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Maryland Fishing Report – Sept. 2

Photo of man holding a large Spanish mackeral.

Angler Tim Campbell qualified for the FishMaryland expert angler award when he caught this 24-inch Spanish mackerel, his fifth unique trophy species, in the Chesapeake Bay on Aug. 25. Photo courtesy of Tim Campbell

All areas of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal rivers have reopened for striped bass fishing until Dec. 10 with a size limit of 19 inches and a daily bag limit of one fish per angler. 

Many summer species should continue to be available for anglers the next few weeks. 

On Sept. 3 at noon the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hosts its final weekly Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar on summer fishing. Biologist Chuck Stence will speak about his team’s efforts in both hickory and shad restoration. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.

Forecast Summary: Sept. 2 – 8:

Moving into the Labor Day holiday, expect mild but stable temperatures in the low to mid 80s with a chance of rain on Wednesday and Thursday. Chesapeake Bay waters continue to cool with surface temperatures dropping a few degrees since last week.

With mild days and moderate winds, conditions will remain similar to last week with gamefish remaining at similar locations on cooler river mouths or main bay structure during the daytime. However, recent DNR water monitoring is now showing uniform temperatures from the surface down to the Don’t Fish Below this Depth line in most Maryland bay waters. The only exception are waters from the Bay Bridge down to the mouth of the Choptank River, where deeper waters are cooler than surface waters. This will result in fish that prefer cooler waters being able to move more vertically to find suitable oxygen and temperature conditions. This should help improve first light shallow water fishing conditions when surface water temperatures can be several degrees cooler.

For information on Maryland’s main bay oxygen conditions, see Maryland’s latest hypoxia report. As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting these cool, oxygenated areas with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish. 

Expect above average flows for the Potomac and Eastern Shore rivers and streams, not including the Susquehanna River. There will be above average tidal currents through the rest of the week as a result of the Sept. 2 full moon. 

Expect decreased clarity from algal blooms in the Northeast, lower Chester, Back, Patapsco, and middle Patuxent rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.

For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. Get regular updates on Maryland’s waters sent to your inbox with our Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of white perch held above the water

A nice white perch from the bay. Photo courtesy by Eric Packard

The Susquehanna River is still experiencing low flows from the Conowingo Dam, which has had limited water releases despite being on an afternoon power generation schedule. If low water conditions persist, anglers can wade and target flathead, blue, and channel catfish plus smallmouth bass holding in pools. Anglers are also fishing at the dam pool for a mix of flathead and channel catfish. Striped bass fishing reopened Sept. 1.

The tidal rivers, creeks, and shoal areas of the upper bay are holding populations of white perch, providing plenty of fun light-tackle action and some tasty table fare. Casting beetle spins, spinners, and small spinnerbaits towards shoreline structure, docks, and riprap should produce perch for the next few weeks. 

In the deeper waters of the bay, shoal areas around Swan Point, the 7-foot and 9-foot knolls, and other reefs are holding schools of white perch. Striped bass will also be found on the upper bay lumps, but we advise anglers to avoid targeting them if air temperatures reach 90 degrees. 

Blue and channel catfish are still spread throughout the upper bay and the tidal rivers. The Chester River holds the greatest concentration of blue catfish, and the area from Chestertown up past Crumpton are great places to fish for them. Fresh cut baits from gizzard shad or white perch tend to be the easiest baits to acquire. Clam snouts are also a popular bait for channel catfish.

Middle Bay
Photo of man holding several fish in his arms.

Angler Phil Piccoli caught a 25-inch Spanish mackerel in the bay, along with several others. Photo courtesy of Phil Piccoli

Before the remnants of Hurricane Laura hit the area last week, Spanish mackerel were making a strong push into the middle bay and almost up to the Bay Bridge. We will soon see if the storm dispersed them. The bulk of the action was from the mouth of the Severn River and Poplar Island south. The channel edge near Buoy 83 south to the CP Buoy has been a productive area to troll, as is the shipping channel edge in front of Chesapeake Beach and Breezy Point. Anglers have been trolling #1 Drone and Clark spoons in gold behind #1 and #2 planers or heavy inline weights at about 7 knots. 

During early September, the breaking fish in the region are generally made up of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and small striped bass chasing bay anchovies. Casting across the breaking fish, allowing your metal jig to sink, and then speed reeling is a proven way to catch Spanish mackerel on light tackle. 

The abundance of speckled trout in the shallower shoreline areas has been a boon to light-tackle shallow water anglers. Casting soft plastics with spinning tackle or Clousers on a fly rod have been producing fish. Soft plastics in the 4-inch to 5-inch range in pearl and sparkle combinations are popular. Prominent points with good current flow, grass beds, and stump fields are all good places to check out during the morning and evening hours.

Small “puppy” red drum in the 12-inch to 14-inch range are mixing in with white perch from the Patuxent River all the way up to the Severn River. Casting beetle spins, small jigs, and Mr. Twisters with spinning gear or small Clouser flies near shoreline structure will produce puppy drum for the next few weeks until waters cool. Anglers are reminded that there is a slot limit for red drum — the fish must be 18–27 inches long with a daily bag limit of one. 

White perch and catfish offer plenty of action in the tidal rivers and off docks along the bay shoreline. White perch will hit grass shrimp and bloodworms. Channel catfish can be caught with fresh cut bait, clam snouts, or chicken livers. Blue catfish are being caught in the Nanticoke River above Sharptown and in the Choptank River above the Dover Bridge. Blue catfish prefer fresh cut bait, gizzard shad, or white perch chunks.

Lower Bay

The main stem of the Potomac River and the Maryland section of the Chesapeake Bay are now open to striped bass fishing. 

Photo of red drum in fisherman's hand

Eric Packard caught this pretty puppy drum while kayak fishing with artificials. Photo by Eric Packard

Spanish mackerel, bluefish, speckled trout, red drum, white perch, and spot were all providing good action in the lower bay prior to the passing of the remnants of Hurricane Laura. Anglers will find out this week if those schools of fish were broken up by the storm. If you are searching for mackerel, troll the edges of the shipping channel from the Virginia line north to the middle bay, the shipping channel edge from Buoy 72 south to Buoy 68, and the area from Point Lookout to Cove Point. Trolling #1 and #2 Drone and Clark spoons in gold behind #1 or #2 planers or heavy inline weights at about 7 knots works well. Trolling near breaking fish or slicks is resulting in limit catches for some anglers, with a daily creel limit of 15 fish per day.

Anglers are encountering breaking fish along the edges of the shipping channel; these fish are mostly a mix of Spanish mackerel and bluefish feeding on bay anchovies. Small striped bass can also be mixed in at times. Anglers are also finding large red drum deep underneath the surface activity, and jigging with large soft plastics or spoons will produce catch-and-release action with these bruisers. 

Bottom fishing for a mix of spot, white perch, and a speckled trout now and then has been excellent in the lower Patuxent River. The Cornfield Harbor area, Tangier Sound, and lower Hoopers Island are all great places to get in on the action. Pieces of bloodworm are the most popular bait but peeler crab can also work well. Flounder are being found on the shoal edges near channels in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds this week. Popular baits include live minnows and Gulp baits.

Speckled trout are spread throughout the region with much of the best action found on the eastern side of the bay. Casting soft plastics in pearl and sparkle flash near prominent points, marsh edges, and creek mouths is producing good catches. Drifting peeler crab baits near structure and creek mouths is also a great way to fish for speckled trout. Small red drum will be part of the mix, with most measuring under the minimum 18-inch length.

Cobia fishing within the region had been slowing down prior to the storm and only a few are being caught in Maryland waters. The best catches of cobia are coming from Virginia waters closer to the mouth of the bay. Sight casting with live eels has been the most successful way to fish for them, but chumming is another alternative. 

Blue catfish in the tidal Potomac River or the Nanticoke River offer good fishing for those wishing to anchor up or bottom fish from shore. The blue catfish are plentiful and offer good eating. Any kind of fresh oily cut bait works well, with gizzard shad and menhaden being common choices. 

Recreational crabbers are enjoying some of the best crabs of the season and this will hopefully get better if salinities do not drop too much from rain. The crabs have ventured up the tidal rivers and into the upper bay in greater numbers. Prior to the storm, most crabbers in the upper bay were able to catch a half-bushel or more per outing. In the middle and lower bay, catches of a bushel per outing are common. Razor clams remain the bait of choice whether trotlining or crabbing with collapsible traps. Some of the best crab catches are coming from deep water in the tidal rivers. There will be a major shed coming up soon and catches of large crabs tend to pick up in September and early October.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of young angler holding a largemouth bass

Angler Gavin Beall caught this 21.25-inch Largemouth Bass in a Frederick County pond. Photo by Mat Beal

Boat traffic will be heavy on Deep Creek Lake through Labor Day. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are most active at night, so focus on early morning and late evening fishing opportunities. Work shallow grass and structure with topwater lures and switch to diving crankbaits and soft plastics during the brighter periods of the day. Bass will be looking for cool areas in deep grass or under the shade of floating docks. Crappie are beginning to school up near bridge piers, bluegills can be found near docks, and trout and walleye are deep, often along the dam wall.

In the upper Potomac River, water levels have been down and very clear, resulting in finicky smallmouth bass. Casting topwater lures near flooded shoreline grass is a good tactic in the early morning hours. Switching to small grubs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits during the day can work well in the deeper parts of the river near ledges and current breaks.

Most trout management waters have been running low and clear, requiring anglers to use stealth and finesse until water levels rise. Terrestrials such as hoppers, ants, beetles, and nymphs under an indicator fly are good choices. 

Largemouth bass continue their summer pattern of feeding in the shallows at night, until waters start cooling. Working the shallower grass areas during the early morning hours or late evenings with topwater lures such as frogs and buzzbaits will catch them.

When fishing tidal waters, northern snakeheads can be encountered in the same areas where largemouth bass are found, especially in the tidal creeks of the lower Potomac and Nanticoke rivers and the lower Eastern Shore counties. When targeting northern snakeheads, a white paddle tail rigged weedless or white frog lures are effective when worked close to the surface and through grass or near fallen branches and brush. 

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of woman on a boat holding a sea bass

This happy angler caught a nice sea bass on a recent trip. Photo courtesy of Monty Hawkins

Anglers in Ocean City are working to locate fish and figure out patterns after the passing of the remnants of Hurricane Laura last week. Prior to the storm, fishing for kingfish in the surf was good with pieces of bloodworm. A mix of spot and croakers are also being caught on bloodworm. Surf fishing with finger mullet or cut mullet will catch bluefish, and flounder can be caught on squid strips.

At the inlet, bluefish are being caught by casting a variety of jigs and metal lures. Flounder were being caught by drifting traditional baits of squid and minnows or by working Gulp baits close to the bottom, but water quality may have been affected by recent rains. Flounder anglers should work the channels and channel edges in the Back Bay. Squid and minnows work well, but the largest flounder are caught while using Gulp baits or live-lining small spot and mullet.

The boats heading out to the offshore wreck and reef sites are enjoying good sea bass fishing on most days with some limit catches. There are still numbers of small dolphinfish, also called mahi, being caught from the party boats as a bonus to the sea bass fishing. 

The boats trolling at the canyons are catching a mix of white marlin and blue marlin, with some longfin albacore tuna also reported recently. Limits of small dolphinfish — known as chicken dolphin or bailers in some areas — are being caught near lobster buoys, and some large ones are caught by trolling.

NOAA Fisheries recently implemented new permitting and reporting requirements for recreational tilefish anglers. All recreational vessel operators (including for-hire operators using their vessels on recreational trips) targeting or retaining golden or blueline tilefish from Virginia to Maine are now required to obtain a free permit from NOAA Fisheries and submit electronic vessel trip reports within 24 hours of returning to port. A new app has been released to make the reporting process easy and convenient. Harbor Light Software’s eFin Logbook has received certification from NOAA Fisheries as an approved application through which anglers can report their trips. The app is available for use on all Apple and Android mobile devices.

A good gamefish is too valuable to be caught only once. The fish you release is your gift to another angler.” — Lee Wulff

This week’s Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Erik Zlokovitz, Maryland Department of Natural Resources recreational fisheries specialist. 

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.”