Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 31, 2013
Keith Lockwood is taking a well-deserved break from DNR duties for a couple of weeks. Joe Evans is filling in his absence.
The great advantage we have in the DNR Fisheries community is that our biologists are all keen anglers. When they are not studying fish, they are most likely out fishing, which is very much the same thing.
DNR Fisheries Western Region biologist and trout authority Al Klotz offers these observations:
"This rainy summer has made for some good summer flows in Western Maryland trout streams. The insect hatches have trickled off, however. Still, the swimming mayfly Isonychia is emerging this time of year and can provide some good fly-fishing using both nymph and adult fly imitations. Grasshoppers and crickets are starting to appear along the streams, and these terrestrial patterns can also produce this time of the year. I fished the Youghiogheny River Catch and Return Trout Fishing Area one evening recently and tried my luck using both the Isonychia nymph patterns and grasshopper flies. I caught a couple of mid-sized Rainbow Trout on the nymphs, and then switched over to the grasshopper pattern once the sun was off the water. The trout hit the grasshopper pattern with an explosive strike fished in the faster deep runs."
Western Maryland foam hopper fly.
DNR biologist and Smallmouth Bass expert John Mullican brings news of the 2013 Upper Potomac Smallmouth Bass survey and the action on the river:
"We have been evaluating the 2013 year-class of Smallmouth Bass in the Potomac and larger tributaries for a few weeks. This annual survey is conducted using a 30-foot seine at multiple sites throughout the upper Potomac from Cumberland to just downstream of Great Falls. We use the annual mean number of young smallmouth bass collected per seine haul as an index to estimate year-class strength. We also record the number of nongame and forage species. Stronger year-classes are generally produced during springs with stable, average flows; while springs with flooding and highly variable flows tend to result in weaker year-classes. Highly variable year-class strength is quite normal for river Smallmouth populations.
2013 has been a wet year, and the Potomac experienced a number of high flow events during the spring and a particularly ill-timed event that occurred in early May when the Smallmouth Bass were spawning. Although this year's survey is still being conducted, and won't be completed for several more weeks, preliminary results suggest that this year's hatch of Smallmouth Bass will be below the long-term median value at most locations. We'll post the results when we have completed the survey of all sites.
Meanwhile, the wet weather has continued into the summer months, and that has been good for fishing. River flows have been above normal, allowing easier navigation. The Smallmouth fishing has been very good. During the hot days of summer, the best action is typically during the early morning or late evening hours. Start off with topwater baits such as Tiny Torpedoes and buzz baits. Switch to tubes and stick worms rigged wacky or Texas style when the surface action slows. Fish the waters with current and fish holding cover such as water-willow beds, boulders, and rock ledges. That'll work."
DNR Upper Potomac bass survey
Upper Potomac River young-of-the-year Smallmouth Bass
DNR Inland Fisheries director Don Cosden echoes the good fishing report:
"We canoed and fished the Potomac River between Harpers Ferry and Brunswick on Sunday. Conditions were perfect for fishing mid-day at this time of year. The water was a little higher than normal and the slight bit of turbidity and cloudy conditions helped to cut the light penetration. Smallmouth and Redbreast Sunfish were active the entire day. My wife was getting them on small spinning lures. I experimented with the fly rod unsuccessfully at first but slowly caught up with Susie after switching to a wacky worm. Later in the day as the clouds thickened, I had success on a fly rod popper. In the end we each caught more than 50 bass. Many were 12 inches or larger, including several which exceeded 16 inches. After running the ledges at Knoxville we jumped out of the boats and floated in tubes and life vests just to cool off and relax. I can't think of a better way to spend a summer day in Maryland."
Legendary Bass Guide, Andy Andrzejewski, reports that the recent cool nights have dropped tidal Potomac River water temperatures into the low 80's. The early morning top-water bite remains strong. Andy prefers poppers over grass frogs because the poppers simply catch more than the frogs. But, in the thick grass, frogs and rats work better.
The wacky-rigged stick worm is his next favorite bait, fished slowly along grass or pad edges and anywhere a marsh drains into the creeks. Boat docks and bridge pilings in less than nine feet of water provide consistent bites when fished with worms or jigs. The outgoing tide and the first two hours of the incoming tide seem to be the best times for catching.
DNR Fisheries Eastern Region biologist Brett Coakley confirms the reports of many other anglers who have found dependable Striped Bass action in the Maryland's Middle Bay waters:
"Live-lining spot for stripers in the Poplar Island area remains steady. Fleets of up to 100 boats were there this weekend. Live-lining will become more difficult with reports of decent sized bluefish moving up from the south.
The break in the heat brought out some anglers onto Unicorn Lake. Most caught an abundance of bluegills and a few yellow perch, bass and pickerel. Normally, Unicorn is covered in algae, which makes the fishing tough. The summer rains have kept the algae at bay for the most part.
Crabbing on the Chester and other Upper Bay areas remains pretty spotty, although the crabs you get tend to be large and fat."
Coakley's Middle Bay rockfish report is corroborated by the fact that as of 12:00 p.m. 7/30/13, DNR Fisheries staff and the Natural Resource Police are in the process of certifying twenty-two 2013 Diamond Jim recapture tags.
That's right; 22.
By comparison, the 2012 Maryland Fishing Challenge produced nine Diamond Jim recaptures over the summer. The anglers who caught those tagged fish took home $2,778 checks for their efforts at the Maryland Fishing Challenge finale held in conjunction with the Maryland Seafood Festival last September.
11-year-old Nathan Smith and his 2013 tagged Diamond Jim rockfish.
As of July 26, DNR Fisheries biologists and volunteer youth anglers had caught, tagged and released about 600 Diamond Jim rockfish. Each fish is worth at least $500 to the lucky recreational fisherperson who catches it. One of these fish could be worth as much as $25,000 and a set of diamond studs. Learn more at the Maryland Fishing Challenge web page.
Further proof of excellent fishing came aboard my skiff this week with a visit from renowned ex-charter captain turned musical impresario Chuck Fisher, who came out to tune me up on his signature live-lining method. We left Annapolis at sunrise to catch the bait and beat the heat. No more than 500 yards from the dock, we found pan-worthy white perch on every throw using blood worms on double dropper rigs cast in toward some rip-rap. That was enough to placate the folks at home who would forgive a day of hooky in exchange for delicious filets. We moved out to the tip of the Tolly Point bar in search of Norfolk Spot for bait ( Here in Maryland, we prefer calling them simply "spot," apparently not willing to offer Virginia any consideration on this.) We caught just about everything but spot, including big grumpy Croakers, plump White Perch, and several small stripers—one after the other. Inshore at the Bay Ridge rocks in less than two feet of water, we caught and released a dozen huge spot, and we kept one dainty bait-sized example for the live well. We rigged that lone victim up on Captain Fisher's excellent live-line float rig and pretty much immediately caught a 26-inch striper near the Hacketts buoy under a half-acre of rippling Menhaden. With just one keeper rockfish, we could still come home knowing that everywhere we fished and nearly every time we cast, we caught something sweet.
DNR Coastal Fisheries biologist Steve Doctor offers a brief rundown of the Atlantic coast action:
"The Summer Flounder pattern continues with good fishing at the reefs. The flounder fishing in the coastal bays has been a little slow due to turbid water. Surf anglers are racking up kingfish, croakers, spot and big rays. Crabbing remains sketchy, but the clamming is good.
Offshore at the Washington Canyon, yellowfin tuna and wahoo occasionally join the party. Bluefin tuna have been dependable over the Hot Dog lump.
"Sleeping, we image what awake we wish; Dogs dream of bones, and fishermen of fish." - Theocrites