Maryland Fishing Report – September 4
Now that Labor Day activities are behind us, anglers can focus on fishing more with family and friends. Cooler weather will begin to show its face and Maryland waters will begin to shake off the summer heat. Fishing for Spanish mackerel has been very popular in the bay.
On Sept. 5, there will be an Eastern Shore Fall Anglers’ Preview night from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Jimmy and Sook’s restaurant in Cambridge. The event is sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and will feature speakers from the Coastal Conservation Association and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Topics covered will include bay dead zones, recent high water temperatures, the status of the striped bass stocks, catch-and-release tips, and how to use water data to your fishing advantage. If you have any questions, email Erik.Zlokovitz@maryland.gov. Please register on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation website.
Forecast Summary: Sept. 4 – Sept. 10
Expect cooler air temperatures and windy conditions the new few days to cool Chesapeake Bay waters, break up the main algal blooms and drive much-needed oxygen into deeper waters. This will provide gamefish a slightly wider range of depths to hunt for food and increase the likelihood of a shallow-water bite.
Bay surface salinities are still below normal for this time of year but improving slightly. While windy conditions Wednesday through Friday will mix waters and re-oxygenate some of the deeper waters, anglers should avoid waters below the following depths: From the state line up to Point no Point, 45 feet; north to Little Choptank. 32 feet; up to the Choptank River, 25 feet, Bloody Point, 16 feet; Bay Bridge, 23 feet; Swan Point, 17 feet; and Still Pond, 23 feet. From there north to the Susquehanna Flats, there is adequate oxygen to the bottom.
Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms on the main stem of the Bay from the Patapsco River across to the Chester River, down to Bloody Point and then hugging the western shore down below the mouth of the Patuxent River. Blooms are also present on the Patuxent, Back, and Northeast rivers. On the Potomac River, patchy algal blooms are present on the Wicomico as well as from Colonial Beach to the mouth of the river.
Baywide, water temperatures are holding at about 79 degrees. Water temperatures at Little Falls have dropped to the low 80s. Expect normal flows from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. There will be above average tidal currents on Wednesday and again next Monday and Tuesday as a result of the upcoming full moon Sept. 14.
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.
Fishing for striped bass in the area of the Susquehanna Flats and river has improved but is still an early morning affair for those casting topwater lures, jigs and swimshads. The Conowingo Dam is on a power generation cycle during the day but there has been some fishing action at first light. The percentage of sub-legal fish in the general area has been high.
A little farther down the Bay, those live-lining eels and spot around the deeper edges at Pooles Island have been finding some striped bass action. The 7-foot and 9-foot knolls are holding striped bass, as are Swan and Love Point. Live-lining spot has been the most popular way to fish these areas. Many of the striped bass being caught are undersized, so care must be taken when releasing them.
Anglers are reminded that they must use circle hooks when live lining. Check our website and video for more information on circle hooks and careful release. Also remember that water temperatures are still above 75 degrees, so sub-legal fish need to be released as quickly as possible with minimal handling stress to the fish. Do not hold the fish with a rag or towel, as this will rub off the protective slime layer of the striped bass.
The Baltimore Harbor area has been offering some striped bass action to those live-lining eels and spot at the Key Bridge piers. There is also action along the channel edges within the harbor for those jigging with white or chartreuse soft plastic jigs. Catfish and white perch are also plentiful in the harbor and nearby tidal rivers.
The striped bass action at the Bay Bridge has slacked off this week as charter and private boats have spread out to other locations to live-line spot or to jig. There has been a small contingent of private boats anchoring at night and working the east bridge piers with live spot, with fair to good results.
Fishing for white perch and catfish is very good in the upper Bay tributaries. Spot can readily be found in the mouth of the Magothy River and the west side of the Bay Bridge in the shallower areas. Those trolling a mix of small spoons and or umbrella rigs are catching a few striped bass near the live lining locations and channel edges. Those who are trolling a mix of small spoons at faster speeds behind small planers and inline weights are seeing a few Spanish mackerel north of the Bay Bridge.
Fishing for Spanish mackerel has been providing a lot of fun fishing entertainment and some fine eating. The edges of the shipping channel and anywhere breaking fish can be spotted are a good place to look for them whether one is trolling or casting to breaking fish. The west side of the shipping channel from Chesapeake Beach south has been a major hot spot to troll. A mix of gold and silver spoons pulled behind small planers or inline weight at a fast clip is perhaps the most popular way to catch them.
Others are having fun casting small heavy metal lures to breaking fish and reeling in as fast as they can, after allowing them to sink a bit. In most cases the breaking fish are small striped bass in the 12-inch to 14-inch size range chasing bay anchovies with Spanish mackerel zipping through the melee. Keeping a close eye on depth finders when encountering such action may reveal large red drum lurking underneath the surface. Jigging with large spoons or soft plastics can entice these large red drum to offer some fun catch and release action.
There continues to be some live-lining action for striped bass at Thomas Point and the mouth of Eastern Bay. Most of the striped bass being caught are sub-legal in size but a fair portion make it over the 19-inch minimum. Thomas Point is also a fun place to cast jigs for some light-tackle jigging.
The shallow water striped bass fishery is slowly awakening in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Striped bass are being caught on a variety of lures; most are reported to be sub-legal but some over 19 inches are being caught. This fishery should steadily improve as water temperatures cool.
Fishing for white perch has been good in the tidal rivers and creeks. Simple bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or bloodworms fished on hard bottom areas or near deep dock piers has been very good. Casting small spinnerbaits, spinners or small jigs is a fun way to catch white perch along shoreline structure in the early morning and late evening hours.
Spanish mackerel are providing much of the fishing action. Trolling a mix of small silver and gold spoons behind No. 1 planers and inline weights has been a popular way to catch them. The abundance of Spanish mackerel offers a wonderful fishing opportunity and some fine eating. They can be found along the edges of the shipping channel and the Middle Grounds up to and beyond the Target Ship.
There are mixed schools of bluefish and small striped bass chasing bay anchovies in the lower bay, Spanish mackerel are homing in on the party and can be found slicing through the action. Casting small heavy metal lures and speed-reeling through the breaking fish is a fun way to catch the mackerel. Large red drum can sometimes be found holding close to the bottom under such action. Jigging with large spoons or soft plastic jigs is a great way to target them. If trolling, a large spoon can entice a strike for some fun catch-and-release action.
The best live-lining action for striped bass is the steep channel edge from Piney Point to St. Georges Island in the lower Potomac River. There is also some early morning shallow water action in the lower Patuxent River and St. Mary’s River for striped bass by casting a variety of lures.
On the east side of the Bay there is some good fishing for speckled trout along the lower Eastern Shore marshes. Casting lures in the early morning or late evening hours along marsh edges and stump fields has been good. Topwater lures such as Zara Spooks will keep you above the grass. Where grass is not a problem, casting white or pink Gulp mullet baits or drifting soft crab baits in the small creeks draining from the marshes are great tactics.
Bottom fishing for spot continues to be very good, although most of the spot and croakers are small. White perch fishing is good in the tidal rivers and creeks. Flounder fishing in Pocomoke and Tangier sounds is worth the attention. They can be caught on minnows, squid or white Gulp baits.
Cobia continue to be found in the east side of the lower bay, mostly near the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship. Most tend to be under the 40-inch minimum but they do provide great sport when sight fishing or trolling. Live eels or large soft plastic jigs will catch them if cast to them when spotted.
Recreational crabbing just seems to get better each week as slightly cooler water temperatures and higher salinity values are better suited to the crabs. Blue crabs are fattening up for their winter’s sleep, so September tends to offer the best time to catch some large and heavy crabs. The middle and lower bay regions are offering the best crabbing opportunities, but large male crabs are showing up in the upper bay region with more regularity.
Cooler weather will start to show its face this month, and the fall trout stocking program is only about a month away. Many put-and-take and other trout management waters will be stocked with generous numbers of rainbow and brown trout.
This week the fly-fishing-only or catch-and-release areas are offering fun and relaxing fishing opportunities. The North Branch of the Potomac along with the Savage, Youghiogheny and upper Gunpowder rivers all offer good catch-and-release trout fishing. Terrestrials or nymphs are good patterns to use.
Largemouth bass continue to hold to a summer pattern of behavior, so the early morning and late evening hours offer some of the best fishing near shallow grass and shoreline structure. Casting buzzbaits, frogs, lipless crankbaits and soft plastics over or near shallow grass, creek mouths and fallen treetops can offer some exciting action. As the sun climbs higher in the sky, targeting thick grass over deeper waters with stick worms or soft plastics that are weighted and allowed to sink through the grass often works well for largemouth lounging underneath. Fallen treetops on deep water, sunken wood or bridge piers are great places to try grubs, small crankbaits and craw type jigs.
Northern snakeheads can often be found in the shallow grassy areas in most tidal rivers. The creeks that feed into the tidal Potomac and the creeks and rivers in Dorchester County offer some of the best success due to the large numbers of northern snakeheads residing there. Buzzbaits, chatterbaits and frogs are all good topwater lures to use in the grassy areas.
Blue catfish are very abundant in the tidal Potomac and can offer some fun and fast-paced fishing action. Fresh cut baits of white perch, bluegills or gizzard shad make excellent baits, clam snouts can also work well. Blue catfish are showing up in other tidal rivers in good numbers. The Nanticoke River in the Sharpstown area and the lower Susquehanna offer good fishing for blue catfish. Flathead catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna and the Conowingo Dam pool as well as the tidal and upper Potomac.
Along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island, kingfish, spot and croaker are being caught on bottom rigs baited with bloodworms. Bluefish are being caught on cut baits of spot or mullet and flounder on strips of squid.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, bluefish are moving in and out of the inlet on the tides. Casting metal, Got-Cha plugs or drifting cut bait have been some of the better ways to catch them. Flounder are present in the inlet area and drifting live spot or casting white Gulp baits is the best way to catch the larger flounder.
Flounder fishing is the most popular type of fishing in the back bay areas. Channels such as the East Channel, the Thorofare and Sinepuxent Bay in front of the airport have been some of the better places to fish. There tends to be a lot of sub-legal flounder so larger baits will help when targeting larger fish. Live spot or white Gulp baits will often help weed out the smaller flounder.
There is some exciting fishing action going on at the shoal areas just off the beaches. Those trolling silver spoons behind inline weights are catch a mix of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and bluefish. There are cobia cruising the shoal areas and when spotted on the surface can be caught by casting live eels or large pink soft plastic jigs.
Sea bass fishing has been fair to good on the inshore wreck and reef sites. Flounder are beginning to make up a larger portion of the catches at the sites. Triggerfish are showing up at the wreck sites and also at Winter Quarter Shoal.
There has been some nice yellowfin tuna over 60 pounds caught near the Baltimore Canyon in the last few days. A mix of large dolphin and white marlin are also being caught at the canyon regions. A few swordfish and sailfish have also been caught recently.
“It is good that we do not have to kill the sun, the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.” — The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
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.
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