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Maryland Fishing Report – Oct. 9

Photo of girl holding a northern snakehead

Sarah Chlebnikow is all smiles after catching her first northern snakehead. Photo by Barry Browning

Pleasant daytime temperatures make ideal conditions for taking our younger fishermen out for some family fun close to home. Community ponds usually offer plenty of freshwater species such as bluegill sunfish. The fall trout stocking program is underway and community ponds are one of the many places fish will be stocked near your home. Northern snakeheads offer some exciting fishing this time of the year as they have moved out into more open waters, and a simple bobber with a minnow offer plenty of fishing fun for our younger anglers.

Forecast Summary: Oct. 9 – Oct. 15:

Persistent north winds will continue to roll through the region through Friday, mixing cool, oxygenated water deeper into the Chesapeake Bay. These conditions will accelerate the decline in surface water temperatures as we moved towards turnover conditions. When this occurs, there will temporarily be uniform temperatures and oxygen throughout the water column. This will provide Bay fish with lots of cooler, more oxygenated waters to roam. Until then, with water temperatures uniform from surface down to the “Don’t fish below this Depth” line, focus on the shallower prime habitat areas during lowlight hours and deeper prime habitat areas during the day. As always, make sure to focus on moving water periods for best results. Smaller fish will continue to be abundant in surface waters. Bay surface salinities are largely back to normal conditions. 

Current oxygen conditions — which are expected to improve this weekend — are as follows: State line up to Point Lookout, 45 feet; Point No Point up to the Gooses, 25 feet; Little Choptank up to Choptank River, 25 feet; Bloody Point, 25 feet; Bay Bridge, 25 feet; Swan Point, 21 feet; and from Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, adequate oxygen to the bottom. Most tributary and adjacent waters have suitable oxygen to bottom except the Patapsco River, Ragged Point, Eastern Bay and Little Choptank, all at 25 feet; the Magothy River, 11 feet; and South River, 8 feet.

Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms on the Potomac River, from Colonial Beach down near Ragged Point. To see the latest NOAA satellite maps, check “Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.”

Bay water temperatures have dropped from last week down to 68 degrees except for the lower Potomac River, which stands at 72 degrees.  Water temperatures at Little Falls have dropped to 70 degrees. Expect normal flows from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. However, both the Susquehanna and the Potomac rivers are running below average. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the upcoming full moon Oct. 15.

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.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of boy holding a 13.25-inch white perch

Kenneth Perez, gets his 13.25-inch white perch measured for his FishMaryland angler award certificate. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Perez. Anglers who catch notable size fish can enter their fish for award certificates in several categories, including freshwater, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic and invasive fish species categories.

There is a fun striped bass fishery occurring in the area around the lower Susquehanna River up to the Conowingo Dam pool. It is mostly an early morning topwater bite along the edges of the flats and at the Conowingo Dam pool. There has not been an appreciable power generation release at the dam recently, so the pool is relatively calm and water levels in the river are somewhat low. Casting swimshads or jigging with soft plastic jigs along the channel edges at the mouth of the Susquehanna has also been a good tactic. A large percentage of the striped bass are small so cautious catch-and-release — quickly and carefully — must be practiced.

A mix of channel and blue catfish are presenting plenty of action in the lower Susquehanna River and nearby tidal rivers. Fresh cut bait, chicken breast and clam snouts have been popular baits. There are also flathead catfish in the lower Susquehanna, and the Conowingo Dam pool holds some very large flatheads.

Striped bass are being found along channel edges and shoal areas in the main part of the Bay. Trolling a mix of small spoons, bucktails and hoses along these areas has been productive, although many of the fish being caught are sub-legal in size. Jigging has been popular, especially under breaking fish and structure such as the Key Bridge and channel edges. Most of the breaking fish being spotted in the upper bay region are small striped bass with the occasional bluefish in the mix.

White perch are providing good fishing in the region’s tidal rivers. The current northeaster will stir things up a bit and cooler water temperatures will urge white perch to move into the deeper parts of the rivers. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is a standard way to fish in deeper waters, but small dropper flies can work well. There will still be light-tackle action in the shallower areas near shoreline structure and points for another week or so.

Middle Bay
 Herb Floyd holds up a Spanish mackerel he caught recently near the mouth of the Choptank River.

Herb Floyd holds up a Spanish mackerel he caught recently near the mouth of the Choptank River. Photo courtesy of Herb Floyd

Once the Bay calms down it will be interesting to see whether the Spanish mackerel are still here with us; this weekend will prove that one way or another. If they do depart after the current northeaster, most likely bluefish will stick around a bit longer. The bluefish can be caught by casting into breaking fish, trolling or even chumming if you so desire.

The breaking fish everyone is seeing are mostly very small striped bass and bluefish with Spanish mackerel zipping through the melee. For some this can be a fun time to break out a fly rod with a sinking line and some red and white Clousers or perhaps some Lefty’s Deceivers. It is also a great situation to introduce our younger anglers to some fast action with a light spinning rod. Although water temperatures are falling, anglers are reminded that sub-legal striped bass need to be released as quickly as possible, and cautious catch-and-release must be practiced.

Spot are still available in the shallower portions of the Bay, and live-lining is still a popular way to fish for striped bass along channel edges. Recent cool weather may begin their movement south, but for now live-lining spot is a fun and productive way to fish for striped bass. Thomas Point remains the most popular place to live-line. 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.

The shallow water striped bass fishery is alive and well as cooler water temperatures have lured striped bass into shallower areas during the night. Fishing with topwater lures in the early morning or evening hours is a fun and exciting way to fish for them. Prominent points, rip rap, large piers, and submerged rocks are all good places to fish.

Fishing for white perch remains a wonderful opportunity to enjoy. Cooler water temperatures are making them very active in the tidal rivers and creeks of the middle bay. Casting small spinnerbaits near shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours is always fun and will not last much longer as water temperatures fall. White perch will be moving into deeper waters in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm in slightly deeper waters near dock piers or over oyster bottom is becoming popular. Dropper flies on a sinker rig is also another good way to catch them. Eastern Shore anglers can get in on the action at Kent Narrows, Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park over the Choptank River, and deep-water docks and piers throughout the region.

Lower Bay
Photo of boy and man holding a Spanish mackerel

Finn Towers puts on a smile after catching this Spanish mackerel. Photo courtesy of Tom Weaver

The mix of small striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel chasing schools of bay anchovies tend to be driving much of the fishing action in this region. The bay anchovies are being swept along by strong tidal currents, providing a banquet of nutrition for the fish that are fattening up for the winter months. The small striped bass are in the 12-inch to 16-inch size class and we need them to bolster striped bass populations for the future, so treat them with care. Our website page on cautious catch-and-release provides information for recreational fishermen to help ensure survival of released fish.

When casting to breaking fish, if you are targeting Spanish mackerel, speed- reeling heavy metal jigs is the best way to catch them; slower retrieves will attract the attention of bluefish and small striped bass. Trolling a mix of small spoons behind inline weights or planers is another good way to catch them.

Photo of man holding a blue crab caught recently.

Dave Ferro holds up a big jimmie blue crab caught recently. Photo by Robin Ferro

Bluefish can be caught by casting metal jigs and spoons to breaking fish or by trolling. A great way to troll for them is along channel edges where slicks can be spotted, or around the outside margins of the breaking fish. Small spoons, red and green hoses or bucktails are all good lures to use. Chumming is a time-tested method to attract bluefish — best of close to a boat where cut bait can be drifted back into the chum slick. It is a fun way to introduce young or inexperienced anglers to some fast action. The channel edges at the mouth of the Potomac, the Point Lookout areas, and channel edges near the Buoy 72 area are good places to set up.

There is some live-lining action going on near the channel edge between St. Georges Island and Piney Point, Point No Point, and the Point Lookout area. There are still plenty of small spot in the tidal rivers to provide bait. 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.

The recreational cobia season is over so anyone catching one must now release them. Large red drum continue to satisfy the hankering for a knock-down, drag-out fight for those jigging with large spoons and soft plastic jigs. Red drum can be spotted on depth finders hugging the bottom near slicks, near breaking fish action, or along channel edges. The areas near the Target Ship and Middle Grounds offer some of the best opportunities to catch and release one of these beasts.

Fishing for speckled trout along the eastern side of the bay has been about as good as anyone could want. Many anglers are catching the limit of 4 per outing on paddeltails. Good ways to target them include Gulp baits by themselves or under popping corks, or casting topwater lures near grass beds or stump fields during the early morning or late evening hours.

Lower Eastern Shore locals are experiencing a fun new answer to “what’s for dinner.” Fairly significant numbers of large Atlantic white shrimp (Genus Litopenaeus) have moved into the region as far north as Hoopers Island. This common table shrimp can often be 8 inches or so long and generally does not live more than a year. Generally speaking this is a rather unusual event and at this time only the shrimp know why they came to visit us. They can be caught with cast nets and are attracted to lights during the night time hours. Their eyes will glow when they get close, making it easier to target them. There are no Maryland regulations regarding creel limits or size restrictions, but cast nets must not have a radius exceeding 10 feet. Dip nets are also a legal way to catch them.

Recreational crabbers continue to enjoy catching large heavy crabs, despite windy conditions and falling water temperatures. Some of the best catches are being made in about 6 feet to 8 feet of water. Sooks tend to be chewing up baits, so many are using chicken necks with success. The best catches continue to be from the middle bay south.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of  man holding a largemouth bass before slipping it back into the water.

Chris Whiteman holds up a nice largemouth bass before slipping it back into the water. Photo by Eric Packard

The fall trout stocking program has begun with the stocking of Great Seneca Creek and Stansbury Pond. Stocking crews will continue this week and their activities will be posted on the trout stocking website as they occur. Low flows in many of the central and western Maryland streams and creeks continues to be a problem, with not enough water to support anticipated stockings. We don’t want to see these precious trout wasted, so please understand the adjustments that may be required. The stockings usually get posted on the website by the middle of the afternoon. 

Fishing for a mix of smallmouth bass, large yellow perch, walleye, and largemouth bass has greatly improved at Deep Creek Lake as these fish are becoming more active in shallower waters. Northern pike and chain pickerel find cooler waters to their liking and can be found at the mouths of coves and near large grass edges and similar structure.

Smallmouth bass are becoming more active in the upper Potomac River as cooler water temperatures prevail. Water levels are at a bare minimum so light lines, long casts and even fluorocarbon line is a real asset when trying to trick them into striking. Working current breaks, large boulders, and submerged ledges with small soft plastic jigs, tubes and crankbaits is a good tactic. Walleye are also becoming part of the mix with cooler water temperatures.

Largemouth bass are slowly beginning to break from their typical summer mode of behavior and responding to cooler water temperatures and declining grass beds. They are on the prowl in transition areas between the shallows and deeper waters looking for baitfish and perhaps a few crayfish that are moving to deeper waters for the winter. In the tidal rivers they are also moving towards feeder creeks where schools of small gizzard shad tend to concentrate. Casting spinnerbaits from shallow to deeper waters is a good tactic, as is using small crankbaits on the edges of drop-offs or near sunken wood. Working grubs slowly and close to the bottom near sunken wood in the deeper waters is also a good choice.

Fishing for northern snakeheads is beginning to change with cooling water temperatures and diminishing grass beds. Many anglers are now switching to the technique of using popping corks and large live minnows in more open waters.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Fishing has been tough due to the northeaster we are experiencing, which will no doubt shake things up a bit after the winds calm down — hopefully by the weekend. That will put surf fishing back on the board in regards to catches of kingfish, spot, pompano, small black drum, bluefish, and striped bass. The kingfish and spot are being caught on pieces of bloodworm, the pompano and black drum on sand fleas, and bluefish and striped bass on cut spot or mullet.

At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, bluefish are moving in and out of the inlet on the tides and are being caught by casting a variety of lures or drifting live bait. Striped bass are also in the mix and a few legal fish are being caught now and then. Tautog, sheepshead and triggerfish are being caught at the South Jetty and under the Route 50 Bridge. Sand fleas have been a popular bait, and small pieces of clam or squid tend to be the best baits for the triggerfish.

The waters of the back bays are pretty stirred up at the moment but may calm down by the weekend. Clear water conditions are important for flounder fishing, which before the winds started was providing good catches in the East Channel. Cooler water temperatures in the back bay areas will have flounder heading towards the inlet and the offshore wintering grounds. The channels leading to the inlet will be of particular interest to fishermen in the next few weeks. Large baits will often catch the largest flounder so live bait or large soft plastics will be a good choice.

Once the seas calm down later on this week, it is anticipated that fishing for sea bass will get back into the full swing of things. This is usually an excellent time of the year for catching sea bass. Cooler water temperatures are bringing tautog into many of the nearshore wreck and reef sites and providing some good fishing. Triggerfish are also a part of the mix to those fishing the wreck and reef sites when switching to smaller baits. Catches of flounder should begin to increase soon as the fish begin to move offshore.

Once boats are able to troll out at the canyon areas again, they should find a mix of longfin albacore, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna waiting for them. White marlin should also be part of the mix. Swordfish and tilefish are being caught in the depths of the canyons. The limit catches of small dolphin will hopefully continue for a bit longer, which provides plenty of meat on the dock.

“Listen to the voice of nature, for it holds treasures for you.”– Old Huron quote

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.”