Patience is supposed to be the hallmark of an angler, but many had theirs strained this past opening weekend for trophy striped bass season. Most understand it has been a chilly spring, and low water temperatures have delayed striped bass spawning in the tidal rivers.
In the past couple of days we have seen water temperatures finally reach acceptable temperatures for the fish. There was a big spawn on the Choptank River, and the Nanticoke, Patuxent and Potomac rivers should be on the same general schedule.
The striped bass that have spawned in the past few days will make their way down the tidal rivers and should hit bay areas in a few days. There is warmer weather predicted so there will be more spawning action – meaning the 2018 trophy striped bass season should kick into gear this weekend and for the next couple of weeks. Good luck out there and remember fishing is supposed to be fun.
Before we get into this week’s fishing report, I want to remind everyone that they can submit their own fishing reports and photos to the Maryland Angler’s Log. To post a report, please email your name, hometown, photos, location and additional content for your report. All information is optional, but encouraged.
Weekly Fishing Conditions Forecast Summary: April 25–May 1, 2018
Even though we know rockfish season is here, Mother Nature continues to tease us with unseasonably cool bay water temperatures. Bay waters are slowly warming, but these cool water temperatures continue to slow the progression of rockfish, shad and other fish toward their spawning grounds. However, after a few days of light rain and moderate temperatures, warm, sunny days and nights from Saturday through Wednesday should help drive the mercury upward.
The Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay continues to have suitable oxygen conditions from surface to bottom. In addition, there are slightly warmer surface water temperatures so anglers may want to scan these shallower areas for fish during moving water and low-light conditions after the sunset (about 7:56 p.m.) and before sunrise (about 6:12 a.m.). Main bay water temperatures are holding in the low 50s as reported from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys at Annapolis, Gooses Reef and Potomac River near Point Lookout. These water temperatures have cooled slightly from last Sunday’s peak temperatures, which in the mid to upper 50s.
Surface waters on the Susquehanna Flats are fluctuating from the upper 40s to the upper 50s. In addition, expect temperatures in smaller, dark-bottomed shallow creeks to hold slightly warmer temperatures. As tides empty the water in these warm creeks, look for nearby structure to target feeding gamefish. Expect average flows for the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers and for smaller rivers and streams entering the bay. There will be above average tidal currents Thursday through Tuesday as a result of the full moon April 30.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
Like most fishing this week, the Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release fishing for striped bass is continuing on a slow pace due to water temperatures. Slightly warmer water has been reported flowing into the flats from the Northeast River. Light tackle fishing for the smaller male fish has been fun and every once and a while a large female can be caught. The best option for anglers looking for the large fish is to slow troll large-diving swimming plugs in the channel areas. The Conowingo Dam has been releasing a considerable amount of water lately which keeps the river water cold. The water clarity is being reported to be fairly good.
The hickory shad are in the lower Susquehanna and the striped bass are happy for that, since they are considered a pretty yummy snack for the large females. A few hickory shad have been caught in the river and they are rumored to be playing “peek-a- boo” with anglers looking to cash in on their spawning runs at Deer and Octararo creeks. Meteorologists are forecasting temperatures in the high 60s through the weekend but some upper 70s and even low 80s during the first couple of days in May, so that might be just what this catch-and-release fishery needs to get it started. In the meantime there is excellent hickory shad fishing in District of Columbia waters in the upper tidal Potomac River near Chain Bridge.
Striped bass fishing in the area below Brewerton Channel has been painfully slow and most likely will stay that way until the upper bay spawning sites kick in and post-spawn female striped bass start to head down the bay. There has been some fun catch-and-release light tackle jigging for smaller striped bass at the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles. Water temperatures in the bay are holding around 53 degrees and are steadily rising. There was a faithful and ever-so-hopeful group of shoreline anglers at Sandy Point State Park and the Matapeake Fishing Pier hoping to cash in on a large fish – and before it is all over some definitely will.
It was a slow opening day for sure and a lot of fuel was spent by people taking a boat ride on a pretty nice day. Any mate or private boater was busy tending lines, which can be a real chore depending on how many lines one took on. Better days are coming! This past Tuesday morning, my water temperature readings were about 58 degrees, and despite being an overcast and windy day, hit 60 degrees by midday. That was all the urging the striped bass needed, and there was a large-scale spawn on the Choptank River above the Dover Bridge area.
Our biologists have been monitoring the striped bass spawning and studying the success of the eggs and larvae. A sampling net of very fine mesh is towed to collect striped bass eggs and larvae. The spawning activity was so intense this that a striped bass swam into the sampling net biologist Jim Uphoff was using.
I’m sure these big females have had enough of playing the waiting game in low salinity waters and will waste no time heading down river and out into the bay. If I was placing bets, I’d give them about two to four days to hit the bay, and then I’d be trolling the False Channel and the shipping channel edges south of Tilghman Island. It promises to be a great weekend and redemption for charter boat captains and private boat captains.
The white perch are just about finished spawning in the upper reaches of the Choptank River and post-spawn fish can be found down river. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig or a shad dart worked along the bottom is the best way to catch them. Channel catfish are also very active and can be caught on cut bait, chicken livers.
Much of the southern fleet fishing the lower bay experienced a slow opening weekend, but better days are coming. The Nanticoke, Patuxent and Potomac rivers are reaching – or may already have reached — the proper striped bass spawning temperatures by the end of this week. Post-spawn female striped bass should start to show up in traditional lower bay locations by the weekend or early next week at the latest.
The shipping channel edges will be the place to troll and the big fish will most likely be close to the warmer surface waters of the bay. This can create a problem for those trolling since striped bass avoid engine noise – getting out early and using planer boards or flat lines far behind the boat will be in order.
The Tangier Sound channels and the HS Buoy area will be a good place to look for post-spawn striped bass leaving the Nanticoke River, the channel edges near Cove Point are hard to beat for fish coming out of the Patuxent and the St. Georges Island/Piney Point steep channel edge will be a good place to look for fish coming down the Potomac.
Trout fishing remains very good this week as mild weather makes for a pleasant fishing experience. The hatchery and stocking crews continue stocking trout in numbers and sizes that will make any trout fisherman happy. An example was the stocking of 2,200 rainbow and golden rainbow trout in Upper Gunpowder Falls for the Baltimore area this past Monday.
Stockings take place at numerous trout management locations most weekdays throughout the state so don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity. Check the trout stocking website for future stockings.
Warming water temperatures are having a profound effect on the movement toward spawning for largemouth bass this week. In many areas the male largemouth bass are making nesting areas in the shallow spawning site areas. The females are not far away in slightly deeper water and feeding ravenously on anything that is on the menu. They can be found near transition edges, sunken wood, emerging grass and the mouths of feeder creeks. Crankbaits that resemble crayfish can be a good choice in deeper waters, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits in the edges of shallow flats and lipless crankbaits up on the spawning flats. In many areas northern snakeheads are becoming a more common catch in the shallower areas as grass begins to fill in and warmer waters prevail.
Crappie fishing remains very good this week around deeper structure in the tidal rivers, ponds and reservoirs. Bridge piers, marina docks and fallen treetops are all good places to fish minnows or small jigs under a slip bobber. Bluegills and other sunfish species are preparing to spawn also and can be found near the shallower spawning areas.
Fishing for hickory shad and American shad continues to be good at the Washington D.C. waters of the tidal Potomac near Chain Bridge. There is plenty of shoreline access, row boats can be rented nearby and the calm waters are perfect for kayaks. The D.C. fishing license is relatively cheap and the catch and release fun is priceless. There is also a chance to catch enormous blue catfish that have followed the hickory shad to the area and are feeding on them. Fresh cut bait and a sturdy fishing outfit can be the ticket to a heavy duty tussle. Imagine hooking up to one of these beasts and being towed around in a kayak.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
The first tautog are beginning to show up at the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area this week and the action is expected to pick up as the water temperatures continue to warm. The boats that are taking tautog charters out for wreck fishing are catching limits of fish in relatively shallow water. Most are using green crabs for bait and some impressively large tautog have been coming over the rails.
Surf casters have been fishing with sand fleas and clams for black drum that are moving along the beaches and doing fairly well. At the inlet some short striped bass are being caught and the Route 90 Bridge area has also been a good place for a little catch and release entertainment.
The new Bluefin tuna regulations are out and they can be viewed online.
“Nothing is more trying to the patience of fishermen than the remark so often made to them by the profane: “I had not patience enough for fishing!” – Arthur Ransome 1929
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.???