The Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and families and friends will be celebrating with picnics and family gatherings in the great outdoors. We should all take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the occasion and remember those who sacrificed everything to assure us the freedoms we all enjoy. Many Marylanders and visitors will be enjoying a long weekend traveling to beaches and our state and local parks. Warmer water temperatures will have many species of fish ready and waiting for them.
Please join us May 27 at noon for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar with guest Jacob Shaner of the Maryland Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Program. As part of the busy fishing season, anglers and boaters may see marine animals and sea turtles. Join us to learn more about our program and what you should do in the event you find a stranded marine animal in Maryland waters. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has some free fishing days on the horizon, which allows folks to fish anywhere in Maryland without a fishing license on June 5, June 12, and July 4. This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce someone new to the world of fishing.
Forecast Summary: May 26 – June 1:
With mixed weather forecasted this week — cooling temperatures and chance of rain from Friday through Sunday — expect little change in Maryland Bay waters temperatures. Bay surface water temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s, and will continue to rise this week. Preliminary May monitoring data is showing main bay bottom waters are slightly cooler than surface waters, and beginning to show some poor oxygen conditions, so it is likely striped bass will be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. From the mouth of the Chester River then south along the western shore to the mouth of the Potomac River, avoid fishing deeper than 35 feet.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents all week as a result of the May 26 full moon. Expect average clarity for the bay and rivers, however expect poor water clarity due to algal blooms in the Patapsco River east to the mouth of the Chester River below the Bay Bridge; in the lower Potomac River between Colonial Beach and Caledon State Park in Virginia; and the Patuxent River from Battle Creek upriver. This type of bloom causes a reddish brown coloration to the water and can result in low dissolved oxygen and also fish kills when it dies off. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the Bay, continue 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 is alive with white perch this week, and anyone with a notion for some tasty fillets should seriously think about fishing for them. The perch will take a variety of small lures from jigs to spinners, Clousers, and pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig.
The Susquehanna Flats are open to striped bass fishing and those casting paddletails, crankbaits, and topwater lures are doing well in the morning and evening hours. Others are live lining small white perch with good success. Anglers are reminded that circle hooks are mandatory when targeting striped bass with live or cut bait.
Other anglers are targeting flathead catfish in the Conowingo Dam pool. Water releases from the dam are below average, making it easier to fish near the dam pool. Blue and channel catfish are being caught in the river and south to the Bay Bridge. Those chumming for striped bass at Podickory Point, Love Point, and the Bay Bridge are catching catfish on baits that fall to the bottom of the chum slick.
Most of those fishing for striped bass in the upper bay are either trolling, chumming, or jigging. Those that are trolling are using medium-sized white bucktails dressed with sassy shads in tandem or behind weighted umbrella rigs. A few larger bucktails or parachutes are usually in everyone’s trolling spread in the hopes of larger striped bass in the area. The 40-foot channel edges tend to offer some of the best opportunities. Chumming is occurring at traditional locations such as Podickory Point, Love Point, and the Bay Bridge piers. The Love Point Rocks are also a good place to light-tackle jig this week, as are the bridge piers at the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge. Those casting skirted jigs are laying them up close and tight to the bridge piers. A large percentage of fish being caught by all methods are coming up short of the 19-inch minimum so careful catch-and-release tactics are essential to preserve this upcoming class of striped bass.
White perch fishing is good this week in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Structure such as channel edges, bottom structure, old dock piers, and bridge piers are great places to fish for them. White perch offer a fun alternative to fishing for striped bass, especially when using light tackle. White perch and young anglers are a natural match since it is relatively easy fishing off of docks and bulkheads with a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm.
Fishing for striped bass will be at the top of the list for many anglers fishing in the middle bay. Those out on the water are trolling, chumming, light-tackle jigging, and casting lures in the shallower areas around the bay.
Those trolling are putting much of their efforts on school-sized striped bass holding along the 40-foot edges of the shipping channel. Umbrella rigs pulled behind heavy inline weights with white bucktails are a favorite. Most angler are also trolling shallower depths and placing a few larger offerings in their spreads, in case a large striped bass happens to be encountered. The steep channel edges at Bloody Point, Hacketts Bar, Thomas Point, Buoy 83, and the CP Buoy are popular places to troll.
Striped bass have been working over schools of small menhaden along channel edges, but the Gum Thickets and waters off of Poplar Island have been standouts lately for those who are light-tackle jigging. Most are using soft plastics in the 5-inch to 7-inch size range with good success. There are a lot of undersized striped bass in the mix, so treat them with care when releasing.
Chumming is an effective way to fish for striped bass, with the added bonus of attracting catfish at times. The outside edge of Hacketts Bar and Thomas Point are two popular places to set up a chum slick. Cut menhaden baits are the most popular way to fish, and baits allowed to rest on the bottom can add catfish to the mix. A few anglers have been able to acquire a few spot, which are ideal for live lining. They are still a bit scarce but their numbers will increase soon. Circle hooks are mandatory when targeting striped bass with cut bait or live bait.
The shallow-water fishery for striped bass is gaining speed this week along the shorelines of the bay and the mouth of the Choptank River. Many of the striped bass being caught are coming up short of 19 inches but there is plenty of action. Most are casting topwater lures — where grass beds are thick — or paddletails rigged weedless. Speckled trout are in the mix and some really nice ones are being caught regularly. The Eastern Shore near the mouth of the Choptank, Little Choptank, the Taylors Island shores, and James Island are providing good fishing for speckled trout. Cownose rays are showing up in force and will be stirring things up in the shallows of the middle bay region.
Fishing for white perch is good in the middle bay, and the perch are now established in their summer haunts near docks, piers, shoreline structure, and oyster bars in the tidal rivers and creeks. They will provide plenty of fun fishing during this Memorial Day weekend for young local anglers and those vacationing near the water. Setting them up with a light-action push-button or spinning casting rod and having them fish straight down near dock piers, instead of casting, will usually get them into the perch holding tight to the dock structure. Grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple one hook bottom rig is the ticket to this show.
Fishing for northern snakeheads will be popular for many anglers on the lower Dorchester County tidal rivers and creeks. The snakeheads are holding shallow in grass or sunken wood. Casting chatterbaits or white paddletails rigged weedless tend to be the best way to target them. Dead-sticking a large minnow under a bobber out in more open water is always a good idea to increase one’s options.
The lower bay offers some exciting fishing opportunities with the arrival of excellent numbers of speckled trout and the first large red drum to move into the eastern side of the bay. There is a good shallow-water fishery for striped bass from Hooper’s Island on the eastern side of the bay south to Pocomoke Sound. Casting topwater lures and paddletails has been providing plenty of fun fishing for speckled trout and a mix of striped bass that are mostly sub-legal in size but still plenty of fun. Gulp has come out with a two-tone paddletail that has become a speckled trout killer. Zara Spooks tend to be one of the more popular topwater lures. Marsh edges, grass beds, and stump fields are all good places to cast.
Large red drum are providing some exciting catch-and-release action for those dunking large soft crab baits. The red drum can usually be spotted on depth finders due to their large air bladders, much like black drum. The Tangier and Pocomoke sounds are a good place to look as well as the Mud Leads near the Target Ship. It is not uncommon to catch these large red drum by trolling large flashy spoons behind inline weights. Cownose rays are flooding the bay so be careful when dropping those soft crab baits — make sure you have a target, because a soft crab bait will not last long with rays around.
Striped bass are being caught by trolling along the steep channel edges of the lower Potomac River near Coltons Point and from St. Georges Island to Piney Point. The 40-foot edge seems to be where the fish are holding, so it takes heavy inline weights to get tandem rigged bucktails or umbrella rigs down to where the fish are suspended. White seems to be the hot color and most are pulling a mixed spread of large bucktails and parachutes along with medium-sized bucktails.
The edges of the shipping channel in the bay are also attracting the attention of those wishing to troll for their striped bass. The outside edge of Cove Point and Point No Point as well as the channel edge on the eastern side of the bay from Hooper’s Island south past Buoy 72A.
There are some spot to be found in the lower bay region in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers, so the option of live lining is viable if one can find suspended fish along a channel edge with a depth finder. Chumming can be an option also anywhere fish can be found suspended along channel edges.
Light-tackle anglers will be looking for suspended striped bass along channel edges, lumps, and artificial reefs; keeping an eye out for bird activity or slicks is another tool of the trade. Most everyone is using soft plastic jigs anywhere from 5 inches up to 10 inches, depending on what size fish you’re looking for. When jigging over bait be prepared for you just might tie into a large red drum.
Spot and small croaker are reported in the lower Potomac, Patuxent, and Tangier Sound. This is the vanguard of the influx so pickings may be slim at times. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the ticket for spot, and croaker certainly don’t mind them either. Flounder are being found in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds in surprising and certainly welcome numbers. Soft plastic Gulp baits in white or pink have been favorites, but squid and minnows work well also.
Fishing for blue catfish continues to be excellent in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers this week. It does not take a lot of effort to catch a cooler full of medium-sized catfish, which make excellent eating. Fresh-cut gizzard shad, menhaden, and white perch make excellent baits.
For Blue Crabs, it is a bit early, but some Marylanders will feel the urge to give recreational crabbing a try this week. There are some scattered reports of catches of up to 2 dozen crabs in the middle bay on trotlines in about 15 feet of water. There are better reports from the lower Eastern Shore tidal rivers, with up to a half-bushel when crabbing with a trotline for those working hard at it. One good thing is that the crabs that are being caught are full. The availability and price of razor clams has skyrocketed so many will have to rely on chicken necks. This year’s Chesapeake Bay winter blue crab dredge report is available on the DNR website.
Anglers are reporting some exciting fishing at Deep Creek Lake — water temperatures are in the mid 60s and most largemouth bass and bluegills are still in a pre-spawn mode of behavior. Largemouth bass can be found in transition areas near the shallower spawning flats and will take a variety of lures. Bluegills can be found in the same areas and will take worms and mealworms under a slip bobber. Smallmouth bass have already spawned and can be found near rocky points and often near floating docks. It is pretty hard to beat soft plastic craw baits or small crankbaits the smallmouth bass love eating crayfish. Walleyes are holding along deep grass in about 15 feet of water and will take shad raps slowly trolled along the edges, most tend to fall short of the 15-inch minimum.
Fishing for trout in many of the central and western region trout management waters continues to entertain trout anglers this week. Fly casters are especially enjoying the fly-fishing-only and catch-and-release management waters. Put-and-take anglers will be looking forward to June 1 when they will be allowed to keep 5 trout per day in the delayed harvest trout management waters up until September 30.
The hatchery program has stocked about 1,000 channel catfish into 11 ponds in central, eastern, and southern Maryland recently. This is a wonderful opportunity for Maryland anglers to catch fish in areas that are not suitable aquatic habitats for traditional recreational species such as trout. The channel catfish weigh about 3 to 5 pounds each and should provide plenty of fun fishing. The list of stocked ponds and numbers of catfish placed there can be found on the DNR website.
Largemouth bass in the central, southern, and eastern regions of the state are now in a post spawn mode of activity. Sunny skies and warmer water temperatures will have them feeding aggressively during the morning and evening hours and loafing in the shade during the brightest part of the day. Various topwater lures are a fun way to fish the shallower areas where bass will be looking for food. Thick grass is always a chosen haven and they will nestle underneath in slightly deeper waters. Soft plastics rigged in a variety of ways to sink down through the grass is a great tactic. Sunken wood is another good target when using soft plastic craws, jigs, grubs, or small crankbaits. Casting along the edges of grass or spatterdock fields with spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, and jerkbaits is another good way to fish. In tidal areas working these edges on a low ebb tide can really pay off.
In the tidal areas, northern snakeheads will be encountered when fishing for largemouth bass, and unfortunately they are now showing up in several nontidal bodies of water. The snakeheads are preparing to spawn and will be found holding in shallow grassy areas. Casting noisy topwater lures such as chatterbaits is one of the best ways to fish for them when they are holding in grass.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Memorial Day weekend will be a busy one in Ocean City and Assateague Island — the waterways will be especially crowded so be careful out there. Surfcasters will be able to find some solitude on the beaches of Assateague soaking baits in the surf. There are some large striped bass being caught on cut menhaden baits this week. Clearnose skates can be a problem at times and tend to keep everyone on their toes. Kingfish are now being caught in the surf on bloodworms and a few northern blowfish and flounder can also be part of the mix.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, flounder are being caught along with striped bass that mostly measure less than 28 inches. The flounder are being caught on traditional minnow and squid baits and soft plastic jigs, while the striped bass are being caught on jigs.
Flounder fishing in the back bay areas is very good this week and no doubt many will be drifting for flounder in the channel areas. Please be aware of boat traffic and do not always assume an oncoming boat sees you. The channels leading from the inlet, such as the Thorofare and East Channel, are great places to fish, as is the water in front of the Ocean City Airport.
The black sea bass season is in full swing and generally speaking anglers are doing well with limit catches being common. Captains do report that sometimes they have to move from site to site before they find sea bass willing to bite.
“The agony and the ecstasy is a six-year old trying to go to sleep, knowing he’s going fishing in the morning.” — Frank P. Baron