Few things in Maryland speak of summer more than Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, although local sweet corn might be a close second.
Forecast Summary: July 10 – 16
Chesapeake Bay anglers will experience another week of warm weather with low winds; there is a chance of rain or thunderstorms Thursday and again Sunday through Tuesday. These hot, calm conditions will warm surface waters, limit oxygen being recharged to the deeper waters from wind mixing, and increase the chance of algal blooms. This will result in gamefish remaining at similar locations but moving to slightly shallower depths, just above the “Don’t fish below this depth” mark in the coolest water available. Since rockfish will avoid water temperatures above 84 degrees, at this time of year they are being squeezed into smaller areas with adequate temperature and oxygen. As always, 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 Virginia state line on the west side of the bay is about 8ppt while the Tangier side of the Bay is saltier at 12 ppt. In most of the bay’s shallower 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 20 feet.
Bay water temperatures continue to increase; peak temperatures typically occur slightly after mid-July. For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — and also the Choptank area, water temperatures are in the low 80s. For the Potomac River at Point Lookout, surface water temperatures have risen to the low 80s while water temperatures at Little Falls has risen to the mid 80s. Check online forwater temperature by depth.
Expect reduced water clarity currently in the Susquehanna Flats to move down the bay for the next few days, as a result of Pennsylvania rains. On the Potomac River, expect reduced water clarity moving downriver from Little Falls downriver.Expect above normal flows from most Maryland’s rivers and streams this week, with localized elevated flows due to thunderstorms.
There will be above averagetidal currentsfrom Saturday through the rest of the week as a result of the upcoming full moon July 17.
For thefull weekly fishing conditions summaryand more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check outClick 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 Forecastwebpage.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
There has been some change this week as fishing pressure has shifted to other traditional locations, and methods are changing as well. Boats can still be seen positioning in front of the Bay Bridge piers and either jigging, drifting soft crab baits or live-lining spot and white perch. There is still success there but much of the action has shifted north to Love, Swan and Podickory points as well as the Key Bridge. Most anglers are live-lining spot or small white perch with good success.
With more anglers now live-lining, remember thatcircle hooksare required for fishing with live fish or live eels. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources advises anglers to use circle hooks at least 8/0 in size to minimize deep-hooking. Check our website andvideofor more information on circle hooks and careful release.
Spot are being found in hard-bottom areas in about 10 feet to 20 feet of water. Some likely locations include Sandy Point, the flats behind Hacketts, the Sands near Black Walnut Point, Eastern Bay, and in front of Chesapeake Beach. Pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig and some type of bait well will put you into the action. White perch and catfish will also be found in the same areas.
There has been some early morning and late evening topwater striped bass action at the Conowingo Dam pool, the Susquehanna Flats and locations such as the rock pile at Love Point. Poppers, skipping bugs and Zara Spooks have been favored lures to use.
Jigging is still a good option for those not wishing to go through the process of catching spot for bait. Soft plastic jigs in white, pearl or chartreuse combinations have been a good choice with half-ounce or ¾-ounce jig heads.
Trolling is also an option but it can be tough to try where the fish are holding due to the number of boats live-lining. Red and green hoses or umbrella rigs rigged with spoons or sassy shads are the best choices.
Now that spot are more available, live-lining is becoming a very popular way to fish for striped bass. They are being found suspended near the outside edge of Hacketts, the Gum Thickets, Bloody Point, Thomas Point and channel edges throughout the region. Again, anglers are reminded the circle hooks are required for live-lining, and the Department advises using circle hooks 8/0 or larger.
Trolling is an option to explore channel edges where striped bass can be found suspended. Red and green hoses and Drone spoons pulled behind inline weights or planers have been a good choice. Umbrella rigs rigged with spoons or sassy shads and Storm shads or bucktails as trailers are also popular.
Jigging in many of these locations can be a good option. Casting to structure such as the rocks at Thomas Point with swimshads has been popular in the early morning and late evening hours. The shallow water striped bass fishery continues to provide some action in the early morning or late evening hours for those casting topwater lures. Most describe the action as a slow pick with a considerable number of throwbacks.
Fishing for white perch is providing plenty of action this week. Fishing over hard bottom in Eastern Bay and the lower sections of the tidal rivers with bottom rigs and pieces of bloodworm is a good choice. Casting small spinnerbaits in the early morning and late evening hours along the shoreline structure can provide a lot of fun.
As salinity values begin to rise, blue catfish are moving up the tidal rivers, making better opportunities for chumming for striped bass. Currently, there is good chumming and live-lining in the Point Lookout area as well as the lower Potomac near Piney Point and St. Georges Island. The striped bass are suspended along the steeper channel edges there. Remember that circle hook are required for live-lining and the Department advises using circle hooks 8/0 or larger.
Striped bass are also being caught by jigging and casting various lures near the shorelines of the Patuxent and Potomac rivers. Swimshads and crankbaits have been favorites as well as topwater lures in the early morning and late evening hours.
Bottom fishing for a mix of spot, croaker and white perch is the best it has been so far this summer. There are spot being found of eating size and small ones suitable for live-lining. The croakers tend to be on the small side, and white perch are of good size.
Trolling has been an option along channel edges using a variety of lures. Red and green hoses have been a favorite, and small Drone spoons offer the option of an occasional Spanish mackerel. A few large red drum have been reported to be caught and released near the Middle Grounds. Cobia are for the most part still holding in Virginia waters below Windmill Point.
Recreational crabbingis quickly improving with larger crabs now available in the 6-1/2-inch and larger size range. The best crabbing is on the eastern side of the lower bay and extends up into the middle bay. Chicken necks have been popular but razor clams continue to provide the best catches on trotlines or in collapsible crab traps.
Despite some recent heavy rains in the western and central regions, most of the smaller trout management creeks and streams are reporting good flow conditions. Fly fishermen are enjoying the may fly hatches, and matching various terrestrial insects that accidently find themselves on the surface of a trout water. Nymphs are perhaps the most popular selection under most conditions, with beaded head nymphs at the top of the list. Streamers work well for brown trout and small spoons and spinners can work well in waters designated for spinning gear.
Anyone wishing to fish the upper Potomac later on this week should check local conditions, as the river has been feeling the effects of recent rain events. Smallmouth bass can be seen feeding on white miller hatches during the evening hours. Tubes that resemble tiny smallmouth bass might be a good lure choice if you’re looking for those lunker sized smallmouth. Root beer colored tubes and grubs worked around fallen treetops and snags in the early morning or late evening hours may catch the attention of larger fish.
Fishing for largemouth bass in the tidal Potomac is solidly in a summer mode of behavior. Most bass are focused on shallow grass in the early morning or late evening hours. Frogs, buzzbaits can be a good choice in the shallows. Most bass will now retreat to the thick hydrilla and milfoil beds to escape the hot sun. Floating stick worms can be a good choice when working the tops of the grass beds. Stick worms rigged to sink through the grass mats can reach bass lurking under the grass.
Northern snakeheads are now holding far back in shallow grass beds and can be difficult to find. Casting noisy topwater baits is the best way to find them. Buzzbaits and frogs are perhaps two of the best baits to work these areas.
These tactics can work well in farm ponds, lakes and tidal rivers throughout the state. One should keep in mind to try and not strike as soon as the bass picks up a soft bait; try and wait until you feel the fish heavy on the end of your line, indicating they have your hook deep in their mouth.
Crappie are holding deep now where waters are shaded and cool near structure. Minnows or small jigs under a slip bobber are a good way to target them. Marina docks, fallen treetops and bridge piers are good places to find them holding.
Blue catfish are reportedly moving up from the tidal rivers they inhabit as salinity values increase. The tidal Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers are full of them and they can provide a lot of action and good eating. Clam snouts work well on both blue and channel catfish as well as cut bait and things like chicken livers.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
In the Ocean City area, the summer season kicks into high gear. Kingfish are being caught in the surf on pieces of bloodworms or Fishbites on bottom rigs, along with a few spot. Small bluefish are being caught on finger mullet rigs or cut mullet. Casting small metal can also put some small bluefish in the cooler. Those casting large baits of cut menhaden or mullet are catching the occasional larger bluefish and a couple of cobia.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area small bluefish continue to move in and out of the inlet, mostly on an evening incoming tide when boat traffic is at a minimum. Got-Cha lures, metal or bucktails have been the most popular lures to use. Sheepshead are becoming more common at the South Jetty and are being caught on sand fleas.
Flounder are being caught in the inlet area and the channels leading to and from the inlet. Boat traffic can be a real safety problem this time of the year; small boat anglers are urged to use extreme caution and give large boats plenty of room in the channels. The areas behind Assateague Island and in front of the airport offer some safer boating and excellent flounder fishing. White and pink Gulp baits have been proven baits when targeting the larger flounder. Squid and minnow baits are the standard but pesky small seabass, sea robins and blowfish will keep you busy — they have to eat also.
Captains report that sea bass fishing has been up and down, depending on what mood the fish are in. On some days, for unexplained reasons, they just do not feel like feeding. Other days the same fish in the same location are jumping all over baits. Flounder continue to be part of the mix when fishing around the reef and wreck sites.
Those trolling from the inshore shoal areas out to the 30 Fathom lumps have been catching a mix of bluefish, Atlantic bonito, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and an occasional yellowfin tuna or dolphin.
The boats heading out to the canyons are enjoying excellent fishing for a variety of offshore species. No one canyon seems to claim the best fishing, due to the large sport fishing fleet leaving the docks; the boats have been spreading out seeking a little space and fish. The yellowfin tuna bite has come on strong recently with a much nicer grade of tuna, ranging from 40 pounds to 75 pounds. Large dolphin are being caught — one was reported to be 52 pounds. Bigeye tuna and bluefins have been part of the mix along with blue and white marlin releases. Skirted ballyhoo continues to be one of the most favored baits.
As a final note, offshore anglers are reminded toturn in catch cardsfor bluefin tuna, billfish and sharks.
“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?”— Lee Wulff
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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