Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 13, 2011

Anticipation is always a stirring emotion for fishermen and it tends to bring them back to that youthful "just can't wait" feelings we all tend to lose in our overburdened day to day trials. Although trout season is well underway and the opening day fever is under control there is still the excitement of additional in season stocking taking place every week. All fishermen know the anticipation of a good cast in a promising spot; it makes fishing what it is. These past couple of weeks on my travels to Fishing Challenge award centers, I've had the opportunity to be near boatyards and tackle shops where the anticipation of the striped bass season opener has captains and fishermen is bubbling over with excitement. The weather forecast for this Saturday's opener looks a little rough with thunderstorms and wind predicted so be careful and use good judgment.

Photo Courtesy Keith Lockwood

There was a large spawn this past weekend on the upper Nanticoke and Choptank Rivers and this was the first really big spawn of the season. Many experts will agree that the largest female striped bass tend to spawn first and these big girls are now headed down the tidal rivers and out into the bay. They are going to head out into the bay and take a left turn once they hit the shipping channel steep edges so good luck to you all and keep on the lookout for pre-spawn striped bass that are still heading up the bay.

Fishermen will be trolling arrays of large parachutes and bucktails this weekend on flat lines and planer boards but there are other ways to catch your trophy striped bass also. There will certainly be a crew at the CCNPP warm water discharge jigging with light tackle and soft plastic jigs. Sandy Point State Park is always a very popular spot for shore based fishermen using surf fishing tackle and bottom rigs baited with bloodworms and cut bait. The sandy tip of the beach where the current rips by is always the go to place for fishermen in the know. The Matapeake Fishing Pier and. the Point Lookout Pier will also get their share of attention this weekend.

The Susquehanna Flats Catch and Release fishery has had its ups and downs this past week due to continuing cold water and now heavy flow rates through the Conowingo Dam. Water temperatures are still well below the 50-degree mark so the best is yet to come. Recently a few fishermen have failed to follow the rules about catch and release fishing in the spawning reaches of the Susquehanna and other tidal rivers. The Natural Resources Police are stepping up enforcement efforts and fishermen that decide to venture into the spawning reaches are facing some stiff fines. There is a very valid reason to protect fish while they are spawning in these defined areas. Fisheries biologist Rudy Lukacovic who has done a lot of studies into catch and release stress provided us with this short bit of information on the subject.

The spawning reaches and areas of Chesapeake Bay are closed to the targeting and catching of striped bass during the spawning season for the obvious reason that this is "ground zero" for reproductive activity.

Spawning imposes significant energy demands on fish therefore, catch-and-release stress may be more severe in spawning fish than non-spawning fish of similar size. Large female striped bass are particularly vulnerable to catch-and-release stress because of increased metabolic demands before and during spawning.

Behavioral changes have been associated with the stress of capture. "Fallback", a phenomenon in which upstream migrating striped bass exhibit a downstream migration following capture was documented. It has been theorized that spawning striped bass seek out higher salinity, to reestablish the physiological isotonic balance which is compromised by handling stress. The Flats fishery was allowed because the Flats are not a major spawning area.

The following link provides some information on a recent press release on this topic.

Photo Courtesy Gary Reich

Fishermen at the Deer Creek area have begun to have some catch and release fun with hickory shad this past weekend. The run of hickory shad there will ebb and flow based on water temperatures, flow and clarity. Fishermen are also finding hickory shad at Fletchers on the Potomac near D.C. and other tidal rivers. Fisheries biologist Brian Richardson wrote about hickory shad opportunities in his 2010 year in review and this is an excerpt.

Anglers targeting shad will have plenty of options in the spring of 2011. Hickory shad should begin to arrive in early March, followed by American shad in early April. Hickory shad runs will peak in early to mid-April when water temperatures rise above 55 degrees. American shad traditionally hit their peak in late April through mid-May. The highest concentration of shad on the Patuxent River should begin about a mile or so below Queen Anne Bridge around the 4H camp, and continue above the bridge at Route 50. American shad can also occur down to Wayson's Corner at the Route 4 Bridge. While there is some access by land, a small boat, kayak or canoe would enable the angler to cover more water. If you are traveling by boat, be aware of the tide. Boating traffic is only advisable on a flooding or high tide. Choptank River shad fisherman may want to concentrate their efforts from Christian Park located at Red Bridges Road downstream to the Rt. 313 Bridge in Greensboro. This area has proven to be very productive for hickory shad. Tuckahoe Creek has produced some decent hickory shad fishing in the past, principally below Crouse Mill Dam. However, anglers have reported reduced success over the last several years. Marshyhope Creek shad tend to congregate in the large pools above the Rt. 306 Bridge in Federalsburg.

Freshwater fishermen are continuing to enjoy good trout fishing in most of the put and take areas due to good water flows and a generous in season stocking program. Fishermen at Deep Creek Lake have been catching large yellow perch and walleye along deep grass edges and smallmouth bass near rocky points. Largemouth bass fishing continues to be good in the tidal rivers near grass beds in the shallower areas. Feeder creeks are running a little warmer and are often a good place to target. Small crankbaits, crawfish imitations and spinnerbaits have been productive choices. Crappie fishing has been good in the tidal Potomac near Fort Washington and near deep structure in lakes and reservoirs. Sunken wood or any kind of structure is of course a good place to look for largemouth this time of the year and soft plastics like whacky rigged worms are a good choice to entice them to strike. Jimmy Whipple caught this fine looking largemouth bass in a small pond on a Rat-L-Trap.

Photo Courtesy Jimmy Whipple

The fishing scene at the Ocean City area is slowly evolving but locals stress the point that it is real slow. The waters are still cold and it takes quite a while to warm up. Along the beaches there is not much going on in the surf fishing scene except a lot of wishful thinking. A few tautog are being caught in and around the inlet. The best prospects are offshore where tautog fishing is the only show in town. Captains stress that the water is still pretty cold out there on the wreck sites but some very large tog are being caught.

There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home. -Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman's Spring, 1951


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.