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Maryland Fishing Report – May 3

Photo of man and young daughter holding a large group of fish on a line

This father and daughter teamed up to put a nice catch together that is destined for a fish fry. Photo by David Jones

Fishing in Maryland is a wonderful activity to share with family and friends and anglers are enjoying every bit of it. Another species of fish that is not often in the spotlight but is very important is the bluegill sunfish. This is often the first fish that young or new anglers catch and if the sunfish are large enough, they make excellent eating.

The Trophy Striped Bass Season is now open and although weather conditions have not been ideal so far this week, anglers are hopeful conditions will improve.  

As a reminder, most individuals who fish in Maryland’s coastal and tidal waters are required to have either a valid Maryland Bay and Coastal Sport Fishing License or Maryland Saltwater Angler Registration,  with a few exemptions. The registry was Maryland’s answer to comply with a federal requirement established more than a decade ago – it is an important part of protecting Maryland’s fishing opportunities, as data collected helps state and federal agencies sustainably manage U.S. fish stocks. 

To make it even easier to obtain the state’s free saltwater registration, Maryland now provides a convenient online form that does not require you to create an account in the state licensing system. You can also register a Department of Natural Resources Service Center or sport license agent, through the state’s online COMPASS License and Registration System with an account and login.

For more information, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.

Forecast Summary: May 3 – May 9:

Moderate, wet weather this past week will keep water temperatures temporarily cooler than normal for game fish in Maryland waters. Main Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are holding in the upper 50s. Recent rains and the increased flows and cooler water temperatures may help bring shad into Maryland’s creeks for waiting anglers.

As a result of the recent rains, expect above average flows all week. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the  full moon on May 6.

Expect average Bay water clarity, however, expect temporary localized reduced water clarity from the recent rains in some smaller rivers and creeks. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.

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 holding a large snakehead fish in front of a concrete terrace

Vincent Smith holds up a big northern snakehead he caught at Conowingo Dam recently. Photo courtesy of Vincent Smith

Last week’s heavy rain will affect the lower Susquehanna, Deer Creek, and Octoraro Creek for several days at least. If the waters of the creeks warm up, it is possible that the increased flows may spur a spawning run of hickory shad. At the Conowingo Dam pool, anglers are catching and releasing a mix of hickory and American shad on shad darts and small silver spoons rigged in tandem. Snakeheads are holding in the dam pool and anglers are catching them on paddletails.

A mix of flathead, channel, and blue catfish make up the largest portion of what anglers are targeting and catching. The flatheads are holding in the dam pool below the power turbines, looking for lunch to come through the turbine blades. The blue catfish and channel catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna River and the upper Bay’s other tidal rivers.

White perch are still being found in the lower Susquehanna River this week, but high water flows may make fishing difficult. White perch in the upper Bay’s tidal rivers and creeks are now being found in the lower parts of the rivers, and fishing with grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs remains popular. Anglers are beginning to report white perch holding near docks, prominent points, and structure along shorelines, casting small jigs and spinners are becoming more productive and will continue to do so through the month of May. 

Anglers looking to fish for striped bass opening day were treated to rough conditions. The waters south of the Brewerton Channel are open to striped bass fishing, with a limit of one fish per day and a minimum size of 35 inches. The steep channel edges of the Craighill shipping channel near Sandy Point will be a popular place to troll, and the approach channel below the Triple Buoys near the mouth of the Sassafras may also be worth a look. The waters of the upper Bay are a bit stained from last week’s rain so chartreuse parachutes, bucktails, and sassy shads might be a good choice for colors.

Middle Bay

Fishing for trophy-sized striped bass will be front and center for many middle Bay anglers this week. At many of the traditional steep edges of the shipping channel, boats will be trolling a mix of large parachutes and bucktails dressed with large sassy shads and rigged in tandem. The steep channel edge off the Brick House Bar, Gum Thickets, Thomas Point, Bloody Point, Buoy 83, Breezy Point, the Choptank CP Buoy, and off Calvert Cliffs are just a few of the places to troll. Others may try their luck at chumming and chunking at the outside edge of Hacketts or Thomas points. Anglers are reminded that the striped bass limit is one fish per day per angler with a 35-inch minimum. The Choptank River is closed to striped bass fishing, and others only allow catch and release. A map on the Department of Natural Resources website can help clarify boundary lines. 

There are plenty of catfish to be caught in the Choptank River for anglers fishing from shore or from small boats. Channel catfish tend to be everywhere and the best blue catfish reports are still coming from below Denton. A mix of blue and channel catfish can also have a habit of showing up out in the Bay if you are chunking or chumming for striped bass this month. The Miles, Wye, and Severn rivers also have substantial populations of channel catfish and increasing numbers of blue catfish.

White perch are now beginning to be found in their typical summer habitat areas at the lower sections of tidal rivers and creeks. Grass shrimp on a simple one hook bottom rig or small jig head worked close to structure is a proven tactic. Pieces of bloodworm can fill in if you can’t catch your own grass shrimp. In the evenings, white perch will start to show up along shoreline structures such as rocky points, breakwaters, or sunken wood. Casting small spinners, spinnerbaits or small soft plastic jigs are a great way to fish for them.

Lower Bay

Striped bass anglers will become more prevalent this week as winds hopefully diminish. The steep channel edges of the shipping channel in front of Cove Point. Cedar Point, Buoy 76 south to the HS Buoy, Point Lookout, Smith Point, and the steep channel edges of the lower Potomac River will be targeted. 

Photo of boy holding a fish

Young Henrik Boz was fishing from shore on Hoopers Island when he came up with a surprise, the first speckled trout we’ve been able to confirm this season. Photo by Dave Ziegler

Trolling with large parachutes and bucktails rigged in tandem along the various depths of the steeper channel edges is a good tactic. Chumming, chunking, and light-tackle jigging are fun and productive alternatives to trolling. The Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge is always attractive to light-tackle anglers hoping to entice a trophy-size striped bass to take a soft plastic jig, and if the fish fail to meet the 35-inch minimum length, the catch-and-release is always a lot of fun. 

There are reports of spot showing up where anglers are fishing for white perch in the lower Patuxent River this week. White perch are arriving at the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and can be caught on grass shrimp, bloodworms, or small jigs.

Fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish is very good in the tidal Potomac from the Wilson Bridge south to the Route 301 Bridge, in the Patuxent River from Benedict to Jug Bay, and in the Nanticoke near Sharpstown. More and more anglers are targeting blue catfish once they find out how much fun they are to catch and how good they can taste.

Although the fishery is showing signs of slowing down, hickory shad and American shad are still being caught in the uppermost section of the tidal Potomac River and Mattawoman Creek. Shad darts rigged in tandem with small silver spoons is the best rig to use. 

May is traditionally a very good month for snakehead fishing. The current chilly weather has probably slowed things down a bit this week, but once the sun comes out and warms things up fishing should be very good. Although they can begin to spawn as early as April, most Maryland snakeheads spawn in June and July. That said, snakeheads will be aggressively feeding when they are in a pre-spawn mode, and they have not yet retreated to the thick shallow grass. White paddletails are perhaps one of the most popular lures to use. Large minnows under a bobber are an excellent way to fish and buzzbaits and frogs are a proven tactic when snakeheads are holding in thick shallow grass.

Freshwater Fishing

Although spring stocking has ended for put-and-take trout waters, there are still plenty of trout to be found. Trout tend to spread out after a while and casting small spinners, spoons, and jerkbaits are a great way to cover plenty of water in rivers, streams, and community ponds. The trout areas restricted to delayed harvest, catch-and-release and specific tackle restrictions will offer plenty of fun fishing for the next couple of months and those in the western mountains will offer good trout fishing all summer.

 Photo of two men in a boat with multiple fishing rods set up

“Spider fishing” for crappie in the tidal Potomac. Photo by Eric Packard

Water levels in the upper Potomac River are at flood stage currently and it is advised to stay off the river until waters recede. Most likely the river will remain stained for a time. Deep Creek Lake is open for business with good fishing for a variety of coldwater species. 

Largemouth bass fishing in most Maryland tidal and nontidal waters is good this week. In most areas the largemouth bass are in a post-spawn mode of behavior, and with water temperatures much to their liking they can be found in a variety of habitats. Structure will continue to be a key as grass beds become established, sunken wood and drop-offs are all good places to look for largemouth bass. Casting spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and lipless crankbaits in open water areas on the outside edges of grass beds and transition areas between shallow and deeper waters can be a good tactic. Targeting grass with wacky rigged soft plastics or stick worms will entice largemouth bass holding there. Structure in the form of sunken wood and dock piers can be fished with grubs, soft plastic craw jigs, and wacky rigged stick worms. In tidal waters, the outside edges of spatterdock fields are a great place to work spinnerbaits and jerkbaits on a low ebb tide. 

Fishing for crappie continues to be very good this week in the non-tidal ponds and reservoirs as well as tidal waters. Casting small lures from shore near submerged structures is a good way to catch them. Sunken brush, fallen treetops, docks and bridge piers all fit the bill for crappie to congregate. Fishing small marabou jigs or minnows under a slip bobber is also a very popular and productive way to fish. In tidal waters such as the Potomac, there is a type of crappie fishing where several fiberglass or graphite poles are spread out in an array with rod holders. No fishing reel is involved – this is much like cane pole fishing, only with high-tech poles; small minnows are rigged under a slip bobber. Many call this spider fishing and when a boat is slowly moved along shorelines that contain structure, it can be deadly for crappie. This type of fishing is very popular in the tidal Potomac and especially on the northeast side of the Wilson Bridge at a location called the Spoils

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

The Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area has been alive with striped bass for the past week and this should continue this week. Anglers are casting soft plastic jigs along the jetty rocks, bulkheads, and bridge piers. The Route 90 and Route 611 bridge piers are also holding striped bass. 

Tautog are being found along the jetty rocks, bulkheads, and bridge piers in the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area. Most are coming up a little short of the 16-inch minimum but persistent anglers can come home with dinner. Sand fleas are the most popular bait. 

Along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island, anglers are enjoying fishing for striped bass. Large striped bass are moving north along the Maryland coast, and some are close enough to the beaches for surfcasters to reach them. Cut bait in the form of menhaden has been the preferred bait. 

Water clarity has been a bit of a problem this week due to strong winds churning up water already discolored from recent rain. Flounder fishing has been best at the channels leading away from the inlet, with the Thorofare getting a gold star from anglers. 

The boats headed out to the offshore wreck and reef sites continue to find good tautog fishing for their anglers. Some of the tautog being caught are very large, which is a thrill for any angler. White-legger crabs are the preferred bait.

“Lures, for example, may indeed be samples of the best assets of humankind. Is a fishing lure not a package of hope and ingenuity? Is it not a symbol of our endless determination and imagination? Do we quit when the fish are not biting? Not me, not you. We change lures!” – Ron Schara

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.”