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Maryland Fishing Report – July 31

Photo of angler with state record 72.8 lb. dolphinfish

Jeff Wright was fishing off Ocean City recently when he caught this 72.8-pound bull (male) dolphin, a massive fish by any standards. Congratulations to Jeff, captain and crew for such a fine catch. Photo by Alfred Hughes.

Maryland offers a wide variety of exciting fishing opportunities to those who fish her waters. We are pleasantly reminded of the amazing resources that are available to us when an extraordinary specimen is recognized as a state record. These listings keep a permanent record and help promote those resources.

Forecast Summary: July 31 – August 6

Chesapeake Bay anglers will see another typical summer week with very warm water and low winds, but also with a better chance for afternoon thunderstorms. Bay gamefish will continue to hold in areas with adequate oxygen and the coolest water just above the “Don’t fish below this depth” mark. Since rockfish will avoid water temperatures above 84 degrees, they are being squeezed into small areas with adequate temperature and oxygen. The best combination of cool water with adequately oxygenated water is located north of the Bay Bridge near Swan Point. The other way to find cooler water is to fish the shallows at first light or after sunset when surface water temperatures can be several degrees cooler.

Bay surface salinities are well below normal for this time of year but improving slightly. In most of Maryland’s shallower Bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen for gamefish from the surface to down to 20 feet. Exceptions are the Magothy, West and South rivers, which have adequate oxygen only down to 10 feet or less. However, to avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line and the lower Potomac River, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet. At the Gooses Reef area of the main Bay and also on the Potomac River, from Colonial Beach downriver to Tall Timbers, avoid fishing below 15 feet. 

 For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures are in the low to middle 80s. Choptank area water temperatures are in the mid 80s. For the lower Potomac River at Lewisetta, surface water temperatures are at the low 80s, while water temperatures at Little Falls has risen to the mid to upper 80s. 

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:

Striped bass fishing advisory chart indicating green, or good, fishing days from Wednesday through Tuesday.

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.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of angler fishing from boat

This angler is certainly in his happy place, being hooked up while jigging in the upper bay. Photo courtesy of Bob Bruns

The summer heat is having a profound on fishing as water temperatures elevate and striped bass in particular are having difficulty finding suitable conditions. The Conowingo Dam continues to release water in power generation during the daytime hours and there has been some limited fishing for striped bass in the dam pool in the early morning hours. The early morning striped bass fishing along the edges of the Susquehanna Flats has been very slow.

Striped bass are concentrating at several upper bay sites in less than 20 feet of water this week. Live-lining spot or small white perch or jigging have been the most popular ways to fish. Spot are readily available in most of the shallower hard bottom shoal areas in the upper and middle bay.. Striped bass can be found in locations including Swan Point, Pooles Island, Love Point, the Triple Buoys, Podickory Point and the east side Bay Bridge piers.

Most agree that the best fishing success occurs in the early morning hours and tends to slow or shutdown as the day’s temperatures increase. 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 white perch catch has been excellent in the upper bay and offers a wonderful way to enjoy fishing success. White perch can be found around shoals in the upper bay and in the tidal rivers. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the best way to target them. Catfish species are providing a lot of action in the bay and tidal rivers; cut bait is one of the best ways to attract them.

Middle Bay
Photo of young angler with 3.375 lb. Florida pompano. a state record for the Chesapeake Division of state records

Fishing the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay can be full of surprises. Scott Hartzell Jr. was fishing with his family near Stone Rock, trolling a gold Clark spoon when he caught this 3.375 lb. Florida pompano. It has been verified as a state record for the Chesapeake Division of state records. Photo courtesy of Scott Hartzell

Striped bass fishing in the middle bay is an early morning affair for the most part, and live-lining spot is the most popular way to fish. The outside edge of Hacketts Bar, Thomas Point, Bloody Point and the mouth of Eastern Bay have been good places to fish. The striped bass are holding in less than 20 feet of water at these and other locations. Jigging can be a good option as is trolling a mix of spoons and hoses along channel edges.

Spot can be found on most of the shallower hard bottom areas, along with white perch. Both can be caught with pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs. White perch are also providing plenty of action in the tidal rivers and creeks for those casting beetle spins.

There has been some limited topwater striped bass action in the middle bay at Thomas Point, Kent Narrows and the rocks at Popular Island for those casting topwater lures, crankbaits or swimshads. The action drops off quickly once the sun clears the horizon.

Lower Bay
Photo of Boy holding a Spanish mackerel

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pirchio

This area offers several exciting fishing opportunities. Spanish mackerel and bluefish have filtered into the region and are providing some fun fishing on both sides of the bay. Trolling small spoons behind planers has been a popular way to fish for them. Spoons in gold, silver, pink or chartreuse combinations have been good colors to use, hoses in red and green are also a good addition to any trolling spread. Spanish mackerel are also being found chasing bait along with bluefish and casting to them with small lures can be a fun way to catch them.

Fishing for striped bass has been popular along the steep channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges Island, and some action is found in the rock piles near Point Lookout. Live-lining spot or jigging is the way to fish for them. Chumming at the mouth of the Potomac has been providing plenty of bluefish action.

Fishing for spot has been excellent in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Large spot and a mix of white perch are providing plenty of fun fishing and good eating. Tangier and Pocomoke sounds also have excellent populations of spot this week along with a mix of small bluefish, sea trout, croaker, and white perch.

Cobia are slowly moving into the lower bay region but the bulk of the cobia still remain below the Virginia state line. Sight fishing and tossing live eels or large soft plastics has been the most popular way to target them. There have been limited reports of large red drum in the Target Ship-Middle Grounds areas.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of Bluegill with fly rod

Photo by Eric Packard

The summer months hold a special opportunity for fly fishermen as the use of dry flies comes into its own. There are few hatches going on right now, so most anglers are using a variety of terrestrials to entice opportunistic trout. Imitation grasshoppers, crickets, beetles. and ants are all good choices, and in some areas inch worms may be falling from overhead trees. Streamers can be a good choice for brown trout, and bead-headed nymphs can be a good choice when fished under an indicator fly.

Fly fishermen should not miss the wonderful fishing opportunities for summertime bluegills either. They can be found on ponds throughout Maryland and offer some exciting fun on a light fly rod. Small poppers and similar topwater bugs are good choices to enjoy the action.

Fishing at Deep Creek Lake has settled into a summer mode of fishing deep along grass lines for a mix of yellow perch, bluegills, smallmouth and largemouth bass. Drifting along these edges with live minnows tends to be the most popular way to fish. Largemouth bass can be found in shallower cover during the early morning hours and holding under the shade of floating docks during the day.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River is slow, with the best chances of success being at daybreak. Fishing with topwater lures in the shallower areas before the sun breaks the horizon has been a good bet. Later in the day, targeting deeper pockets in the river with small crankbaits or jigs can be a good choice.

The tidal rivers of the Chesapeake offer plenty of good fishing for largemouth bass and other species such as northern snakeheads. True to a summer mode of behavior, the largemouth bass can be found in the shallower areas feeding on a variety of bait items in the early morning or late evening hours. Topwater lures such as frogs, buzzbaits, and chatterbaits are good choices when working these shallower grassy areas. Northern snakeheads can be found tucked in these same areas. A high tide is one of the best times to fish these locations, and an ebbing tide will present good fishing on the outside of the grass or spatterdock beds as largemouth bass retreat to the edges. Spnnerbaits and small lipless crankbaits can be good choices when fishing these edges. Small feeder creek mouths should not be overlooked, as largemouth bass often nose into them for some cool water relief.

When the sun is high in the sky, largemouth bass can be found lounging around thick grass in slightly deeper waters or the shade of deeper structure, fallen treetops, or docks. Stick worms or other soft plastics work well in these situations.

There are plenty of catfish available for anyone who wants to fish for them. Blue catfish are extremely common in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers. Any kind of fresh cut bait is a good choice.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of angler with state record 72.8 lb. dolphinfish

There are some impressive gaffer-sized dolphin out there and Jeff Wright certainly shows us that with this massive 72.8 lb. specimen caught above Poormans Canyon which has been verified as a new state record. Photo by Alfred Hughes

Surf fishing along the Ocean City and Assateague Island beaches has been good for a mix of kingfish, small bluefish, croakers, spot, and flounder. Pieces of bloodworm are the best bait to use for the kingfish, spot and croaker. Finger mullet is the bait of choice to catch bluefish.

At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, bluefish continue to move in and out with the tides. They often come in on a flood tide and can be caught by casting bucktails, metal or Got-Cha lures. Some large flounder are being caught by live-lining spot or by casting Gulp baits. A few triggerfish have been showing up at the South Jetty lately and can be caught on sand fleas or pieces of squid.

Flounder fishing has been good in the back bay channels this week. Small flounder tend to be a large portion of the fish being caught, but most anglers are able to put together a good catch of legal-sized flounder if they prevail. Using larger baits such as Gulps or live spot can often increase the chances of catching larger flounder.

Outside the inlet there has been some exciting cobia action on some of the shoal areas. Sight fishing has been the most popular way to locate them and once that happens casting live eels has been the ticket to success. Trolling for a mix of Spanish mackerel and king mackerel has also been good in the general area out to the 30 Fathom Line. Placing a large spoon or hose in a trolling spread offers the hope of possible tangling with a cobia.

There has been some trolling action for Bluefin tuna at some of the 30 Fathom lumps, and chicken dolphin can be found near floating debris or weed lines. Sea bass fishing continues to have its ups and downs. Most are coming back to the dock with sea bass and a few flounder or triggerfish.

The boats working the canyons have been finding a mix of yellowfin and Bluefin tuna along with a few large wahoo. Chicken dolphin can be found holding near lobster buoys.

Deep drop fishermen are finding golden tilefish and a few swordfish have been caught lately. Catch and releases of blue and white marlin have been good. The White Marlin Open is just around the corner and Ocean City will be the epicenter of one of the largest purse tournaments in the world.

There is an unexplainable surge of emotion when an angler realizes that line burning off a reel is what connects them to the sight of a grey hounding blue marlin of massive proportions and humbles the most seasoned sportsman.  Keith Lockwood

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.”