Maryland Fishing Report

May 24, 2017

Ready or not, here comes Memorial Day Weekend! For many it is a time for family "mini- vacations" over the long weekend to favorite places, and often fishing will be involved. No doubt all manner of vehicles will be spotted later on this week packed with gear and kids peering out windows, (or glued to their iPads), while dad drives and mom acts as copilot. For those of an older generation growing up in the influence of WWII veterans, there were always parades if you were a Boy Scout and the Stars and Stripes would be flying everywhere. In those days the last Spanish American War veteran and then the last WWI veteran would ride in a convertible in those parades. The few WWII veterans that are left are now in their 90's, and recently a good friend lost his dad, who passed away in his late 90's. That man was the last veteran of that great conflict that I knew well. It sort of closes a life chapter for me. Korean War veterans are now the "old guys" followed by Vietnam and Middle East conflict veterans. Please remember to honor them all, and thank them for their service.


Photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the Blue Angels perform in Ocean City, MD

Water flows at the Conowingo Dam have been moderate during afternoon hours but very low during late night to late morning hours. Water quality in the lower Susquehanna and flats area has improved as a result. Fishing for white perch has been extremely good for those casting shad darts or small jigs in the river. Fishing for striped bass out in the channel areas around the flats has been good this week with plenty of fish over 20" in length. Soft plastic jigs such as Bass Assassins and BKDs have been favorites for jigging and during early pre- sunrise and late evening hours topwater lures can work well at times. Fishing for channel and flathead catfish continues to good in the lower Susquehanna up to the dam pool. Montana Grant spent some fun time with his niece and nephew catching some nice Susquehanna white perch when he hooked up with this big carp on his ultra-light spinning outfit.


Photo courtesy of Montana Grant

Striped bass catches in the upper bay have been slim this week but some fish are being caught for those who wish to fish close to port. There has been some trolling action along channel edges such as Love Point and the Triple Buoys. Most are trolling three to four ounce bucktails dressed with twister tails in tandem or behind umbrella rigs with inline weights. There have been boats anchoring up at Swan, Love and Podickory Points chumming with some success as well as the deeper Bay Bridge piers. Jigging is a good option when fish can be found suspended along channel edges or structure such as the Bay Bridge piers.

In the middle bay region there have been good opportunities for striped bass in the 20" to 30" size range. The channel edges on the western side of the bay from Thomas Point south to below the Calvert Cliffs power plant are producing striped bass. Within that zone, the area around Parkers Creek and Chesapeake Beach are a real focal point for those trolling a mix of bucktails dressed with twister tails, spoons and surge tube lures. On the eastern side of the bay the channel edge off Kent Island, the Hill, Buoy 83 and the False Channel have been producing fish. Most anglers are trolling, but often fish can be found suspended or breaking water. Bay anchovies are becoming common as water temperatures move back towards the 60 degree mark so it pays to keep jigs down to 6" or so and chartreuse, purple, pink and pearl have proven to be good colors for soft plastics this week.

Those who are tired of trolling have been setting up chum lines at the outside edge of Hackett's and the Hill. Some are using menhaden chum and others are using razor clams.

The shallow water striped bass fishery in the middle bay region has really come into its own and there is hardly a more fun way to catch striped bass than casting topwater lures. There is a portion of sub-legal striped bass in the mix and unfortunately cow-nosed rays have moved into the region stirring up the shallows. Water quality overall has been good though, and grass cover has been in good shape.

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and more than a few will be slowly cruising over the shallows of Stone Rock looking for heavy marks on their depth finders indicating the presence of black drum. Anglers will be ready with a soft crab held to a hook with a rubber band and a 3 ounce sinker ready to drop to the drum at a moment's notice. A spot that usually has fewer boats and often presents a good opportunity for black drum is the James Island Flats.

More than a few anglers in the middle and lower bay have been excitedly remarking about the few large bluefish that have showed up in the bay recently and hopes of them becoming more common in the Chesapeake. Everyone likes to catch a large hard fighting fish and large bluefish are certainly noted for that. Barry Turner is all smiles with this big one he caught recently.


Photo courtesy of Barry Turner

Striped bass fishing in the lower bay region this week has been extremely good for fish less than 28". Trolling along channel edges from Cedar Point, past Cove Point and north has been very good along the 35' channel edge. Bucktails in the 3 to 4 ounce size range in chartreuse or white and dressed with twister tails have been great producers. Red surge tube lures are also being used along with small to medium sized spoons. There has also been successful chumming out at the Middle Grounds for striped bass and to a lesser extent near Buoy 72. There is trolling action in the lower Potomac as well.

Light tackle fishing has been good for those that can find suspended fish along channel edges or under breaking fish. Metal jigs and soft plastic have both been working well. There are a fair portion of smaller fish being encountered alone with bluefish when breaking fish are found but as is often the case larger fish can be found underneath. Bay anchovies are spreading out throughout the region and are being swept along channel edges in stiff currents.

Over on the eastern side of the bay some large red drum have been caught and released by those trolling large spoons above the Target Ship and some are lucky enough to hook into them while jigging. The creeks and guts flowing out of the marsh areas are attracting speckled trout and the catches have been good for those who fish for them. White Gulp Mullet baits tend to be the best bet now that cow-nosed rays have moved into the area making it hard to fish peeler or soft crab baits without hooking up with a ray. These same areas are also holding striped bass and there are throwbacks but enough larger fish to fill out a two fish limit on most trips.

Croaker are becoming more common and some warm weather will speed up their movement into local waters. There are reports of excellent croaker fishing at the James River area of Virginia last weekend so hopefully they'll be here soon. A few croaker are also showing up near Point Lookout along with small kingfish.

Recreational crabbing continues to move along at a good pace. Most are reporting the best catches are coming from relatively shallow water in tidal creeks.

Fishing at Deep Creek Lake will be noticeably different this weekend as vacationers begin to descend on the waters of the lake. One of the good things though is that floating docks are being deployed making good habitat for largemouth bass. Targeting docks is a major "go to" tactic for bass fishing on the lake with stick worms and soft plastics. Largemouth bass can also be found in the grassy coves. Smallmouth bass are holding over rocky points in about 6' of water and can be caught on jerkbaits and tubes.

The western region trout management waters continue to be stocked with trout this week creating good fishing in many areas. Conditions are good and this weekend will be a great time to get out and enjoy some streamside relaxation. The stockings can be viewed at the trout stocking website.

John Mullican checked in with a short report from the upper Potomac this morning.

The Potomac is in great shape and the fishing has been excellent. Smallmouth are taking everything from topwaters to jigs bounced on the bottom and everything in between. Fishermen have also been catching walleye and a few muskie too. Check the river gauges before heading out; the river is predicted to rise significantly from the forecasted rain.

Most everyone that is fishing their favorite pond, lake or tidal river for largemouth bass this week is having a great time. The fish are very active and can be usually found in less than 8' of water near most any kind of structure and especially grass. A variety of topwater lures are perhaps the most fun way to fish for them, weedless frogs over grass, poppers, buzzbaits and chatterbaits, take your pick. Pitching whacky rigged stick worms and soft plastics into grass where largemouth bass are holding is another good tactic.

In the tidal Potomac the growth of grass is reported to be excellent this year and definitely the best place to target bass. Water temperatures in most tidal rivers are about 70 degrees this week making for ideal conditions. The tidal rivers of the middle and lower Eastern Shore provide good fishing for largemouth and much like the tidal Potomac hold a lot of northern snakeheads that hold in the grass or spatterdock fields. The happy angler holds up a northern snakehead caught near Blackwater Refuge in Dorchester County while fishing for largemouth bass.


Photo courtesy of Don Goff

There are lots of other warm water freshwater fish to entertain anyone who fishes for them this week. Crappie have moved into shallower waters near brush and similar structure and can be caught on small jigs or minnows and lures like small jerkbaits. Bluegill sunfish can be found outside of lily pad or grass areas and an excellent introduction to fly fishing with small poppers or wet flies. Of course it is hard to beat a worm or grasshopper below a bobber or working a small spinner fly with an ultra-light spinning outfit. Depending where you are fishing there are other species of sunfish, the feisty rock bass and chain pickerel, and you can enjoy them all!

Unfortunately it was another windy weekend in the Ocean City area, making for some tough fishing from boats. In the surf and in around the inlet anglers got their last licks in on the large bluefish that have been moving through the region on their way north. Coastal anglers are hoping that north bound large migratory striped bass are right behind the big bluefish. Surfcasters will soaking baits this week in hopes of intercepting them and will also be catching sub-legal striped bass and bluefish.

Flounder fishing in the channels behind the inlet took a sleepy nap last weekend due to waters being churned up by strong winds. Hopefully, we're done with the stained water and seaweed for a while. Striped bass under 28" are providing some fun catch and release action along marsh edges near the Route 90 Bridge on topwater lures in the mornings and evenings.

Sea bass fishing promises to be good this week if the weatherman smiles on us and at least one boat slipped out to the canyons this week and came back to the dock with a load of large gaffer sized dolphin and yellowfin tuna.

"What people don't understand is that this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There's no other nation in the world where that happens. And it's very much a part of our heritage. " - General Norman Schwarzkopf
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith Lockwood

Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.