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Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | September 22, 2010

I had the opportunity to drive from the western most region of Maryland to the eastern shore Monday and as I crossed the line from West Virginia into Maryland on Interstate 68 an old song by John Denver drifted into my road fogged brain; "It's good to be back home again". As many of you know I have been away for two weeks and after a return trip of over 2,000 miles I was glad to see I was approaching the home stretch. One after another, special things about Maryland began to strike me as the miles rumbled along under the tires of my truck. Out in the Rockies everyone was gasping at the beauty of the aspens amongst the evergreen forests but here in Garret County the collage of colors that mark a deciduous hardwood forest were beginning to unfold. I and countless other travelers on this concrete interstate rumbled over waters dear to all freshwater fishermen such as the Youghiogheny, the Savage, Antietam Creek and the Monocracy to name a few. Each one struck a different chord as I remembered what lay below the viaduct and whose inner beauty remained hidden from the multitudes of speeding travelers. As I passed the exit for the Albert Powell Trout Hatchery on Interstate 70, I could not help but think of all the pictures of happy fishermen with huge rainbow trout up to 10lbs or more that had passed by my desk over the past year. They had all been raised at this hatchery. Crossing Severn Run on 97, I thought about the rebound of the yellow perch fishery this past spring and as luck would have it as I crossed the Bay Bridge in the gray light of a day's end; there below me was nature in action. Sea gulls were diving into a mass of surface splashes that played out an opera of prey and predator, the sound of splashing and screaming gulls provided the music. Yes, it is good to be back home again and I can't wait to take my place out on the bay and enjoy some fall jigging action or perhaps stocking up on some fat white perch or jimmy blue crabs.

There will be the First Bill Burton Annual Youth Fishing Derby to be held on October 2nd at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier formally known as the Choptank River Fishing Pier on the Talbot County side. This promises to be a fun event for kids and parents with good fishing opportunities for white perch and striped bass. Registration is from 8 to 9 am with fishing 9 to 11 and awards and prizes at 11:30. This is an easy place for youngsters to fish since often the best place to fish is straight down next to the bridge piers. If you want an edge on the competition bring some fresh bloodworms to use on a simple bottom rig.

Chesapeake Bay

Cooler water temperatures have been having a profound effect on changing the face of the fishing scene in the three regions of the Chesapeake Bay. Water temperatures are now below 75-degrees in all three regions of the bay and fish are definitely responding to the change with longer and increased activity in regard to feeding. Bait in the form of juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies are beginning to move out of the tidal rivers and are traveling out into the bay and eventually south. Tidal currents will often move them along channel edges where a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are waiting. The mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel tend to make up less of the mix in the upper bay and increase towards the lower bay region.

Fishermen in the upper bay region that are focusing on striped bass this week are either trolling or jigging near breaking fish or near structure that is holding concentrations of fish. Breaking fish and diving sea gulls are certainly hard to miss and even harder to pass by this time of the year; but this scene seems to be absent on the immediate horizon, subtle signs such as slicks and strong currents along channel edges may point the way to striped bass. Many fishermen are still trolling spoons behind planers and inline weights and once the bluefish depart from the upper bay fishermen will be brave enough to start trolling umbrella rigs with soft plastics in the form of sassy shads and Storm shads.

Photo By Keith Lockwood

Jigging with metal and soft plastics is beginning to come into its own now that fall approaches. For those who have not tried using braided line for deep water vertical jigging perhaps this is the year to give it a try. The sensitivity of the braided line may make a believer in you. Fishermen are still live lining small spot along channel edges such as the Podickory and Love Point areas as well as the bases of the Bay Bridge piers. Jigging close to the pier bases also continues to be a good way to fish for striped bass.

Fishing for channel catfish in the channels leading to the Susquehanna and Elk Rivers has been very good lately and fishermen are catching an increasing number of flathead catfish that make for excellent eating. Flatheads are an invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay and a rather unwelcomed invader. Few situations present themselves like this, where an enemy of the bay's ecosystem tastes so good.

White perch are beginning to school up over hard-bottomed reefs, shoals and similar structure. Jigging with a small dropper fly or two above the jig is a time proven method of catching up some nice perch as is a bottom rig baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp.

Middle bay region fishermen are encountering a mix of striped bass and bluefish with a scattering of Spanish mackerel chasing juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies. Diving sea gulls usually mark the way and casting to surface fish or jigging deep underneath is the name of the game. Trolling is effective and small spoons behind inline weights or planners are about all that stands a chance of surviving as long as the bluefish are around. As water temperatures continue to drop the bluefish will soon be departing to more southerly locations. The mouth of Eastern Bay continues to be a very good place to look for action as are the steep edges of the shipping channel and the mouths of tidal rivers such as the Choptank, Severn and West River.

The croakers are making their way south for more southerly and warmer waters and tend to use the edges of main channels such as the shipping channel for their southerly travels. Fishermen looking for a last taste of croaker may try these edges with bottom rigs of small jigs baited with peeler crab, shrimp, clams or bloodworms. The white perch fishing continues to be very good as cooler water temperatures have white perch roaming the shallows in the evenings and holding near structure such as oyster reefs and dock piers during the day.

In the southern region of the bay charter boat captains have been talking about excellent fishing for a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Often they can be located by surface action and diving sea gulls or by picking up concentrations of fish on depth finders. Trolling small spoons behind planers or inline weights has been the preferred method of trolling and jigging with metal jigs or casting can offer some exciting light tackle fun. Captains report the bluefish are thick and tend to dominate the action. Some of the most intense action is being seen near the Middle Grounds. Charter boats can also be seen fishing for large spot in the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers as well as Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. The few charter boats that are still bottom fishing in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds report good fishing for a mix of spot, croaker and small bluefish.

Recreational crabbers are reporting spotty catches this week for the heavy jimmy crabs we all covet this time of the year. Recreational crabbers report jimmies are getting sparse in the upper bay and better crabbing is to be had in the middle and lower bay regions. Sook crabs are pouring out of the bays tidal rivers and creeks headed to Virginia waters and they can be troublesome at times when they make short work of trotline baits. More than one crabber has discovered that moving can make all the difference in the world when seeking out late season jimmy crabs. In most circles crabbers will agree that the sooks tend to migrate across hard bottom and jimmies tend to hold in deeper water on mud. So give it a try if you find you collapsible traps and trotlines dominated by sook crabs.

Inland Fishing

Freshwater fishermen are beginning to see the summer mode of behavior in a wide variety of fish species begin to fade away and fish becoming more active for longer periods of time. The water temperatures in most of the states freshwater areas are in the low 70's or even lower. The western region's trout waters are running low and clear due to the lack of rainfall but the fishing has been good as various aquatic insect hatches have been occurring and fish are feeding. The fall trout stocking program will begin in October and is certainly something for fishermen to look forward to.

Largemouth bass fishing is really kicking into gear quoted one fisherman this week in regards to the increased activity he was seeing along grass bed edges. Now that water temperatures have dropped over 10-degrees largemouth bass are becoming more active and starting to feed more aggressively. Casting surface lures over or along grass during low light times of the day is still a proven winner and casting spinnerbaits and crankbaits along edges as the sun gets higher in the sky works well also.

Oceanside

Fishermen in Ocean City that love their flounder fishing in the back bay and inlet areas are hoping for clearer water this week which is very important for good flounder fishing. As water temperatures begin to drop this month flounder will begin their exodus out the Ocean City Inlet and the fishing is often very good. Many fishermen are using live spot and similar large baits to cut through the large number of smaller flounder and are just targeting the larger ones. Striped bass and bluefish are being caught in the inlet either by casting swim shads and Got-Cha lures or by drifting live eels and spot. A mix of tautog, sheepshead and small black drum are being caught on sand fleas around the south jetty.

Surf fishermen report better surf conditions this week and should be able to use sinkers less than the size of a cement block to hold bottom. Small bluefish are being caught on finger mullet and red drum are being caught and released by using menhaden baits. A mix of kingfish, croaker, spot and flounder are being caught on small baits in the surf.

The boats heading out to the wreck sites report improving fishing for sea bass and tautog and they are finding croakers close to the beaches. Offshore fishermen are catching small dolphin near lobster buoys and flotsam as well as white marlin and a few yellowfin tuna and wahoo at the canyons.

"It is good that we do not have to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers."

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.