Maryland Fishing Report – May 12
The Maryland outdoors has many beautiful treasures to behold for those who look. It can be a quiet time sitting on a river bank watching nature, gazing upon the Chesapeake Bay, or hiking up a mountain stream and soaking up all that nature can share. Few fish in Maryland are as beautiful and treasured as our native brook trout and if you find one, you are well rewarded with a spectacle of color.
This Saturday, May 15, will be the last day of trophy striped bass season in the main stem Chesapeake Bay, The 2021 summer-fall season in most areas of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries will be open May 16 through July 15, and resume Aug. 1 through Dec. 10. Further information on areas and dates for striped bass fishing can be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Please join us May 27 at noon for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar with guest Jake Shaner of the Maryland Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Program. As part of the busy fishing season, anglers and boaters may see sightings of marine animals and sea turtles. Join us to learn more about our program and what you should do in the event you find a stranded marine animal in Maryland waters. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.
Forecast Summary: May 12 – May 18:
Warming conditions for the upcoming week will reverse the cooling spell of bay waters for gamefish spawning now in Maryland lower salinity waters. In addition, these warming air temperatures will help move ground temperatures towards 64 degrees, necessary for the brood X cicada emergence. Bay surface water temperatures are in the lower 60s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s. Preliminary April monitoring data showed that bottom waters are several degrees cooler than surface waters, so it is likely striped bass will be higher in the water column to find their preferred water temperatures.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams except the Susquehanna watershed. Elevated flows in Pennsylvania will result in higher-than-normal flows below Conowingo Dam for several days. There will be above average tidal currents through Tuesday as a result of the new moon May 11-12. Expect average clarity for the bay and rivers, however expect poor water clarity due to algal blooms in the Patapsco River east to the mouth of the Chester River; in the lower Potomac River between Colonial Beach and Caledon State Park in Virginia; the Patuxent River from Battle Creek upriver; the Choptank River above Cambridge; and the Back, Bush. and Gunpowder 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, continue 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.
Water releases from the Conowingo Dam have picked up and tend to be on a mid-day cycle. Northern snakeheads and flathead catfish are being caught in the dam pool and the northern snakeheads can be found almost anywhere in the lower river and flats areas this week. Blue catfish are being caught in the lower Susquehanna River, the Chester River, and most areas in the upper bay region. Fresh cut bait of white perch, gizzard shad or menhaden are favored baits. Channel catfish are also abundant throughout the entire upper bay.
White perch can be found in the lower Susquehanna and all of the tidal rivers within the region. They tend to congregate near structure such as sunken wood, rocks, and bridge piers. The Francis Scott Key Bridge and nearby old pier structures are a good example of ideal white perch habitat. Grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig are a good bet as are small spinners and jigs.
Those trolling below the Brewerton Channel for striped bass are finding a few near Love Point down to the Dumping Grounds and near the Bay Bridge. White bucktails dressed with white sassy shads are most productive when trolled in tandem off planer boards. Umbrella rigs rigged in the same colors are also picking off a few fish down deep. The channel edges at about 40 feet deep tend to be the most productive, and the best action is taking place during the early mornings and late evening hours.
A few boats have been anchoring up near the Bay Bridge and Podickory Point with mixed results. Most of the striped bass being caught are small, and baits allowed to fall to the bottom at the back of the chum slick are picking up catfish. Circle hooks are mandatory when fishing with bait for striped bass. Shore-bound anglers are fishing from Sandy Point State Park, the Matapeake Fishing Pier, and private docks all along the bay shoreline, in hopes of enticing a large striped bass to pick up a bottom rig baited with fresh cut menhaden or bloodworms.
Trolling for large striped bass has been relatively good in a few traditional locations. The channel edge from Tolley Point down to Thomas Point has been yielding fish, as has the channel edge at the Gum Thickets, Bloody Point, Buoy 83, and the CP Buoy. White bucktails and parachutes are catching the most fish when fished off of planer boards, umbrella rigs are fished with heavy inline weights off of the flat lines. The 40-foot channel edges are holding the most fish and mornings and evenings hold the best hope of hooking up. Check lines periodically for winter jellies, a metamorphic phase of lion’s mane jellyfish typically found this time of the year.
Fishing for northern snakeheads in the tidal creeks and rivers of southern Dorchester County could hardly be better. The expected cool nighttime temperatures may hinder the morning bite a bit, but warm daytime temperatures will spur them back into their pre-spawn feeding activity. White paddle tails and chatterbaits are the two most popular lures to use near shoreline brush and grass beds.
White perch have moved into their summer habitat and can now be found near docks, piers, and most any kind of shoreline structure. Grass shrimp on a simple one-hook bottom rig is hard to beat when fishing tight to dock piers, and pieces of bloodworm are also a good bet. During the mornings and evenings, casting small spinners, spinnerbaits, and soft plastic jigs near shoreline structure can offer a lot of light tackle fun. Small Clouser minnows in chartreuse crystal flash cast with a sinking tip line offers plenty of fun for those using a light fly rod.
There are plenty of channel catfish to be found in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks, and blue catfish in the Choptank River. Fresh cut bait of white perch, gizzard shad or menhaden make three of the most popular baits. In the Choptank a mix of channel catfish and blue catfish can be found as far down river as the Bill Burton Fishing Pier and the Cambridge area.
Those out trolling this week are picking away at large striped bass along various steep channel edges of the bay shipping channel and the lower Potomac River. The 40-foot channel edge at Cove Point and the HS Buoy have been popular spots to troll large parachutes and bucktails. Most of the tandem rigged baits are being pulled off planer boards. Deeper baits are behind umbrella rigs with heavy inline weights to get them down deep. In the lower Potomac River, the steep channel edge off Coltons Point, and between Piney Point and St. Georges Island, anglers are finding some large fish.
There has been some productive trolling action for striped bass in the Tangier Sound area as post-spawn striped bass leave the Nanticoke River. Large white and chartreuse parachutes and bucktails are again the most popular lures. Red drum are also being found in the area.
Anglers in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds are starting to find a few speckled trout in the areas. Some are being caught on bait along channel edges and the mouths of creeks, or by casting Gulps and paddle tails along marsh edges. Flounder are showing up in the two sounds and are being caught on Gulp baits drifted along the bottom or with traditional minnow or squid baits.
White perch can be found near structure in the lower bay’s tidal rivers and creeks. Docks and piers over deep water, sunken wood of any kind, submerged rocks, and fallen tree tops are all good places to find white perch. The deeper waters are best fished with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig. Shallower shoreline structure offers some fun light tackle fishing by casting small spinners, spinnerbaits or small plastic jigs.
Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers and their tributaries is excellent as the catfish are feeding aggressively on any kind of fresh cut bait. Channel catfish will also be found throughout the region. Northern snakeheads are also feeding in an aggressive pre-spawn phase. Casting white or pearl paddle tails or chatterbaits near shorelines and grass beds is popular and productive. Many anglers also fish a large minnow under a bobber while casting for extra opportunity.
Trout fishing continues to be popular whether one is fishing the put-and-take areas that received generous stockings, or some of the non-consumptive trout fishing areas. The delayed harvest, catch-and-release, or fly fishing only trout management areas all offer fun fishing.
There has been much in the news about the expected Brood X cicada eruption due this month, which may be delayed by recent cool weather. The ground temperature must be about 64 degrees for them to come to the surface and change into the flying bugs few can forget. Fly fishermen have been busy for the last couple of weeks tying their versions and are looking forward to trying them out. Many species of fish such as smallmouth and largemouth bass will no doubt take advantage of any cicada that happens to fall onto the water’s surface.
At Deep Creek Lake anglers are enjoying good fishing for walleyes by casting sinking Rapalas or silver flutter spoons tipped with nightcrawlers. Largemouth and smallmouth bass will also go to these presentations. Smallmouth bass can be found under floating docks right now in a pre-spawn pattern. Crappie fishing is very good at Deep Creek Lake, the Youghiogheny Reservoir, and Broadford Lake.
Largemouth bass can be found in a spawning phase in the central, southern, and eastern regions of Maryland. Males will be busy guarding nests, and females will either be assisting or close by looking for a few snacks. Casting soft plastic creature baits in the shallower areas is one of the best tactics this week.
Northern snakeheads can be found in the shallows, often near grass or shoreline brush. Casting chatterbaits or paddle tails are good choices to target snakeheads. Find more information on Maryland’s northern snakehead on our website.
Surfcasters are anxiously awaiting the arrival of large striped bass exiting the Chesapeake Bay and migrating to New England waters. The black drum bite has slacked off a bit but many anglers are still soaking sand flea or clam baits in hopes of catching one more. Striped bass like clams, and more than a few fish are being caught and released that measure less than the minimum 28 inches. Anyone targeting striped bass with bait are reminded that circle hooks are mandatory in coastal waters. Bluefish are also migrating north and should show up along Maryland beaches soon and offshore humps like the Jackspot and Hambone.
Flounder continue to pour through the Ocean City Inlet and are spreading throughout the back bays this week. The channels leading from the inlet are excellent places to drift with Gulp baits or the traditional minnow and squid baits. Tautog are still being caught on sand fleas and crab in the Route 50 Bridge area; most are under the minimum size of 16 inches but larger ones are being caught. The tautog season will be closed from May 16 until June 30.
Striped bass are being caught around the inlet area, the Route 90 Bridge, and the Verrazano Bridge on a variety of soft plastic jigs and paddle tails, but most need to be released since they measure under 28 inches. Catch-and-release fishing for hickory shad at the inlet is providing some fun light-tackle action this week.
Anglers who are heading offshore to the wreck and reef sites continue to enjoy good to excellent fishing for tautog this week, ahead of the May 16 closure. The much anticipated sea bass season opens May 15 with a 15-fish limit at a 12.5-inch minimum size.
“Nothing is more trying to the patience of fishermen than the remark so often made to them by the profane.… ‘I had not patience enough for fishing’ ” — Arthur Ransome
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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