Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 22, 2015



It would seem that spring is in full bloom around Maryland with a very nice transition from what the month of March dealt us and what the summer months have in store. Many of the remaining spawning activities of anadromous and freshwater fish are on schedule such as largemouth bass and striped bass. Water temperatures are rising and emergent and underwater grasses are sparking new life to our waterways in Maryland.

The Cooperative Oxford Laboratory which is located on the Eastern Shore in the town of Oxford is holding an open house this Saturday April 25th. The public is invited to come and hear about research being conducted by the DNR and NOAA biologists and see many of the various live fish on display. There will be children's activities such as junior scientist T-shirts that can be customized by children with a fish print. There will also be lots of activities throughout the town including one of the most fun filled parades you could imagine.

There was a dramatic change on the lower Susquehanna last Friday when the Conowingo Dam shut several gates limiting the amount of cold water into the lower Susquehanna and water temperatures climbed quickly into the mid 50's. The hickory shad took the opportunity to charge towards Octoraro and Deer Creeks and provided some the first good hickory shad catch and release action of the season. Reports from biologists that were there on Monday collecting hickory shad brood stock reported that Deer Creek was running very muddy which tends to shut the fishing action down. Since then the region has received a lot of rain causing more runoff conditions but hopefully water quality will clear up by the weekend. It would also be a good idea to keep an eye on the water flows coming out of the Conowingo Dam.

The catch and release of striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats region has been improving this week as water temperatures hit the 58° mark. Some large striped bass are being caught and released and large swimming plugs and crankbaits tend to be two of the more productive lures being used. Anglers can obtain a catch and release certificate, a Governor's Striped Bass Conservation Award and entry into the Maryland Fishing Challenge by taking a quick photo of their striped bass if it is over 40" in length with a tape measure next to it. The photo can be taken to any of the award centers to receive a registration ticket. The Governor's Striped Bass Conservation Award is something new this year and will be automatically issued to any angler that submits a 40" or greater striped bass for a catch and release certificate. The Maryland Fishing Challenge website has a listing of award centers, rules and procedures.

The 2015 striped bass season got off to a slow start this past weekend for many fishermen since many of the large striped bass are still up in the spawning reaches of the tidal rivers where they spawn. The striped bass have been actively spawning in the Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers for about a week now. The spawn this year has been steady and protracted, day by day so it is hoped that we might see a strong year class this year. Winter rain and snow runoff has caused conditions for a good March plankton bloom and subsequent zooplankton bloom which hopefully will provide a food source for newly hatched striped bass larvae.

As is usually the case on opening day; the boats that were set up and trolling at first light did the best. Surface water temperatures of 55° pulled fish to the surface but sunny skies and an armada of boat traffic quickly drove fish down into the depths of the bay. More than a few private and charter boats were served a dose of humble pie as the morning progressed but it only takes one fish above or below the slot to make someone's day. Water clarity has been good so white parachutes and bucktails tended to be a favorite selection rigged either single, tandem or behind umbrella rigs. Chartreuse is of course a close second on anyone's boat. Jack Reilly got to go fishing with his dad and was lucky enough to catch this nice striped bass that measured 40.5" near Deal Island.


Photo Courtesy of Jack Reilly

In the lower Potomac River fishermen had the added bonus of being able to intercept some large post spawn fish making their way down the river. The steep channel edge off of St. George's Island is one of the better places to troll. So far this week strong winds have been the bane of anyone trying to troll out on the open waters of the bay. The best fishing opportunities are about a week or two away as spawned out fish begin to exit the tidal rivers, so fishermen should not fret too much. The upper bay area around the Elk and Susquehanna Rivers is traditionally the last area to complete the season's spawning due to cooler water temperatures.

The MARI artificial reef program is looking for volunteer anglers to make some trips to one of four artificial reefs in the bay (Memorial Stadium Reef, Love Point Reef, Hollicut's Noose Reef, or Cedar Point Reef) and report their catch data as part of a survey to evaluate fishing success at the reef sites. If you fish any of these reefs, we would very much appreciate your participation to help assess the benefits of the reefs to recreational anglers. If interested, contact Erik Zlokovitz at erik.zlokovitz@maryland.gov or 410-260-8324. For more information on the survey, see the MARI flyer.

White perch have completed their spring spawning for the most part and are traveling down the tidal rivers. At this point they tend to be in the middle regions of most tidal rivers and are in a feeding mode. They should be occupying their traditional spring/summer haunts by early May and provide plenty of fun fishing in the lower sections of the tidal rivers.

Hickory shad have been providing some fun catch and release action for anglers typically looking for white perch in the upper reaches of several tidal rivers. The upper reaches of the Patuxent and Choptank Rivers have good spawning populations of hickory shad due to restoration efforts as well as the Potomac near the D.C. Line up to Great Falls.

There is plenty of blue catfish action in the tidal Potomac River and it is not hard to load up several coolers with tasty catfish in the 2lb to 5 lb size range. There are of course larger ones and Russ Kay has to hold on tight to keep a hand on this feisty blue catfish he caught on the tidal Potomac River.


Photo Courtesy of Russ Kay

Channel catfish are also to be found in most of the tidal rivers leading into the Chesapeake and can provide some fun fishing and good eating in many areas. A variety of baits will work such as garden worms, nightcrawlers, chicken liver and cut bait. Often this time of year small white perch can be used for fresh cut bait but ethical anglers should be on notice to limit the use of cut white perch, menhaden or gizzard shad when fishing for channel catfish in a striped bass spawning area for fear of accidently hooking a striped bass.

Freshwater fishermen planning to fish the upper Potomac River this week should check water levels before driving to boat ramps locations. The upper Potomac River is expected to be at flood stage and unsafe for boating this week due to storm runoff. Deep Creek Lake offers a wide variety of fishing this week as walleye, smallmouth bass, yellow perch and largemouth bass are all active along shorelines.

Fishing for trout in many of the put and take areas continues to be very popular this week. Mild spring temperatures and continued supplemental stocking of trout by stocking crews keeps pumping life into this fishery. Large trophy sized trout often in the 8 lb to 12 lb size range continue to be placed in most stocking locations and causing a big thrill for those lucky enough to tangle with one. The team of Lacy Hanna and his daughter Delaney pose with a big golden rainbow caught in Great Seneca Creek last Sunday morning.


Photo Courtesy of Lacy Hanna

The tidal Potomac River will most likely be stained to some degree this week but largemouth bass will be found in transition areas leading to coves and small creeks. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastic jigs are good choices for baits near any kind of submerged structure. Crappie fishing remains good around deep structure such as marina docks and submerged brush or rocks. Small minnows or jigs under a bobber are a productive set up.

Crappie can also be found in many other tidal rivers such as the Pocomoke, Nanticoke and western shore tidal rivers. Baltimore County Reservoirs such as Loch Raven and Liberty also hold large populations of crappie around bridge piers and fallen treetops.

Largemouth bass are in a pre spawn mode is the many ponds, lakes and rivers throughout Maryland this week. A variety of lures can be used including topwater lures now that waters have warmed up to a large degree. The summertime mantra of early morning and late evening is far from being in place yet. Often mid afternoon on sun exposed areas of waterways can offer some of the best largemouth bass fish opportunities as the bass seek warmer water temperatures. Kell and Kenny Ridings enjoyed a great day of catch and release fishing for largemouth bass recently on Rocky Gorge Reservoir with their friends Peter and Peter Congedo, Sr.


Photo Courtesy of Kell and Kenny Ridings

The first Ocean City area flounder was officially caught this past week in Assawoman Bay north of the Route 90 Bridge. Water temperatures at the inlet are about 55° so it is still cold for good flounder fishing but it is a start. A few tautog have shown up at the bulkheads inside the inlet and at the Route 50 Bridge and this fishery will improve shortly. Water temperatures along the beaches are about 47° and a few short striped bass have been caught along with the usual clear-nosed skates.

When sea conditions are favorable there can be excellent tautog fishing at many of the wreck sites out to the 30 Fathom Line. A few offshore boats have also been poking around the canyons trolling to see what might be found. Deep drop fishing at the canyon edges for tilefish usually is a good bet to put some fish onboard for some eating back at port.

"One thing becomes clearer as one gets older and one's fishing experience increases and that is, the paramount importance of one's fishing companions" - John A. Cooper

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.