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Maryland Fishing Report – March 8

Photo of boy holding a largemouth bass

Michael Hughes went fishing with his parents and caught and released this largemouth bass. Photo by Kelly Hughes

March is upon us and anglers young and old are feeling the urge to venture to their favorite fishing location. Maryland Department of Natural Resources crews are busy stocking trout in many locations for put-and-take anglers. Largemouth bass are becoming more active and along with other species of fish providing exciting fishing opportunities. 

Forecast Summary: March 8 – March 14:

While spring doesn’t officially arrive for a few weeks, the signs of crocus blooms and daffodils are starting to show. As the days grow longer and increasingly warm, Maryland waters will continue to slowly heat up for game fish such as yellow perch that are spawning or preparing to spawn in the next couple weeks. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have risen to the mid 40s.  River temperatures are holding in the low 40s. However, smaller streams and downwind areas on a sunny day will warm faster and will often hold water temperatures in the upper 40s. These are prime locations for spawning yellow perch as they move up from their wintering areas in the downstream portion of rivers.

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. Bay salinities are about normal. Expect average clarity for most Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps, There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the recent full moon March 7-8.

As always, the 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 of man on a small boat holding a fish

Tim Campbell is a patient and persistent angler – his efforts paid off with this amazing 28-inch walleye he caught and released recently in the lower Susquehanna River. Photo courtesy of Tim Campbell

Anglers are anticipating the yellow perch and white perch spawning runs this week in the upper Bay. In many spawning reaches on the western shore, the action has already started due to warmer water temperatures. The upper tidal waters on the eastern side of the Bay are soon to follow. When the water temperatures are right the action is often fast and short lived. Small minnows are the favored bait for the yellow perch, and grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig work for the white perch. When the white perch are found in large numbers, a small jig head of approximately 1/8-ounce with a piece of minnow or bloodworm worked across the current will work wonders. 

The lower Susquehanna River has not seen much in the way of white perch yet due to the cold water coming from the dam but other fish are present. Flathead catfish are holding in the dam pool and a mix of blue and channel catfish can be found in the river channels. Anglers probing the depths with soft plastic jigs can come up with some extraordinary walleye and smallmouth bass.

Middle Bay

In the middle Bay there is plenty of action in the region’s tidal rivers. White perch have ascended the spawning rivers to middle to upper sections of the rivers. On the Choptank River, the larger white perch began to pass through the Denton area last weekend and should be in the Greensboro area this week. 

The vanguard of the yellow perch spawning population began to arrive at spawning areas in the vicinity of Hillsboro on the Tuckahoe Creek and Red Bridges on the Choptank River. The male yellow perch are usually the first to arrive and this is what most anglers caught over the weekend and more than a few measured 10 inches or better. The female yellow perch are arriving at the spawning grounds this week and anglers will begin to see egg strings wrapped around submerged branches and similar structure. Yellow perch spawning locations can be found throughout the Bay region

Photo of man holding up two fish

Ted Kolobow holds up a pair of male yellow perch that surpassed the 9-inch minimum length on the upper Choptank River. Photo by Rich Watts

Small lip-hooked minnows are usually the best bait for yellow perch, fished very close to the bottom. A No. 4 hook and a ½-ounce sinker is one of the simplest rigs to use, just make sure the minnow is presented about 6 inches off the bottom, a surgeon’s loop above the sinker is the simplest way to accomplish this. If you wish to cover more area, a split shot placed a foot or two above the minnow will keep the minnow close to the bottom as you work it along the bottom. In all cases bring plenty of hooks, sinkers, and bait, since snags abound.

Fishing for a mix of channel catfish and blue catfish is good this week. The catfish are holding in the deeper waters of the tidal river channels. Channel catfish can be found in all the region’s tidal rivers and blue catfish are predominant in the middle sections of the Choptank River. Cut bait of gizzard shad, menhaden, or other fish tend to be favorites, but chicken liver or breast and scented baits can work well. 

Anglers are venturing out on the Bay and practicing catch-and-release fishing on pre-spawn striped bass that are working their way up the Bay toward the spawning rivers. Trolling large parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads is popular, as is jigging. Anglers are reminded that barbs on hooks must be flattened or ground off;  when trolling, no more than six lines can be employed and stinger hooks are prohibited. If fishing with bait, circle hooks must be used when targeting striped bass. All spawning rivers are closed to catch-and-release fishing. The DNR website provides information on areas that are open or closed to fishing.

Lower Bay
Photo of young man holding a fish

Cole Cervantes caught this nice white perch while fishing on the Nanticoke River. Photo courtesy of Cole Cervantes

Fishing for white perch in the Nanticoke, Pocomoke, and Wicomico rivers is very good this week as the perch move up through Maryland waters to their spawning grounds in Delaware. Using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are favored ways to fish for them. The tributaries to the Potomac River are also good places to fish for white perch.

Yellow perch can be found in several of the Maryland tributaries to the tidal Potomac River as they actively spawn in the upper reaches of the creeks. Small lip-hooked minnows on a simple bottom rig tend to be the best way to fish for them.

Fishing for blue catfish is excellent this week in the Nanticoke River near Sharptown and the mouth of Marshyhope Creek. Anglers are enjoying fun fishing from the shoreline at Sharptown or fishing from small boats. Menhaden and gizzard shad make excellent bait as does chicken liver, chicken breast, and scented baits. When fishing from an anchored boat, deploying a chum pot close to the bottom will help bring catfish right to the boat.

Catch-and-release fishing for striped bass is open this month until March 31. These are pre-spawn striped bass so utmost care should be taken when releasing them. If trolling, no more than six lines are allowed, hooks on lures must be barbless, and stinger hooks are not allowed. There have been reports of some bird action in the region and anglers are having success with jigging.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of man at a creek holding a rainbow trout

Rainbow trout, photo courtesy of John Handel

Fishing opportunities abound this week throughout Maryland. The DNR trout hatchery crews and regional biologists are busy stocking thousands of trout in trout management waters across the state. The trout management waters have something for everyone, from the veteran fly fisherman to the young family looking for some special time with their children at a convenient and safe location near home. Be sure to check out the DNR trout stocking page to see the latest stockings and location maps.

The world-class trout streams and rivers of the Western Maryland mountains offer some of the finest trout fishing to be found anywhere. Aesthetically pleasing surroundings, rushing waters, and plenty of trout to entertain anglers combine to make this area special.

Crews also stock large numbers of trout in park and community ponds located near population centers, offering easy access to waters teeming with trout this time of year. There are generous numbers of trout stocked in these locations due to suitable conditions right now, so this is the time of the year to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. This is simple bobber-and-worm type fishing, perfect for our younger anglers. 

Children under the age of 16 do not need a fishing license or trout stamp; parents who intend to cast or otherwise help reel in line should first obtain a resident fishing license and trout stamp, which can be purchased online or from one of the many license agents in the state. 

Warming water temperatures are awakening many species of freshwater fish from a more subdued mode of activity this week. At Deep Creek Lake and the upper Potomac River, smallmouth bass and walleye are very active and striking a variety of soft plastic grub and tube lures. 

Largemouth bass are feeling the urge to feed more aggressively this week and anglers are enjoying good action in waters ranging from small farm ponds to larger reservoirs. Grubs, wacky-rigged soft baits, and soft craw jigs are good baits to try near channel edges, drop-offs. and deep structure. Sunny afternoons will bring bass up on shallower flats where targeting them with spinnerbaits, paddletails, jerkbait, and lipless crankbaits can be a good option. 

March and April are excellent times to target crappie, they tend to be active in cooler waters and will be found near structure. Fallen treetops, bridge piers, and marina docks are just a few good places to look for them. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber are good ways to target them. Chain pickerel are very much in play this week and can be found waiting in ambush near shoreline sunken wood and similar structure. Paddletails and lures with single hooks are good choices when fishing for them.

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

Tautog, photo by Monty Hawkins

A few tautog are being caught in and around the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, but most are reported to be a bit shy of the 16-inch minimum. Anglers are also catching a few striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs and working them close to the bottom, but most of these bass are undersized.

Offshore the main event is fishing for large tautog that are holding near the offshore wreck and reef sites. Anglers have been thrilled catching tautog in the double-digit weight category for several weeks.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

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.”