Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | May 25, 2011

There is a lot going on in the Maryland fishing world this week as freshwater, bay and ocean fisheries begin to transition to a summer pattern. Trout fishing is becoming more of a fly fishermenís game now as all types of aquatic insect hatches are occurring in trout streams and rivers in the western and central regions. Freshwater species such as largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are either finished spawning or nearly so. Freshwater fish in general are holding in shallower areas and offering some wonderful fishing opportunities. Bay fishermen are focusing now on school-sized striped bass and new summer migrants. Coastal fishermen are experiencing the height of the annual northward migration of large striped bass along the beaches and an infusion of summer species. All in all there is a lot going on whether it is in a local pond down the street or offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

Anyone who has been near any of the tidal rivers that flow into the Chesapeake canít help but notice the heavy flows of runoff that have been occurring this spring. Salinities in the bay are at record lows and the turbid water conditions and floating debris all make for an interesting situation. The salinity at locations such as the middle of the bay has been holding below 4 p.p.t. and below 7 p.p.t. at Point Lookout. These values are well below what would be normal this time of the year. Species such as bluefish, flounder and croakers usually prefer higher salinities than these. Blue crabs will also move out of the tidal creeks and rivers where salinities are low. Low salinities will depress oyster disease but spat set could be affected negatively. Blue catfish and snakeheads may go for a foray out of the Potomac and up the bay. One shinning hope is that all of this spring runoff may create plenty of food for this years striped bass larvae; we can all keep our fingers crossed and hope for a good 2011 year class.

Fishermen have begun to put away the planer boards, large parachutes and bucktails for medium sized lures and deeper depths. Storms lures trailed behind umbrella rigs or rigged in tandem have been working well for fishermen this week. Medium sized spoons, Tomic plugs and diving Rapalas in red and white can also be good choices. The striped bass tend to hold to structure as most everyone knows so steep edges where the current rips by, ballast stone piles and of course the Bay Bridge piers are go to places to troll this time of the year. These locations are also great places to jig with soft plastics such as BKDís and there have even been reports of breaking fish. Chumming is another option that fishermen are using right now and some have been lucky enough to catch some small spot to use for live lining.

The May worms have begun their annual metamorphosis spawning event and can now be seen swarming near dock lights at night. This annual ďall you can eat banquetĒ can make it tough for fishermen when striped bass are so stuffed they feel that canít eat just one more morsel and pass up fishermenís offerings. Cow-nosed rays are moving into our portion of the bay and can cause some consternation among fishermen who may think they have just tied into a huge striped bass.

Perhaps no harder than getting front row tickets to your favorite rock stars concert is coordinating the arrival of the annual black drum run at Stone Rock and a soft crab bait on the end of your fishing line. This annual event is always kept hush hush in the fishing community because it entails following a school of fish on a depth finder and literally dropping a soft crab bait in front of their nose. Jockeying for position in a maneuvering fleet can try any captainís nerves and it should start sometime this week if it hasnít already. Soft crab baits can be bound to a circle hook with a couple of rubber bands and stout tackle is a must; this is a knock down brute force battle.

Fishing for croakers continues to improve as more fish move into our portion of the bay. Good croaker fishing can be found as far north as the mouth of Eastern Bay. Some of the regions tidal rivers are running stained and carrying a lot of freshwater; some traditional tidal rivers locations have not shown the degree of good croaker fishing fishermen are used to. Channel edges in the bay have been hard to beat lately; especially in the evening hours when the croakers move from the deeper channels to shallower areas to feed at night. White perch fishing in the bay is steadily picking up also as perch set up residence on oyster bars, humps and shoals.

Recreational crabbers are reporting sparse catches in the upper bay tidal rivers and creeks and better catches in the southeastern portion of the bay; low salinities may be part of the problem. There are a lot of small crabs chewing up baits and most catches that make it to the basket are 5Ē to 51/2Ē crabs and many of those are crabs that spent the winter in the mud so they are sweet and heavy.

Freshwater fishermen are enjoying some good fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass and a mix of other species such as crappie, bluegill and chain pickerel at Deep Creek Lake. The largemouth bass there are spawning in the shallower coves this week. Trout fishing has been great for fly fishermen due to the numerous aquatic insect hatches occurring. The upper Potomac River is still running high and cloudy but should improve if large scale rain events hold off. Fisheries biologist John Mullican reports the many of the boat ramps are or can be covered with a film of mud from previous flood waters; so fishermen should be very careful when using any boat ramp. He mentioned the two ramps located between Sharpsburg and Williamsport; Snyderís Landing and Taylorís Landing are actually closed and barricaded due to unsafe mudding conditions.

Fishing in the reservoirs, lakes, ponds and tidal waters of the state continues to be very good this week where good water clarity conditions prevail. Tidal rivers on the western shore have been running high and can make fishing difficult at times but largemouth bass fishermen on the tidal Potomac report that the high water actually gives them better access to grassy shallows where they can cast buzzbaits over the grass. In lakes and ponds usually water clarity is not too much of an issue and fishing for a variety of species such as crappie, bluegills and largemouth bass has been good to excellent. The largemouth bass are in a post-spawn mode now in all but the coldest lakes in the western region so they are aggressively feeding. Chase Limburg got his dad to take him fishing at a community pond in Bel Air to catch some bluegills on his Spiderman fishing outfit recently. After having some fun with bluegills he let his dad have a couple of casts and low and behold his dad catches the biggest largemouth bass of his life on a 24Ē Spiderman fishing outfit. One can only imagine what a tussle that must have been; be sure to check out their anglerís log it is pretty funny.

Water temperatures in the surf along Ocean City are running about 64-degrees this week and fishermen are experiencing the height of the spring striped bass run. Some impressive catches are being reported in the surf and at the inlet. Fresh menhaden baits are the ticket to this show in the surf and make sure you have plenty of it since there are a lot of pesky skates, rays and dogfish. There are also small bluefish and an occasional black drum being caught in the surf. Tammy Eline caught this nice 46Ē striped bass in the Assateague surf and entered it in the Maryland Fishing Challenge.

At the inlet there has been some excellent fishing for striped bass at night. Swim shads have been the favorite lure for casting; although the bluefish have been chewing them up. The best lure for getting your licks in on the bluefish has been Got-Cha lures. Tautog are being caught along the rocks and bulkheads and the South Jetty if the place to be for big tog if you can get there.

Flounder and small bluefish are in the back bay areas and although there are a lot of undersized flounder some big ones are being caught. Using larger baits can be a pathway to catching the larger flounder.

Sea bass season is now open and fishermen have been lifting some nice sized sea bass over the rails. Double digit catches are fairly common and some fishermen have been catching limits. Tautog are also still being caught at the wreck sites along with cod fish. Farther offshore a few mako sharks and bluefin tuna are being found in the canyon areas.

Some men live their life vicariously, some victoriously. The rewards are obvious. Tred Barta 1992


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.