Maryland Fishing Report – August 18
These late summer weeks hold a lot of fishing opportunities for anglers across the state. Our summer migrant fish species in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters are in full swing and other fish are active.
Northern snakeheads are on the prowl in many areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and entertaining anglers with plenty of action and good table fare.
Throughout the summer, anglers should continue to check the Maryland striped bass fishing advisory forecast to help protect this iconic species.
Forecast Summary: August 18 – August 24:
Another week with continued warm weather will result in Maryland Bay water temperatures remaining stable. Bay surface water, river, and stream temperatures are still very warm and holding in the low 80s. Monitoring data is showing main Bay bottom waters are still slightly cooler than surface waters, and continue to show some poor oxygen conditions. As a result, Bay gamefish will likely be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. The coolest oxygenated bottom waters can be found from the Kent Island area north to Tolchester. Due to Conowingo Dam releases, cool water is also present on the Susquehanna River through the Susquehanna Flats area in the late evening and early morning. Bay surface temperatures cool by 2 to 3 degrees at night.
Adequate oxygen levels are found at all depths from the Susquehanna Flats to Still Pond. Due to low bottom oxygen levels, avoid fishing below the following depths in these locations: Swan Point, 30 feet; Bay Bridge to Bloody Point, 20 feet to 30 feet; Choptank River to Point No Point, 20 feet to 35 feet. Currently, the western shore of the Bay from Magothy down to the mouth of the Potomac River are showing very poor oxygen levels below 10 feet. On the Potomac from Colonial Beach to Piney Point, avoid fishing deeper than 25 feet to 35 feet. Conditions can vary daily so be sure to check the depth-to-oxygen level online prior to your next fishing trip to check your specific location.
Maryland upper Bay waters down to the Bay Bridge are running saltier than normal while waters below the bridge are normal. Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents all week due to the upcoming full moon Aug. 22. Expect average clarity for Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, with very poor water clarity due to algal blooms in the Back and middle Patuxent rivers and the main Bay near the mouth of the Chester River. 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, check the Maryland DNR website for 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 early morning striped bass topwater action continues with some excellent catches being reported by anglers. As the sun rises a little later each week, being out on the water at dawn is becoming much more forgiving to sleep schedules. The dam pool has been an excellent place to cast topwater lures and paddletails. The strong afternoon power generation releases are introducing a lot of cool water into the dam pool and lower Susquehanna River each day.
The Susquehanna Flats are also feeling the effects of the cool water coming down the river, and fishing for striped bass there is good right now. Casting topwater lures along the edge of the flats in the early morning hours is providing a lot of fun action for anglers. A good portion of the striped bass being caught are over 20 inches in length and the surface explosions by striped bass chasing lures is one of the more exciting angling experiences. As the morning hours wear on, many anglers switch to paddletails and soft plastic jigs. Live-lining spot and eel can be productive in the deeper channel edges later in the day.
Angling for catfish continues to be very good. Flathead catfish are being caught in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna on fresh cut or live bait. Blue catfish are being caught in the lower Susquehanna and surrounding tidal rivers, the upper Bay, and the Chester River. Fresh-cut gizzard shad or menhaden are the preferred baits. Channel catfish can be found in every upper Bay tidal river and can be caught on fresh-cut bait, chicken livers, nightcrawlers and clam snouts.
Striped bass fishing at the various Tolchester Lumps continues to be very popular for the live-lining fleet. The boat traffic can be very dense at times so getting there early in the morning can be very advantageous. The weather has been hot lately so anglers are urged to review the best catch and release practices before fishing for striped bass on the DNR website. Anglers are required to use circle hooks when targeting striped bass, to help prevent deep hooking when fishing with bait or live-lining.
Anglers looking to avoid the crowded fishing are finding striped bass at other locations. Swan Point, the Love Point Rocks, The Key Bridge piers and Podickory Point are just a few locations where striped bass are being found suspended off the bottom.
The early morning and late evening shallow water striped bass fishing is offering a fun alternative to live lining for many light tackle anglers. The various shorelines of the bay and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers offer plenty of good fishing this week. Casting topwater lures and paddletails near structure is a fun way to fish for striped bass. Jigging near bridge piers at the Key Bridge and channel edges in the lower Patapsco River is also popular.
White perch are being found in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers in the early morning and evening hours, by those casting small spinners and beetle spins near shoreline structure. Fishing with pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig over oyster bars and hard bottom in the Bay is also a good way to catch white perch.
There is some welcomed striped action at the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles right now. Drifting fresh cut bait of menhaden, soft crab, or peeler crab baits, or live- lining spot and eels, have all proven to be good ways to catch striped bass. Casting soft plastic jigs near the concrete piers is also a productive way to fish. The early morning hours offer the best fishing opportunities during a moving tide.
The early morning and late evening shallow-water striped bass fishery continues to provide some fun fishing action. The best topwater action occurs at dawn near shoreline structure in a variety of areas. Eastern Bay, Thomas Point, the Poplar Island Rocks, and various shorelines in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Casting paddletails is also a good choice and offers the chance of catching a speckled trout.
A mix of Spanish mackerel and small bluefish, with small striped bass joining in at times, are working schools of bay anchovies from Kent Island south. The surface action is often marked by diving seagulls, and at other times by slicks on the surface of the water. Casting small heavy jigs, Got Cha lures, and metal lures and retrieving at fast speeds is the ticket to target the Spanish mackerel. Heavy marks on a depth finder may be revealed close to the bottom underneath the surface action, and these may be larger striped bass. Watch for large red drum, which have been caught in the area.
Trolling is a good option to target Spanish mackerel along the shipping channel edges or near where breaking fish can be spotted. Small #1 and #2 Drone and Clark spoons in gold or silver pulled behind planers and inline weights are a popular choice, trolled at speeds of 8 knots. The Buoy 83 area, the False Channel, and off of Chesapeake Beach are good places to look.
White perch fishing remains good in a variety of fishing situations. The light-tackle casting of spinners, beetle spins, and small jigs along shoreline structure in the early morning and evening hours is about as much fun as anyone could want. Any kind of submerged structure in a decent depth of water can hold white perch in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and along the Bay shores. Dropping a grass shrimp on a simple one-hook bottom rig near dock piers is also a fun way to fish for white perch — especially for younger anglers. Oyster reefs near the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers is also a good place to fish with a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm.
Perhaps some of the most exciting news for lower Bay anglers this week is the influx of Spanish mackerel being caught in a variety of methods throughout the region. Trolling small Drone and Clark spoons behind inline weights and planers is popular along channel edges or near breaking fish. Trolling speeds for Spanish mackerel need to be 7 to 8 knots. The steep channel edges of the lower Potomac River from St. Georges Island south to Point Lookout has been a great place to troll, as has the shipping channel edges on both sides of the Bay. In these times of great abundance, anglers need to take stock of what is a reasonable amount of Spanish mackerel to take home. The minimum size is 14 inches with a daily creel limit of 15 fish per person. They have to be eaten fresh, as they do not freeze well. They are great on the grill or broiler when filleted and skinned and they also make good ceviche.
A mix of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and at times small striped bass are chasing schools of bay anchovies in the lower Bay. They will often drive the bait to the surface where seagulls join in, so it pays to keep your eyes on the horizon for clouds of diving birds. Surface slicks can indicate that something is going on deep to release all of that fish oil.
Slowly moving in on the upwind side of the action and then drifting closer is a proven tactic. More aggressive approaches can easily drive the fish down into the depths. Casting Got Cha plugs, jigs, and metal jigs into the fray, letting them sink a bit and then speed-reeling back to the boat is the best way to target the Spanish mackerel. Slower retrieves will allow bluefish to catch up. It pays to keep an eye on depth finders for the large marks of red drum holding deep underneath the action, and having a stout rod rigged with a large soft plastic jig to catch them.
Fishing for cobia continues to be good in the lower Bay. Chumming has been one of the more popular ways to fish for cobia lately. It is relaxing to anchor up and wait for the cobia to come to you, if you allow live eels or cut menhaden baits to drift back in the chum slick. Be advised though, cownose rays are attracted to the chum slicks and have been a problem.
Trolling large rubber hose lures in red or green behind inline weights is another option and a great way to cover a lot of water in search of cobia. The areas around the Target Ship, the Mud Leads, Buoy 72A, and Smith Point have been good places to troll or chum for cobia. It can also pay to place one or two large spoons in a trolling spread to summon up some catch-and-release action for the large red drum in the area.
Anglers are finding that spot is more than just bait for striped bass — they are getting large enough to occupy a place at the dinner table. The mouth of the Patuxent River tends to be a very good place to fish for spot on the hard-bottomed shoals. White perch are also part of the action, when fishing bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. The supply of bloodworms can be tight at times — an old trick to extend your bait supply is by cutting up nightcrawlers and allowing the pieces to soak up the bloodworm juice.
A few nice flounder are being caught along the shoal edges of channels in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds by those who target them. Speckled trout are being caught in the shallow areas in the morning and evening hours by those casting swimbaits.
Recreational crabbers are finding catches are about the same as they have been, with a half-bushel of large crabs per outing in most areas. Many are venturing further up the tidal rivers due to increased salinity values there, and catching good numbers of crabs. Razor clams and chicken necks continue to be the two preferred baits and some are reporting better catches in collapsible crab traps over trotlines. In the middle Bay, crabbers are reporting smaller crabs being seen and overall the crabs being kept are large.
Many of the western and central trout management waters are experiencing good flows this week due to recent rain. Waters such as the upper Potomac are rising due to runoff, and expected to be high by the end of the week. In trout streams, fishing nymphs may be a good idea if water flows are up. Otherwise terrestrials such as ants, beetles, and hoppers would be a good idea. In the upper Potomac River holes, submerged ledges and current breaks are good places to fish soft plastic search baits, small crankbaits, and tubes.
Late summer often puts largemouth bass in a fickle feeding mood, and they also tend to be scattered. Largemouth bass can be found in dense, healthy green vegetation which is oxygen-rich, and targeting these areas with frogs is a good way to search for the fish. Vegetation near current breaks where two types of vegetation merge, long run-out points, or the back of creeks are all good places to target. Dropping wacky rigged stick worms down through thick vegetation and working slowly can also elicit a pickup from a lounging largemouth.
Deep structure is another good place to look for largemouth bass that are holding in cooler and shaded waters. Deep break lines, sunken wood, points, humps, and ledges often hold largemouth bass this time of the year. It also pays to look for thermoclines on one’s depth finder. Casting deep-diving crankbaits beyond the target and retrieving with short pauses can bring good results. Swimbaits can be a good choice for working deep grass edges by retrieving them slowly along the bottom.
When fishing for largemouth bass in tidal waters, you’ll often find northern snakeheads will be part of the mix. They are rapidly spreading throughout the Chesapeake watershed and unfortunately are now found in many non-tidal waters.
If you’re wondering why snakeheads are a concern, consider this: In 2006 to 2007 an inventory study of 35 species of fish was done around the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, before northern snakeheads moved into those waters. The same sampling methods were again performed in 2012 after northern snakeheads arrived. Declines in those 35 species ranged from 30% to 97%, of all of the 35 species observed, 26 either had lower numbers of relative abundance or were not found. Crappie, white perch, and bluegill sunfish showed significant declines as the northern snakehead population boomed.
It is official, the short-lived Maryland swordfish state record was broken with a 318.5 pound fish caught by Jake Bertonazzi while deep dropping a squid bait at Poormans Canyon on August 6, about two weeks after the initial record was set.
Surf anglers are catching a mix of kingfish and spot on pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs. Every once in a while a pompano is being caught by those soaking sand fleas.
At the inlet there is some fun catch-and-release fishing for striped bass at the South Jetty and Route 50 Bridge area, with the occasional striped bass measuring over 28 inches. Flounder are being caught in the inlet on traditional baits and Gulp soft plastics. A few sheepshead have been reported at the South Jetty and are being caught on sand fleas.
The back bays have previously been stirred up a bit, causing water clarity issues for flounder fishing. Water clarity is improving, creating better fishing for flounder. The channels leading to the inlet are always a popular area to fish but of course boat traffic can be a problem at times. The area out in front of the Ocean City Airport offers less boat traffic.
Outside the inlet and at the nearshore shoal areas, Spanish mackerel are being caught by trolling small Drone and Clark spoons behind planers and inline weights. Trolling speeds in the neighborhood of 7 knots are good for Spanish mackerel.
Out at the wreck and reef sites, fishing for black sea bass continues to be good with limit catches not uncommon. At times small dolphin have been showing up around the boats and being caught by casting and retrieving small squid strips. Large flounder are also being caught around the wreck and reef sites by those who target them.
The yellowfin tuna chunk bite at the 30-fathom lumps seems to have slowed down, but may renew soon. The boats venturing out to the canyons are catching yellowfin tuna at the Baltimore and Poormans canyons along with white marlin by trolling rigged ballyhoo.
“There is something about a boat that is powerful soothing to springtime hysterics; you can also learn a whole lot about yourself. Ain’t nothing like a boat to teach a man the worth of quiet contemplation.” —
Robert Ruark, “The Old Man And The Boy”
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.”