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Maryland Fishing Report – October 26

Photo of boy on a boardwalk holding up two fish

Reed Spires proudly holds up striped bass he and his dad each caught in Eastern Bay recently. Photo by Jason Spires

Summer temperatures are a distant memory, but the splashes of fall colors and excellent fishing opportunities throughout Maryland more than make up for it. This is a wonderful time to be out with family and friends fishing for everything from trout to striped bass.

Forecast Summary: October 26 – November 1:

Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are in the low 60s, while 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 to move throughout the water column in many Bay areas as they feed on baitfish leaving the cooler river mouths. 

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents through the end of the week due to the recent new moon on October 25.

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.

Upper Chesapeake Bay

Striped bass fishing remains uneventful at the Conowingo Dam pool and the Susquehanna Flats. Anglers report a few fish are being taken on poppers, crankbaits, and paddletails in the early morning hours. They do report that there are plenty of large flathead catfish in the dam pool waiting to take cut bait cast near the turbine discharges. Blue catfish and channel catfish are very common in the lower Susquehanna and surrounding tidal rivers.

The striped bass action begins to pick up from the area from Pooles Island to Tolchester, and south to the Bay Bridge. Breaking fish are being spotted throughout the region as they chase schools of juvenile menhaden, which are exiting the tidal rivers. Jigging is a very popular light-tackle method of fishing for striped bass. Trolling tandem bucktails, spoons, and umbrella rigs are also popular for those who do not mind using heavy tackle. 

As water temperatures drop, bait is moving out into the Bay and being swept along channel edges by swift currents. The mouths of the tidal rivers along channel edges are usually a great place to look for action, but the main channels in the Bay also offer good opportunities. The mouth of the Patapsco, Chester, and Magothy rivers have been hotspots this week, but do not overlook the Sassafras and Bohemia if you’re in the area. The Love Point rocks is always a good spot to check when the tide is running. It is a great place to cast soft plastic jigs and work them across the current close to the bottom. 

Exploring the shorelines of the Bay and lower sections of the tidal rivers should not be overlooked for light-tackle anglers who can get out in the morning or evening hours. Overcast skies extend the action later into the day. Casting poppers, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and paddletails can offer a lot of fun action. 

White perch are settling into deeper waters in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers, usually over oyster and other types of hard-bottom, and at bridge piers. Using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or peeler crab is a good way to catch them. Dropper rigs with small flies also work well.

Middle Bay
Photo of man in a boat holding a striped bass

Craig Roberts sent in this picture of his friend Vince with a nice striped bass caught by trolling deep with white bucktails near Thomas Point. Photo by Craig Roberts

The Bay Bridge piers continue to hold striped bass, although there are many other options for finding them in the middle Bay. Striped bass love to hold near structure. A few anglers are drifting cut menhaden or spot, peeler crab, or live eels back towards the pier bases, but most are jigging with bucktails and soft plastics. White perch are beginning to stack up near some of the deeper piers and the rock piles and will continue to do so through November. These are usually large perch and heavy dropper rigs are the way to get to them in the strong currents that prevail at the bridge. 

Baitfish in the form of juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies are pouring out of the tidal rivers, and striped bass are schooled up at the river mouths and feasting on them. The Severn, West, and Choptank rivers as well as Eastern Bay are excellent places to find plenty of action. The action will often be marked by diving seagulls, but slicks can be a giveaway to subsurface action. 

Jigging is the most popular and fun way to fish for striped bass right now. When jigging in 20 feet or more of water, braided line can be a real asset for better sensitivity and less drag in currents. A fluorocarbon leader is used with most first-generation braids, but new hollow core clear braids open a whole new era of jigging. A fast-action rod helps when jigging with metal or soft plastic jigs. Most allow the jig to settle to the bottom and work the jig with upward movement of the rod, striped bass will often pick up a jig as it flutters down as well as up. 

Trolling is an option in various situations. Tandem or single bucktails dressed with twistertails can be trolled in relatively shallow waters in the river mouths. Spoons can also be effective. Out in deeper waters along channel edges, tandem rigged bucktails or umbrella rigs behind inline weights are used to get down to where fish are suspended near the bottom.

White perch are being found deeper in the tidal rivers near structure and over oyster reefs. Many anglers are using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or using dropper rigs with small flies or soft plastic jigs. 

Lower Bay

Some of the best striped bass fishing is occurring in the lower Potomac River this week. The Potomac River Fisheries Commission also allows a catch limit of two striped bass over 20 inches daily – check their website to see what kind of licenses are needed to fish there. 

The areas around the mouth of the Wicomico River, Cobb Island, and St. Georges Island are popular places to fish this week. The lower Patuxent River from the Benedict Bridge to Cedar Point has also been a big draw.

Anglers are jigging with good success, trolling tandem rigged bucktails or pulling umbrella rigs behind inline weights to get them down to where the fish are holding along deep channel edges.

The shorelines of the Potomac River, the St. Marys River, the Point Lookout shorelines, and the marshes of the Eastern Shore are all excellent places to cast poppers, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and paddletails for a mix of striped bass, small red drum and speckled trout. The best times are in the morning and evening hours, or anytime during the overcast days this week. The speckled trout are mostly being found on the eastern side of the Bay. Slot size red drum are also being caught there by fishing soft crab or cut baits on outgoing tides at some of the marsh creeks and rivers. 

Photo of researchers with nets on a boat

This picture shows blue catfish responding to electrofishing — in which they are temporarily stunned for study — in the Nanticoke River. Photo by Erik Yetter

White perch are transitioning to deeper waters in the tidal rivers and can be found holding over oyster reefs or deep structure. Bridge piers are a magnet for schools of white perch where they will hold tight in the current flows. Dropper rigs with small flies are a favorite choice but pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig will work well also. 

Blue catfish can be found in great numbers in the tidal portions of the Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers this week. They continue to be found in the middle to lower sections of the rivers. Most any cut bait will work, but oily baits of menhaden are the most popular. Much like the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, the blue catfish population in the Nanticoke River is expanding greatly. These invasives tend to have an appetite for almost everything, including all species of fish. Several studies have shown that when they descend to the lower portions of the tidal rivers during the summer months they are feasting on blue crabs.

A few recreational crabbers are out running trotlines and collapsible traps this week, despite chilly temperatures. The crabs tend to be in the lower sections of the tidal rivers, and they are often deep. The crabs are reported to be heavy and huge and found in waters as deep as 25 feet. 

Freshwater Fishing

The fall trout stocking program continues this week for put-and-take anglers across the state. Be sure to check the DNR trout stocking website to locate the most recent trout stockings. Please note that some streams in the western region may be running too low to successfully spread out the trout, despite recent rain.

Photo of a brown fish with wavy lines on its skin, caught in a net

Tiger trout, photo by Ed Myslinski

There are other trout management waters that cater to anglers who prefer fly fishing and practicing catch and release. Many of these trout management waters are stocked with brown trout and have wild populations of both brown and brook trout. These wild species spawn in the fall and despite a different number of chromosomes they can cross-breed when milt from a brook trout fertilizes the egg of a brown trout. Brown trout have 80 chromosomes and brook trout have 84. Most brown trout eggs fertilized in this manner in the wild do not survive, but when they do we see a trout that is wildly different from either species. They are commonly called tiger trout because of their vermiculation – wavy lines on their skin. Tiger trout are mostly piscivorous, eating small fish, and they are a wonderful surprise for any angler.

Cooler water temperatures at Deep Creek Lake mean good fishing for walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch, to name a few. Jigging with grubs and small crankbaits work well for the walleye, and the smallmouth and largemouth bass will go for a mix of crankbaits, jerkbaits, soft craw jigs, and spinnerbaits. 

The upper Potomac River is offering good fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye this week. Current breaks, underwater ledges, and areas behind deep boulders are good places to cast a mix of tubes, grubs, small crankbaits and soft craw jigs. Fallen leaves and floating grass can be a pesky problem at times but all part of fall fishing. 

Largemouth bass are very active as they feel the urge to build up body stores for the winter. Much of the fishing action now occurs throughout the day, and existing grass and any kind of submerged structure are good places to cast. A mix of spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and lipless crankbaits can be good choices along declining edges of grass. Grubs, soft plastics, and craw jigs are good choices to work near deeper sunken wood. 

In tidal waters, Northern snakeheads will be looking for cover as grass beds decline, and shoreline brush is a good place to look for them. Casting white paddletails and fishing large minnows under a bobber are good ways to catch them this time of the year. 

Chain pickerel are very active now that water temperatures are cool. Look for them holding near shoreline sunken wood and in deeper waters near tree stumps or any kind of structure. A variety of lures will get the attention of chain pickerel.

Yellow perch are moving up tidal rivers and creeks and can be caught by casting beetle-spins, small jigs, and lip-hooked minnows. They can also be found in several impoundments – Deep Creek Lake, Piney Reservoir, and Loch Raven Reservoir are just a few. Crappie are schooling up near deep structure – bridge piers, marina docks, and fallen tree tops are good places to look for them.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of more than a dozen flounder that were caught

David Weller sent in this picture of an impressive catch he and his friends accomplished at the inlet. Photo by David Weller

Surf anglers continue to catch a mix of kingfish, spot, and flounder this week. Those casting large baits of cut menhaden or mullet are catching and releasing a few large red drum, along with striped bass. 

At the inlet, anglers fishing with sand fleas are catching sheepshead and tautog. Flounder are being caught with live spot or finger mullet, or traditional baits of squid and minnows. Striped bass are being caught by casting bucktails and soft plastic jigs near the jetties, the Route 50 Bridge, and bulkheads.

Flounder are exiting the back bay waters, so the channels leading to the inlet are some of the better locations to fish for them. Drifting with live spot, small menhaden, and finger mullet are popular ways to target the larger flounder. There are some striped bass being caught near the bridge piers of the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges; most fail to meet the 28-inch minimum but the action is still fun. 

Fishing for sea bass and a mix of porgies, triggerfish, and flounder is very good this week at the offshore wreck and reef sites. Those headed out to the canyons are fishing for blueline tilefish and swordfish.

“A good angler can teach people to catch fish. A good fish can teach people to feed it.” –Anonymous

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.”