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Maryland Fishing Report – April 10

Photo of boy holding a fish

Joey Davis caught this white catfish – qualifying him for a FishMaryland award certificate – in an upper Bay tidal river. Photo by Lora Davis

Maryland anglers are taking advantage of pleasant weather to fish for a variety of species this week. Trout, largemouth bass, and blue catfish are at the top of the list, but fun fishing is where you find it. 

Forecast Summary: April 10 – April 16:

With continued April rains, the increased river flows and the longer days will continue to slowly heat up our local Maryland waters for the progression of spawning gamefish. Main Chesapeake Bay surface temperatures below Annapolis have risen to the mid 50s. Water temperatures for the upper Bay are running cooler at 51 degrees. River temperatures have also risen to the mid to upper 50s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures even warmer. Such low salinity areas will be prime areas to look for hickory and American shad as they move upriver to spawn.

Expect above average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. As a result of recent rains, expect poor water clarity for the Maryland portion of the Bay down to the Bay Bridge as well as the Potomac River down to the 301 Bridge. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps. There will be above average tidal currents through Saturday as a result of the previous new moon on April 9.

For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area, continue to check out Click Before You Cast.

Upper Chesapeake Bay

High water and stained conditions because of last week’s rain made it tough for anglers fishing for hickory shad this past weekend. Despite these conditions, anglers are catching and releasing hickory shad in the Susquehanna and Octoraro Creek. There were even rumors of the first American shad to be caught in the river. 

Photo of various hooks and lures

Photo by Don Cosden

Anglers are urged to have a variety of lures in their tackle boxes when fishing for hickory and American shad. Color options can change from day to day. Some of the staples are red and white, pink, and combinations of yellow and chartreuse in various weights, along with small silver and gold spoons. Most of these lure options can be used with spinning gear or fly-fishing gear.

Most any 6-foot or 7-foot medium spinning rod will work well with a 6-pound test monofilament line. If using fly-fishing tackle, a 7-weight fly rod at 9 feet is a good choice. A 250-grain sinking fly line with a 24-inch, 6-pound mono leader is a good choice when fishing from a kayak or boat. A sinking tip fly line can be a good choice when fishing from shore. Most often shad will pick up a lure at the end of a drift as the lure begins to swing around to a downstream sweep.

Fishing for blue catfish is the best show in town this month, while targeting of striped bass will be closed until May 16. Blue catfish and channel catfish can be found in all the tidal rivers in the upper Bay. The lower Susquehanna River and the Chester River tend to have the greatest numbers, but the other rivers are catching up fast. Fresh cut gizzard shad, menhaden, or white perch are three of the most popular baits, but chicken liver and a variety of other baits can work well also. During the striped bass closure some upper Bay charter boats are offering trips to fish for blue catfish. Check the internet or the DNR online map of licensed charter boats and fishing guides

White perch are being caught in the tidal rivers a few miles below the spawning reaches this week. In most cases the water is still shallow enough to be able to use small jigs or slip bobbers with grass shrimp, small minnows, or pieces of bloodworm for bait. In deeper waters a high low bottom rig may be necessary with the above baits. The white perch are steadily moving downriver to their summer habitats and should be in many of those areas by the beginning of May.

Middle Bay

White perch continue to move down the tidal rivers from the major spawning areas this week and can be found several miles below those sections of the tidal rivers. In rivers such as the Choptank they can still be found upriver of Denton in shallow enough waters to be able to fish with small jigs and slip bobber rigs baited with grass shrimp, minnows, or pieces of bloodworm. In deeper waters a two-hook bottom rig with the same baits is popular. Anglers can look forward to these white perch arriving at their normal summer habitats by sometime in May. Often the largest white perch are the first to arrive at these areas and offer great fishing opportunities near deep water piers, docks, and rock breakwaters and jetties. 

Striped bass are now beginning to spawn at their spawning reaches on the Choptank River, the main spawn is expected to occur in the next week or so based on suitable water temperatures. Ideal water temperatures for striped bass spawning is generally agreed to be about 58-degrees. All of us will keep our fingers crossed that it will be a successful spawn. 

Fisheries biologist Jim Uphoff is conducting striped bass spawning survey work on the Choptank River and offered this report: “ We saw water temperatures of 52-53 degrees while we were out Monday. There has been a little spawning since March 25 and temperatures have been in the low 50s generally.  That’s likely to change with the warming weather.  There is lots of freshwater and only a hint of salt about a mile above Windyhill,” which is just above the town of Choptank. 

Plenty of rain in the preceding months encouraged a plankton bloom, and subsequent zooplankton bloom, so newly hatched striped bass young have something to eat. The fishery is closed to all targeting in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers right now, as we must make some sacrifices to help the population of spawning adults increase, to the future benefit of all anglers and lovers of striped bass. 

Anglers looking for some catch-and-release fun on the Choptank River are finding hickory shad in the upper Choptank near the Red Bridges area. Anglers are also reporting some hickory shad action below the Crouse Mill Dam on the Tuckahoe. Overhead tree branches usually dictate the use of spinning gear in tight casting situations. Shad darts of various bright colors and weights as well as small shiny gold and silver spoons are the most popular lures to use. Anglers are encouraged to report their hickory shad fishing trips to the shad survey on DNR’s volunteer angler survey website

Fishing for a mix of blue catfish and channel catfish offers some fishing opportunities for anglers in the middle Bay. They can be found in all the region’s tidal rivers, but the Choptank River often holds the greatest populations of blue catfish. Warming water temperatures have the catfish moving more freely now and stretches of the Choptank River from the Dover Bridge area to Denton are good places to fish. The lower Tuckahoe River also holds good numbers of blue and channel catfish this week. Cut bait or chicken liver are good baits to use on circle hooks rigged to a sliding fish-finder rig.

Lower Bay

All catch and release of striped bass is closed in all Maryland waters through May 15, until the summer striped bass season begins May 16. The main stem of the Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge south will be open to catch-and-release fishing for striped bass until May 15. The tidal Potomac is running strong this week and water clarity is at a minimum due to heavy runoff from recent rains. Jigging will be one of the most popular ways to fish for them and those deciding to use cut bait must use non-offset circle hooks. 

Anglers flocking to the Fletcher’s Landing-Chain Bridge area of the tidal Potomac are seeing water conditions improve this week. The waters are still cloudy and water levels are still up, but conditions are better than they were and may be in good shape by the weekend. The hickory shad are present in good numbers and despite water clarity issues there is good catch and release fishing this week. Anglers should have a wide variety of colorful shad darts of various weights and some small silver and gold spoons in their tackle box when fishing for hickory shad. They should also have a District of Columbia fishing license. One can fish from the riverbanks, launch a kayak, a canoe or rent a rowboat at Fletcher’s Landing. There is also good catch-and-release fishing to be found at the upper sections of Mattawoman Creek.

Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, and other Eastern Shore rivers is very good this week. There are several charter boats that offer trips to fish for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac offering plenty of fishing action and fish fillets to take home. The DNR website includes a map listing various charters and what fish they fish for.

Water temperatures are warming enough to cause the blue catfish to move from the deepest channels to slightly shallower waters. They are actively feeding, so fishing with cut bait in the form of gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, or chicken liver are good baits to use. A simple fish-finder rig rigged with a 2-inch float in front of a circle hook is the most popular rig that anglers use from the river shores or from boats. 

The stretch of the tidal Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge south is one of the best places to catch blue catfish on the Potomac this week. The stretch of river above the Benedict Bridge on the Patuxent offers the best blue catfish fishing on the Patuxent and the Sharptown area on the Nanticoke River is an excellent place to fish. Tributaries to the tidal Potomac should not be overlooked as well as the Wicomico and Pocomoke rivers on the lower Eastern Shore.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of boy holding a fish in a stream

Knox Hayward is all smiles with this rainbow trout he caught recently. Photo by Darwin Hayward

Many rivers and creeks were experiencing high flows last week, making for some difficult trout fishing. The good news is the high flows helped spread the stocked trout over wider areas so anglers could find some elbow room in the recently stocked put-and-take waters. Conditions are improving in most waters, setting the stage for good trout fishing this week. Anglers often encounter other species of fish when fishing for trout. Recently Blake Cronk caught a fallfish in the North Branch of the Potomac that set a new state record for the species at 3.2-pounds, breaking the previous record of 3-pounds. 

Stocking crews are out this week replenishing many put-and-take waters and these stockings will continue. Check the DNR website for trout stockings near you.

A good number of the put-and-take trout stockings are taking place in community ponds, which make for easy and safe fishing opportunities for families and small children. A simple bobber and worm or Powerbait rig are all that is needed to entice the stocked trout or resident sunfish to bite. There are also a few trout management waters set aside for our younger anglers. The fishing rodeo season is upon us and events are being scheduled near you. Check the DNR website for the 2024 schedule of fishing rodeo events

Photo of boy holding a fish

Easton Thomas is happy with this nice 15-inch crappie he caught in a local pond. Photo by Chris Thomas

Largemouth bass are in a pre-spawn mode of activity and are aggressively seeking out food items in a wide variety of water depths. Grass beds are beginning to emerge and can be a magnet for largemouth bass looking for baitfish or crayfish. Water temperatures are about ideal for largemouth bass so they will be found feeding throughout the day. Cover such as fallen treetops or sunken wood in moderate depth water will also beckon to largemouth bass. In the shallow and moderate water depths, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and paddletails can be good choices. When working close to grass beds and structure, stick worms and soft plastics can work well. In deeper waters near structure, crankbaits and craw jigs can entice a largemouth to strike. Male largemouth bass are beginning to explore the spawning shallows, and some are even forming spawning beds to attract females. 

Northern snakeheads are becoming more active, and the largest ones are the most prone to be feeding. Water temperatures are still a little cool to their liking, so sunny afternoons are a good time to find them in the shallower waters on the sunny side of tidal creeks. White paddletails tend to be the most popular lure to use at this time but chatterbaits may work also. Fishing large minnows under a bobber is a time proven method to fish for snakeheads when waters are cool and grass beds are yet to fill out. 

Cooler water temperatures are much to the liking of chain pickerel this week. The grass beds where they enjoy lurking have yet to fill out so these ambush predators can be found holding near any type of structure – sunken wood usually fits the bill. Casting spinners, spoons, jerkbaits, or paddletails rigged with single inline hooks makes releasing fish easier and reduces harm to the fish. 

There is hardly a better time of the year to fish for crappie than March and April; water temperatures are at an ideal time for the fish to be feeding near structure that is not too deep. Marina docks, old piers, fallen treetops, sunken wood or brush, and bridge piers are all good places to look for crappie. Small minnows under a slip bobber are hard to beat. Small soft plastic curly-tail jigs or marabou jigs are very popular lures to use for casting with a slow retrieve.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Surf anglers on Assateague Island are starting to catch black drum this week. Clams and cut bait are two of the most popular baits. Tautog are being caught at the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area in good numbers this week by anglers using sand fleas or pieces of green crab. Striped bass are also entertaining anglers casting soft plastic jigs. Many of the striped bass are a little shy of the required 28-inch minimum but offer catch-and-release action.

The boats and captains heading out to the wreck and reef sites are finding good fishing for tautog this week for their anglers. Quite a few of the tautog are weighing in at the double-digit category. Anglers are releasing many of the larger tautog in the name of conservation and filling out their four-fish limits with smaller fish.

“ ‘Rich,’ the Old Man said dreamily, ‘is not baying after what you can’t have. Rich is having the time to do what you want to do. Rich is a little whisky to drink and some food to eat and a roof over your head and a fish pole and a boat and a gun and a dollar for a box of shells. Rich is not owing any money to anybody, and not spending what you haven’t got.’ ” – Robert Ruark, from “ The Old Man and the Boy,” published 1953

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.”