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Maryland Fishing Report – July 3

Photo of man on a boat holding a blue crab

Rich Watts holds up what every crabber is looking for, a heavy jumbo blue crab. Photo by Rich Watts

It’s the Fourth of July – time for family gatherings and barbecues, and steamed blue crabs will be on the most wanted list for many. Blue crab catches have been good recently, so we wish all our recreational crabbers the best of luck. 

On July 4, unlicensed anglers are free to fish anywhere in the state without a fishing license – so feel free to take someone fishing.

Striped Bass 7-Day Fishing Advisory Forecast for June 19-25, with a green flag day Wednesday, yellow flags Thursday, through Sunday, and green flags Monday and Tuesday.

Forecast Summary: July 3 – July 9:

Continued warm and sunny with moderate winds and a chance of thunderstorms most of this week will make for unsettled fishing conditions in Maryland’s waters. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are holding at about 80 degrees.  River temperatures are also holding in the mid to high 70s to low 80s. Maryland’s part of the Bay continues to run fresher and warmer than average. Areas with suitable amounts of oxygen, greater than 3 mg per liter, have moved towards typical summer conditions. On the Potomac River, avoid the low oxygen areas below 15 feet between the Wicomico River and St. George’s Island. On the main Bay, from Tolchester south to the state line, avoid areas deeper than 30 feet. 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. 

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 all week as a result of the new moon on July 6. Expect average flows for the Maryland rivers and streams.

For detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area, check the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Click Before You Cast website.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of man on a small boat in a creek holding up a fish

Chesapeake Channa, or northern snakehead, photo courtesy of William Elborn

Anglers at the Conowingo Dam pool and lower Susquehanna River are experiencing the typical afternoon-evening power generation schedule this week. The surge of cooler water and the anticipation of fish pieces from the turbines has striped bass along with flathead and blue catfish residing in the dam pool, hearing a dinner bell. 

Anglers are doing well catching both species of catfish on cut bait or chicken liver. Fresh cut bait is not always the easiest to come by, so chicken liver can be a good substitute. Chicken livers can be salted down with non-iodized salt, which decants off excess water. As a result, they will become tougher and will stay on the hook better. 

Striped bass are being caught in the dam pool and the lower Susquehanna and along the edges of the flats during the early morning and late evening. Topwater lures, small crankbaits, jerkbaits, and soft plastic jigs are all effective. 

The striped bass action continues farther down the Bay and mostly in the shallower waters along shorelines during the early morning and late evening hours. The Pooles Island and the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor waters are holding good numbers of striped bass this week. Many anglers are using spot for live-lining in the Pooles Island and Patapsco River areas with good success. Anglers are urged to review catch and release procedures to limit striped bass release mortalities. 

Fishing for Chesapeake Channa (northern snakeheads) has been very good in the western tidal rivers in the upper Bay, some of the fish being caught are of exceptional size. Most anglers are catching them on topwater lures being fished over or near thick grass beds. Blue catfish can be found throughout the upper Bay and readily take a variety of baits.

Fishing for white perch in the region’s tidal rivers is very good this week and the perch can also be found on several of the knolls and shoals in the upper Bay. Spot can also be found in the same areas as well as off Sandy Point State Park.

Middle Bay
Photo of man holding a fish

Keeper-sized striped bass, photo by Keith Lockwood.

Dissolved oxygen levels in the middle Bay have improved greatly since the middle of May and many areas in the main part of the bay show oxygen levels above 3mg/l or better down to 35 feet. Water temperatures in the middle mainstem part of the bay are holding around 80-degrees and salinity is close to 10 ppt now. 

Anglers can be seen during the early morning and late evening hours live lining spot and drifting soft crab baits to the shallower piers on both sides of the Bay Bridge. Casting soft plastic jigs close to the bridge piers is also a good tactic during the early morning and late evening. 

Dissolved oxygen levels are improved on the western side of the middle bay region and striped bass can be found suspended along the main channel edges from Hacketts Bar south to Chesapeake Beach. The fish can be spotted on depth finders and when good marks are found, anglers are setting up on them and live lining spot. The shoreline waters along the Bay are also a good place to fish for striped bass at dawn and dusk by casting topwater poppers over grass and jerkbaits, crankbaits, and paddletails in slightly deeper waters.

There are plenty of spot to be found off Chesapeake Beach and Black Walnut Point. Pieces of bloodworms are the most popular bait and anglers can extend their bait supply by mixing pieces of nightcrawler in the bloodworm juice on one’s cutting board. 

White perch can be mixed in with the spot at times and near structure and oyster reefs in the tidal rivers. Kent Narrows is a great place to catch white perch and there are locations to fish from bulkheads during daylight hours. Peeler crab and grass shrimp are good baits for white perch or if your pocketbook allows, and pieces of bloodworm work well. Casting small spinnerbaits and soft plastic jigs along promising looking shorelines during the early morning and late evening hours with light tackle is a fun way to target large white perch. 

Lower Bay
Photo of man holding a fish

Flounder, photo by Eric Packard

Lower bay anglers are seeing improved dissolved oxygen levels this week, but there are still a few troubling locations. The lower Potomac River and tributaries, lower Hoopers Island, and the waters near Smith Island are showing poor dissolved oxygen values right now. Salinity values are almost 12 ppt and water temperatures are holding just below 80 degrees.

A mix of striped bass, slot-size red drum, and a few speckled trout are entertaining anglers who are fishing the shallower shoreline waters by casting a variety of lures during the early morning and late evening. Zara Spooks and poppers are excellent choices when fishing over grass beds and stump fields. Paddletails, soft plastic jigs, jerkbaits, are good lures to use in deeper waters where grass is not a problem.

Bluefish are being caught out in the Bay near main channels by trolling Drone spoons, tube lures. and Clark spoons behind planers and inline weights. Using large spoons and tubes can entice a large red drum or perhaps a cobia at times. Most anglers are looking for slicks and watching depth finders to locate large red drum, then dropping soft crab baits or large soft plastic jigs for some exciting catch and release action. Cobia anglers are chumming and fishing cut bait or live eels in the back of their chum slicks. Lately the Bay has been too rough to look for cobia on the surface and sight cast to them with live eels or large soft plastic jigs, but winds are subsiding. The best large red drum and cobia action has been taking place near the Target Ship. 

Spot can be found at the mouth of the Patuxent River mixed in with white perch and small croakers. White perch can also be found in most of the tidal rivers and creeks flowing into the lower Bay. Flounder are being caught near Point Lookout, Tangier Sound, and Pocomoke Sound. Flounder can be caught on Gulp baits, strips of spot, or squid. 

Blue catfish can be found in the region’s tidal rivers and the Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke tend to hold the greatest numbers and the largest specimens. The catfish tend to be moving through a variety of habitats. Flats next to channels and channel edges are a great place to fish for them. At night they will roam the shallower waters looking for food, which is anything they can get into their mouth. 

Recreational crabbers are seeing improved catches this week. Extra-large crabs have now filled out and are ready for the steamer. There are a lot of 5.5-inch crabs that are heavy and many will shed soon. Some of the best crabs are reported to be caught along 12-foot to 15-foot edges, and waters less than 6 feet tend to hold a lot of smaller crabs.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of boy holding a fish

Jack Dougherty is on the right track to becoming a largemouth bass angler. Photo by Laura Dougherty

It is vacation time at Deep Creek Lake and families are enjoying boating and fishing on the lake. There is usually an angler in every vacationing family, especially if a lake front rental or rented pontoon boat is in the picture. The floating docks are a great spot for the younger anglers to fish for bluegill sunfish. Older anglers can work the floating docks for smallmouth and largemouth bass from a boat by casting wacky rigged plastics. Deep grass edges are a good place to drift live minnows down deep for a mix of large yellow perch, crappie, and smallmouth and largemouth bass. Slow trolling rigged nightcrawlers down deep along the dam face is a good way to target trout. Crappie can be found holding near the highway bridge piers.

The upper Potomac and western Maryland streams received a small spike in water levels on Monday due to recent rainfall, but levels are returning to typical summer levels. The upper Potomac should be good for wading and casting for smallmouth bass this holiday and upcoming weekend. Anglers fishing in the catch-and-release only waters are urged to be extra careful in handling trout that must be released during the hot summer months. The Department of Natural Resources website has posted some guidelines put together by our trout biologists

Fishing for largemouth bass continues to follow a summer pattern of behavior as we move into July. Largemouth bass will roam the shallower grass beds and structure looking for a meal during low light periods and during the night. Anglers who can get out at dawn or dusk will often have the best chances of connecting with a largemouth bass in the shallower waters during that time. Casting frogs, chatterbaits, or buzzbaits can be good lure choices. As the morning evolves, the deeper outside edges of grass beds, lily pad or spatterdock fields are good places to pitch spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits.

Once the sun is high in the sky, largemouth bass will look for cool shade to wait out the day. Dropping wacky rigged worms through floating grass mats that are over a few feet of water is a good option. The same rig can be used near overhanging brushes, fallen treetops, deep sunken wood, or under docks. 

When fishing the shallower grass beds for tidal largemouth bass, Chesapeake Channa – northern snakeheads – will often be part of the mix and will offer a very exciting experience. Every tidal river in the Chesapeake system now has populations of them and some rather large ones are being caught this summer. Buzzbaits, chatterbaits, and frogs are some of the best baits to work over grass beds.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of man on a boat holding a large fish

Blefish, photo courtesy of Brian Reynolds.

Surf anglers who are fishing small baits of bloodworms, small strips of spot, and artificial bloodworm baits are enjoying good fishing for a mix of kingfish and spot. The mornings and evenings are reported to offer the best fishing. Flounder can be caught on squid or spot strips and bluefish on finger mullet or cut mullet. The larger baits will also attract the many stingrays and inshore shark species roaming just outside the surf line. 

At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, anglers are casting soft plastic jigs for a mix of striped bass and bluefish along the jetty rocks, bridge piers and bulkheads or out into the current. A few sheepshead and tautog are being caught near the jetty rocks on sand fleas or pieces of peeler crab or green crab. Tautog are back in season with a limit of 2 fish per person per day at a minimum size of 16 inches.

Outside the inlet at the offshore wreck and reef sites, anglers are catching a mix of black sea bass and flounder. Farther offshore at the Washington and Poorman’s canyons, yellowfin tuna are at the top of the list for the boats out trolling. Deep drop fishing for a mix of blueline and golden tilefish has been good and adds some meat to fish boxes.

“A friend of mine, an ardent purist, was challenged once by a golfing acquaintance as he turned loose a large trout he had just netted. ‘Why go to all that trouble to catch a fish,’ the exasperated golfer demanded, ‘if you don’t want to eat it?’ ‘Do you eat golf balls?’ my friend inquired.” – Corey Ford, 1958

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.

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