Maryland Fishing Report

March 22, 2017

This coming Saturday will be an exciting day for put and take trout fishermen throughout Maryland as Closure 1&2 trout management waters open up for what can be considered the traditional opening day of Maryland's trout season. This is a wonderful time to gather up the family or neighborhood kids for a rite of spring. If your trout fishing posse has some youngsters in it, be prepared with an extra set of dry foot wear and pants. It goes without saying that kids near water will get wet and muddy and will be smiling and laughing the whole time.


Photo courtesy of Alan Klotz

The recent snow that blanketed much of the northwestern side of the state is beginning to melt and has resulted in water temperatures in the lower Susquehanna River dipping to about 42° at the present time. The Conowingo Dam is operating under modest water releases during late evening and early morning hours. These factors have checked the progress of hickory shad and striped bass staging for upcoming spawning activity. Both species have arrived in the lower parts of the river and a few hickory shad are being caught up near the dam pool. Striped bass are present and those participating in the catch and release fishery are reminded to use barbless hooks, and to stay below the spawning reach line that runs from the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. Natural Resource Police officers are present in the area, enforcing regulations (no fishing in the spawning reach for striped bass) and are warning anglers that striped bass must be released immediately in the legal Susquehanna Flats Catch and Release area. Striped bass are to be released immediately by law, so be prepared to unhook fish quickly in the water and if you must pose for a picture, be prepared ahead of time, support the fish horizontally and do it quickly, very quickly.

White perch spawning runs are now replacing the yellow perch runs and good white perch fishing can be found in most every tidal river in the upper bay. A variety of baits and lures will do the trick when the perch are running but small fish will often dominate the catch. Lures such as shad darts and small Mr. Twister plastic tails on a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce lead head help to keep things going as one sorts through fish to be released. A small piece of minnow or your favorite fish juice on the shad dart or lead head jig/twister will help a lot. There is also plenty of channel catfish and crappie action in the region's tidal rivers and creeks and offer additional opportunities.

There is some good news for fishermen who like to catch their own minnows. The Fisheries Service has revised the regulations concerning the use of minnow traps by those who do not own waterfront property. A minnow trap may now be set in tidal and non-tidal public waters except trout management waters if your Maryland DNR ID is attached and you are present within 100' of where the trap is set.

The Spring Trophy Striped Bass Season will kick off on April 15th , which is not far off, so everyone is getting a bit anxious. The minimum size this year will be 35" measured as a total length (to the tip of the tail, NOT fork length). The striped bass are moving up the bay and into the spawning tidal rivers. They are the Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, Choptank and Susquehanna Rivers. Despite the unusually warm weather in February, everything looks on track for a normal mid-April spawn.

In the middle bay area a few boats can be seen practicing some trolling catch and release fishing along channel edges in the main part of the bay with barbless hooks. Most will agree these fishing forays are mostly to shake the bugs out of gear and the winter blues. Light tackle jigging at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm-water discharge is popular every winter and early spring, as striped bass nose into that warm water to gain some relief from 43° water in the middle bay region. Anglers have also been catching a few speckled trout and small red drum in the discharge.

The tidal rivers in the middle bay region are alive with runs of spawning white perch and they provide some fun light tackle action in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks. Baits such as minnows and grass shrimp will work, but due to the fact that one must sort through large numbers of small fish, lures such as shad darts will go a lot farther. Water temperatures in the upper reaches of the region's tidal rivers is running about 45° this week so it may be a while before water temperatures hit the 50° mark, which starts the spawning process. Fishing for channel catfish has been good in most of the region's tidal rivers and crappie and chain pickerel are also very active. Angelina Watts poses with a nice Tuckahoe River chain pickerel before releasing it recently.


Photo courtesy of Ryan Jones

The lower bay region of Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay has been offering some light tackle jigging catch and release action around the Point Lookout area near channel edges. This is perhaps the most fun type of catch and release fishing, just remember to file off or squash down the barbs on your jigs. A few boats will be seen out trolling and practicing some catch and release fishing while shaking out the cobwebs in gear and boats. Barbless hooks and a quick release are a must, so make sure everyone on board knows what the drill is ahead of time.

This coming Saturday, March 25th , will mark the traditional opening day of trout season in the put and take closure areas 1 and 2. The weather forecast could hardly be better with warm temperatures predicted. This is a great time for kids to enjoy some trout fishing success with relatively simple gear. A light spinning outfit, a simple hook and split shot rig and good old Powerbait, or old fashioned garden worms. The trout hatchery staff have worked very hard this year to bring Maryland trout fishermen the best trout possible despite water flow difficulties at the Albert Powell Hatchery. In season trout stockings can be found on the trout stocking website.

Fishing for a mix of yellow perch, walleye and smallmouth bass has been improving along the shorelines of Deep Creek Lake. Minnows on a slip bobber are hard to beat when targeting yellow perch and walleyes. Smallmouth bass can be found near rocky points and targeted with crankbaits and jigs that resemble crayfish. Northern pike and chain pickerel are active and fishermen are urged to look for tags on northern pike as part of ongoing research. Project manager Matt Sell has posted an angler's log describing the program.


Photo by Matt Sell

John Mullican reports that water temperatures in the upper Potomac dropped almost 15° due to snow melt recently. He added that walleye fishing has been good and that most of the walleye have spawned and hopes are high for a good year class of reproduction. Fishing for smallmouth bass will improve as water temperatures warm up in the next week or so. Steve Peperak holds up a beautiful spawned out upper Potomac walleye for the camera before slipping her back into the river.


Photos by John Mullican

Water temperatures in many of the ponds, lakes and tidal waters where largemouth bass can be found are warming up and fish are becoming more active. Water temperatures have reached 50° in some areas. Lures such as spinnerbaits are a great way to cover a lot of water near sunken structure or channel edges. Crankbaits would also be a good choice when working these transition areas in slightly deeper waters. Crappie are holding near structure and small jigs or minnows under a slip bobber are a great way to target them. Bluegills are active and can be caught on small flies, jigs or a simple bobber worm combo.

The fishing scene at the Ocean City area mostly revolves around fishing for tautog at the offshore reef and wreck sites at this time. Water temperatures close to shore are holding around 44° this week. The catches have been fair to good when sea conditions allow offshore trips. There was a pulse of Atlantic "Boston" mackerel that passed by our Maryland shores in early March and a few lucky boats and anglers were able to get a taste of what used to be a spring rite 30 years ago. Here is a lucky angler with 4 mackerel caught at one time on a classic "mackerel tree" and diamond jig rig. This is the same rig that was used on the party and charter boats back in the 1980's and early 90's. The mackerel tree rig consists of multi-colored small pieces of surgical tubing ("hoses") tied into dropper loops on a monofilament leader. The bottom of the rig is weighted with a bank sinker or preferably a shiny diamond jig ranging from 3 – 8 ounces to provide some extra flash.


Atlantic "Boston" mackerel photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins

The 2007 summer flounder regulations have been set at a 17" flounder with 4 per day starting April 1st through December 31st. (Note- the summer flounder regulation currently in the books is 16" fish and 4/day, BUT this will change on April 1!). Sea bass season will start on May 15th through September 21st and pick up again on October 22nd and run through December 31st with a daily creel limit of 15 fish per day and a 12.5" minimum. Tautog is open till May 15th at 4 fish per day and then switches to 2 fish per day from May 16th to October 31st, the daily creel limit returns to 4 fish per day from November 1st to November 26th and the minimum size is 16".

"Perhaps the greatest satisfaction on the first day of the season is the knowledge in the evening that the whole rest of the season is to come." - Arthur Ransome
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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.