Maryland Fishing Report – Dec. 2
With December’s arrival it is getting chillier outside, but there is still plenty of wonderful fishing to be had from offshore of Ocean City to Deep Creek Lake.
Forecast Summary: Dec. 2 – Dec. 8:
Expect typical December weather for this week with cool days and nights, windy for the first part of the week with rain arriving Friday and Saturday. Surface water temperatures continue to cool as a result of cooling air temperatures and fewer daylight hours, with sunrise about 7:10 a.m. and a sunset about 4:44 p.m. next week.
Daytime Chesapeake Bay water temperatures are holding near 50 degrees. Warmest surface waters are located from Gooses Reef south to the Virginia state line. Bottom waters in this area will be slightly warmer. Most fish including striped bass and white perch have moved towards the deeper but warmer waters as they prepare for winter in or near the river mouths. As a result of the below normal flows from the Susquehanna River, main bay salinities are slightly higher than normal. As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams and above average flows for the Eastern Shore and lower Potomac watershed for the upcoming week. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the full moon on Dec. 1.
Expect average clarity in most of the bay and rivers. However, expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the Back, Bohemia, Sassafras, and middle Chester 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.
The flows from Conowingo Dam continue to be extremely low this week, resulting in low water levels in the Susquehanna River. Striped bass action in the Conowingo Dam pool is reported to be an early morning affair. The same tends to hold for the Susquehanna Flats, where casting topwater lures and paddle tails are producing some striped bass action in the early morning hours. Colder water temperatures are pushing striped bass to deeper waters where it is slightly warmer.
Striped bass are holding deep along channel edges this week, usually at a depth of about 30 feet. The mouths of the Patapsco and Chester rivers continue to be good places to search for striped bass suspended near the bottom. Trolling umbrella rigs with heavy inline weights is a popular way to get to the fish. Umbrella arms rigged with chartreuse sassy shads and a bucktail dressed with a sassy shad of the same color are edging out spoons as the popular offerings. Most anglers are describing the action as a slow pick, with a percentage of sub-legal fish but also some nice ones up to 30 inches.
Very little bird action over breaking fish is being reported as most bait schools tend to be deeper this time of the year, as the last schools are swept down the bay. Slicks can lead the way at times but a good depth finder is your most valuable asset when exploring for suspended striped bass. Those looking for some light-tackle jigging action can check channel edges at the mouths of the Patapsco and Chester rivers, Love Point rocks, the bridge piers at the Key Bridge, and the piers and rock piles at the Bay Bridge. Skirted soft plastic jigs and paddle tails in chartreuse, pearl, or white have been favorites.
White perch are being found over hard bottom at the mouths of the tidal rivers and out in the bay. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig have been the best way to catch them. Fishing for blue catfish has been good in the lower Susquehanna River and in the Chester River from Chestertown up past Crumpton.
Surface water temperatures in the middle bay and tidal rivers are in the low 50s. Striped bass are being found holding at about 30 feet along the shipping channel edges and channels at the mouths of the tidal rivers and Eastern Bay. Most are trolling umbrella rigs with heavy inline weights or tandem rigged bucktails dressed with sassy shads. There was a brief flurry of large fall migrant striped bass last week but current reports are scant — perhaps the action will pick up again soon. Some of the better places to troll this week include the Bloody Point area, Thomas Point, Buoy 83, Eastern Bay, CP Buoy, and the False Channel.
Those looking for light-tackle jigging action are finding plenty in Eastern Bay and the Sharps Island area. The striped bass tend to be suspended at 30 feet so braided line and 1-oz. to 2-oz. jig heads are needed to get soft plastic jigs down to where the fish are holding. Soft plastics in the 5-inch to 6-inch range are popular in chartreuse and pearl color combinations.
White perch are moving slowly to even deeper waters but there are still plenty schooled over oyster bottom in about 30 feet of water. Places to explore with a depth finder are Kent Island, Eastern Bay, and the mouth of the Choptank River. Bottom rigs with enough weight to hold bottom and baited with pieces of bloodworm are the best ways to get to the white perch.
Anglers in the lower bay were treated to a great weekend of fishing for striped bass while trolling and jigging. The early part of this week has been a bit stiff but the winds are predicted to calm down. A strong ebbing tide offers the best striped bass opportunities.
Trolling has been good in the lower Potomac River near Smith Point and the channel edge near St. Georges Island and Piney Point, and that should continue. The same holds for the lower Patuxent River. In both cases the striped bass are holding about 10 feet off the bottom in 40 feet of water. Umbrella rigs rigged with chartreuse sassy shad teasers and bucktails dressed with sassy shads and pulled behind heavy inline weights has been the ticket to catching striped bass.
The eastern side of the bay is also offering good fishing for striped bass from Hoopers Island south past Buoy 72A. Many reported breaking fish and diving seagulls in the area and enjoyed fun jigging and trolling opportunities. Those jigging are using medium-sized soft plastic or metal jigs underneath the surface action to target larger fish. The cuts through Hoopers Island are also offering fun jigging on a falling tide. Those trolling are pulling umbrella rigs or tandem-rigged bucktails dressed with sassy shads.
White perch are being found in about 40 feet of water at the mouths of the Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers along with the Point Lookout area. That is a long way down so it may take plenty of weight to get a two-hook bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm down there and hold bottom. Those looking to stock their freezers with mild tasting fish fillets will find plenty of blue catfish in the tidal Potomac in the Fort Washington area, the Benedict area of the Patuxent, and the Sharptown area of the Nanticoke.
Fishing at Deep Creek Lake offers a lot of fun options. The colder water temperatures make for ideal fishing opportunities for northern pike, chain pickerel, walleye, yellow perch, crappie, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass. The northern pike can be found at the mouths of large coves, while chain pickerel will be farther back in the coves. Yellow perch and walleye are holding along steep shoreline edges, crappie are holding tight to deep structure, and smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found along drop-offs and main points. Large spinners, spinnerbaits, and spoons work well for the northern pike and smaller versions work on chain pickerel. It is hard to beat live minnows for catching yellow perch, walleye and crappie. Soft plastic crayfish, grubs, and small crankbaits worked slowly on the bottom of drop-offs is a great way to target smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Fishing for smallmouth bass on the upper Potomac River has been fair to good for most anglers. The early morning and evening hours are reported to offer the best success. The smallmouth bass and walleye are holding in some of the deeper holes. A slow retrieve of small grubs and tubes along the bottom can entice a pickup by either species.
Trout fishing remains good for those that can stand chilly fingers and cold toes in the catch-and-release or gear-restricted trout management areas. These areas hold healthy populations of trout for the enjoyment of those practicing catch and release. There are still trout to be found in the put-and-take areas; casting small spinners and spoons is a good way to cover a lot of water when searching for trout spread across a wide area.
Largemouth bass are holding in relatively deep water this week, often on the edges of drop-offs. In ponds and small lakes they may be holding in 10 feet to 12 feet of water and in tidal rivers as much as 25 feet. Small grubs, tubes, soft plastic crayfish, jigs, and crankbaits are all good choices when fished slow and close to the bottom. If fishing from a boat, blade lures can be a good choice in the deeper waters. On sunny days, casting to shallower areas that are receiving a lot of sun in the afternoon hours can entice sunbathing bass to strike.
Surfcasters are soaking large cut baits this week in hopes that some of the migration of large striped bass making their way south will venture close to the beaches. At the inlet, fishing for tautog has been very good for those using sand fleas or pieces of crab around the jetty rocks, Route 50 Bridge piers, and bulkheads. The end of slack tide and the very beginning of the ebb tide is reported to offer the best fishing success. Striped bass are also being caught in the inlet and coastal bay bridges, most are undersized but a few exceed the 28-inch minimum.
Fishing for sea bass at the offshore wreck and reef sites continues to be very good, with limit catches being common. Large flounder and triggerfish can also be part of the mix. Some boats are targeting tautog now, and those heading to the deeper wrecks are catching some very large specimens. The boats heading even farther out to the canyons are focusing on swordfish and blueline tilefish.
“With nary one fish to show for his day with rod and reel, an amateur fisherman stopped at a market on his way home and thoughtfully bought a dozen trout. He then ordered the fish man to throw them to him one at a time. ‘When I tell my wife … that I catch fish – I catch them!’ ” — Bennett Cerf
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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