishing Advisory Forecast:
Red: Air temperatures are forecast at 95 degrees or higher. Anglers are encouraged not to fish for striped bass after 10 a.m. and should target other species of fish.
Yellow: Air temperatures are forecast at 90-94 degrees. Anglers should use extreme care when fishing for striped bass; fish should be kept in the water when caught and released on these days.
Green: Fishing conditions are normal. Proper catch-and-release practices are encouraged.
More information about this awareness campaign can be found on the Striped Bass Fishing Advisory Forecast webpage.
Fishing for striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats area and the Conowingo Dam pool is reported to be slower than it has been. There is an early morning topwater bite along the edges of the flats but it shuts down as soon as the sun cracks the horizon. At the dam pool, casting topwater lures, spoons and swimbaits tends to be the most popular way to fish early in the morning before large-scale power generation releases begin.
Striped bass are moving farther up the bay to various sites, and are being found at Swan Point, the Key Bridge piers, Pooles Island, the mouth of the Chester River, Love Point, the mouth of the Magothy River and Podickory Point. In all areas the striped bass are being found in 20 feet or less of water. Those that are fishing at these locations are live lining spot, eels and small white perch. Anglers are reminded that they must use circle hooks when live lining and can reference the circle hook information link. Check our website and video for more information on circle hooks and careful release.
The most productive striped bass fishing is occurring very early in the morning and often tends to shut down as the heat of the day progresses. The recent hot temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels below 15 feet to 20 feet in most areas are placing striped bass in a very stressful situation. Many recreational anglers are choosing to pursue other species due to stress-related striped bass mortality being observed near the fishing fleets. Fish should be brought to the boat as quickly as possible and released in the water if not kept.
Striped bass are still holding close to the bridge piers on the east side of the Bay Bridge this week and boats are still working the bridge piers for striped bass. Many are drifting live spot, white perch or live eels back to the piers during a good running tide. Others are jigging with skirted jigs right up close to the bridge piers.
Trolling for striped bass in the upper bay has been very slow in most channel edge locations, and where there are fish the anchored fleets make it difficult to troll. Those that are trolling are finding the best bite in less than 20 feet of water early in the morning when the tide is running.
Fishing for white perch offers a fine alternative as there are plenty of large white perch to be found on some of the shoal areas and also in the tidal rivers. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig work well on the white perch holding in deeper waters, casting beetle spins along shoreline structure is a fun way to fish in the morning and evening hours. Channel catfish can be found in the upper bay and tidal rivers and can be caught on cut bait or items such as chicken livers or nightcrawlers.
Fishing for striped bass tends to focus on live lining spot at some of the more traditional sites where fish are holding less than 20 feet deep. The outside edge of Hacketts, Bloody Point, Thomas Point and the Hill have been holding striped bass this week. They are also being found along channel edges at the mouths of the Severn and South rivers.
Now that spot are so readily available in the shallow areas, live lining has taken center stage. This is a great way to catch a nice grade of striped bass, just make sure to use circle hooks to stay legal, and fish that are to be released should not be taken out of the water. Fishermen are also urged to keep catch-and-release fishing to a minimum during the extreme heat.
If you are out for a short trip, jigging can be an effective method if you can find fish suspended along channel edges or structure. Trolling has been reported to be slow but for those giving it a try, red hoses, bucktails and spoons tend to be the most popular choices. White perch fishing has been excellent in the eastern bay over hard bottom; pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig has been the best way to catch them in deep water. The shallower areas in the tidal creeks and rivers offer some fun light tackle action for those casting beetle spins near shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours. If you can find them, using grass shrimp on a simple one hook bottom rig near docks is a great way to catch white perch.
Fishing opportunities are beginning to expand as Spanish mackerel, bluefish and a few cobia are starting to show up in Maryland waters, mostly on the eastern side of the bay. Trolling with gold Drone spoons with a chartreuse sparkle strip seems to be the most popular lure to use behind No. 1 or No. 2 planers. Bluefish are also being caught by chumming at the mouth of the Potomac River. The few cobia that have been reported are being caught by sight fishing and casting live eels near the Target Ship and Pocomoke Sound, but most agree the bulk of the cobia are still in Virginia waters.
Live lining spot near the steep channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges Island and near Point Lookout has been good along the 20-foot edge. Striped bass are also being caught in the mornings and evenings by casting swimshads and crankbaits near shallow structure. Jigging can also be productive along channel edges where suspended fish can be spotted on depth finders. Thick schools of spot can be found in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers, as well as the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. They range from live lining size to pan fry size. A few croaker, sea trout and small bluefish may also be part of the bottom fishing scene.
Recreational crabbing tends to be productive in the middle and lower bay, and there have been some fair reports of crabs being caught in the upper bay. The heat has been tough on crabbing success — the larger crabs tend to be holding in about 15 feet of water and sometimes drop off trotlines when coming up into the warmer surface water. Smaller crabs tend to dominate the shallower waters.
Most of the trout management areas in western Maryland are offering good trout fishing opportunities. The tailrace waters of the Youghiogheny, Savage and the north branch of the Potomac offer some of the finest fishing due to cool water flows. A variety of nymphs tend to be the most consistent producers. Streamers can be a good choice as can terrestrial imitations such as hoppers and ants.
Deep Creek Lake is offering good fishing right now. Targeting floating docks is a good tactic for largemouth bass, as is the thick grass back in the deeper cove areas. Smallmouth bass, yellow perch and chain pickerel tend to be holding near deep grass edges, and drifting minnows at that depth is a good way to target them.
Fishing for largemouth bass became mostly a morning and evening affair with the extreme heat. The largemouth bass are feeding in shallow areas during the night and seeking cool shade during the day. They can be intercepted at first light in these shallow areas of areas leading from them to deeper water with thick grass, sunken structure or creek mouths. Buzzbaits and frogs work well over shallow grass. Lipless crankbaits and soft plastics in the waters leading from the shallow grass or creek mouths. As the day wears on, dropping stick worms through thick grass is a good way to entice a pickup.
The evening hours can also offer a good opportunity to intercept largemouth bass heading for the shallow feeding areas. Working the edges of transition areas with spinnerbaits can be a good choice. In the tidal rivers these edges are a good place to fish on a flood tide in the evenings or an ebb tide in the mornings.
Northern snakeheads are commonly found far back in thick shallow grass this time of the summer, often in areas not suitable for largemouth bass. Casting frogs and buzzbaits are a good way to get them to strike. Using live minnow along the edges of these thick grass areas is also a good tactic.
Surf fishing is now focused on kingfish and small bluefish during the morning and evening hours. Pieces of bloodworm work best for kingfish and finger mullet for bluefish.
Bluefish have been moving in and out of the inlet on the tides, especially in the evenings when boat traffic is at a minimum. Casting Got-Cha lures or bucktails tends to be the most popular way to catch them. Flounder are being caught in the area on Gulp baits, live spot and traditional squid and minnow baits. The East Channel, Thorofare and Sinepuxent Bay have been productive areas to catch them.
Outside the inlet, cobia are being found near the shoal areas such as Little Gull Shoals. They are being spotted on top and casting live eels or large soft plastic jigs is a good way to entice them to strike. There are also some bluefish and Spanish mackerel in the same areas.
The 30 Fathom Lumps have been holding some bluefin tuna, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and large bluefish for those trolling for them. Sea bass fishing has had its ups and downs this week, as the fish tend to be finicky about taking baits. A few flounder are being found around the wreck and reef sites.
The boats headed out to the canyons are finding scattered yellowfin tuna with the best catches coming from the northerly canyons. Large wahoo are being encountered along with white and blue marlin. No one canyon seems to be better than another so boats have been spreading out. Chicken dolphin are being caught near lobster buoys and some gaffer size dolphins are being caught while trolling.
“You know fish is a great brain food…. Well, you know, then you should fish for a whale!” — Larry Fine and Moe Howard of the Three Stooges
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.”