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Maryland Fishing Report – May 8

Photo of man holding a fish hooked to a line

Angler Randyka Pudjoprawoto caught a 22-inch largemouth bass on Lake Bernard Frank near Rockville on May 3. Photo courtesy of Randyka Pudjoprawoto.

Spring is spreading its blanket of new growth and warmth across the Maryland landscape this month. The black locust trees are blooming, signaling the first blue crab shed of 2024. These warm and sunny days beckon anglers of all ages and skill levels to seek out the excitement of fishing in every corner of Maryland – don’t miss it!

Forecast Summary: May 8 – May 14:

Unstable, but cooler, rainy weather this week will make for generally good fishing conditions to enjoy the variety of fish in Maryland’s waters. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have reached the high 60s. River temperatures have also increased to the upper 60s. On the Potomac River, avoid the low oxygen areas below 15 feet between the Wicomico River and St. Georges Island. With Maryland’s part of the Bay running fresher than average, there will be abundant areas with suitable salinity for hunting blue catfish. Look for American shad in low salinity areas as they move upriver to spawn. Keep an eye out for large game fish (especially blue catfish) ambushing the shad and white perch as they move throughout the river. 

Expect average flows for most of Maryland rivers and streams. Expect average water clarity for the Maryland portion of the Bay. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps. There will be above average tidal currents through Monday as a result of the new moon on May 8.

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

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of man holding a fish

Photo courtesy of David Sturm Jr.

Water clarity is improving at the Conowingo Dam pool and lower Susquehanna River, and last week’s elevated air temperatures and hot sun warmed the waters up enough to cause hickory shad to start actively spawning. Catches of hickory shad are expected to decline this week as spent spawners leave the area. American shad are still very much in presence and providing good catch and release fishing near the Conowingo Dam Pool. A variety of brightly colored shad darts are the most popular lures being used. 

White perch can be found in the lower Susquehanna in good numbers this week and are providing some fun fishing for anglers. Most anglers are casting a variety of shad darts and small spinnerbaits and spinner jigs with good luck. Others are using bottom rigs baited with small minnows or pieces of bloodworm. The white perch tend to be holding in about 20 feet to 25 feet of water.

Large blue catfish can be found from the lower Susquehanna and Elk rivers south to the Bay Bridge this week. The size of the blue catfish in the bay can be astounding at times, most weigh 15 pounds to 40 pounds. Smaller blue catfish can be found in the middle to upper sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Fresh cut menhaden, gizzard shad, chicken liver or scented chicken breast work well for bait. As water temperatures warm, blue catfish can be found wandering out of the channel areas and can be found along channel edges and nearby shelves. The point at Sandy Point State Park and the jetty near the Bay Bridge are excellent places to fish from shore. 

Northern snakeheads are providing plenty of exciting fishing in the tidal rivers, especially on the western side of the Bay. Many of the northern snakeheads caught by anglers are very large and found near emerging grass beds. A portion of the large northern snakeheads are actively spawning or approaching spawning time. Spawning will continue through the summer, depending on each individual northern snakehead. Generally, when they are spawning, they are not as active but a variety of chatterbaits, buzzbaits, frogs and white paddle baits can entice them to strike.

Middle Bay

Salinity values in the middle Bay continue to be relatively low, and water temperatures are in the 65-degree range, making it comfortable for large blue catfish to be found as far south as the Chesapeake Beach and the mouth of the Choptank River. Anglers are fishing baits along the edges of the channels and nearby shelves and structure. The blue catfish being caught are large, usually 15 pounds or more. Smaller blue catfish can be found in the middle to upper Choptank River. Fresh cut baits of menhaden, gizzard shad, chicken liver or scented chicken breast are popular baits. A video on fishing and tips on preparing blue catfish can be found on the Maryland DNR website. 

White perch are steadily moving down the tidal rivers and they are starting to show up at their typical summer areas. Deeper structure in the form of piers and docks are a favored location for the larger white perch to take up residence for the summer. Fishing close to dock pilings with grass shrimp on a simple one hook bottom rig or small jig head is a great way to catch them. In shallower waters casting small spinnerbaits and spinner jigs in the morning and evening hours is a fun way to fish. Tips on catching your own grass shrimp can be found on the DNR website.

Lower Bay
Photo of two men on a boat, each holding a large fish

Christopher Meade and Franklin Ramirez hold up a pair of blue catfish from the Patuxent River. Photo courtesy of Christopher Meade

Anglers who look forward to the hickory shad catch-and release fishery in the District of Columbia portion of the Potomac River saw high water temperatures last week push the hickory shad spawn into action. Many of the hickory shad have now spawned and will be leaving the area. Anglers are reporting that cooler water temperatures bring hope of additional pre-spawn hickory shad and increased numbers of American shad. Tandem rigged shad darts and small spoons are often favorites for those using spinning gear, fly-fishing anglers often use brightly colored flies or shad darts with sinking fly lines. 

Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke rivers could hardly be better this week. Medium to large blue catfish can be found in the tidal Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge south to the mouth of the river. Anglers are finding blue catfish moving out of the deepest parts of the channels and venturing into channel edges and flats next to the channels. The section of the Patuxent River near Bennedict and below has been an excellent place to fish for large blue catfish.

The section of the Nanticoke River below Sharpstown has also been an excellent place to fish for blue catfish. The Wicomico and Pocomoke rivers on the lower Eastern Shore are showing increasing populations of blue catfish. Fresh cut baits of menhaden are hard to beat when fishing the lower sections of the tidal rivers but gizzard shad, chicken liver, or scented chicken breast also work well. Anglers are reporting that cownose rays are becoming an increasing problem when fishing baits. 

White perch are providing good fishing in the region’s tidal rivers this week. They can be found in the middle to lower sections of the tidal rivers. In some areas of medium depth waters casting small spinnerbaits or spinner jigs and working them close to the bottom has been working well for anglers. Fishing with a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp, minnows or pieces of bloodworm can also work well in deeper waters and near deep structure in the form of bridge piers, or deepwater docks. Anglers fishing with pieces of bloodworm are beginning to catch small spot and croakers. Lower bay anglers who are casting paddletails are catching the season’s first speckled trout and red drum. 

Fishing for northern snakeheads in the lower Bay’s tidal rivers is good this week. Anglers are catching some very large snakeheads near grass beds and shoreline structure. A portion of the snakeheads are in the process of spawning and others are still in a pre-spawn mode. Spawning usually is spread out over several months. A variety of chatterbaits, buzzbaits, soft frogs and white paddletails tend to be the best lues when targeting northern snakeheads.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of a trout that was caught

Rainbow trout, photo by Matt Robinson

The stocking of trout in the put and take waters of the central, southern, and eastern regions of Maryland has now come to an end until the fall stocking program in October. Water temperatures are slowly becoming too warm for trout survival. Anglers can still find good numbers of trout by fishing with small spinners, spoons, and jerkbaits. It is a good way to cover a lot of water and the trout are becoming more accustomed to foraging on natural foods.

The streams, creeks, rivers, and reservoirs of the western region will continue to provide good fishing for trout due to favorable cold-water conditions through the summer. Many of these trout management waters are designated as catch and release or delayed harvest and provide excellent trout fishing opportunities for trout anglers. 

In the central, southern, and eastern regions of Maryland, largemouth bass are actively spawning in many areas and holding near spawning nests. Water temperatures are still cold enough in the western region that largemouth bass are a week or two behind in their spawning activity. Most anglers tend to lessen their targeting of largemouth bass at this time and fishing for northern snakeheads can help fill in with plenty of available action. Northern snakeheads are also close or in the process of spawning but still offer plenty of good fishing in the tidal waters of Maryland. Casting chatterbaits, buzzbaits, soft frogs and white paddletails near grass beds is a great way to target them. 

The Maryland DNR tidal bass program is attempting to upgrade their ability to raise more largemouth and smallmouth bass fry for stocking in Maryland waters and is seeking the help of anglers through donations. ​The Black Bass Conservation Fund collects donations to support specific largemouth bass and smallmouth bass conservation efforts in Maryland. In 2024, funds raised would allow the purchase of a filtration unit that would give Maryland Department of Natural Resources hatcheries the ability to raise 3,000 more largemouth or smallmouth bass each year. To learn more about this fund and how you can help, visit DNR’s black bass conservation page

This is a great time to take your younger anglers out to local ponds to fish for bluegill, pumpkinseed, or other species of sunfish. Many seasoned anglers will tell you that a feisty bluegill sunfish was the first fish they caught. A simple push button spinning rod, bobber and earthworm are all that is needed to provide a lot of fun and lasting memories for a young angler and parents. The Fishing and Boating Services Division has a program where a young angler can receive a My First Fish certificate – check the DNR website for more information.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of man and two boys on a beach, holding a fish

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Post

Surf anglers are seeing an increasing variety of fish along the beaches this week. Large spring migrating bluefish are being caught on cut bait of menhaden and mullet. Black drum are being caught on clams, sand fleas and cut bait. In addition to some undersized fish, large migrant striped bass are now being caught. Most of the large striped bass being caught exceed the maximum size of 31 inches but still present an exciting catch.

At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, anglers are catching large bluefish on jigs and Got-Cha lures as well as cut bait. Tautog are still being caught near the jetty rocks, bridge piers and bulkheads on sand fleas and pieces of crab. Flounder are being caught in the inlet area and the season’s first sea trout and sheepshead have made an arrival.

In the back bay waters, flounder are being caught in the channels on traditional squid and minnow baits as well as Gulp baits. Bluefish and striped bass can be caught by casting soft plastic jigs, paddle tails and Got-Cha lures. Offshore, fishing for tautog remains very good and anglers are looking forward to the May 15 opening of the 2024 black sea bass season.

“How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook.” – Aldo Leopold, from “A Sand County Almanac”

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.”