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Maryland Fishing Report – May 19

The Berlin family caught a great mix of fish during a recent day out near Havre de Grace. Photo by Brandon Berlin

The Berlin family caught a great mix of fish during a recent day out near Havre de Grace. Photo by Brandon Berlin

There are few joys more satisfying than seeing the excitement of a child enjoying the wonders of nature — and especially fishing. Sharing the experience with a young and new angler is a lasting moment for any parent or mentor.

Please join us May 27 at noon for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar with guest Jacob Shaner of the Maryland Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Program. As part of the busy fishing season, anglers and boaters may see 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.

Striped bass fishing entered a new phase on May 16, as anglers in most areas of the Chesapeake Bay may keep one striped bass per day with a minimum size of 19 inches. Some restrictions continue in many of the tidal river areas until May 31, after which all tidal areas in Maryland will be open to fishing for striped bass. Details on areas and dates for striped bass fishing can be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Forecast Summary: May 19 – May 25:

With a warm week forecasted, expect a continued warming of Maryland Bay waters. Bay surface water temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s, and will continue to rise this week. Preliminary May monitoring data is showing main bay bottom waters are slightly cooler than surface waters, and beginning to show some poor oxygen conditions, so it is likely striped bass will be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. Near Swan Point, avoid fishing deeper than 16 feet and at the Bay Bridge, avoid fishing deeper than 33 feet.

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents from Sunday through Tuesday as a result of the upcoming full moon May 26. 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 below the Bay Bridge; in the lower Potomac River between Colonial Beach and Caledon State Park in Virginia; and the Patuxent River from Battle Creek upriver. 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.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Connor Meier got to go fishing with his dad at the mouth of Deer Creek and enjoyed the white perch action. Photo by Adam Meier

Connor Meier got to go fishing with his dad at the mouth of Deer Creek and enjoyed the white perch action. Photo by Adam Meier

The lower Susquehanna River from the Conowingo Dam pool to below Havre de Grace seems to have become snakehead central recently. Anglers are catching them on a variety of baits, but white or pearl paddletails and chatterbaits are standouts. Snakeheads can be found in all of the tidal rivers in the upper bay and are often caught by those fishing for largemouth bass.

Fishing for blue catfish is very good in the lower Susquehanna and can also be found in the region’s tidal rivers as well as the Bay. Channel catfish are also abundant there. Fresh-cut menhaden and white perch make excellent baits. Flathead catfish can be found in the Conowingo Dam pool and slightly downriver. Those fishing from shoreline access points from the mouth of the Susquehanna south to Sandy Point State Park are doing well with a mix of blue and channel catfish.

White perch have moved into the lower Susquehanna River and are providing plenty of fun fishing for anglers casting small spinners, beetle spins, jigs and Clouser flies. White perch have also moved into their normal summer habitat in the region’s other tidal rivers and will soon be available on various bay reefs and knolls. When fishing deep, it is hard to beat grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig.

A few boats are anchoring up at the channel edge at Podickory Point and near some of the Bay Bridge piers, chumming for striped bass now that the minimum size for striped bass has been reduced to 19 inches. Baits allowed to settle to the back of the chum slick are catching catfish. There has been some sparse trolling action success in the upper Bay region this week near Love Point and Podickory along the 40-foot channel edges. White bucktails trolled in tandem or behind umbrella rigs are the most popular way to fish. Many anglers are now adding smaller bucktails to their trolling spreads to catch smaller striped bass.

Middle Bay
This happy angler was lucky enough to catch a nice 42-inch striped bass recently. Photo by John Atchison

This happy angler was lucky enough to catch a nice 42-inch striped bass recently. Photo by John Atchison

In the middle Bay,  most boats are trolling for the larger striped bass along the 40-foot channel edges from Tolley Point to Thomas Point, out in front of Chesapeake Beach, Bloody Point south past Buoy 83, and the steep edge at the CP Buoy. White bucktails dressed with white sassy shads are producing the best action. As we head towards the end of May the action is slowing down as fish move south. Many are now shifting to placing smaller bucktails in their trolling spreads to target smaller striped bass.

Now that the minimum size for striped bass has been reduced to 19 inches, those interested in some light-tackle action are enjoying fun fishing in the shallower areas during the morning and evening hours. Topwater lures are a favorite for this type of fishing, to stay above grass and to also enjoy the explosive surface strikes. Those pulling out their fly fishing gear will find a 7-weight fly rod with a floating line and a 3/0 skipping bug can offer a lot of fun. Those fly-casting in deeper waters can do well with chartreuse Clousers in 3/0 for striped bass and smaller sizes for white perch with a sinking tip line. 

White perch can now be found in their traditional summer habitat near docks, piers, and bottom structure in the tidal rivers and creeks. They offer plenty of fun fishing for those dunking grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple one-hook bottom rig tight to structure and close to the bottom. Light-tackle fishing with spinners, small spinnerbaits, and beetle spins in the morning and evening hours near shoreline structure is always fun. 

Northern snakeheads are holding in the shallower areas this week as they get ready to spawn. They will often be spotted holding close to shore and in grass beds. Casting chatterbaits or white paddletails rigged weedless are the best ways to target them. The lower Dorchester County tidal creeks and rivers are the most productive places to target them, but they can show up in any of the other tidal waters on either side of the Bay.

Lower Bay

Those who have been trolling for trophy-sized striped bass have been focusing their efforts along the 40-foot steep channel edges of the shipping channel and in the lower Potomac River. The steep channel edge off of Cove Point, the HS Buoy, and Smith Point have been popular places to troll a mix of white and chartreuse bucktails and parachutes off of planer boards and umbrella rigs. White bucktails dressed with white sassy shads have been producing the best action. The steep channel edge off Coltons Point and from St. Georges Island to Piney Point have been good places to troll on the lower Potomac River. 

Many anglers are now shifting their attention to smaller striped bass now that the minimum size has been reduced to 19 inches in the Bay. Many are trolling but an increasing number of light-tackle anglers are jigging and casting a variety of lures in the shallower areas. The minimum size for striped bass in the Potomac River stands at 20 inches this year with a daily creel limit of two fish per person. In Maryland waters, the daily limit still stands at one striped bass with a 19-inch minimum per angler per day in — that includes the tributaries to the Potomac on the Maryland side of the river. 

Those bottom fishing in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers are beginning to see croaker and spot while fishing for white perch on the oyster bars. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig has been the ticket to this show. White perch can also be found in the many tidal rivers and creeks on both sides of the Bay. In the Tangier Sound area, those bottom fishing for flounder are finding them on the hard bottom along channel edges. Large red drum are being caught and released in the waters of eastern Virginia so they should arrive in Maryland waters soon. Soft crab baits are an excellent way to enjoy some catch-and-release action with them. Trolling with large spoons or jigging with large soft plastic jigs can work well also for large red drum. Black drum are also in the region and can be caught on soft crab baits. 

There is plenty of action for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers this week. The largest blue catfish can be found in the deeper channels and the medium sized ones along the channel edges and deeper flats near the channels. Fresh-cut white perch, gizzard shad, or menhaden make the best baits on a bottom rig. Channel catfish can be part of the mix and will be found in every tidal river and creek within the lower Bay region.

Freshwater Fishing
Dave Ziegler was fishing at Loch Raven Reservoir where he caught and released this fine looking smallmouth bass. Photo by Dave Ziegler

Dave Ziegler was fishing at Loch Raven Reservoir where he caught and released this fine looking smallmouth bass. Photo by Dave Ziegler

Trout fishing remains good in many of the trout management waters. There are still trout to be found in the put-and-take areas. The delayed harvest, catch-and-release, and fly fishing only areas hold extra promise for fun catch and release fishing. Many fly fishing anglers are tying on various terrestrials now and dry flies for fun action.

The cicada hatch has been in the news a lot lately and they are now emerging from the ground. In a few days they will start buzzing around and many of them will wind up crashing into reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and rivers. They will be prominent in most of central, western and parts of southern Maryland. Fish such as smallmouth and largemouth bass will soon key into the feast and will be gorging themselves on the masses of cicadas floating on the surface of the water. During the height of it all it may be difficult to get fish to bite since they’ll be so stuffed. There are a variety of lures imitating cicadas and most likely are out of stock by now. Fly tiers are noted for devising their own versions of most any kind of bug and will be in their own version of heaven during this explosion of cicadas at their favorite bass hangout. Most likely chain pickerel, catfish and northern snakeheads will go after them as well, but they tend to be a bit large for most trout and certainly bluegills.

In most areas of Maryland largemouth bass are either still spawning or have finished, and can be in an aggressive post-spawn feeding mode. Targeting transition areas in slightly deeper water than the spawning shallows is a good bet, as is targeting grass and submerged wood. Spinnerbaits near grass edges and creek mouths can work well, as can lipless crankbaits in shallower waters. Soft plastics are a good bet in thick grass. 

Northern snakeheads will be holding in shallow grass as they prepare to spawn. Casting chatterbaits through the grass is a good way to target them. Most may be caught while fishing for largemouth bass and offer something to take home since they make fine eating. At times when filleting snakeheads one may see encysted small red worms, or they may be free in the visceral cavity. These are parasitic nematode worms which you can pick out with a knife blade. If they are cooked they are harmless to humans. They can often be found in yellow perch also. 

The water temperatures in most areas have reached 64 to 70 degrees, which is the temperature bracket for crappie to spawn. They will be carving out shallow nests in sandy or gravel bottom and fishing for them will be difficult until they’re finished.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Rich Watts caught this fine-looking flounder near the airport recently. Photo by Rich Watts

Rich Watts caught this fine-looking flounder near the airport recently. Photo by Rich Watts

The long-awaited arrival of large striped bass migrating north from the Chesapeake Bay along Maryland’s beaches is upon us. It is certainly not a blitz but fish are being caught by those putting in their time. Soaking cut menhaden baits tends to be the best option, and the head section will hold up best to the nibbling of clear-nosed skates. Clams work well and there was a report of a large striped bass caught on a sand fleas while fishing for black drum. Bluefish are showing up in the surf, and anglers casting smaller baits are catching a few flounder and northern blowfish.

At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, flounder are being caught on traditional minnow and squid baits, but the larger percentage of big flounder are being caught on soft plastics. Hickory shad are providing some fun catch and release action on shad darts and small colorful jigs. Striped bass are also being caught and released since very few exceed 28 inches. The tautog season is closed now until June 30. 

Flounder fishing in the back bay areas is very good with some fine-looking fish being caught. The channel areas offer some of the best action near the inlet and airport.

The black sea bass season opened May 15 and the tautog season closed May 16 — party and charter boats fishing the offshore wreck and reef sites got to double dip on both species for one day. The opening weekend catches of sea bass were very good with limit catches of chunky sea bass around the rails. The 2021 sea bass season looks very promising, so don’t miss it. Bluefish are showing up on the 30-fathom lumps; most are being caught by trolling at the Hot Dog and Jackspot lumps.

The boats heading a bit farther offshore have been catching a few Bluefin tuna and at least one sublegal mako shark was reported to be released. Fishing for marlin, swordfish, sharks, and Bluefin tuna is just around the corner — anyone fishing for them must be familiar with the Maryland Catch Card Program in Ocean City. Information is available on the DNR website. Bluefin tuna have been passing through our area for a couple of weeks now and anyone thinking fishing for them needs to be up to speed with NOAA regulations and check the HMS Recreational Compliance Guide can be found online.

“Fishing is to be enjoyed, but it will not be enjoyed any the more by hurrying past what Nature has to give us on the way.” — Col. Robert Venables, 1613–1687, author of “The Experienced Angler.”

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.”