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Maryland Fishing Report – August 17

Photo of man and boy on a dock, holding a white perch

Photo courtesy Daniel McCarter

The summer days keep rolling along – be sure to enjoy what time we have now with kids before they are back to school.

Soon it will be September, exciting times for anglers as water temperatures cool and fishing kicks into high gear. But until then, remember that hot weather creates tough conditions for undersized striped bass that are caught and released. Be sure to check the striped bass fishing advisory forecast to plan your trip and help save the smaller fish for future seasons. 

Image of Striped Bass 7-Day Fishing Advisory Forecast, showing flag days through the week

Forecast Summary: August 17 – August 23:

Cooler weather is predicted all this week with daytime temperatures in the 80s. There will be stable temperatures and calm winds, with a chance of rain and T-storms possible Saturday through Tuesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are cooling and have dropped to about 80 degrees. Maryland rivers are also currently running in the mid to low 70s. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, or fish deeper waters or upwind areas.

At the following locations, adequate oxygen conditions can be found from the surface down to these depth ranges: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, surface to bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 35 feet to bottom; Bloody Point, 20 feet to 35 feet; Bay Bridge, 15 feet to 20 feet; Swan Point, 15 feet; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. Poor deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, where there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet. On the Potomac River, there is adequate oxygen down to 15 feet from the Route 301 Bridge down to the St. Mary’s River. It is likely that in most locations, gamefish will be deeper in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. 

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams all week. There will be above average tidal currents next Tuesday because of the upcoming new moon on August 27.

There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. However, expect lower water clarity from algal blooms in the Bush, Back, and Patapsco rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

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.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo courtesy of man in a small boat holding a large snakehead fish

Snakehead, photo courtesy of Frank Muher

Early morning anglers are trying their luck by casting topwater lures and paddletails in the Conowingo Dam pool and the edges of the Susquehanna Flats. The best action is at dawn, and a few striped bass measuring longer than 19 inches are being caught, although most come up a little short. At the edges of the grass flats, a mix of largemouth bass and snakeheads can turn up when casting frogs and buzzbaits over thick grass. Other grassy areas in the region’s tidal rivers also hold snakeheads.

The area from Pooles Island to Tolchester and south to Swan Point and the Love Point rocks are the places to catch striped bass by live- lining spot or small white perch. Anglers are limiting out with a nice grade of striped bass measuring 20-30 inches or more. Spot are readily available at Sandy Point and the mouth of the Magothy River, while small white perch can be found in the tidal rivers and creeks. Spot and small eels are also effective for live-lining near the Key Bridge piers and channel edges near Pooles Island. Care must always be taken when releasing fish, so visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.

Trolling can be an option along the channel edges in the upper Bay. Most are pulling bucktails dressed with twistertails or small Drone spoons behind inline weights. Also effective is casting paddletails and topwater lures in the early morning hours along shoreline structure of the Bay and the mouths of the tidal rivers. Jigging with soft plastics near the Love Point rocks is another good option. 

White perch can be found in various locations in the upper Bay – the 6-foot and 7-foot knolls and the Snake reef are worth checking out, as are the oyster reefs and hard bottom at the mouths of the tidal rivers. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, pieces of bloodworm or peeler crabs are good choices to catch them. 

There are plenty of blue catfish and channel catfish in the upper Bay and the tidal rivers within the region. Blue catfish can be found almost anywhere, but the lower Susquehanna, Elk, and Chester rivers hold some of the largest populations right now. Channel catfish can be found throughout the region. Cut bait and a variety of other favorites on a simple bottom rig or a sliding egg sinker rig with a circle hook will do the trick.

Middle Bay
 Photo of boy on a boat holding a striped bass

Photo by Eric Packard

The Bay Bridge piers continue to be a favored destination for anglers wishing to drift to the pier bases with live spot, small eels, cut spot or menhaden, or soft crab baits. Fishing for striped bass at the Bay Bridge requires one to arrive as early as possible. The striped bass bite is much better in the early morning hours, and that is when boats begin to anchor up at the choicest groups of piers. 

Anglers casting paddletails, topwater lures, and soft plastic jigs near structure in Eastern Bay, Thomas Point, the rocks at Poplar Island, and areas at the mouths of the tidal rivers are finding striped bass in the early morning hours, usually at dawn. Water temperatures remain at a critical stage for striped bass survival, so anglers are urged to release fish in the water and to cease fishing once the limit is caught. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.

A mix of Spanish mackerel and small bluefish are providing fishing opportunities for anglers trolling a mix of small gold Clark spoons and Drone spoons in a variety of colors behind No. 1 and No. 2 planers. Trolling speeds for Spanish mackerel are about 8 to 9 mph, and for bluefish around 5 mph. The channel edges from Buoy 83 south to the Clay Banks, the Summer Gooses, and RN3 are good places to troll. These channel edges are steep and the fast current there makes it hard for bay anchovies to navigate – but speedsters like Spanish mackerel have no problem racing through the current and picking off the hapless bay anchovies.

Blue catfish are being caught in the lower Choptank River along channel edges from the Dover Bridge south past the town of Choptank. Channel catfish can be found almost anywhere in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. Fresh-cut bait, clam snouts, chicken liver, and nightcrawlers are a few of the most popular baits.

White perch are providing plenty of fun and productive fishing in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks this week. Fishing around docks and piers with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig with a 1-ounce or lighter sinker a No. 4 hook. Casting small spinners or jigs near shoreline structure in the early morning or evening hours is effective.

Lower Bay
Photo of woman in a boat holding a red drum fish

Red drum, photo by Travis Long

The lower Bay offers plenty of fun fishing opportunities with a variety of species, from bottom fishing for spot to trolling for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Large red drum are being caught and released and speckled trout are showing up in the shallower shoreline waters. 

Anglers are trolling a mix of small gold Clark spoons and Drone spoons along channel edges on the eastern side of the Bay and in the Point Lookout area. Small planers are holding the spoons down deep and trolling speeds near 8-9 mph will entice the Spanish mackerel to strike. Slower speeds are more conducive to small bluefish. 

Virginia waters are closed to striped bass fishing until October 4 and the Potomac River is closed until August 22. Anglers are catching a mix of striped bass and speckled trout along the shorelines of Maryland and in the tidal rivers by casting a mix of paddletails, soft plastic jigs, and topwater lures in the early morning and late evening hours. Anglers are reporting a few slot-size red drum being caught now and then; the Tangier Sound area holds the best opportunities for speckled trout and red drum. 

Large red drum are providing exciting catch-and-release fishing action this week on the eastern side of the Bay from the HS Buoy south to the Middle Grounds. They can be caught by trolling with hose lures or large spoons held down with inline weights. Schools of red drum can be spotted in stirred-up waters or slicks and by watching depth finders. Jigging over a school with large 8-inch to 10-inch soft plastic jigs or dropping soft crab baits are good ways to catch them.

Spot and a mix of croaker, white perch, and kingfish are providing fun bottom-fishing action in the lower Potomac River near Cornfield Harbor, the lower Patuxent River, and the Tangier Sound area this week. Catches are very good, and the spot continue to get larger. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm, fresh wild shrimp, squid, and peeler crab are popular baits. 

Recreational crabbers are reporting good catches this week in the middle and lower Bay. The 10-foot to 12-foot edges tend to be producing some of the best catches for those using trotlines or collapsible crab traps. Razor clams continue to outperform chicken necks in most instances. Female crabs and small crabs are reported to be a bit pesky at times but are certainly a good sign. Most crabbers can catch a half-bushel to a full bushel of crabs per outing.

Freshwater Fishing
 Photo of fish caught on a line

Feisty bluegills can always be depended on to aggressively attack lures such as this one. Photo by Eric Packard

Another week of good summer weather is ahead of us, although temperatures have moderated. Soon water temperatures will cool, and fish activity will begin to change. Right now most freshwater fish species are in full summer mode, active at night and the early morning and evening hours, and seeking cooler shade during the heat of the day.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac is best at dawn when anglers can cast topwater lures near grass and shallower structure in the river. Light lines and long casts are necessary due to clear and very low water conditions. Tubes, grubs, and crayfish-looking jigs and crankbaits are good choices as the morning wears on. 

Anglers at Deep Creek Lake are flipping soft plastics, usually in the form of wacky rigged stick worms, under or near floating docks. Fallen treetops and sunken wood are also good places to look for lounging largemouth bass. Drifting minnows deep along deep grass edges is a good way to target yellow perch and smallmouth bass. 

The largemouth bass that inhabit the many reservoirs, ponds, and tidal waters in Maryland are providing plenty of summer fun fishing this week. In the morning and evening hours fishing the shallower grass areas and spatterdock fields with topwater frogs and buzzbaits offers fun topwater action. In tidal waters, snakeheads will often be a big part of the mix, especially on the Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, and lower Dorchester County rivers. 

Later in the morning it is time to target largemouth bass under thick floating grass mats with wacky rigged stick worms. Overhanging brush, fallen treetops, and deep sunken wood are other excellent places to find lounging largemouth bass. Craw jigs and small crankbaits can also be good choices when fishing deep structure.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of man on a boat holding a fish

Photo courtesy of John Melcher-Eydt

The annual White Marlin Open is over for another year, freeing up parking in West Ocean City as many of those magnificently raked offshore sportfishing boats have headed for their home ports. In the end a 77.5-pound white marlin yielded a $4.5 million payoff for a lucky angler and crew.

Surf fishing is in a typical summer mode of activity with some of the better fishing action occurring during the morning hours for a mix of kingfish, spot, croaker, small bluefish and flounder. The kingfish, spot, and croaker are being caught on pieces of bloodworm or artificial scented baits. The bluefish are biting cut mullet or spot and flounder are being caught on squid.

At the inlet, anglers are catching striped bass and bluefish during the morning and evening hours by casting bucktails and jigs; bluefish can also be caught by drifting cut bait. A mix of sheepshead and triggerfish are being caught around the jetty rocks on sand fleas, and flounder on minnows or squid.

Despite some recent stiff northeast winds, the bay waters are clear and provide good flounder fishing in the channels. The East Channel, the Thorofare, and in front of the Ocean City Airport are popular places to drift for flounder this week. 

Outside the inlet, those trolling small Clark spoons behind inline weights and planers are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish. The boats venturing out to the offshore wreck and reef sites are finding good quantities of black sea bass and a mix of small dolphin and flounder. 

Bigeye tuna were a very large part of the White Marlin Open last week, and it is expected that action will continue. Seas at the offshore canyons have been rough but are expected to lay down in the next day or so. Hopefully a mix of large wahoo, bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and white and blue marlin will be waiting for anglers.

“Ninety percent of all fishing knowledge is local knowledge.” – Bernard “Lefty” Kreh

Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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.”