The recent cold front that has descended on Maryland seems like a knock on the door for what is coming. There are still plenty of wonderful fishing opportunities to be had — always be safe and make sure to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while out on the water.
Forecast Summary: Nov. 18 – 24:
Expect a windy week, with a slight warming period through Sunday, then cooling conditions for the rest of the week. Surface water temperatures continue to drop as a result of cooling air and fewer daylight hours. Daytime bay water temperatures are holding in the upper 50s. Most fish including striped bass and white perch have moved towards the deeper but warmer waters as they prepare for winter in the river mouths or nearby bay waters. As a result of the below-normal flows from the Susquehanna River, main bay salinities are slightly higher than normal. As always, the 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. There will be above average flows on the Eastern Shore and lower Potomac River. There will be above average tidal currents through Friday as a result of the Nov. 15 new moon.
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Upper Chesapeake Bay
Anglers are enjoying some fun striped bass fishing at the Conowingo Dam Pool, casting a variety of topwater lures in the early morning and evening. Most of the striped bass being encountered are measuring less than 19 inches but offer plenty of catch-and-release action. There is a percentage of striped bass in the area that do measure above 19 inches and are a welcomed addition. Further down the Susquehanna River, near the mouth and the flats, there is also early morning and evening topwater action. As the day wears on, most anglers are switching to jigging and trolling along the channel edges.
Early morning and evening topwater fishing for striped bass is also good at the mouth of the Patapsco, Bush, Magothy, and Chester rivers. Anglers are also encountering breaking fish at times, which is always exciting. These same areas as well as the Love Point Rocks and the Bay Bridge are also good places for jigging and trolling.
The striped bass that is suspended along channel edges are generally holding at about 25-30 feet, but can sometimes be found at slightly shallower depths. Trolling umbrella rigs rigged with spoons or sassy shads are the most popular, and heavy inline weights are needed to get down to the proper depths. Therefore heavy tackle is needed and a braided line can help with sensitivity.
White perch are being found near the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers, holding deep over hard bottom, and near the Key and Bay Bridge piers. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs are the most popular way to fish for them when they are this deep. Fishing for blue catfish in the Susquehanna and Chester rivers is good, and all of the region’s tidal rivers are holding channel catfish.
Fishing in the middle bay has settled down to working on striped bass wherever they can be found. The most common place to find them is suspended near the bottom along channel edges in about 25-35 feet of water.
Trolling is always a popular way to fish this time of the year, especially if the boat has a warm cabin to get out of the wind. Trolling is also a good way to cover a lot of water when the fish are spread out, which is the case this week. It takes heavy inline weights to get umbrella rigs down to where the fish are holding. White sassy shads on the umbrella arms and white bucktail trailers have been favored combinations lately. Those trolling deep along the shipping channel edges should keep watch for pairs of buoys with flags attached, which mark commercial crab pot trotlines.
Some are lucky enough to happen upon breaking fish, which are often sub-legal striped bass, but jigging underneath them can often produce larger fish, If not, it is all good fun on light tackle. White paddle tails are the top choice for lure selection; combinations of pearl and hints of chartreuse are good choices also. One should keep an eye out for slicks and sitting seagulls which can indicate action below the surface.
The western side of the shipping channel from Thomas Point south past Breezy Point are good places to check. The mouth of the Severn and South rivers are holding striped bass that is intercepting baitfish leaving the rivers. The same scenario can be found in Eastern Bay and the mouth of the Choptank River. Those jigging at the mouth of the Choptank River in the False Channel continue to hook up with fair-sized sea trout this week.
Many are enjoying fun striped bass action in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers, casting paddle tails and topwater lures in the relatively shallow areas along the shorelines. Old submerged breakwaters and prominent points are some of the favored spots to fish.
White perch are holding deep over oyster bottom in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. The best way to target them is to locate a school with a depth finder, and either anchor or drift over the suspended perch, which will be holding close to the bottom. Using pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the best way to target them.
Striped bass is being found throughout the lower bay but a few standouts include the lower Potomac River, the mouth of the Patuxent, and the eastern side of the shipping channel from Buoy 72A south past the Target Ship.
In the lower Potomac, the steep channel edge from St. George Island past Piney Point has been a very productive location for the past week. Many are trolling white umbrella rigs with heavy inline weights to get down to where the fish are suspended off the bottom. There are additional trolling opportunities in the mouth of the Patuxent River and along the eastern side of the shipping channel.
Those keeping a close watch on their depth finders or who are lucky enough to encounter breaking fish are enjoying good light-tackle jigging action for striped bass. Jigging underneath breaking fish with white paddle tails or similar soft plastics is working well. Casting towards shoreline structure in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers with paddle tails, crankbaits, and topwater lures in the early morning or late evening hours is also productive.
The lower sections of the Patuxent River and Tangier Sound area are good places to find schools of white perch holding in deep water over the oyster bottom. Once marked on a depth finder, using a bottom rig with pieces of bloodworm has been the most popular way to target them.
Fishing for blue catfish could hardly be any better in the tidal portions of the Potomac and Nanticoke rivers this week. If one is looking to stock up on tasty fillets that freeze well, it is hard to beat blue catfish. Most any kind of cut bait, clam snouts, or chicken liver are good baits to use on a simple bottom rig.
Trout anglers are enjoying continued opportunities in the put-and-take trout management areas this week. Recent rain has improved flows in many streams and rivers in the central and western regions. The ponds and lakes that were stocked in October also continue to provide good trout fishing opportunities. The catch-and-release trout management waters offer plenty of fun action for those using fly fishing gear or where allowed light spinning tackle.
Deep Creek Lake is mostly devoid of recreational boating traffic now and most floating docks have been pulled. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are holding along drop-offs and deep cover such as grass lines, sunken wood, and steep rocky edges. Crayfish imitations, whether they are soft plastics or crankbaits, are good choices to work towards drop-offs if fishing from a boat. Northern pike and chain pickerel are very active near coves.
Fishing for largemouth bass is good in many of the ponds and reservoirs that dot the state. The bass is mostly holding along drop-offs near any kind of structure they can find, picking off crayfish and baitfish that are moving from declining shallow cover to deeper cover for the winter months. In the tidal rivers, largemouth bass is following the same pattern of holding near drop-offs in deeper waters. Soft plastic crayfish jigs, grubs, silver buddies, and crankbaits are good choices to work in these areas.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources survey teams has been out electro-fishing to study the population in many of the reservoirs and lakes throughout Maryland recently. In many cases, healthy populations of largemouth bass, crappie, and other sport fish were found. Unfortunately, some unwanted invasive fish have also been discovered. Northern snakeheads were discovered in Loch Raven Reservoir, Little Seneca Lake, Tuckahoe Lake, and Johnson’s Pond in October. One pleasant surprise catch was a 41-inch tiger muskie from Triadelphia Reservoir.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
In the surf, the focus is mostly on fishing cut bait for a chance at bluefish, striped bass, and perhaps a lingering large red drum. Some medium-sized bluefish recently moved into the area. Most of the striped bass being caught are falling a little short of the 28-inch minimum.
At the inlet, tautog fishing is getting better by the day as water temperatures drop. Sand fleas and pieces of green crab are the most popular baits. The jetties and bulkheads at the inlet are good places to find them. Bluefish and small red drum recently moved into the inlet and are providing plenty of action for those casting jigs. Striped bass is also present.
A few flounder can still be found moving through the inlet, but it is becoming slim pickings as most have left the coastal bays and have headed offshore. There continues to be some fun striped bass fishing at the Route 90 Bridge. Most are coming up short of 28 inches but are fun to catch and release. Paddle tails tend to be the most popular lure to use.
Fishing for sea bass continues to be very good at the wreck and reef sites; a mix of flounder and triggerfish are also being caught. Further offshore at the canyons, a few swordfish are being caught along with limits of blueline tilefish.
“In this sport of catching fish I like to do the entire job myself.” — Lee Wulff