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Maryland Fishing Report – May 31

Photo of man in a small boat holding up a largemouth bass

Mike Popchak holds a beautiful smallmouth bass caught while fishing with his brother Joe at Loch Raven Reservoir. Photo by Joe Popchak

Fishing together can form strong bonds between family and friends. Twin brothers Joe and Mike Popchak began fishing together when they were 8 years old – even though their father wasn’t a fisherman, he would take them out while he read the newspaper. The two brothers have kept with it through the years and recently got together to fish at Loch Raven Reservoir. 

Now is a perfect time to invite a neighbor or friend to this wonderful pastime. Maryland is hosting three license-free fishing days – June 3, June 10, and July 4 – during which a person may catch and possess finfish in the tidal and nontidal waters of Maryland for recreational purposes without a fishing license or stamp — you just have to follow laws and regulations on seasons, size, and catch limits.

Forecast Summary: May 31 – June 6:

Continued warm weather will keep water temperatures rising for Chesapeake Bay gamefish. Main Bay surface water temperatures have risen since last week to the upper 60s and low 70s. Warmest Bay waters will be found near the surface as well as near river mouths. 

Bay salinity is still above average. Some areas of low oxygen are present in the bottom waters in the main Bay from Tolchester down to the Gooses Reef, and on the Potomac River from Colonial Beach to Breton Bay. However, there are still plenty of cool, well oxygenated areas in the Bay to pursue gamefish.

Expect below average flows all week. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the upcoming full moon on June 4. Expect average water clarity in Maryland’s waters. 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 in a small boating holding a long fish

Northern snakehead, photo courtesy Jason Kendall

Anglers looking for a keeper striped bass in the Susquehanna River will see boundary restrictions removed and maximum slot size change beginning June 1. Effective that date the slot size becomes consistent with the rest of the Bay – 19 inches to 31 inches, with a limit of one fish per day per angler. Boundaries and dates can be found in a map on the Department of Natural Resources website and the online regulations for striped bass fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

Striped bass are being caught along the deeper edges of the Susquehanna Flats by jigging with soft plastics. There has also been some early morning and evening topwater action along the shallower edges of the flats. 

Northern snakeheads are being caught in the Conowingo Dam pool, the lower Susquehanna River, the Flats, and tidal rivers throughout the upper Bay. Paddletails are the most popular lure to use for snakeheads, but with grass becoming more common, buzzbaits and frogs can also be effective. The Department of Natural Resources instituted a tagging program to reward snakehead anglers who catch these invasives and report the tags. Read more on the department website.

A mix of channel and blue catfish can be found from the Conowingo Dam pool south to most portions of the upper Bay and all the tidal rivers within the region. Cut bait is perhaps the most popular bait and anglers chunking or chumming for striped bass will be catching their share of blue catfish.

Striped bass anglers fishing below the Hart-Miller Island to Tolchester line report a slow pick; the fish seem to be spread out in many areas. The Love Point rocks are giving up striped bass to those jigging with soft plastic jigs. Trolling is a good option, but it has been a slow pick. Umbrella rigs and tandem rigged bucktails dressed with sassy shads or paddletails are popular offerings. Jigging with soft plastic jigs around the Bay Bridge piers is popular. Drifting soft crab baits or using spot or white perch for live-lining is also a successful way to fish. 

White perch fishing is good this week in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. Anglers are using grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs in the deeper waters. The season’s first spot are being caught at the mouth of the Magothy River and near Sandy Point by anglers fishing for white perch with bloodworms.

Middle Bay
Photo of young boy on a porch holding a fish he caught.

Greyson Dent holds up a nice 13-inch white perch he caught off the family dock. Photo by Anita Dent

Striped bass fishing is slow right now in the middle Bay, which has a lot of anglers scratching their heads. It has been difficult to verify the annual May worm swarm that should have occurred on the new moon May 21, but may be delayed until the following new moon on June 13. If the swarm did occur, it might explain why the striped bass are not very hungry. 

For jigging along channel edges, locations such as Thomas Point are always popular destinations. The rocks along Poplar Island are producing some striped bass for those casting topwater lures during the early morning and late evening hours. Paddletails are also productive. The shorelines of the Bay near rock jetties and breakwaters can be good places to cast.

Trolling is always a good way to fish for striped bass, covering a lot of water along channel edges. Use umbrella rigs with swim shad or bucktail trailers and tandem rigged bucktails dressed with sassy shads or paddletails, and rigged to get down to the depths where the striped bass are suspended. Small spoons rigged with inline weight can also work well, just keep them from other lines as they can quickly make a twisted-up mess. 

Middle Bay anglers may try some chumming along channel edges with some success. Those who have been fishing for white perch at the mouths of several tidal rivers with bloodworms are encountering the first spot moving into the region. Using spot for live-lining is one of the favored ways to fish for striped bass during the summer months.

White perch are being found in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks this week. Anglers are fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs when fishing deeper waters. Docks with at least 10 feet of water below them are great places to find white perch holding close to the piers. This is often straight-down type fishing and a great opportunity for young anglers since they don’t have to cast. In the mornings and evenings, casting small spinnerbaits, spinners, and small soft plastic jigs near shoreline structure in the form of prominent deepwater points, sunken wood and rocks can be productive and a lot of fun. 

Lower Bay

Striped bass fishing is slow in the lower Bay this week — the fish just don’t seem to be cooperating. Anglers are catching striped bass in the Bay and the lower Potomac, but it takes some work. 

Photo of man on a boat hold a striped bass

Photo by Travis Long

Trolling with umbrella rigs or tandem-rigged swim shads or bucktail combinations are a good way to cover water when looking for striped bass. Heavy inline weights are being used to get down to where the striped bass are holding. A lot of anglers coming out of southern ports near Point Lookout are making the trek to the lower Potomac to take advantage of higher catch limit of two striped bass per day, with a higher 20-inch minimum size. They have been trolling and jigging along the main channel edges and the steep channel edge from St. Georges Island and Piney Point.

Anglers are having success jigging along channel edges when striped bass are suspended close to the bottom, as spotted on depth finders. Soft plastic jigs of about ¾-ounce with chartreuse soft plastic bodies are the most popular combination.

On the eastern side of the Bay, anglers are finding a mix of striped bass, speckled trout, black drum, and red drum. Drifting soft crab baits has been a favorite tactic when black or red drum can be spotted on a depth finder. There are so many cownose rays in the region that baits should only go overboard when drum are spotted. Speckled trout and striped bass are being caught in the shallower waters along the marshes on paddletails. 

Fishing for white perch is very good in many areas of Tangier Sound, near Hoopers Island, the lower Patuxent River, and the lower Nanticoke River. Grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm are being used on bottom rigs. Increasing numbers of spot are being caught on bloodworms. Casting small soft plastic jigs and working them in some of the waters around 15 feet deep has been catching good numbers of white perch. Fishing for blue catfish is very good in the tidal Potomac, the middle Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers, and increasing numbers of blue catfish are showing up in the Wicomico River. 

Recreational crabbing continues to show sparse results this week in all regions of the Bay. Reports from the middle Bay area tell of better crabs farther up the tidal creeks, and large but light crabs towards the mouths of tidal creeks and rivers.

Freshwater Fishing

Effective June 1, Delayed Harvest waters will be open to allow anglers to catch and keep 5 trout per day. A list of the trout waters in the central and western regions that are opening, along with regulations, can be found in the Maryland Fishing Guide by searching “trout management waters” on the Department of Natural Resources website.

Photo of man on a dock in a lake holding up a large fish

Donald Griswold caught this beautiful northern pike at Deep Creek Lake in late May. Photo courtesy of Donald Griswold

The upper Potomac River is running low this week and getting about in a small boat can be difficult, the conditions are perfect though for wading and fishing from a kayak. Water temperatures are about 70 degrees. Look for smallmouth bass near deep current breaks and large submerged boulders. Long casts with light line are an asset when casting topwater lures in the early morning and late evening hours or fishing with tubes, swimbaits, and spinnerbaits.

Nighttime temperatures have been a bit chilly in Western Maryland for the past week, but fishing is good for a variety of species at Deep Creek Lake. Smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found near floating docks and shoreline structure. Flipping wacky-rigged stick worms under or near these fish is a great way to entice them to pick up a bait. Walleye can be found along steep edges just outside stirred-up shorelines and deep grass edges. Northern pike can be found outside coves and can be caught on spinnerbaits.

Anglers are beginning to see largemouth bass slowly drifting into their typical summer pattern of feeding during the early morning and late evening hours, and lounging under shade during the height of the day. The shade can take the form of thick mats of grass, overhanging brush, fallen treetops, docks, and bridge piers. Topwater lures in the form of poppers, buzzbaits and frogs can be a good choice when working those shallow areas during the morning and evening hours. Wacky-rigged stick worms are hard to beat when dropped through thick grass or flipped under shaded areas. Craws and creature baits can be good choices around deeper waters near structure and drop-offs.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of a girl on a dock holding a fish

Chloe Weller recently caught this nice flounder while fishing with her dad. Photo by David Weller

Along the beaches of Assateague Island surfcasters are finding a mix of striped bass, black drum, red drum, and bluefish. The striped bass are being caught on cut baits and clams, the black drum on sand fleas and clams, red drum on cut baits and clams, and the bluefish on cut baits. More and more kingfish are beginning to show up and are being caught on bloodworms.

At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, a mix of striped bass and bluefish are being caught near jetty rocks, bulkheads, and bridge piers by jigging with soft plastics. Many of the striped bass are just short of the minimum size, but some are in the legal range of 28-31 inches. Flounder are moving through the inlet and can be caught from the jetties or bulkheads.

There has been plenty of good flounder fishing this week, as the bay waters are clearing up after getting churned up by last week’s winds. The channels leading from the inlet, the East Channel, and the channel in front of the airport are all good places to drift for flounder.

Last week’s Northeast winds made it tough for boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites searching for sea bass. Better conditions are expected this week and the sea bass are waiting. When conditions are conducive to boats heading out to the canyons the boats trolling are catching a mix of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Those deep-dropping are catching blueline and golden tilefish.

“Fishing does bring families together and probably keeps some together.” – Mike Popchak

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.”