Maryland Fishing Report – September 13
Hopefully we have endured the last heat wave of the 2023 summer season. Cooler weather is predicted in the coming days and soon cool nights will begin to lower water temperatures. In the meantime, there is plenty of fun and exciting fishing to be had.
Forecast Summary: September 13 – September 19:
The upcoming week should provide moderate temperatures with windy conditions on Thursday and Friday and a chance of rain on Sunday. Overall conditions should result in Bay surface water temperatures holding stable in the low 80s. Bay salinity remains above average. In Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay , oxygen conditions continue to be slightly better from Bloody Point south to the Virginia state line, with most places recording suitable fishing depths down to at least 35 feet. In the area from Tolchester to the Bay Bridge, avoid fishing below about 15 feet. The Patapsco River area has suitable oxygen conditions down to 25 feet. Check our map of areas of low oxygen to help determine the maximum fishing depth in your favorite area.
Expect average flows in Maryland rivers and streams all week. However, some streams will be running higher than normal due to recent, heavy rains in some locations. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the September 15 new moon. Expect average clarity in Maryland’s waters except on the main Bay near the mouth of the Patapsco River. 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.
Recent hot weather caused water temperatures to climb, and most fish have been doing their best to avoid the heat. These conditions did not help much with fishing anywhere in Maryland, but cooler weather this week should do much to begin a downward trend in water temperatures.
The Conowingo Dam is on an evening power generation schedule this week, so the dam pool is calm during the morning. Anglers are having some success casting at dawn for striped bass in the dam pool and just below it in the lower Susquehanna River, using topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails.
The big fishing story on the lower Susquehanna River and the upper Bay’s tidal rivers is fishing for blue catfish. There are plenty of them and it does not take a lot of finesse to fish with cut bait in waters deeper than 20 feet. A good oily bait such as menhaden tends to up the odds for a fish that uses its nose to find dinner. Blue catfish give a good showing of themselves and provide excellent table fare.
Fishing for striped bass picks up down the Bay a bit near Pooles Island, where anglers are having some success with live-lining eels and spot. There are several deep spots on the eastern side of the island and the Tolchester Lumps to the east; also worth a look are the Pooles Island state reef to the southeast and the area off Tolchester.
The mouth of the Patapsco River, the Key Bridge, the channel near Fort Carroll, and the commercial wharfs in Baltimore Harbor are all providing good fishing for striped bass this week. Using spot for live lining is at the top of the list for popularity, but jigging and even trolling can be worthwhile endeavors.
The water is still very warm, and anglers are urged to reduce fight times when catching striped bass and to release undersized fish quickly and in the water if possible. The Department of Natural Resources website provides valuable information for anglers releasing striped bass, including a review on using circle hooks.
Fishing for white perch continues to be good in the tidal rivers. Casting beetle-spins or roadrunner type lures during the morning and evening is always a fun way to fish for them. A slip bobber and a small minnow is a great way to fish along shorelines and bottom rigs baited with peeler crab, grass shrimp, or pieces of bloodworm work well in deeper waters. Spot can be found in many of the same waters where white perch are, and can be used for live-lining while the larger ones make excellent eating. Most hard-bottom areas near the mouth of the Magothy River, the Sandy Point area, and the west end of the Bay Bridge are just a few locations where they can be found.
Anyone passing under or near the Bay Bridge should be aware of a 6-knot speed limit for all boats regardless of size. The second phase of the speed limit for the west side of the span goes into effect September 18 and lasts until March 3, 2026. The east side speed limit is already in effect. This is to prevent boat wakes from impacting the large barges holding equipment for redecking of the eastbound span.
The Bay Bridge will always attract anglers and this week is no different. Most charter boats are heading up north, but a few private boats are working the bridge piers on the east side for striped bass holding tight to the bases of the bridge piers. The early morning hours hold the most promise for striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs or fishing with live spot, eels, or cut baits. The shallower end of the western side of the bridge offers good fishing for a mix of white perch and spot.
Fishing for striped bass is a bit sparse this week in the middle Bay. Anglers fishing the shallow waters of the Bay shores and lower tidal rivers are catching them by casting a mix of poppers, jerkbaits and paddletails at the crack of dawn. Once the sun clears the horizon, most anglers report the action is over. Trolling a mix of small Drone spoons and medium-sized bucktails dressed with soft plastics or swim shads along the main channel edges is accounting for some striped bass.
Bluefish are filling in the gap for striped bass this week, and can be found along channel edges. Trolling a mix of Drone Spoons behind inline weights and No. 1 planers, and trolling slow enough, are also catching striped bass. The channel edge from Buoy 83 south past the Sharps Island Light, the False Channel, and RN2 to the CP Buoy is a very popular edge to troll for a mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Catches of Spanish mackerel have been declining in the past week in the middle Bay.
Sea nettles are a big problem for those trolling or even casting lures this week — these jellyfish are fouling lines and stinging soft skin areas when clearing lines. The middle Bay seems to fit the habitat niche for sea nettles, and they tend to be everywhere. No one really needs a chart to tell them they’re getting stung, but NOAA has a website that plots sea nettle abundance in the Chesapeake Bay and provides some useful insight.
There is plenty of fun fishing for white perch and the occasional small red drum by casting small lures in the form of roadrunners, beetle-spins, small spinnerbaits and Panther Martin spinners along the Bay and tidal river shorelines during the early morning and late evening. In deeper waters near structure such as dock piers, rocks, and oyster bars, fishing with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, peeler crab, or pieces of bloodworms is an excellent way to target white perch this week.
Anglers working the Bay shorelines and those in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers are catching striped bass on poppers, jerkbaits, and paddletails before sunrise and in the late evening. A few puppy drum and speckled trout can be part of the mix.
A mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel are providing much of the exciting fishing action in the lower Bay this week. Troll a mix of small Drone and gold Clark spoons behind No. 1 planers along the main channel edges of the Bay and the mouth of the Potomac River near Smith Point. The mouth of the Patuxent River near Cedar Point and the channels of Tangier and Pocomoke sounds are also excellent locations to look for bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
Anglers fishing for cobia are seeing some better catches as the last week of the 2023 season winds down and closes on September 15. Anglers are having good success trolling surgical tube lures and fishing live eels in the back of chum slicks. The areas around the Target Ship, the Mud Leads, and Smith Point are being reported as good places to fish.
Large red drum are being spotted this week at various locations on both sides of the Bay. Observant anglers watching for slicks or large marks under breaking bluefish and Spanish mackerel are finding the drum and having success by jigging with large soft plastics or spoons.
Large sheepshead are being caught in the lower Bay near the Target Ship and the concrete target platforms on the western side. A variety of baits in the form of fiddler crabs, small mussels, and peeler crabs can work well. Sheepshead are attracted to underwater structure because of their fondness for barnacles and small mussels. There is a method of chumming with barnacles and placing them on a hook that can work well. Using a shovel, live barnacles can be collected at low tide off exposed pilings near marinas. Once at the fishing site, the barnacles can be sprinkled in the water and several that are intact can be placed on a hook live and drifted into the chum slick.
Fishing for spot is excellent at the mouth of the Patuxent River. The spot are plentiful and are about as large as they are going to be, before they head south in a couple of weeks. Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound are also excellent places to catch spot this week. Baits of choice are pieces of bloodworm or bloodworm-scented artificial baits. White perch, croaker, kingfish, and sea trout can also be part of the mix. Fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers remains excellent this week for those casting small lures in the morning and evening along shorelines, or those fishing deeper waters with bait.
Recreational crabbers continue to have success in all regions of the Bay. Catches tend to be down for those trotlining, due to crabs dropping off when they hit the extremely warm surface waters, so collapsible traps and net rings can be a good choice. The size of the crabs being caught has reduced somewhat, as those extra-large crabs get caught up and large and No. 1 crabs fill in. Most crabbers can catch a half-bushel or more per outing.
Flow conditions in the western and central streams, creeks, and rivers continue to be low, and in many places warm water temperatures prevail. Trout anglers who know how to fish during the summer months are enjoying the cool shade of the mountain waters and the trout that are feeding on terrestrials and various hatches. Stealthy approaches and light tippets tend to up the odds of fooling trout. The North Branch of the Potomac, the Youghiogheny River, and the Savage River are just a few of the special trout management waters that offer fun and exciting catch-and-release action.
The upper Potomac River continues to experience low flows and warm water temperatures. Anglers are able to wade out into the shallower parts of the river, being careful not to lose footing on submerged rocks. The best fishing occurs during the early morning and late evening for smallmouth bass. Casting tubes, twitch baits, poppers, and soft plastic jigs are good choices for lures to target the deeper pools and moving water.
Fishing for largemouth bass remains good, from the smallest of farm ponds to the large reservoirs like Deep Creek Lake and the Baltimore City reservoirs of central Maryland. There is plenty of excellent fishing for largemouth bass. Everyone has their familiar fishing spots, but it can be fun to put a little adventure in traveling to a new location. The Department of Natural Resources’ Freshwater Hotspots webpage can provide an overview of some new areas you might consider exploring.
Warm water temperatures and bright sun continue to force largemouth bass to hold to a summertime mode of behavior. The best times to fish for them are during the morning and evening hours in the shallower areas where they tend to do most of their feeding at night. Deeper grass beds, deep water, sunken wood, and shade in the form of fallen treetops, docks, and overhanging brush are good places to target during the day. As the waters cool later this month, largemouth bass activity will extend more through the day.
Fishing in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers is very good and northern snakeheads will be a large part of the mix for anglers targeting grass beds. Noisy lures in the form of chatterbaits, buzzbaits, and soft plastic frogs are good choices for snakeheads. The tidal Potomac and lower Eastern Shore rivers are very popular for northern snakehead fishing, but places like the Middle River, the Bush, and the Patapsco are producing excellent northern snakehead fishing.
Blue catfish offer plenty of fishing action this week. Every tidal river within the Chesapeake Bay watershed has a population of them. The tidal Potomac has the greatest amount, followed by the lower Susquehanna, the Chester, the Nanticoke, and the Choptank rivers. Generally, the blue catfish are holding in the middle to lower sections of the tidal rivers this month. Fresh cut bait of menhaden or gizzard shad are perhaps the most proven baits but any cut fish, chicken liver, or scented baits will work.
Surf anglers along the Assateague beaches are enjoying fun fishing for a mix of kingfish and spot by using bloodworms or artificial bloodworms-scented baits. Flounder are being caught on strips of squid and spot, Bluefish are being taken on cut spot or mullet.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, anglers are catching sheepshead near the jetty rocks and bridge piers on sand fleas. Anglers casting soft plastic jigs and Got-Cha plugs during the morning and evening are catching a mix of bluefish and striped bass. Other anglers are having good luck drifting cut baits from the Route 50 Bridge and inlet bulkheads and jetties.
Flounder fishing is good this week in the Ocean City Inlet and the back bay channels leading there. Drifting Gulp baits and live spot or finger mullet are catching the largest flounder. Traditional squid and minnow baits work well.
Outside the inlet anglers are finding flounder on many of the inshore lumps and near the inshore wreck and reef sites. Sea bass and small dolphin are being caught at the offshore wreck and reef sites and wherever they can be located. The small dolphin can often be found in large numbers and catching a daily limit of 10 on spinning gear and small jigs is common.
Farther offshore at the canyons, anglers trolling are finding good numbers of white marlin, a few sailfish, and plenty of small dolphin. Wahoo are being caught along with yellowfin tuna. Those choosing to deep drop are catching a mix of blueline and golden tilefish.
“You must remember that there’s plenty of salt in the sea to take with the tales your fellow fishermen tell.” – John Hersey
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.”