Anyone who has ventured to the Bay Bridge in the past few weeks knows you will see all kinds of boats fishing the bridge piers. Some remind one of the opening verse of the Fisherman’s Prayer, which President John F. Kennedy kept inscribed on a block of wood on his desk in the Oval Office, and Admiral Rickover was rumored to present it to every new submarine captain: “Oh Lord thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.” Whatever means you have, it’s a great time to get out fishing.
July 4 is the last free fishing day of the 2019 season. This is a great opportunity to take someone who has shown some interest in fishing but has been hesitant to give it a try. It’s a golden opportunity to take someone fishing without them worrying about buying a fishing license.
Forecast Summary: July 3 – July 9
This will be another week of warm weather with low winds and a chance of rain or thunderstorms through Sunday. These hot, calm conditions will warm surface waters and limit oxygen being recharged to the deeper waters from wind mixing and increase the chance of algal blooms. This will result in rockfish remaining at similar locations and depths, just above the “Do not fish below this depth,” in the coolest water available. As always, the best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting these cool, oxygenated areas with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
Bay surface salinities are well below normal for this time of year but improving slightly.Salinity at the state line on the west side of the bay is about 8ppt while the Tangier side of the bay is saltier at 12ppt. In most shallower bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen from the surface to the bottom for bay gamefish. However, to avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from Tolchester down to Dares Beach, in general avoid fishing deeper than 30 feet. On the east side of the bay from the Bay Bridge south to near Hooper’s Island, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet. To see oxygen levels by depth, check the “Do not fish below this depth map.”
Bay water temperatures will continue to increase. For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures are in the low 80s. Choptank area water temperatures also have risen to the low 80s. For the Potomac River, at Little Falls and Point Lookout, surface water temperatures have risen to the low 80s. To see water temperature by depth, check “Water temperature by Depth map”.
Except for reduced water clarity on the Susquehanna Flats, main stem water clarity is relatively good. However, the upcoming hot, sunny, and calm conditions are beginning to set up algal blooms from the Bay Bridge down to Chesapeake Beach. On the Potomac River, expect reduced water clarity down to Colonial Beach. Expect above normal flows from most Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. However, as result of the potential thunderstorms through Sunday, there may be localized elevated flows. There will be above average tidal currents through Sunday as a result of the new moon on July 3.
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.
Striped Bass Summer Fishing Advisory Forecast:
Red: Air temperatures are forecast at 95 degrees or higher. Anglers are encouraged not to fish for striped bass after 10 a.m. and should target other species of fish.
Yellow: Air temperatures are forecast at 90-94 degrees. Anglers should use extreme care when fishing for striped bass; fish should be kept in the water when caught and released on these days.
Green: Fishing conditions are normal. Proper catch-and-release practices are encouraged.
More information about this awareness campaign can be found on the Striped Bass Fishing Advisory Forecast webpage.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
Anglers who get up early are finding topwater striped bass action at the Conowingo Dam pool and on the outside edges of the Susquehanna Flats. Currently the dam is in a power generating mode and releasing a considerable amount of water during the day. Jigging along the channel edges near the Susquehanna Flats during the early morning and evening hours has also been good, with a throwback ratio of about 2 to 1. Chartreuse and pearl have been good colors for 6-inch soft plastic baits on a half-ounce jig head.
Elsewhere in the upper bay, the focus on striped bass fishing is centered on several traditional fishing sites. Swan Point, Triple Buoys, Podickory Point, Love Point and the Bay Bridge piers are providing most of the action. The striped bass are holding shallow, often in less than 15 feet of water at these locations. Some anglers are chumming or chunking but often this just attracts catfish along with the striped bass. Many are simply drifting fresh cut menhaden or soft crab baits to the areas where striped bass are suspended near structure. Most are anchoring but others are using bow-mounted electric motors. Many a veteran captain will reveal that the bottom near the Bay Bridge has a hungry appetite for anchors.
Jigging in these areas, especially the Bay Bridge piers, continues to be one of the best shows in town. A falling tide is best and with the hot weather the bite is often over by mid-morning or when the tide goes slack. One half-ounce skirted jigs with 6-inch plastic bodies in pearl or chartreuse-white combinations have been good color choices.
Trolling can be a good option to find scattered striped bass holding along channel edges. Drone spoons in gold and chartreuse and red hoses have been productive choices behind planers and inline weights. Storm type swimming shads or bucktails behind umbrella rigs have also been good choices.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is launching a new awareness campaign to reduce striped bass mortality during the summer fishing season. A color-coded recommendation system will advise of fishing conditions, allowing anglers to plan their striped bass fishing trips up to seven days in advance.
Fishing for white perch in the upper bay continues to be a very productive option for those wishing to take some fine eating perch. Dense schools can be located near Swan Point and some of the shoal areas in the upper bay region. A close watch on a depth finder will reveal these schools holding over hard bottom areas. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm will get you into the action.
Many boats leaving from middle bay ports have been making the run up to the Bay Bridge but there is some striped bass fishing to be found close to home. The outside edge of Hacketts and the Gum Thickets area off Kent Island have been offering some action as has the Eastern Bay area, Thomas Point and Bloody Point. Jigging at these locations has been good as well as chumming or chunking. Some are also live-lining white perch and spot with good results.
The early morning hours have been offering some action at Thomas Point and the rocks off of Poplar Island. Casting swimshads or topwater lures or jigging have all been productive ways to fish. The early morning shallow water bite in the tidal rivers such as the Choptank has been slow lately for legal-sized striped bass.
Trolling can be a good option, especially in the morning and evening hours when a good tide is running. Most are pulling a variety of lures in their trolling spreads. Drone spoons and red hoses have been good choices behind planers and inline weights. Storm type swimshads and bucktails are a good choice behind umbrella rigs. In most areas the striped bass are suspended at about 15 feet along channel edges.
White perch are providing plenty of fishing entertainment this week in the tidal creeks and rivers. They can be caught deep on a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm in the lower sections of the tidal rivers over oyster bottom or near docks and piers. Casting beetle spins or small spinnerbaits along shoreline structure is a fun way to catch them on light tackle.
The lower Potomac River right now is one of the best places to fish for striped bass. Trolling along channel edges at the mouth of the river has been good. Most are pulling a combination of small Drone spoons and red hoses behind planers and inline weights or bucktails and Storm shads behind umbrella rigs. The lower Patuxent also offers some good trolling action at times. In both cases striped bass tend to be more active on a good running tide.
The channel edge between St. Georges Island and Piney Point has been holding striped bass. They tend to be suspended at about 20 feet and can be caught by jigging, chunking, live-lining or chumming. Chumming tends to attract a lot of blue catfish as well, which is not necessarily bad since they make a healthy addition to the day’s catch.
Live-lining spot is becoming more popular as the source of spot becomes easier to find and collect. Others have been having equally good success by live-lining white perch. The lower Potomac, Patuxent and shipping channel edges are good places to find striped bass suspended once they can be located on a depth finder.
Jigging is a very good option and striped bass can be found suspended at many locations if one pokes around with a depth finder at channel edges. The lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers are holding good numbers of striped bass as well as various locations along the shipping channel. Jigs in the half ounce size range with 6-inch soft plastic bodies work well and putting a plastic skirt on the jigs helps them work even better by improving the jig’s profile.
Bottom fishing for white perch over hard bottom continues to be excellent and catches of croaker and spot are steadily improving. Pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs has been the best way to catch them. Spanish mackerel still tend to be south of Smith Point but that could change this week. Cobia and large red drum are also holding below the Virginia line for the most part.
Recreational crabbing continues to improve at a steady pace as the summer progresses. Recreational crabbing is allowed this Wednesday July 3 because Independence Day falls on a Thursday. All other rules still apply. The best crabbing success is occurring in the lower bay, with moderate success in the middle bay. In both regions the best catches are found on the eastern side of the bay. Many legal sized crabs are showing signs of shedding so there may be a whole new class of large or jumbo sized crabs entering the fishery. Doublers are also a common sight this week.
Many of the trout management waters of the western region and a few tailwater areas in the central region are providing some classic summer trout fishing. Western Fisheries Manager John Mullican reports that he will fish dries, nymphs or streamers depending on stream conditions. Nymphs will be the most consistent producers and he always has a few of the standbys such as pheasant tails, hares ears and Frenchies on hand. These basic nymphs can represent of lot of different macroinvertebrates and can be relied on to catch any number of trout, both hatchery-bred and wild. Many of the stocked put-and-take streams still have trout for those willing to search for them.
The upper Potomac River is fishing well for smallmouth bass. In the early morning hours, topwater lures are a good choice along the shallower grass areas. As the morning wears on, grubs and small crankbaits that resemble crayfish can be fished in deeper waters.
The tidal Potomac River is always a popular destination to fish for largemouth bass. The largemouth bass are holding close to sunken wood, main river points and grass beds. In the early morning and evening hours largemouth bass can be found in the shallower areas. During the daytime hours, they will be seeking cool shade. Topwater baits are the best choice for shallower fishing and crankbaits and jigs near deeper waters. During a falling tide, spinnerbaits cast along the outside edges of grass or spatterdock beds is a great way to target largemouth bass moving out of those areas. These same fishing scenarios can be found in the other tidal rivers flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.
Northern snakeheads will be found in or near these same grassy areas and baits such as frogs and buzzbaits are good choices to entice a strike. Northern snakeheads can now be found in every tidal river and creek throughout Maryland, with the tidal Potomac and lower Eastern Shore creeks and rivers providing some of the better opportunities. Minnows fished under a bobber or popping cork are a good way to catch northern snakeheads outside of grass cover in slightly deeper waters.
Fishing for a mix of white perch, yellow perch and bluegills in the upper reaches of tidal rivers and creeks is a fun way to spend your time. Beetle spins are one of the better lures to use while fishing with ultra-light fishing gear. Channel catfish and blue catfish are available in the tidal waters and offer some fun fishing opportunities. Fresh cut white perch or bluegill sunfish are an easy bait to obtain, and clam snouts and chicken liver also make good baits.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
A summer mix of kingfish, small bluefish and blowfish greet surf casters this week along the Ocean City and Assateague beaches. Bloodworms and Fishbites are the favored baits for kingfish, with finger mullet for the bluefish and bloodworms, clams or squid for the blowfish. Those casting out large chunks of fresh menhaden or mullet are catching and releasing a few inshore sharks and cownose rays.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area sheepshead are becoming a more common catch for those fishing near the south jetty with sand fleas. Bluefish continue to move in and out of the inlet, often on a flood tide and especially during the evening hours. Casting Got-Cha plugs or bucktails or drifting cut bait are the most popular ways to fish for them.
Flounder will be the primary target for those fishing in the back bay areas this week. This will be a very busy boating week so be careful when drifting in the channels for flounder, as large boats must use those channels. A less crowded area might be Sinepuxent Bay behind Assateague Island where there have been good reports of flounder near the airport. Large Gulp baits in white or pink on a jig head has been a killer bait for the larger flounder.
Those trolling outside the inlet and out to the 30 fathom curve are catching a mix of species this week. Bluefish, bonito, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, skipjack tuna and small dolphin can show up on some of the lumps.
Sea bass fishing has been generally good with most anglers coming back to the dock with double-digit catches and a mix of flounder from the wreck and reef sites. Farther offshore, boats have been spreading out among the canyons to troll, looking to get away from the crowd. There has been a wide variety of good catches including yellowfin tuna, large dolphin, a few blue marlin and white marlin and bigeye tuna to top off the list. Skirted ballyhoo tends to be the most popular bait being trolled.
As a final note, offshore anglers are reminded to turn in catch cards for bluefin tuna, billfish and sharks.
“The surf: certainly one of nature’s finest edges.” — Russell Chatham
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.”