Maryland Fishing Report – April 13
Maryland appears to be taking a big leap into spring weather this weekend, so be sure to find yourself outdoors fishing with family and friends. Trout fishing is on the top of the list for many freshwater anglers, especially our youngsters.
Be sure to check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website for the Chesapeake Bay striped bass regulations for 2022.
Forecast Summary: April 13 – April 19:
The spring weather will continue to warm Maryland Bay waters for gamefish, including shad and herring which are spawning or preparing to spawn in the next couple of weeks. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have risen several degrees to the low to middle 50s. Smaller streams and downwind areas on a sunny day will warm faster and can hold water temperatures in the mid to upper 50s. Such areas where there is also low salinity will be prime to look for shad and herring on their spawning runs.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams this week. Expect average water clarity in the Bay, with some reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the Bush, Gunpowder, and Back rivers, and the Potomac River from the St. Mary’s River up to the Wicomico River. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
There will be above average tidal currents Wednesday as a result of the upcoming full moon April 16-17.
As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the Bay, be sure to check out Eyes on the Bay’s Click Before You Cast.
Anglers fishing in the lower Susquehanna River are experiencing cloudy water conditions and above average flows from the Conowingo Dam. Water clarity will steadily improve later on this week, and warm air temperatures will help raise water temperatures. White perch are holding in the river and are being caught by casting small jigs and shad darts tipped with grass shrimp or a piece of bloodworm. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are also very effective.
Anglers are reminded that the Susquehanna River, Flats, and all areas of the upper Bay are closed to catch-and-release fishing for striped bass. If you are fishing and happen to inadvertently catch a striped bass, release it in the water immediately, do not bring it on board for pictures. If you are fishing for blue catfish, you are urged to use circle hooks, which will make your life easier when unhooking the fish.
Blue catfish are a big draw for those who like to see a large bend in their fishing rod and some tasty filets on the dinner table. The Susquehanna and nearby waters of the upper Bay are full of them and they are actively taking a variety of bait. Everything from traditional cut baits of gizzard shad, menhaden, and white perch work well, along with clam snouts, chicken liver or breast meat, and prepared scented baits.
Hickory shad are steadily moving into the lower Susquehanna and a few are being caught in the river near the dam and Octoraro Creek. Brightly colored shad darts in pink, yellow, chartreuse, white, and gold are a basic selection of colors; small gold and silver spoons are often used in a tandem rig.
The white perch in the region’s tidal rivers have moved down to the middle sections of the rivers, and are steadily moving to their late spring and summer habitats. Fishing with a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm is a good way to target them in more open waters. A mix of channel catfish and blue catfish can be found in all of the region’s tidal rivers.
The spawning populations of striped bass are holding in the Choptank River waiting for water temperatures to rise a little more to their liking. There has been a small amount of spawning and with air temperatures predicted to be as high as 80 degrees this week, the spawn will surely kick into high gear. During this time the Choptank River is closed as is the Bay to all catch-and-release fishing for striped bass. Pre-spawn striped bass will be passing through the middle Bay the next couple of weeks as they head up to the Susquehanna Flats and River to spawn. That is typically one of the latest areas where striped bass will spawn due to cold water coming down the river from the Conowingo Dam.
White perch are now being found in the middle to lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Anglers are catching them on small jigs and shad darts that often are tipped with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. White perch usually reach their summer habitat preferences by the end of April.
Fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish is a big draw for anglers looking for some fishing action during the striped bass closure. Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river within the middle Bay. The Choptank River holds the greatest number of blue catfish, but they are showing up in the other tidal rivers within the region with increasing regularity. The Dover Bridge area right now offers some of the best blue catfish fishing. Fresh cut baits, chicken liver, or chicken breast make good baits on a circle hook and fish finder rig. The Santee Cooper rig is perhaps one of the best rigs when fishing with fresh cut bait; the 2-inch float helps keep the bait dancing off the bottom. A 7/0 circle hook that is snelled makes a good rig with a 3-ounce inline sinker.
Hickory shad are starting to be caught and released in the Choptank River in the area of Greensboro up to Red Bridges. The predicted warmer weather this week may spur the spawning run to kick into a higher gear. Casting small colorful shad darts and small gold or silver spoons are typical offerings. It pays to have a variety of shad darts in your tackle box since color preferences can change due to sunlight and water clarity conditions.
There is a variety of fun fishing opportunities in the lower Bay tidal rivers – white perch and blue catfish can be found in the middle sections of the tidal rivers, and hickory shad and American shad are now being found across the District of Columbia line on the Potomac River.
White perch are steadily moving downriver from their spawning areas and will eventually move into their typical late spring and summer habitat in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and creeks. Anglers are having good success by fishing bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm in the deeper waters. Slowly working small jigs on dropper rigs or in tandem are another viable way to fish for white perch at this time in the deeper waters.
Large numbers of blue catfish can be found in the middle section of the Potomac River in the Wilson Bridge south and in the Patuxent River from Jug Bay to Benedict. The Sharpstown area of the Nanticoke River has a large population of blue catfish and is a great place for Eastern Shore anglers. Fresh cut baits of gizzard shad, menhaden or white perch are excellent choices. but some anglers are having good luck with chicken breast and liver.
Fishing for northern snakeheads is quickly improving with warmer water temperatures brought on by sunny and warm days. The tidal creeks and rivers in lower Dorchester County are ground zero for snakehead anglers on the Eastern Shore. Snakeheads can also be found in the Wicomico River. The creeks that feed into the tidal Potomac contain large numbers of snakeheads, and nighttime bowfishing gets better each week. Casting paddle tails for fishing a large minnow under a float are both excellent ways to fish for snakeheads.
American shad and hickory shad have arrived at the Chain Bridge and Fletchers Landing area of the tidal Potomac and anglers are enjoying some exciting catch-and-release fishing. It is a great place to fish from shore or launch a kayak or canoe, and rowboats can be rented at Fletchers Landing. Casting shad darts of various colors or small gold spoons in tandem is a popular offering. Some of the more popular shad dart colors include white and red, yellow, gold, pink, and chartreuse. The Patuxent River also has a run of hickory shad and they are generally found above and below the Route 4 crossing, also known as Wayson’s Corner.
Trout anglers continue to enjoy excellent fishing in many of the trout management areas this week. Not every trout water can be stocked every week but if one pays attention to the DNR trout stocking website or receives our stocking notices by email, good trout fishing is not far away. Water flows have been good in the rivers and creeks that are being stocked, and the ponds that are being stocked still retain cool enough water for trout to survive.
Milder weather means it is time for fishing rodeos and community fishing events. These events are a great way to introduce children to fishing and the fun element of competition. They are held throughout Maryland by community-based organizations at local public ponds. They offer a wonderful opportunity for families to enjoy fun together in a safe environment and there are usually plenty of prizes. Check the DNR website for fishing rodeos in your region.
Deep Creek Lake is coming into its own as milder weather makes it more comfortable to go out fishing on the reservoir. Fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye is very good along deep grass lines, and rocky points are an excellent place to fish for smallmouth. Largemouth bass can be found in the shallower areas of the reservoir, while northern pike are holding at the mouths of the major coves in the upper part of the reservoir.
The upper Potomac River is looking good for fishing this weekend; right now the waters are a bit stained and still high from recent rains, but they should clear up by the end of the week. Fishing for smallmouth bass is good for those casting tubes, soft plastic jigs, small crankbaits, and swimbaits.
Largemouth bass are in a pre-spawn mode of behavior and are very active as they feed aggressively. In some of the warmer areas of Maryland, male largemouth bass are moving into the shallower waters to prepare spawning beds. The larger females can often be found in nearby deeper waters. Spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs, paddle tails, stick worms, and lipless crankbaits can be good choices for lures. Soft plastic creature baits can be a good choice near the spawning areas.
Fishing for chain pickerel continues to be good in tidal waters and ponds and reservoirs across Maryland. Crappie fishing is also good as the crappie school up near structure – fallen treetops, marina docks, sunken wood, and bridge piers are all good places to look for them. Fishing small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber is a good way to target them.
Anglers who enjoy surf fishing are catching medium-sized black drum along the beaches, and some have even reported catching and releasing large red drum. Clearnose skates are commonly a big part of the mix also. Clams and sand fleas have been popular baits.
At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, tautog are being caught; a fair percentage fail to meet the 16-inch minimum but most anglers are able to catch a few legal sized fish to take home. Sand fleas are one of the most popular baits but pieces of green crab are working well also.
Flounder are becoming a more common catch for those who are targeting them in and around the inlet and the channels leading from the inlet. White Gulp baits on a bottom rig or on a jig head are popular, but the traditional squid and minnow rig is always tried and true for back bay flounder.
Striped bass are providing some fun catch-and-release action at the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, as well as the Route 90 Bridge. Casting soft plastic jigs and paddle tails and working them close to the bottom is working well.
Offshore at the wreck and reef sites large tautog are being caught by anglers on charter and party boats.
There are some updates on regulations for coastal and offshore species as we approach the summer fishing season in the Ocean City area. Black sea bass season will be open May 15 through December 11, and anglers will be able to keep up to 15 black sea bass per person per day with a minimum size of 13 inches. Anglers should also keep checking the DNR public notices web page for summer flounder regulations, which will be announced soon.
Finally, offshore anglers should check the NOAA website for recently announced federal regulations on dolphin and wahoo. In a nutshell, there will be changes to catch levels, sector allocations, accountability, and management measures for Atlantic Ocean dolphin and wahoo fisheries for waters beyond 3 miles offshore. If you have questions, please contact NOAA at 727-824-5305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Freud defined normality as the ability to love and work. Well, I love fishing and work very hard at it. It is comforting to know that this is normal. “ – William G. Tapply
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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