There is a lot of exciting news this week for put-and-take trout anglers as the fall trout stocking program has begun. In the Chesapeake Bay, striped bass along with many other species of fish are providing wonderful fishing opportunities — don’t miss it.
Please join us for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar Oct. 15 at noon. We will discuss the ongoing fall trout stocking season with Coldwater Program Manager Marshall Brown. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.
Forecast Summary: Oct. 7 – 13:
The upcoming week will have stable and sunny to partly cloudy conditions, with a chance of rain Sunday through Tuesday, continuing to cool Chesapeake Bay waters. Surface water temperatures are holding in the upper 60s and will continue to cool this week. Turnover has occurred, mixing the bay’s water from surface to bottom and providing adequate oxygen for fish at all depths. This will result in cool-water preferring fish being able move more vertically in many areas and be more scattered until turnover conditions stabilize. As surface waters continue to cool, deeper waters will remain slightly warmer. As a result of the below normal flows from the Susquehanna, upper bay salinities are slightly higher than normal. As always, best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams except for the lower Potomac and in the lower Eastern Shore. In addition, the Susquehanna flows continue to be below normal. There will be above average tidal currents as a result of the upcoming new moon Oct. 17.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. Get regular updates on Maryland’s waters sent to your inbox with our Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
The lower Susquehanna River continues to exhibit low flows this week, as the power generation water releases from the Conowingo Dam continue to be extremely low. There is good fishing for blue and channel catfish in the river, and a few smallmouth bass are being caught. The good news is that striped bass have moved into the Susquehanna Flats and channels leading towards the Susquehanna and Elk rivers. There is early morning and evening topwater action — working Rat L Traps and soft plastic jigs and paddle tails along the channel edges works well during the day. Breaking fish are being spotted from the mouth of the Susquehanna down towards Pooles Island, but most are 2-year old striped bass measuring in the 14-inch to 17-inch size range. Jigging underneath holds the promise of larger striped bass lurking in the depths.
The fishing action for striped bass really picks up in the upper bay region from Pooles Island south to the Bay Bridge. There is great shallow-water fishing for striped bass in the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers in the morning and evening hours. Casting topwater lures, paddle tails or crankbaits are fun ways to fish for them with light tackle. The lower Patapsco River has been a standout for this kind of fishing action. Lefty’s Deceivers, Clouser Minnows, and skipping bugs work well for those casting fly rods.
Light-tackle jigging has been excellent in the upper bay as striped bass move into a solid fall pattern of behavior, where they can be found suspended along channel edges and bottom contours ambushing schools of baitfish. Along with the channels at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers, various knoll and lumps will hold striped bass at times and the Love Point Rocks and the Bay Bridge piers come into their own this time of the year. Striped bass are filling out and looking fit with a wonderful robust color.
Jigging close to structure or the bottom with soft plastic or metal jigs is a fall tradition, which light-tackle anglers look forward to. In most situations a ¾-ounce jig will fit the bill and if using soft plastics, a skirt helps improve profile in the water for the fish to see. Many will also use scent paste or liquid to enhance their jigs even further. Braided line and a fast-action rod helps a lot with sensitivity.
Trolling is another good fall option and a great way to cover a lot of water when searching for fish. Trolling spreads with umbrella rigs behind inline weights, tandem rigged bucktails, spoons, and Storm-type swim shads are all good choices when covering different depths. There are still a few bluefish around, so soft plastic swim shads may get nipped now and then. Trolling along channel edges or near breaking fish are good places to try.
White perch are moving out of the tidal rivers and creeks and can mostly be found in the deeper waters, often suspended over oyster reefs or hard bottom. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or using dropper rigs with two small jigs can also work well. Yellow perch will be showing up in the lower parts of the tidal rivers also; small minnows and jigs will work well for them.
Breaking fish and diving seagulls are becoming more common by the day. Bait in the form of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden are moving out of the tidal rivers and are being swept along channel edges by swift currents. The fish that are pursuing them are a mix of striped bass and a few lingering bluefish. Often the fish on top are 2-year old striped bass and some are pushing 18 inches in length. Three-year-old striped bass which range from 19 inches to 22 inches can be often found mixed in or holding down deep below, close to the bottom.
Light-tackle jigging is one of the most fun ways to fish for them and diving seagulls, slicks, or heavy marks on a depth finder will lead the way. Skirted soft plastic or metal jigs are a very popular choice when jigging with braided line and a fast-action rod.
Trolling is another good option and can be a great choice when fish are spread out or diving seagulls do not mark the way. Striped bass often will be holding in about 20 feet to 30 feet along channel edges in the bay and lower portions of the tidal rivers. Umbrella rigs are very popular when pulled behind inline weights; spoons, swimshads, and hoses can also be good additions to a trolling spread.
A few locations that are showing promise are the outside channel edge at Hacketts Bar, the anchored ore carriers, Bloody Point south to Buoy 83, the False Channel, and out in front of Chesapeake Beach down to Parkers Creek. Eastern Bay, the mouth of the Severn, and the mouth of the Choptank are great places for jigging.
Fishing the shallows is great in the lower portions of the Choptank River, Eastern Bay, Poplar Island, and the Severn. The morning and evening hours offer the best fishing with topwater lures, paddle tails, and swim shads. Skipping bugs offer a lot of exciting fun when fishing with a fly rod, and Deceivers and Clousers are also a good option. Speckled trout are still part of the shallow-water mix, although the numbers tend to be diminishing.
White perch can be found holding over good oyster bottom in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. By slowly working over these areas with a good depth finder, one can find them suspended off the bottom. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is one of the best ways to target them.
Breaking fish are being spotted throughout the region near the mouths of the major tidal rivers as well along the edges of the shipping channel. The last of the bluefish and even a Spanish mackerel here and there are mixing it up with striped bass, all making life miserable for schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden being swept out of the tidal rivers and down the bay along the edges of the shipping channel.
A percentage of the striped bass can be just short of the 19-inch minimum but there are plenty of striped bass in the 20-inch to 29-inch range. The lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers are two of the better places to find these larger fish. In the mornings and evenings there is good light-tackle fishing along the shorelines for a mix of striped bass, speckled trout, and small red drum. Casting paddle tails and similar soft plastics is a very popular way to fish.
Jigging along the steeper channel edges, under breaking fish or wherever striped bass can be found suspended near bottom structure. Skirted soft plastic jigs and metal jigs are the most popular way to fish. Trolling is also a great way to catch striped bass. The channel edges and the outside edges of breaking fish are good places to be. A mix of umbrella rigs, spoons, bucktails, hoses, and swimshads are all good items to have in a trolling spread.
There are still some large red drum in the region to provide some exciting catch-and-release action. They can be found under smaller breaking fish, chasing bait such as large menhaden, or caught blind while trolling large spoons. There are still a few cobia near the Middle Grounds but they must be returned to the water if caught now that the season is over.
Fishing for a mix of spot, white perch, speckled trout, and a few surprises such as kingfish, northern blowfish, and even small sea bass has provided entertainment for those who choose to go bottom fishing. The mouth of the Potomac and Patuxent rivers is full of action this week as is the Tangier Sound area. The most popular bait has been pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig; artificial flavored baits and soft crab can work well also.
Those hoping for one more good batch of crabs are working hard to catch a half bushel. The crabs tend to be deep, and using collapsible crab traps is one of the better ways to catch them. Reports of crabs dropping off before they can be netted and large numbers of sooks continue. Razor clams seem to far outshine chicken necks as the 2020 recreational crabbing season winds down.
The fall trout stocking program began this week with several major trout stockings in a variety of put-and-take areas. To see what has been stocked check our website or sign up for our regular emails.
Several of the areas that were stocked are ponds and small lakes which are an ideal location to take younger anglers for safe and easy access. These types of waters are also easy to fish with a bobber and a hook baited with garden worms or Powerbait, which is perfect for beginners.
Many creeks and river headwaters are running low in the western and central regions. The upper Potomac River is running low and clear and requiring some skillful approaches and techniques for successful smallmouth bass fishing. Light lines and long casts are in order when targeting good locations. In the early morning hours, topwater lures can work well near the remaining grass and fallen brush. Grass beds are declining rapidly and fallen leaves are causing fouled lines at times. Tubes, grubs, small crankbaits, and jigs are good items to work the deeper areas of the river near submerged ledges and current breaks.
At Deep Creek Lake, boat traffic is down and fishing success is up. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are holding on rocky points, deep grass edges, and any kind of deep shoreline structure they can find. Walleye are being caught along steep edges in the evening hours on small crankbaits and diving jerkbaits. Crappie are schooling up next to the bridge piers and a mix of yellow perch and walleye can be caught along deep grass edges with live minnows.
Largemouth bass are feeding aggressively as they hold to a fall pattern of feeding behavior. The grass beds, lily pads, and spatterdocks in the shallower areas of ponds, reservoirs, and tidal rivers are steadily declining; what remains is a magnet for largemouth bass as bait attempts to find cover in ever decreasing habitat. Largemouth bass are cruising the outside edges of these areas looking for an easy meal in the form of baitfish and crayfish. Spinnerbaits, small crankbaits, and soft plastics are good baits to work these edges.
In the tidal areas, baitfish in the form of small gizzard shad are moving up into creeks looking for cover and are attracting the attention of largemouth bass. Spinnerbaits are an excellent choice when working the mouths of feeder creeks under these conditions. Northern snakeheads will be in the mix as they lose the grass cover they usually prefer. A mix of white and yellow perch can be found in the channels of the tidal creeks and can be caught on small spinners, jigs, and beetle spins.
Crappie are schooling up in the deeper waters of the tidal rivers and impoundments all over Maryland. Structure is often the key — marina docks, bridge piers and tree tops that have fallen in deep water are great places to look. Small minnows or crappie jigs under a slip bobber is a great way to target them.
Fishing for channel catfish is very good in most every tidal river and creek in Maryland. Fresh cut baits, nightcrawlers, clam snouts, and chicken liver all make good baits. Blue catfish can be found in good numbers in the lower Susquehanna, Chester, Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, and Choptank rivers. Other tidal rivers also hold expanding populations of blue catfish.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers who are soaking large cut baits in hope of some catch-and-release action with migrating large red drum are being rewarded. Up and down the beaches they are being caught here and there, with some measuring within the legal slot size of 18 inches to 27 inches. Catches of kingfish continue to be very good, with a mix of spot and a few croaker. Small bluefish are being caught on finger mullet and cut spot, flounder on squid.
At the inlet, sheepshead are being caught on pieces of green crab or sand fleas. Flounder are beginning to move through the inlet in greater numbers as they head offshore, and this is a great place to intercept them. Flounder are being caught in the channels leading towards the inlet; those using traditional squid and minnow baits are catching a lot of throwbacks. Using large Gulp baits or live spot and mullet is a great way to catch the largest flounder.
At the offshore wreck and reef sites, catches of sea bass have been excellent, and limit catches are very common. Triggerfish and flounder are part of the mix. Logan Liddick of Carlisle, Pa. caught the new Maryland state record gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) on Sept. 25, while fishing near a shipwreck 14 miles off the coast of Ocean City. The fish hit a clam bait rigged on a two hook bottom rig. Congrats to Logan!
At the offshore canyons, the Washington Canyon has been a very popular place to troll for bigeye tuna. A few wahoo are being caught and those that target swordfish. Limit catches of small dolphin continue this week near lobster buoys.
A reminder to fall swordfish anglers that you are responsible for completing a catch card when returning to port for each swordfish, bluefin tuna, or sharks onboard the vessel. A tag is provided for each completed catch card and the angler is required to place this tag around the tail of the fish before removing it from the vessel. Trailered boats cannot be pulled from the water until the tag is in place. Please be aware that anglers in Maryland who recreationally land swordfish outside of tournaments must use a catch card. See the catch card reporting website for details on how to use them.
“We need a river of time. Without a river of time flowing by to fish in and wade in and to keep us aware that our lifetimes are but a single tick somewhere, we run the risk of letting that time we do have pass unexamined. This is the greatest tragedy of all.” — Paul Quinnett