Maryland Fishing Report – October 19
Anglers are bundling up and enjoying fall fishing at its finest out on the Chesapeake Bay and in Maryland’s freshwater locations, which offer a variety of species. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources fall trout stocking program is in full swing.
DNR and the Maryland Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission are proud to announce Captain Bruno M. Vasta and the late Jim Gracie each as recipients of the Maryland Sport Fisheries Achievement Awards for 2022.
Forecast Summary: October 19 – October 25:
Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have dropped to the low 60s and should continue cooling all week. Maryland rivers are currently running in the mid 50s.
Bay waters have mixed from surface to bottom resulting in good oxygen conditions and uniform water temperatures throughout the water column. This will result in fish being able move throughout the water column in many Bay areas as they feed on baitfish leaving the cooler rivers mouths.
Expect average water clarity for most Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers. However, expect poor water clarity from algal blooms in the Back, Bush, Sassafras, Bohemia, and North East rivers.
To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland DNR 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.
Anglers who are casting a mix of topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails in the Conowingo Dam pool at sunrise are catching a few striped bass this week. The fishing action can be best described as fair at best, but sometimes it is just good to get out and fish. The Susquehanna Flats area is even less productive, with poor reports being received from anglers working the edges of the grass and channels.
Flathead catfish can be found in the Conowingo Dam pool and a mix of channel and blue catfish are spread from the lower Susquehanna River out into the Bay and surrounding tidal rivers. The blue catfish are becoming rather large, with many exceeding 30 pounds or more. Catfish are relatively easy to catch on a variety of baits, but a chum pot on the bottom and fresh-cut gizzard shad or menhaden will up the odds.
Occasionally, DNR receives reports and pictures of introduced exotic fish being found in the Bay. We’ve had opaca, Amazon algae eaters, and Oscars that were aquarium dumps. This month we learned of two catfish from South America – a red-tail in the Back River and an armored catfish on a roadside in Howard County. Anglers are invited to let us know of any stray, exotic, or introduced species through the Angler’s Log email at email@example.com.
There are still some striped bass in the area from Pooles Island to Tolchester, but now that water temperatures are in the mid to low 60-degree range most striped bass are feeling comfortable to spread out in a variety of areas. Small menhaden and bay anchovies are exiting the region’s tidal rivers, and striped bass are waiting for them at the river mouths and steep channel edges in the Bay. These striped bass are fattening up for the winter months and are in their best form. Jigging with soft plastics and metal are the most popular light-tackle ways to target them.
Striped bass are holding near the mouths of the Patapsco, Chester, and Magothy rivers. The Love Point rocks and several knolls in the upper Bay are also being reported as good places to jig or troll.
Trolling can often be popular and productive but often involves heavy inline weights and umbrella rigs to get down to where the fish are holding. Bucktails dressed with twistertails or sassy shads tend to be the most popular trailers. Channel edges are often the best places to target.
Striped bass in the middle Bay are transitioning into a fall pattern of behavior due to water temperatures falling into the mid to low 60s, and bait is moving out of the tidal rivers. This sets up a situation for jigging that anglers enjoy, but striped bass can also be found in shallower waters to the delight of anglers casting poppers.
At the Bay Bridge, striped bass are being caught by anglers casting jigs near the bridge piers. Drifting with live spot, small white perch, and eels is working well, along with cut spot and peeler crab baits. Spot are becoming increasingly scarce as most have moved south into Virginia waters. A few are being caught at the shallower end of the western side of the bridge. Most anglers are now fishing for white perch at the shallower end of the bridge, using peeler crab and bloodworms for bait or dropper jigs rigged with small flies or soft plastics.
Striped bass are spread throughout the middle Bay, at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers, the main channels in the Bay, and the shallows in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and Bay shores. The edges of the shipping channel, Thomas Point, the Buoy 83 channel edge, Eastern Bay, and the False Channel are just a few of the more popular areas to find striped bass.
Juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies are exiting the tidal rivers due to the drop in water temperatures and being swept along by stiff currents in the channels. Jigging with soft plastics or metal is the most common way to fish and provides plenty of fun light-tackle action. At times the action will be marked with large numbers of seagulls diving into breaking fish, which is an angler’s delight. Another good tactic is to watch for slicks that are the result of striped bass feeding on baitfish deeper in the water, which can be verified by a depth finder to reveal striped bass holding deep.
Trolling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights is another method for catching striped bass this week. Heavy tackle is required to haul in fish, inline weights, and umbrella rigs without a lot of struggles from the fish, but it is an effective way to catch striped bass holding deep along channel edges.
The shallow-water fishing for striped bass is a wonderful opportunity for light-tackle anglers using spinning gear or a fly rod. Poppers are the most common lure for spinning tackle – the surface strikes are always exciting. Using skipping bugs and a floating fly line offers unforgettable fun. Fly-fishing tackle can also be used in deeper waters with equally good results. Deceivers and Clousers cast with a sinking tip line will be readily taken by striped bass.
White perch are steadily moving into deeper waters at the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and holding over oyster reefs. Bottom rigs baited with peeler crab or pieces of bloodworms work well, as do dropper rigs using small flies or soft plastic jigs.
Channel catfish can be found in the middle sections of the region’s tidal rivers and will readily take a variety of baits. Blue catfish can be found in all the tidal rivers, but the Choptank River holds the greatest concentration at this time. The blue catfish are mostly found in the section of the river from the town of Choptank up to the Dover Bridge.
Striped bass fishing in the lower Bay is greatly improving as water temperatures cool and striped bass feel comfortable to move through various areas. The shallow water fishery is excellent on the eastern side of the Bay, along the shores of the marsh islands, and in the cuts through Hoopers Island. The lower Potomac, St. Mary’s, and the lower Patuxent rivers are all providing excellent opportunities for anglers casting poppers, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and paddletails. Anglers are also finding a mix of speckled trout and small red drum when working the shallower waters.
There are still some bluefish around this week, but they are quickly heading south to Virginia waters. Breaking fish are being encountered in the lower Bay and the bluefish may be mixed in with striped bass that are working on schools of juvenile menhaden and adult bay anchovies. Jigging is the most popular way to work these breaking fish, but trolling along the outsides of the action can pay off as well.
Trolling is becoming a more popular way to fish for striped bass along channel edges where fish may be suspended or near breaking fish action. Heavy inline weights and umbrella rigs are the tackle being used.
The spot may be gone for the most part, but white perch are moving into the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and holding over oyster bottom, providing plenty of action. They can also be found near deep-water docks and bridge piers. Most anglers are jigging around structure and in deep water with dropper rigs and small single jigs. There are reports of large perch still holding in shallower waters and they can be caught on small jigs, spinners, and Roadrunner type lures.
Blue catfish are ready and willing to take fresh cut baits of menhaden or gizzard shad from anglers this week. The Patuxent River, the tidal Potomac and its tributaries, and the Nanticoke and other Eastern Shore rivers and creeks hold great numbers of these invasive catfish.
The fall trout stocking is well underway and offering plenty of excuses to go fishing in trout management waters near you. The stockings are being done regionally and are posted online and sent by email daily. Be aware the trout stockings are often hindered by low streamflow conditions that exist during the fall months.
Cooler water temperatures usually mean better freshwater fishing for a variety of species. Smallmouth bass are very active and can be found in transition zones between declining shallow grass beds and deeper cover. Crayfish and baitfish are moving to the deeper waters seeking a hideout for the winter months. Jigs and crankbaits that resemble crayfish are a good bet to work close to the bottom. Spinnerbaits are another good option to use along the outside edges of declining grass beds.
Largemouth bass are also following the same general pattern and if there is any cover in the form of existing grass or sunken wood, the fish will stick to it like glue. They are active throughout the day now that the waters are cool. Northern snakeheads are watching their grass bed lairs slowly disappear and now find themselves out in more open water. This is a great time to cover water by casting white paddletails and drifting large minnows under a bobber.
Crappie and yellow perch are more active with cooler water temperatures. The crappie can be found holding near deeper structure – fallen treetops, marina docks, and bridge piers are all good places to look for them. Yellow perch are moving up the tidal rivers and can be caught on small minnows, jigs, and Beetle-spin type lures. In freshwater impoundments the perch can be found along deep grass edges and shoal areas, or at the lumps in deep-water areas. Small minnows and lures are good choices to fish for them.
Cooler water temperatures spur chain pickerel to be active and they can provide plenty of fun action in tidal and fresh waters. As grass beds decline, they will station near sunken wood, lying in ambush for small fish. Chain pickerel will strike most any kind of lure and they usually hit them hard and often get a mouthful. Treble hooks can spell trouble when they get embedded in the gills. Changing out to single hooks can go a long way to help the angler in unhooking fish and saving the life of a released chain pickerel.
Surf conditions have settled down and anglers are catching a mix of kingfish, spot, and croaker on pieces of bloodworm. Those fishing larger baits of cut menhaden or mullet are still catching and releasing a few large red drum. Our neighbors up north recently experienced epic fishing for large striped bass amidst huge schools of menhaden. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough that some of those trophy-sized striped bass will pass along our beaches.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, a mix of striped bass and bluefish are being caught near the jetties and in the inlet by casting jigs or drifting cut bait. Undersized tautog tend to be common, but legal-sized ones are being caught; sand fleas are the bait of choice.
The channels leading towards the Ocean City inlet are the best places to fish for flounder this week. Cooler water temperatures and decreased photo period are urging flounder to leave the coastal bays and head to their offshore spawning grounds. Striped bass are offering some good fishing near the Route 90 Bridge, most fail to meet the 28-inch minimum but offer plenty of fun catch-and-release action.
Fishing for flounder is very good at many of the inshore wreck and reef sites as they gather near structure on their offshore migration. Sea bass fishing is excellent this week with limit catches being common. Anglers are also catching a mix of porgies, triggerfish, and Atlantic bonito. The small dolphin have left for more southern waters.
The boats headed out to the canyons are focusing on catching blueline tilefish this week. Others are catching swordfish. There are also some reports of small dolphin still holding close to the lobster pot buoys.
“Trout don’t live in ugly places.” – Milan Miller, bluegrass musician (citing the title of one of his songs)
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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