News Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
When introducing young children to fishing, it’s important they see action to keep their attention. Go after species such as bluegills and white perch, which are always ready to step up to the plate.
One more license-free fishing day is scheduled this year on July 4. It’s a perfect opportunity to get someone started on their own fishing adventures!
Forecast Summary: June 19 – 25
Expect warm and unsettled weather this week with a chance of rain or thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday and also from Sunday through Tuesday. Salinities are still running very low for this time of year with salinities near the Virginia state line only about 10 ppt. In most of Maryland’s shallower bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen for gamefish from the surface to bottom. However, to avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line and the lower Potomac River, avoid fishing deeper than 30 feet. However, on the west side of the bay from Chesapeake Beach south to Point No Point, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet. To see oxygen levels by depth, check our online “Do not fish below this depth map.”
Bay water temperatures have mostly remained stable this week for the upper bay but have continued to slowly increase in the lower bay. For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures are holding in the mid-70s. For the middle-to-lower bay, surface waters are holding at the low 70s. Choptank River area water temperatures also are rising to the upper 70s and low 80s. For the Potomac River, at Little Falls and Point Lookout, surface water temperatures are holding in the mid-70s. For more information, check our online “Water temperature by Depth map.” Areas of reduced water clarity from algal blooms are beginning to appear in the main stem of the bay from the Gunpowder River down to near Bloody Point, and the mouth of the Choptank and Little Choptank, upper Patuxent and Bush, Gunpowder and Wicomico rivers. On the Potomac River, expect decent water clarity below Colonial Beach. Expect normal flows from Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. However, expect higher localized flows based on thunderstorms through Thursday and again Sunday and Monday. There will be above average tidal currents through Sunday as a result of the recent full moon.
For the full weekly fishing conditions summary and more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. You can now get regular updates on Maryland’s waters and the creatures that call them home sent to your inbox with our new Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
The most popular location to fish for striped bass continues to be the east side of the Bay Bridge. As early as 6 a.m., charter boats could be seen anchored up with dozens of private boats jockeying for position. This is all occurring at the 10-foot to 25-foot drop-off, and the double piers are prime real estate — so the early bird gets first pick. Some boats are chumming or chunking but many are simply drifting a chunk of soft crab back to the pier bases. Others are jigging soft plastics to the suspended fish with good results. The grade of the striped bass at the bridge is nice with many fish in the 25-inch to 28-inch size range.
Striped bass is being found suspended along channel edges at Swan, Love, and Podickory points. Boats have been setting up chum slicks and catching a mix of striped bass and catfish. There tends to be a high number of sub-legal striped bass at these locations.
Trolling has been popular and most anglers are pulling a variety of lures. Red hoses have been popular as have Storm type swimshads and bucktails trolled in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. Drone spoons are another popular choice, either in gold or in color combinations such as chartreuse with silver. The spoons are pulled behind inline weights or planers.
The Conowingo Dam is on a daily power generation schedule, but with thunderstorms roaming the Chesapeake Bay watershed, anglers need to keep a close watch on releases from the dam. A few enterprising anglers have been casting topwater lures and crankbaits into the dam pool at dawn with good results for striped bass.
There are plenty of fishing opportunities for a mix of channel and blue catfish. The catfish are spread throughout the bay and the tidal rivers and will take most any kind of cut bait or items such as chicken livers, clam snouts or nightcrawlers. White perch fishing has been good in the tidal rivers and several of the shoal and reef areas in the upper bay. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig have been the most popular choice for this type of fishing.
Quite a few charter boats and private craft have been running up to the Bay Bridge recently but there are other opportunities in the middle bay. The outside edge of Hackett’s Bar, the Gum Thickets and the inside edge of Bloody Point have been places to find striped bass holding in about 15 feet to 20 feet of water. Chumming or chunking tends to be popular at these locations and catfish are a big part of what is being attracted.
Don’t forget that non-offset circle hooks are now a must when chumming OR when using live fish or live eels as bait (live-lining), as seen demonstrated in a short video online.
Jigging has been good at the above locations as well as other channel edges in Eastern Bay, Breezy Point, and Thomas Point. Soft plastics in the 6-inch or better size range with light jig heads have been a good choice.
Trolling along channel edges has been a good way to find scattered fish suspended along channel edges. Red hoses, bucktails, swimshads, and spoons have been popular lure choices. The Breezy Point, Brick House Bar, Calvert Cliffs, Eastern Bay, and Gum Thickets areas have been good places to troll lately.
Anglers who recently were fishing topwater lures in the shallows of the Eastern Bay, the Choptank, and Little Choptank rivers in the pre-dawn hours were able to catch some nice striped bass in the 20-inch to 25-inch size range. Hopefully, this fishery will remain productive, since it is exciting and fun to work the shallows with topwater lures, waiting for that explosion.
The shallow-water fishery for white perch has also been good for those casting beetle spins and similar type lures along the shorelines where the structure can be found. White perch can be found near most docks and piers over deeper water. This type of fishing calls for dropping small jigs or hooks tipped with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm straight down near the pilings. It can be a productive way to fish and a great way to introduce kids to fishing since no casting is involved.
Trolling a mixed spread of red hoses, bucktails, Storm type swimshads and spoons along the shipping channel edges, and also the channel edges in the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers, has been a great way to catch striped bass this week. Those trolling along the eastern edge of the shipping channel from Buoys 76 down to Buoy 72B have also been placing some large spoons in their spreads for some catch-and-release action with a large red drum that are filtering into the area.
The lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers continue to be a great place to find suspended striped bass holding along the steeper channel edges. In the lower Potomac, the edge from Piney Point to St. Georges has been a very good place to fish, whether one is chumming, jigging or trolling. Those that are chumming are catching a lot of blue catfish and sub-legal striped bass. Jigging and trolling tend to produce a better grade of fish.
The area around the Target Ship and Middle Grounds is starting to see more large red drum arriving which always provides plenty of exciting catch and release action. There has been some black drum action on some of the leads and shoals in the same area. Locating them with depth finders and dropping soft crab baits down to them is the standard tactic.
Along the Eastern Shore, the shallow water fishery has been mostly focused on speckled trout; the small striped bass seem to have moved out of the shallows. Casting Gulp swimbaits such as white mullets or Zara Spooks along marsh edges, stump fields and creeks has been a popular way to fish. Drifting soft crab baits in some of the Eastern Shore creeks also works well for speckled trout.
White perch can be found in the creeks leading into the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. The lower Nanticoke and Wicomico rivers, as well as the Hoopers Island and Tangier Sound areas, are all good places to fish for them. The most common tactic is to use a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworms. Unfortunately, croaker and spot are as rare a frog hair in the lower bay region, but there certainly are plenty of blue catfish.
Recreational crabbing continues to move along at a steady pace as warmer water temperatures and time allow crabs to shed and gain in size. The 6-1/2-inch to 7-inch crabs that were light after a major shed a couple of weeks ago are now filling out and providing a welcomed addition to the smaller size range that has dominated catches. Low salinity values continue to be a problem for upper bay crabbers and many commercial trotline crabbers have moved to middle and lower bay regions as a result. The lower Eastern Shore tidal rivers and creeks tend to offer the best recreational crabbing opportunities and the area around the Honga River is reported to be providing excellent crabbing.
Despite recent heavy rains, most of the western Maryland creeks and streams are in good shape for trout fishing. There are plenty of hatches occurring and terrestrial insects are more common now. Watch for swarms of flying ants and be prepared with small ant-pattern flies this time of the year to “match the hatch.” Hoppers are always a good bet in some of the more open areas.
The upper Potomac is running strong but okay for fishing, however, it is predicted to rise by the weekend as a result of runoff. Fishing for smallmouth bass has been good in the early morning hours with topwater lures near shallow grass. Soft plastic jigs and small crankbaits are a good choice for working deeper waters during the day.
Largemouth bass are the popular target in the tidal Potomac and most of them are holding near thick grass. Working in the shallow areas in the early morning hours or late evening with various topwater lures is always a fun way to fish. As the sun rises higher in the sky, bass will seek out cool shade under thick grass in deeper waters or docks, brush or fallen treetops. Soft plastics and jigs work well in these areas.
Crappie fishing is reported to be slow in the tidal Potomac and other tidal rivers. Deep structure is usually where you will find them during the summer months. Bluegills offer some fun fishing this time of the year in the ponds and lakes that dot the Maryland landscape. A simple bobber and worm will work for the younger set, but if you’d like to enjoy some exciting action try using small rubber-legged poppers or similar topwater insect lures. They can be fished with an ultra-light spinning outfit or a lightweight fly rod.
The largemouth bass is always a popular target for freshwater fishermen and provides plenty of fun fishing wherever they are found. Tidal rivers such as those on the Eastern Shore offer plenty of room to enjoy some peaceful fishing. Farm ponds and reservoirs always offer relatively easy access and great fishing experiences. The largemouth bass is now in their summer mode of behavior. They feed in the shallower areas at night and retreat to cool shade during the day. Northern snakeheads will be part of the mix when fishing topwater lures such as buzzbaits or frogs over thick grass – they will usually reside there all summer as long as the grass lasts. They are ambush predators and the grass offers perfect cover. Snakeheads are spreading rapidly throughout the Chesapeake watershed so you might find one where you never expected it.
The Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf fishermen are finding a typical summer mix of species along the Ocean City and Assateague Island beaches. Kingfish are plentiful and can be caught on pieces of bloodworm or Fishbites in the surf. There are small bluefish in the surf and casting finger mullet on a bottom rig tends to be the best way to catch them. Large baits such as clams and menhaden are catching cownose rays, inshore shark species, and the occasional black drum and cobia.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, sheepshead is starting to show up, so many are switching to sand fleas for bait. Small bluefish continue to move in and out of the area and casting Got-Cha lures have been a popular way to catch them. There is also striped bass in the area and most are below the 28-inch minimum, but they do provide some fun fishing action. Flounder can be found in the area also and a favorite target of shore-bound anglers. Casting soft plastic baits or the traditional squid strip and walking them along the bottom in the current is the best way to catch them.
Fishing for flounder in the back bay channels is in full swing and so is the boat traffic. so be careful when fishing in the channels close to the inlet. Large sport fishing boats will be returning to ports in the afternoon hours and are usually moving at a good pace. Some of the lesser-used channels such as Sinepuxent Bay near the airport offer less boat traffic and good fishing. Large white or pink Gulp type baits have been a great way to catch the larger flounder, while squid and minnows are the traditional baits.
Outside the inlet, those trolling the 30 Fathom Lumps have been catching a mix of false albacore, Atlantic bonito, bluefish and the occasional dolphin, and bluefin tuna. Farther out, the Washington Canyon has been the place to find yellowfin tuna. Many boats are reporting double-digit catches of yellowfins in the 35-pound range, along with gaffer dolphins. There is also a mix of Bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, mako sharks, white marlin and at least one blue marlin was caught recently.
As a final note, offshore anglers are reminded to turn in catch cards for bluefin tuna, billfish and sharks.
“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of something that is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” — John Buchan
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”