Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 19, 2011

The striped bass news that everyone up and down the east coast from Maine to North Carolina has been anxiously waiting for was released today and it is good news. Below are excerpts from the official press release and a short video to enjoy. It will take about 3 to 4 years for this year's young striped bass to grow to over 18" in size and in about 13 years they will be over 40" in length; certainly something to look forward to.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that the 2011 Young of the Year (YOY) Striped Bass Survey is 34.6, well above the long-term average of 11.9, and higher than 2010's results of 5.9. This is the fourth highest measure of striped bass spawning success in the Chesapeake Bay in the survey's 58-year history.

The survey also documented an increase in the abundance of juvenile blueback herring- a population that had previously decreased dramatically in the Chesapeake Bay and along the coast. White perch, another important food and sportfish species, saw near record reproduction.

During this year's survey, DNR biologists counted more than 59,000 fish of 47 different species while collecting 4,565 YOY striped bass. Variation in annual spawning success is normal because striped bass reproduction is influenced by many factors including water temperature, winter snowfall, spring flow rates, and prevailing weather conditions. Typically, several years of average reproduction are intermixed with the occasional large and small year-classes. The strong 2011 year-class shows that the spawning stock is capable of producing a large year-class when conditions are favorable.

DNR biologists have monitored the reproductive success of striped bass and other species in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay annually since 1954. Twenty-two survey sites are located in the four major spawning systems: Choptank, Potomac, and Nanticoke rivers, and the Upper Bay. Biologists visit each site monthly from July through September, collecting fish samples with two sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine. Juvenile indices are calculated as the average catch of YOY fish per sample. For more information about the YOY striped bass survey go to

Video Describing Juvenile Striped Bass Survey Protocol

Upper bay fishermen continue to find fishing for striped bass a tough situation in many areas due to cloudy water conditions and low salinities. The Conowingo Dam is releasing substantial amounts of water for the last week and water temperatures at the mouth of the Susquehanna River are down to 60-degrees. Fishermen have been catching more and more yellow perch lately from shoreline locations in the upper most areas of the bay and channel catfish continue to be eager to take cut baits or worms. Farther down the bay fishermen are finding white perch holding on many of the oyster reefs and knolls between Baltimore and Rock Hall. The white perch are now either in the deeper channels at the mouths of the tidal rivers or out in the bay. Jigging with a metal jig and dropper fly or a bottom rig baited with bloodworms should get you into the action. Striped bass have been tough to find at the Bay Bridge piers lately. Chunking with razor clams up current of the bridge piers has been the most successful option for many fishermen lately at the bridge and sharp channel edges.

Below the Bay Bridge and through the entire middle bay region fishing for a mix of striped bass and bluefish has been good in most areas. Most fishermen have been jigging with metal of soft plastics over suspended or breaking fish. Structure such as prominent points, steep channel edges or rock piles have been good places to look for suspended fish. Breaking fish can be spotted most anywhere there is stiff current sweeping bait along. Fishermen are seeing a lot of small striped bass and bluefish on top and finding larger striped bass underneath by jigging. Angelina Watts caught this nice bluefish while jigging with a large Bass Assassin near Gum Thickets with her dad.

Photo Courtesy of Rich Watts

There has been good numbers of larger male striped bass being caught; some in the 30"+ range around the Hill area off of Poplar Island, the Diamonds, Buoy 84 and Thomas Point. Traditionally most of the striped bass over 26" in the fall are male fish. The biggest exception will be if we get a run of large fall migrant striped bass that come up the bay from the Atlantic. Some fishermen have been chunking with razor clams with good success at locations such as the Hill and Buoy 84 and trolling with metal, bucktails and surge tube lures is always a good option also.

Fishing the shallow water areas along the bay shoreline and in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers continues to be about as good as it gets. Fishermen are catching a mix of striped bass, bluefish and speckled trout; although he last two participants are beginning to thin out. Topwater lures and soft plastic swim shads have been at the top of the list for "go to" lures this week. An influx of larger striped bass has added some extra excitement to this fishery lately.

White perch are being found on hard bottom areas out in the bay such as Hackett's Bar, Holland Point and bars near the mouth of the Choptank. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are holding around 65-degrees and a bit chillier in the tidal rivers. Most of the white perch are now fairly deep; so jigging and bottom rigs baited with bloodworms is the way to catch them.

Fishermen in the lower bay region are finding good fishing for a mix of striped bass and bluefish out in the main portions of the bay and the mouth of the Potomac River this week. Breaking fish are being spotted throughout the region but most often in places where swift currents are sweeping bait along steep channel edges and points. Birds often mark the way to a mix of bluefish and striped bass but finding slicks and suspended fish is also very common. Some of the larger bluefish being found in Maryland waters are showing up in the lower bay region this week. Trolling with metal and surge tube lures is a productive way to catch them as is jigging. Water temperatures are around 65-degrees this week so the striped bass are moving freely in all depths.

Casting topwater lures and swim shads in the shallow waters of the bay and tidal rivers continues to get a lot of attention from fishermen in the morning and evening hours. Speckled trout are also mixed in with striped bass and bluefish; especially on the eastern side of the bay. The white perch are holding deep in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and are providing good fishing. Bottom rigs baited with bloodworms have been one of the favorite ways to fish for them this week.

Recreational crabbers are seeing good catches of large and fat crabs from Kent Island south in the tidal creeks and rivers. Water temperatures are getting chilly so some of the better crabbing has been in water deeper than 10'.

Fishermen in the western region are enjoying wonderful trout fishing thanks to generous fall stockings of trout and beautiful fall weather. Deep Creek Lake fishermen are reporting that cooling water temperatures are causing largemouth bass to begin to head to deeper waters. Smallmouth bass and walleye are very active and providing good fishing opportunities. Fishermen on the upper Potomac River report excellent fishing for smallmouth bass this week as the bass are aggressively feeding on crawfish that are on the move from grass beds that are breaking up due to cooler water temperatures. Small crankbaits, tubes and jigs that resemble a crawfish are a sure bet. John Mullican sent us this report. The upper Potomac is currently in great shape and fishing very well. Be sure to check water levels before heading out as rain events and local thunderstorms can change conditions quickly. Bass fishing has been excellent with many quality-size fish caught throughout the river. Tubes, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and suspending jerk baits have all been productive.

Fishermen in all regions of the state are enjoying the fall stocking of trout in many put and take areas. Fishermen like Ryan Roberts are reporting good fishing and lots of elbow room. I fished on Monday October 10th about a mile downstream from the dam and Daniels Dam on the Patapsco. I caught these five nice rainbows and browns, all were around 17" and I missed just as many all on flies. Not much traffic on the water, which made for a nice day. The stocking schedule is updated each week so be sure to check and see what areas near you have been stocked. Trout Stocking Web Site

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Roberts

Freshwater fishermen throughout the state have been enjoying the beautiful October weather and the active feeding mode of most freshwater species of fish. Crappie are schooling up in cooler waters around deeper structure such as bridge piers and ledges, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are aggressively feeding in the western Baltimore reservoirs as are chain pickerel and large bluegills. Largemouth bass in freshwater impoundments and tidal waters are focusing on grass beds where bait such as small fish and crawfish are desperate to find a new home as the grass beds diminish to cooling water temperatures and shorter daylight hours. Targeting grass beds in 3'to4' of water is a good strategy with chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and small crankbaits or tubes that resemble crawfish. Casting chatterbaits over grass beds can bring other surprises besides largemouth bass. Mark Carper had this 15lb+ northern snakehead attack his chatterbait in the grass beds of Pohick Bay on the lower Potomac River.

Photo Courtesy of Mary Carper

Fishermen in the Ocean City area are seeing fishing conditions in the surf greatly improved this week after last weekend's big blow. There are large schools of small bluefish moving down the beach eating their way south. Most fishermen are using small pieces of finger mullet on bait rigs; anything larger than that get nibbled away in a heart beat. Water temperatures in the surf are now about 65-degrees so these small bluefish will not be around for much longer.

A few striped bass are being caught in the surf and more will be on the way soon from our northern neighbors. Striped bass are being caught in and around the inlet at night by fishermen casting swim shads and soft plastic jigs. Enterprising fishermen have been drifting live finger mullet in the inlet and catching large flounder and even a striped bass now and then. The bulkheads and jetties are giving up better numbers of tautog this week and even a few large triggerfish and sheepshead. Flounder are moving out of the back bay areas and through the inlet so the approaches to the inlet have been getting a lot of attention by flounder fishermen. Small bluefish have moved into the same areas and have been chewing up baits.

Tautog fishing is the only show in town on the wreck and reef sites off of Ocean City now that sea bass are off limits. Cooler water temperatures are spurring on this fishery so catches have been good. A few large flounder and a mix of red hake or ling and bluefish are rounding things out.

Offshore fishing is slowing down due to weather, cooler water temperatures and lack of boats going out. Last weekend was a bust with strong winds but this coming weekend shows promise for those hoping for one more lick at a mix of white marlin, yellowfin tuna and dolphin. It will not be long before fishermen will start to talk about bluefin tuna for they surely will be moving through the region soon.

A beach suddenly flushed clean of strangers is a wonderfully lonesome place. The weather knows it when the tourists leave. An Atlantic beach in a norther is wild and exhilarating. For three days the wind screams and the water boils white and then the best time of the year begins. The sun comes once again, warm and golden and the skies are washed bright, but the breeze is crisp and the air full of wine. -Robert Ruark, The Old Man And The Boy


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.