Maryland Fishing Report – September 20
September weather makes for comfortable fishing, and cooler water temperatures often mean better fishing opportunities.
Forecast Summary: September 20 – September 26:
As we move into the opening weekend of fall, the Chesapeake Bay is beginning to cool. The upcoming week should provide moderate temperatures with windy conditions Thursday through Sunday, and rain on Saturday and Sunday. Overall conditions should result in Bay surface water temperatures decreasing to the mid 70s. Bay salinity remains above average. In Maryland waters, oxygen conditions continue to improve below Bloody Point to the 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 30 below. The Patapsco River area has suitable oxygen conditions down to the bottom. 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. There will be above average tidal currents next Tuesday as a result of the September 28-29 full moon. Expect average water clarity for most of Maryland’s Bay, rivers, and streams. However, expect poor water clarity from an algal bloom on the Sassafras, Bush, Gunpowder, and Back Rivers. 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.
The Conowingo Dam pool continues to attract anglers casting topwater and paddletail lures for striped bass. The best success is during the early morning and late evening. The dam is generating power in the late afternoon and evening, so the dam pool is calm during the morning. The dam pool also holds a large population of blue and flathead catfish which can be caught on cut bait, or sometimes they will chase down a paddletail that is fished deep.
There is some striped bass activity during the early morning and late evening along the channel edges of the Susquehanna Flats. Most of the fishing action in the lower Susquehanna River involves fishing for blue catfish. There are great numbers of them and they can be caught on a variety of baits. The Chester River also holds large numbers of blue catfish, and they can be found in other tidal rivers in the upper Bay as well.
The striped bass action improves around the east side of Pooles Island, anglers are having good success using eels and spot for live-lining as well as jigging with soft plastics. The mouth of the Patapsco River and the piers of the Key Bridge continue to offer the best striped bass fishing opportunities. Anglers are also venturing into Baltimore Harbor and enjoying good fishing by jigging with soft plastics near Fort Carroll and the old commercial wharfs.
Fishing for white perch remains good this week and they can be found near shoreline structure by casting small spinnerbaits, roadrunner type lures, and small jigs. Fishing minnows under a slip bobber is another good tactic. Using a bottom rig baited with peeler crab, bloodworms, or grass shrimp works well for white perch holding in deeper waters. Spot can be found in many of the same areas and can be caught on pieces of bloodworm. The Patapsco River’s Curtis Creek, the mouth of the Magothy River, the west end of the Bay Bridge, and the Sandy Point area hold good numbers of spot.
Water temperatures in the middle Bay are holding around 75 degrees this week and continuing chilly nights will help bring those temperatures down. Once temperatures get to 70 degrees or lower, fishing for striped bass hopefully will improve. Baitfish will begin to move out of the tidal rivers and be swept along channel edges in swift currents, and the striped bass will be there waiting.
Schools of bluefish and a scattering of Spanish mackerel are wreaking havoc on schools of bay anchovies in the strong currents along the steeper edges of the shipping channel. Great locations to troll for a mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel are the channel edge from Buoy 83 south past the Sharps Island Light, and the False Channel down to the CP Buoy off Taylors Island.
Most anglers fishing for striped bass are working shorelines of the Bay and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. A mix of poppers, paddletails, and jerkbaits are the most popular lures to cast during the early morning and late evening. This type of fishery is showing signs of improving as water temperatures drop, and puppy drum and speckled trout are sparking the action up a bit.
Working these same shorelines with smaller lure presentations in the form of roadrunner type lures, small spinnerbaits, and spinners is a fun way to target white perch. White perch fishing is also very good in the deeper waters of the tidal rivers and Bay for those using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp and peeler crab; when using pieces of bloodworm, spot can be part of the mix.
Boats can be seen stopping on the west side of the Bay Bridge and catching spot for live-lining striped bass in the upper Bay. Hard-bottom areas off Chesapeake Beach, Whitehall Bay, and the back side of Black Walnut Point are other good locations to catch spot.
Anglers in the lower Bay are doing their best to get in last licks on the Spanish mackerel, which are becoming sparser this week. This time of year, some of our summer species start thinking about heading farther south. Spot are also not long for these parts and will be heading out with our first major cool front. Get out there and enjoy them before they’re gone!
Anglers who have been trolling for Spanish mackerel at a fast clip are beginning to slow down and diversify their trolling spreads. The small Drone Spoons are still being pulled behind No. 1 planers, but medium and large spoons and surgical tube lures are becoming a more common addition to try for the larger bluefish and the chance of some catch-and-release action with cobia and large red drum.
The mouth of the Potomac River around Smith Point, the Cedar Point channel edge, and the channel edge near the HS Buoy south past the Target Ship and Mud Leads are just a few locations where trolling is having some success. When schools of large red drum can be spotted on depth finders or by locating slicks, jigging with large soft plastic jigs can be a good option.
Casting a mix of soft plastic jigs, paddletails, poppers, and jerkbaits along the shorelines of the Bay, tidal rivers, and Tangier and Pocomoke sounds has been an exciting option for light-tackle anglers. Cooler water temperatures are beginning to positively influence the shallower waters and angler success on catching a mix of striped bass, puppy drum, and speckled trout. Striped bass can be found far up the tidal rivers of the lower Eastern Shore.
Fishing for spot in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds and the mouth of the Patuxent River is perhaps close to its zenith, and the size and quantity of fish is exceptional. Anglers are catching them on bottom rigs and pieces of bloodworm or artificial bloodworm-scented baits. There can be a mix of white perch, croakers, kingfish, sea trout, and other visitors when fishing.
There are plenty of white perch to be caught in the tidal rivers and creeks this week. Casting small spinnerbaits, Road Runner lures, beetle-spins, and spinners is a fun light tackle way to catch them along shoreline structure. Minnows under a slip bobber can be another good way to target them. In deeper waters, a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp, peeler crab, or pieces of bloodworm works well.
Anglers are enjoying some fantastic fishing for large sheepshead this week near the Target Ship and other large, submerged structures. Most anglers are using peeler crab with very good success. This past week the state record for sheepshead was broken by angler Brian Summerlin with a 16.6-pound specimen.
Recreational crabbers are doing their puts to put a catch of crabs together this week. Reports continue of crabs falling off trotlines before they can be netted. The largest crabs are being reported to be coming from deeper waters in the range of 12 feet to 15 feet. If this is any indication of crabbing success, some commercial trot liners have thrown in the towel and are preparing their boats for the upcoming start of the oyster season.
The anticipated fall trout stocking program begins in October. It should be a fun time for everyone in the state’s put-and-take areas. Some areas where the water levels are very low will not be stocked until water flows are more acceptable to the trout and anglers alike. The stockings will be posted on the Department of Natural Resources trout stocking website on the day that they occur. Anglers can also receive notification of trout stocking by subscribing to our email subscription service.
Fishing for largemouth bass is beginning to show a little change as water temperatures begin to cool, and the amount and intensity of the sun diminishes each day. Largemouth bass will be more active through the morning hours and begin increased activity earlier in the evenings. A mix of topwater lures and shallow running jerkbaits and spinnerbaits can be good choices when working shallower waters. It is hard to beat a wacky rigged stick worm when targeting cover like grass mats and brush.
Northern snakeheads are on the prowl and can be found in thick grass or along the edges of grass this week. White paddletails are hard to beat for versatility, but chatterbaits and buzzbaits catch a lot of snakeheads. The tidal areas of the Middle, Patapsco, and Bush rivers are producing some outstanding northern snakeheads lately. The tidal creeks and rivers of lower Dorchester and Wicomico counties and of course the tidal tributaries of the Potomac are all excellent places to fish for snakeheads.
Fishing for blue catfish remains very good in the tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna, Chester, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac are standouts with large populations. Other rivers such as the Choptank, Middle, and Wicomico have rapidly expanding populations. Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river. Fresh cut bait of menhaden, gizzard shad, or chicken liver work well.
Surf fishing was difficult earlier this week, but conditions have improved. Surf anglers can look forward to good fishing for a mix of kingfish and spot, and flounder, and those that fish in the evenings may see some large red drum.
At the Ocean City Inlet, the fishing for large sheepshead has been exceedingly good, with catches of large sheepshead being common. Most anglers are using sand fleas or peeler crabs with good success. Casting soft plastic jigs during the morning and evening in the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area has been accounting for a mix of striped bass and bluefish and a few red drum.
Flounder fishing is good this week in the back bay channels, and traditional squid and minnow baits are accounting for plenty of fish. Anglers are targeting the largest flounder with live spot or finger mullet and Gulp baits.
Outside the inlet there are some excellent fishing opportunities for large flounder on some of the inshore lumps and inshore wreck and reef sites. At the offshore wreck and reef sites anglers are catching a mix of sea bass, triggerfish, and flounder when fishing the bottom. Small dolphin continue to gather near the boats or buoys and casting small jigs offers some fun and exciting action. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch a limit of 10 when the fish show up in dense schools.
The boats trolling the offshore canyons are experiencing exceptional catch-and-release fishing for white marlin this week, hopefully the action will last through the weekend. Anglers are also able to load up on small dolphin holding near the offshore lobster buoys. A few yellowfin tuna are being caught. There is promising news from our fellow anglers off the New Jersey shore, where they are enjoying banner fishing for yellowfins. Perhaps this same population of tuna will move south and be available to Ocean City anglers.
“The fisherman fishes, it is an act of humility and a small rebellion. And it is something more. To him his fishing is an island of reality in a world of dream and shadow.” – Robert Traver
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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