News Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
The chill of late November is beginning to lay its hand upon the Maryland landscape. Freshwater species such as trout, walleye, and chain pickerel seem to love the cold. Our blue crabs are seeking the perfect mix of deep water sand and mud to take a winter’s nap.
White perch and resident striped bass are moving into the deep waters of the Chesapeake to snooze out the cold winter months. The late fall offers plenty of good fishing as fish feed heavily to build up winter stores, so don’t miss it.
Forecast Summary: Nov. 20 – Nov. 26:
As we approach Turkey Day, Bay temperatures continue to drop. The cool weather has reduced the water temperature of upper Bay mainstem and rivers to the upper 40s, and surface waters from Annapolis south to the Virginia state line down to near 50 degrees. This cooling will continue through the next week. Warmest waters continue to be found in the bottom quarter of the water column. Anglers should focus on prime habitat areas for larger concentrations of baitfish and hungry gamefish as they migrate to their winter holding areas. As always, make sure to focus on moving water periods for best results.
Expect normal flows from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. There will be above average tidal currents Saturday through next Tuesday as a result of the upcoming new moon November 26. Bay surface salinities are largely back to normal conditions.
There will be reduced water clarity from the bottom of the Susquehanna Flats down to Tolchester as a result of the recent spill gates being opened at Conowingo Dam.
To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
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
There continues to be some early morning striped bass action at the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River this week, but the action is slowing down as water temperatures drop. Yellow perch are moving into the lower part of the Susquehanna and Northeast rivers and can provide some fun fishing for those using minnows or small jigs on bottom rigs or small beetle spin type lures in shallower waters.
Farther down the Bay, water temperatures are still high enough that the resident striped bass are feeding on small menhaden that are coming out of the tidal rivers. This exodus of baitfish will be coming to an end soon as colder water in the tidal rivers drive them down the Bay.
Those fishing in the upper Bay whether jigging or trolling are constantly watching for diving seagulls, mostly along channel edges. Light-tackle jigging is always a favored fall activity. The mouth of the Patapsco and Hart Miller Island are great places to look for striped bass suspended over channel edges or under birds. White, pearl or chartreuse 6-inch plastics on half-ounce jig heads are a popular way to imitate young of the year menhaden. The mouth of the Chester River and shipping channel edges are also holding striped bass.
Trolling is a very effective way to fish for striped bass along channel edges and anywhere bird action can be spotted. Using heavy inline weights in front of umbrella rigs is perhaps the best way to troll for these fish, which are holding close to the bottom. Swimshads and bucktails dressed with sassy shads in chartreuse or white are popular trailers.
White perch are providing good fishing over shell bottom in deeper areas at the mouths of tidal rivers and out in the Bay. The Bay Bridge rock piles and piers are always a great place to fish for larger white perch this time of the year. Most are using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs with small plastic or metal jigs. Channel catfish are also being found in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and fishing on the bottom with cut bait or other favored baits is the way to catch them.
Watching diving seagulls has been the primary focus of most anglers on the Bay. That may start to become a scarcer scenario as the bulk of the young of the year menhaden successfully complete their migration out of Maryland waters. Some of this year’s juvenile hickory shad and river herring will soon be exiting several tidal rivers thanks to the efforts of the department’s shad restoration program.
Right now, birds mark the way to fishing fun with mostly 3-year old striped bass with some larger 4- and 5-year fish showing up at times. Generally speaking, the 2-year-old striped bass have stopped feeding due to cold water temperatures and are hunkering down in deeper waters to sit out the winter months. Light-tackle jigging is good this week in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and along the shipping channel edges out in the Bay. Soft plastic 6-inch jigs in white, pearl or chartreuse are a popular choice as are metal jigs in half-ounce to three quarter ounce size.
Trolling is an excellent option — and it can be especially nice inside a boat cabin protected from the elements. The most popular way to troll this week is deploying umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights to get them down to the depths where striped bass are holding. The most common trailers being used are Storm type swimshads or bucktails dressed with sassy shads. The shipping channel edges and channels leading out of the major tidal rivers — along with areas near active birds or slicks — are good places to look for suspended fish.
As water temperatures drop, white perch have now moved out into the deeper areas at the mouths of the tidal rivers and in the Bay. Oyster shell bottom is often a preferred habitat for them and a good depth finder will reveal their presence. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms or dropper rigs with small jigs is the best way to catch them.
Striped bass can be found scattered along the shipping channel edges and channel edges in the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers and Tangier Sound. On most days it is easy to spot bird action as baitfish continue to move out of the tidal rivers and travel down the bay. The most common bait being seen are 4-inch to 5-inch juvenile menhaden.
Light tackle jigging is one of the most fun and productive ways to fish for striped bass in the fall and this year is no exception. Using half-ounce to 3/4-ounce jigs skirted with six inch soft plastic bodies in white, pearl, or chartreuse is the ticket to this fun. Metal jigs with single hooks are also a good choice, and braided line is a real asset in regard to sensitivity and line drag.
Trolling is a great option along channel edges and wherever bird action is spotted. Trolling with umbrella rigs and heavy inline weights is the most popular trolling option to get down deep to where the striped bass are holding.
White perch can be found deep — often 30 feet or deeper — in the lower parts of the major tidal rivers over good hard bottom with some amount of current flowing through the area. It’s best to use bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs holding small jigs or a metal jig with a dropper fly-rigged above. Anglers are reminded that rigs may not have more than two hooks per rig.
Speckled trout can still be found along the eastern and western sides of the Bay in deeper holes, but it’s hard to get them to bite due to cold water temperatures. This is a great time of the year to target blue catfish in the tidal Potomac River, the Sharptown area of the Nanticoke River, and the Patuxent River. Fresh cut bait or items such as clam snouts work well, and channel edges are a good place to look for them.
The fall turnover of surface and bottom waters at Deep Creek Lake has occurred and stabilized. There are wonderful fishing opportunities for several coldwater species. Walleyes can be caught from shore by casting jerkbaits and crankbaits along steep rocky shores in the evening hours. Smallmouth bass can be found near rocky points and deep sunken structure. Crayfish are making an exodus from shallow water for deeper cover to spend the winter. Crankbaits and jigs that resemble crayfish are a perfect choice to target both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Yellow perch fishing is very good for those using minnows under a slip bobber along steep shoreline edges. Crappie are holding near deep structure and bridge piers and can be caught with small minnows or jigs under a slip bobber. Chain pickerel are holding near shorelines, near fallen treetops and sunken wood. Northern pike are holding in the open waters of coves.
Trout fishermen visiting the catch-and-release and delayed harvest trout management waters are enjoying some peaceful fishing in this beautiful setting of late fall. Nymphs, streamers, and other various flies can offer productive fishing for trout.
Fishing for smallmouth bass and walleyes in the upper Potomac River is good this week. The largest smallmouth bass tend to be the most active, and of course, walleye love cold water. Tubes, jigs, and small crankbaits are good choices. This time of the year is also a great time to do a float trip down the section from Cumberland to Paw-Paw and enjoy good fishing and beautiful scenery.
Largemouth bass are steadily moving to deeper waters seeking warmer water temperatures. They can be found in transition areas near drop-offs or over the edge in deeper water along channel edges or structure. Casting spinnerbaits along transition zones and shallow waters can be a good bet, especially during sunny late afternoon hours when the sun’s rays warm the waters. Working small crankbaits and jigs that resemble crayfish, which are moving across open bottom headed for deeper winter haunts is a good option. Blade lures can also be a good choice when fishing the deepest waters.
Chain pickerel are holding near shoreline sunken wood or fallen treetops, waiting to ambush baitfish or anything else that swims by. The largest chain pickerel can often be found holding near deep structure. Crappie are also holding near deep structure in ponds reservoirs and tidal rivers. They can be caught with minnows or small jigs under a slip bobber.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
The southbound migration of striped bass is underway and has advanced as far as New Jersey. There are reports of a 67-pound fish being caught off the Jersey coast this past weekend. The bottom line is that they are on their way and surf fishermen and those that will be trolling along the nearshore shoals are anxiously awaiting their arrival. Those that have to give it a try are soaking cut menhaden baits in the surf.
The last of the flounder are moving through the inlet, headed to their offshore wintering sites. The focus at the Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area has been jigging for striped bass and fishing for tautog. Most of the striped bass fail to meet the 28-inch minimum but are plenty of fun. There is also some striped bass action at the Route 90 Bridge. Tautog are being caught on sand fleas and pieces of green crab along the jetty rocks, bridge piers, and bulkheads.
The sea bass action at the wreck and reef sites seems to have taken a few knocks from last weekend’s winds and tend to be moving to deeper areas. Catches have been good but limit catches are not as common as they were. Triggerfish along with a few bluefish and flounder are also mixing in with catches. Some are starting to target tautog and are doing well.
Deep dropping for swordfish and tilefish tend to round out the offshore fishing scene at the canyons. Now and then, longfin albacore and bigeye tuna are being caught.
“Fishing is a condition of the mind wherein you cannot possibly have a bad time.” — Zane Grey
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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