Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | August 18, 2010

Chesapeake Bay

Mid-August and September is appearing on the horizon; kids are reluctantly preparing for school and parents are trying to jam in a family vacation. Traffic looms in any direction that holds the promise of a vacation destination. The welcomed relief of cool fronts poking and prodding at the dog days of summer offer us all a glimpse into welcomed fall weather. Water temperatures throughout the state have actually dropped a bit which is a welcomed relief for estuarine and freshwater fish.

Photo Courtesy Ed Dorsch, click to enlarge.

Fishermen in the upper bay region have seen water temperatures drop to as low as 80-degrees this week and fish seem to be responding in a positive way. Fishermen have been reporting good fishing for a mix of striped bass and small bluefish by trolling, chumming and either jigging or casting. Most fishermen who are trolling are using #1 or #2 planers in front of small spoons such as #2 Drones. Inline weights are being used also as are medium sized bucktails; channel edges and shoal edges have been popular places to troll. Long time fishing buddies Phillip Krausz and Ed Dorsch enjoyed good trolling action for a mix of striped bass and bluefish recently in the upper bay region and even picked up a citation sized Spanish mackerel in the process; held by Ed Dorsch.

Chumming continues to be a good option near Swan and Love Points for a mix of striped bass and bluefish. The best chance of catching the larger sized striped bass continues to be in the early morning hours with baits close to the bottom. Fishermen are also live lining spot close to the bottom to catch larger striped bass below their chum slicks. Live lining spot has also been very productive for fishermen along steep channel edges or deep structure wherever fish can be spotted on depth finders.

Fishermen are spotting breaking fish in the upper bay region from time to time and taking advantage of the fun action by casting metal, bucktails and plugs for a mix of striped bass and bluefish. Many of the striped bass being encountered on the surface are 3-year old class fish measuring from 14" to 17+" in length; but underneath larger fish can often be found holding close to the bottom. Metal jigs and soft plastic jigs are good choices for this type of fishing. Jigging with soft plastics at the bay bridge piers and rock piles continues to be a good choice for fishermen as has live lining spot at the same locations.

Fishing for white perch in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers or shoal and reef areas out in the bay continues to be a good choice for some fun fishing and stocking freezers with quality fillets. Bottom rigs baited with peeler crab, grass shrimp or bloodworms are a good choice but a sinker or jig with a small dropper attached above is also a good choice in deeper waters. Some croakers and eating sized spot are also being caught at times in these same areas. In shallow waters around shoreline structure such as old piers and rocks, small beetle spin type lures or spinners and an ultra-light spinning outfit can offer a lot of fun in the early morning and evening hours.

Recreational crabbing in the upper bay region has been very good this month and if you're thinking about it you should get out there. There are plenty of nice sized crabs all the way up to the Elk River and the mouth of the Susquehanna. Trotlines are of course a favorite but for those who want to go out later in the day; collapsible crab traps offer a great opportunity to catch plenty of crabs when the sun is high in the sky. Kids seem to especially like collapsible traps since there is so much anticipation of what is at the end of the buoy line.

The fishing scene in the middle bay region continues to focus around fishing for a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel as well as bottom fishing for croakers, white perch, spot and flounder. Fishermen have been trolling near channel edges and wherever concentrations of fish can be found. The mouth of Eastern Bay, Poplar Island, the False Channel area and the western side of the shipping channel are all good places to troll. Small spoons, particularly #2 Drones have been one of the more popular items to troll behind #1 or #2 planers. Medium sized bucktails behind inline weights have also a choice for fishermen targeting striped bass. Some fishermen who are targeting Spanish mackerel are using silver or gold spoons and trolling at slightly higher speeds.

A mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been chasing bait throughout the region often in the early morning and evening hours. Many of the striped bass being seen and caught on the surface tend to be slightly below 18" in length but there are larger ones holding close to the bottom underneath the surface melee. Jigging with metal is a very good way to sort out the bluefish and smaller striped bass up near the surface.

Spot can be found in the tidal rivers and creeks and fishermen are using them for live lining out near some of the prominent channel edges such as near Buoy 83 and the Hill and the western side of the shipping channel. The magic depth tends to be around 35' and unfortunately bluefish can be a pesky problem in some areas.

Fishing for croakers remains good this week with the best catches occurring after dark on some of the shoal areas close to deep channels. The mouth of Eastern Bay, the Gooses and Sharps Island Flats have been good places to fish after dark for large croakers. Baits such as peeler crab, clam, shrimp and bloodworms have been good baits to use on bottom rigs or a jig head. White perch can also be part of the mix; especially in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. Casting small lures such as beetle spins and spinners continues to be a great way to fish for white perch in the tidal rivers and creeks.

Recreational crabbers are doing well catching blue crabs in the tidal rivers and creeks. Both trotlines and collapsible traps are working well. There are a lot of small crabs being reported and baits are taking a beating as a result. Light crabs tend to be rather common also so culling them out tends to be another factor crabbers are dealing with. Water temperatures have cooled a bit in the creeks and rivers so crabs have moved back into relatively shallow water again.

Lower bay fishermen have a wide variety of fishing opportunities this week ranging from bottom fishing for a mix of croaker, spot, white perch and flounder to trolling for striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Bottom fishing for croakers, spot and white perch has been good in the lower sections of the tidal rivers on the eastern side of the bay; in particular the mouth of the Honga River as well as Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. Flounder can be found along the channel edges on hard-bottomed shoal areas and a mix of species can be found along the shallow marsh edges guts and creeks including speckled trout.

The tidal rivers on the eastern side of the bay are holding croakers and white perch and the occasional puppy drum. The best croaker fishing is occurring after dark on shoal areas adjacent to the shipping canal such as Buoy 72 and the Middle Grounds.

A mix of bluefish, striped bass and Spanish mackerel are spread out through much of the region with the most action occurring along major channel edges in the bay. Fishermen are encountering breaking fish at times or observing slicks and concentrations of fish on their depth recorders. Small spoons behind #1 and #2 planers have been the favorite items to troll recently along with medium sized bucktails. Those fishermen targeting Spanish mackerel have been trolling small Clark and Drone spoons and kicking the trolling speed up a bit. If bluefish are what you are after the Middle Grounds areas has been holding the largest bluefish. Large red drum continue to frequent the area above the Middle Grounds and Target Ship and they can offer some exciting catch and release action. The best concentration of striped bass tends to be east of the Gas Docks.

Live lining spot near steep channel edges in about 35' of water has been paying off dividends for fishermen looking for their striped bass; out in front of the Gas Docks is one of the better places to give it a try. Casting and jigging to breaking fish or trolling around the edges will continue to offer some of the best action and this is often an early morning and evening occurrence.

Recreational crabbing in the regions tidal creeks and rivers remains strong this week. Warm water temperatures are pushing crabs to grow and shed so many crabs can be light but a waxing moon holds the promise of heavier crabs before the next full moon.

Freshwater fishermen in the western region of the state are watching local trout streams and rivers fluctuate with rain events and enjoying good trout fishing in most trout waters. The upper Potomac River is beginning to cool down a bit but water flows continue to vary with local rain fall. Smallmouth bass in the 12" size range continue to provide a lot of action for fishermen with ultra-light tackle and fishing for channel catfish can offer some fun.

Photo Courtesy Amy Heckhaus, click to enlarge.
Paul Heckhaus holds up one of the many channel catfish he and his friends caught and released while fishing with chicken livers recently.

Fishermen at Deep Creek Lake have generally been finding poor fishing conditions for the past month due to warm water temperatures and a persistent fish kill. Fisheries biologist Alan Klotz offers some hope that the worst may behind us with this report.

My crew walked the Beckmann's shoreline and the McHenry Point shoreline on Monday 8/16 - good news, the fish kill is diminishing - they counted 1 yellow perch and one walleye along Beckman's that appeared to have died within the last 48 hrs.; McHenry had one largemouth bass, 2 smallmouth bass, and one yellow perch.

Fishing for largemouth bass that are entrenched in a summer pattern of loafing during the day in the shade or cool water and feeding at night continues to be an early morning and late evening proposition. Casting surface lures such as frogs, buzzbaits and poppers over or near shallow grass can offer some fun fishing at dawn or late in the evening. As the sun holds higher in the sky fishermen are targeting shade such as old docks, piers, brush or thick grass with soft plastics, spinnerbaits or small crankbaits. When fishing tidal rivers a falling tide can be a good time to fish around the outside edges of spatterdock fields and grass or target feeder creeks where the water temperatures are usually cooler.

Coastal fishermen continue to fish for flounder in the back bay areas of Ocean City and find good fishing when water clarity is good. The throwback ratio continues to be high but many anglers are now using large baits and live spot to entice only the larger flounder. On the change of tide at the inlet fishermen are catching bluefish and striped bass at night. Got-Cha plugs are a favorite and drifting live spot is popular when targeting striped bass and large flounder. During the day fishermen are catching triggerfish and a few tautog on sand fleas near the jetties.

Surf fishermen are finding a typical summer mix of small species such as croaker, spot, kingfish, small bluefish and flounder in the surf. The best fishing has been early in the morning and late evenings. Catch and release fishing for inshore sharks can offer some pull on heavy tackle at night. Large baits, stout tackle and careful releases are all part of this type of fishing for a mix of sharks and sting rays.

The boats venturing out to the wreck sites are finding fair fishing for sea bass and tautog with an occasional large flounder and cobia. Croakers can be found at times in the slough areas off the beaches. Offshore fishermen are finding a summer mix of dolphin, yellowfin tuna and white marlin near the canyons.

"No, I reckon there wasn't much to do in the summertime, but it got to be September before you knew it, with the big saltwater fish beginning to run, and the high moon-swollen tides to make the marsh-hen shooting easy on the first big northern. And then the torture of school and shoes beganů "

-- Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy


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.