All of us at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wish all the dads and grandfathers out there an enjoyable Father’s Day this Sunday, June 20. A major part of this celebration for many is spending time outdoors — including a lot of fishing — with their youngsters.
The last Maryland license-free fishing day for the year is on July 4, presenting a great opportunity to take someone on their first fishing adventure without needing to purchase a license.
Anglers should take note of a striped bass closure period in the Chesapeake Bay from July 16 through July 31, to lessen catch-and-release mortalities of undersized striped bass during warm water and depleted oxygen conditions. Hot summer weather creates tough conditions for striped bass survival, which is also why DNR introduced its striped bass fishing advisory forecast for the warmest months each year, so anglers can better plan their fishing for striped bass to lessen mortalities.
Forecast Summary: June 16 – June 22:
We are approaching maximum daylight hours this week with the summer solstice on June 20-21. Bay surface water temperatures and river and stream temperatures are in the upper 70s, and will continue to rise this week. Early June monitoring data is showing main Bay bottom waters are slightly cooler than surface waters and beginning to show some poor oxygen conditions, so in some locations Bay gamefish will be higher in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. In addition, the coolest oxygenated bottom waters can be found from the Kent Island area north to Tolchester. Cool water is also present on the Susquehanna River down through the Susquehanna Flats area in the late evening and early morning due to evening Conowingo Dam water release.
Due to low bottom oxygen levels, avoid fishing below the following depths in these locations: Swan Point, 25 feet; Bay Bridge to Bloody Point, 25 feet to 35 feet; Choptank River to Point No Point, 35 feet to 45 feet. Conditions can vary daily so be sure to check the depth-to-oxygen level online prior to your next fishing trip.
Maryland upper Bay waters south to the Bay Bridge are running saltier than normal, while the lower Bay from Tilghman Point down to Cove Point are running fresher than normal. Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. However, there may be higher than normal localized flows in some areas from predicted rainfall Friday and Monday. There will be above average tidal currents Monday and Tuesday because of the full moon on June 25.
Expect average clarity for Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, however there may be poorer water clarity due to algal blooms in the Bush, Back, Patapsco, and Magothy rivers. 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
Anglers who can be out on the waters of the Susquehanna Flats at dawn are being rewarded with excellent topwater action for striped bass this week. As we approach the summer solstice, anglers will see dawn on the eastern horizon around 5:30 a.m., which is fairly early for anyone, but many anglers are willing to make that effort. Even those who are live-lining spot, small white perch, or eels are reporting the striped bass action is by far the best during the early morning hours. The Conowingo Dam is releasing quite a bit of cool water during its afternoon power generation schedules, much to the liking of striped bass.
As the morning wears on, most anglers are switching to jigging with soft plastics near steeper channel edges in the channels leading to the Susquehanna, Sassafras, Chester, and Patapsco rivers. With a depth finder, you can often find striped bass suspended off the bottom during a good tide. Paddletails and soft plastics in the 4-inch to 6-inch size range in white, pink, or pearl and chartreuse combinations are popular choices.
A large portion of the striped bass in the upper Bay are in the region of Pooles Island and the various lumps off Tolchester. The live-lining fleet is following them, and large numbers of boats will be seen setting up on them. Live-lining spot or small white perch with circle hooks and often with no weight is the most popular way to fish.
A majority of these fish will be measuring in the sublegal 17-inch to 18-inch size range, so they should be treated with great care when being released. These will be the next generation of legal-sized striped bass. The DNR website provides tips on some important catch-and-release tactics to protect them.
Live-lining eels around the drop-offs near Pooles Island and the bridge piers at the Key Bridge is a worthwhile tactic, as is dropping spot in those locations. The bridge piers at the Bay Bridge are providing some action for live-liners but most are making the trek farther up the Bay in search of better opportunities. The Love Point Rocks and Swan Point are providing action for those live-lining and jigging. A few boats are trolling near the Triple Buoys, the outside edge of Swan Point, and the channels leading from the Chester River and other tidal rivers with some success. Tandem-rigged swim shads and bucktails tend to be the most popular choice for shallower depths, and weighted umbrella rigs for deeper water. In most areas the striped bass are forced to hold at depths less than 30 feet because of oxygen depletion.
Fishing for a mix of blue catfish and channel catfish remains very good from the lower Susquehanna River south to the Bay Bridge, in all of the region’s tidal rivers and the Bay. Fresh cut baits of menhaden, gizzard shad, or white perch are popular baits, and once and a while they will chase down a soft plastic jig or a crankbait.
White perch fishing remains good in the tidal rivers and selected hard-bottom lumps and shoals in the Bay. The tidal rivers and creeks offer fun light-tackle fishing with small lures in the mornings and evenings, or bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm anytime.
Fishing for northern snakeheads in the upper Bay tidal rivers and creeks will pick up soon, as protective parents will leave their fry balls of young and get back to the business of feeding in the shallow grassy areas. You can join the hunt for these invasives at a northern snakehead tournament, Snakes on the Dundee, held on June 26 at Gunpowder Falls State Park. Check the DNR website for more information and to register.
Fishing for striped bass in the middle Bay has been a bit slow and it takes some hard work to find them and entice them to bite. There is some live-lining action on the outside edge of Hacketts, Thomas Point, Eastern Bay near the Wild grounds, Hollicutts Noose, and R84. The mouth of the Choptank River, the edges of the False Channel, and RN2 have been holding some striped bass. Most are live-lining spot at these sites or jigging with soft plastics.
There are plenty of spot available on hard bottom locations in front of Chesapeake Beach, the rear side of Hacketts, and the sands behind Black Walnut Point on Tilghman Island. For recreational anglers, a simple bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm is the best way to catch them. The topic of catching spot in traps often comes up this time of the year, and large square traps can even be seen in some tackle shops at times. Be forewarned that the only fish trap that can be legally set by recreational anglers in tidal waters is the common minnow trap, which cannot have an opening more than 2 inches across with a wire mesh no larger than a half-inch square and no dimension greater than 24 inches in any direction.
Light-tackle jigging is a popular way to fish along the major channel edges of the Bay and lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers, when fish can be found suspended off the bottom. A good running tide is usually key to finding striped bass in a feeding mode, and spotting slicks from deep feeding activity can really help point the way to the best opportunities. The shallow-water bite in the first couple hours of daylight and the last two hours in the evening is still providing some fun topwater action for those casting poppers with spinning gear or skipping bugs with fly rods. Warming water temperatures tend to shut down this action fairly early. The number of speckled trout has backed off a bit and unfortunately the fish will not tell us why — it could it be depressed salinities due to heavy rains, or perhaps warming water temperatures.
Trolling is an option for some anglers and the edges of the shipping channel are good places to troll deep with umbrella rigs with swimshads or bucktails as trailers. Trolling tandem-rigged bucktails dressed with curly tails or swim shads are a good option along the shallower edges in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and places like the rocks near Poplar Island and ballast stone piles near the mouth of the Choptank.
Fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers and creeks offers a nice alternative to striped bass fishing this week. One can fish oyster bars in deeper waters with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or fish near docks and piers with a simple one-hook bottom rig baited with grass shrimp. In the morning and evening hours casting small spinners and a variety of lures along shorelines with structure is a good tactic. Sunken tree trunks, rocks, piers, bulkheads, and breakwaters are all good places to explore.
A mix of blue and channel catfish can be found in the middle Bay tidal rivers and can offer plenty of fun fishing, especially from the river banks. Fresh-cut bait of menhaden, white perch, gizzard shad, and nightcrawlers all work well. The Choptank River has an ever-expanding population of blue catfish and many are in the 10-pound to 15-pound size range. Right now it seems that many have moved farther up the Choptank towards Denton and above the Route 328 Bridge on the Tuckahoe.
Fishing in the lower Bay covers several different methods and locations. Live-lining spot is popular along the steep channel edges of the lower Potomac near St. George Island and Piney Point as well as shipping channel edges out in the Bay. Spot are relatively easy to obtain in the lower Bay so a majority of anglers looking for striped bass are fishing this way.
Light-tackle jigging is also popular in many of the same areas, especially on the eastern side of the Bay. The cuts through Hoopers Island provide a great place to jig for striped bass and a speckled trout now and then. The speckled trout bite has dropped off some but the fish are most likely still in the area, so there is plenty of hope the action will pick up again. Scented Gulp and Fishbite paddletails in white, pink, and pearl or chartreuse combinations are a good bet, as are Rapala Searchbait paddletails in 4.5-inch to 6-inch lengths on a 3/8-ounce jig head.
Trolling deep along channel edges in the lower Potomac and the Bay with weighted umbrella rigs with swimshads or bucktails as trailers can work. In shallower areas, bucktails and swimshads can work well also.
On the eastern side of the Bay there is some exciting catch-and-release fishing for large red drum. Most anglers are scanning the depths to locate schools of red drum and then dropping soft crab baits down to them. Most are learning if they do not get a pick-up in a short time to not leave baits down too long since there are a lot of cownose rays in the region.
There are reports of some Spanish mackerel at the mouth of the Bay and they will hopefully arrive in Maryland waters by next month. Now is the time to stock up on small Drone and Clark spoons as well as inline weights. Those waiting to buy until the Spanish mackerel arrive may find themselves looking at empty shelves and pegboards in local tackle shops. Bluefish will show up also in the near future and it will be a tough time to troll with swim shads once they arrive.
Fishing for a mix of spot and white perch is good in the lower Patuxent River and Tangier Sound. There is not much size to the spot but most are focusing on catching them for live-lining. The flounder fishing inTangier Sound is reported to have slacked off recently, which may be due to low salinities from rain runoff.
Blue catfish are abundant on the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers this week and offer plenty of good fishing from shore or boats. Fresh cut bait from oily menhaden and gizzard shad top the list for baits. In a pinch, chicken livers, clam snouts, and nightcrawlers usually work as well. Channel catfish will be part of the mix at times.
Recreational crabbing continues to pick up at a steady pace. Most are able to catch a 1/3 to a half-bushel or so in most tidal rivers of the middle and lower Bay. Trotlines set in shallow water of 6 feet to 8 feet are reported to offer the best catches and razor clams are the bait of choice, but chicken necks will certainly catch crabs. Last weekend’s reports from the lower Eastern Shore in the Crisfield area were of relatively poor catches. and some of the commercial crab shedding operations had dialed back due to low salinity.
Vacationers and locals are enjoying good times at Deep Creek Lake. The summer season is well underway and there is plenty of good fishing for a variety of species. Smallmouth bass and walleye can be found along deep grass edges — drifting with live minnows is one of the best ways to target them. Largemouth bass are holding near floating docks and cover along shorelines and grass in the shallower coves. Trout can be found deep along the dam face and slow trolling with nightcrawler rigs is a good way to fish for them. There are plenty of large bluegills along the shores, providing plenty of fun for our younger anglers with a simple bobber and worm rig.
Trout fishing remains good in the put-and-take management areas and the delayed harvest areas, for those who can cover sections of water casting small spinners and spoons. In the fly-fishing-only and catch-and-release areas there are plenty of trout to entertain anglers.
Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River is good with healthy flows and active bass. The smallmouth bass are keying in on the cicadas falling into the water and buzzing around on the surface. Carp are also feeding on the bounty of cicadas that are present in the lakes, reservoirs, and rivers of the central region. Fly casters that took the time to tie their imitations of cicadas are having a ball catching and releasing these hard-fighting fish, which are often quite large.
Largemouth bass are settled into a typical summer mode of behavior, which entails feeding in the shallower areas at night and loafing in cool shade wherever they can find it during the heat of the day. After their forays into the shallows looking for baitfish, crayfish, frogs, and anything else that looks good to eat, refuge can be found under docks, moored boats, sunken wood, fallen treetops, and thick grass holding over deeper waters.
After the topwater bite in the shallows at dawn is over, the wacky rigged soft plastic or stick worm is one of the best ways to trigger a strike from a loafing largemouth bass in thick grass or heavy cover. Casting soft plastic craws and grubs near deep sunken wood or shade from bridge piers is another good tactic. In tidal areas, casting lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits along the outside edges of grass beds or spatterdock fields at a low ebb tide can work well for bass retreating to deeper waters. In many areas where cicadas are prolific, there are reports that largemouth bass are feeding on the hapless ones that crash onto the surface of the water.
Northern snakeheads are still hung up in shallow grass protecting their fry; the best tactic tends to be aggravating them by casting weedless lures right into their midst. They will be abandoning their young soon and will no doubt be feeding aggressively in more open waters outside the thick grass. Fishing for blue and channel catfish is good in most tidal rivers and offers plenty of fun.
The upper Choptank River is a popular location for bass anglers and those searching for catfish. The boat ramp at Martinak State Park is favored by many anglers, but note the ramp will be closed for major renovations for about a year beginning Aug. 1. The boat ramp in Denton at the base of the old Route 404 Bridge and the ramp at the Route 328 Bridge on the Tuckahoe Creek offer close alternatives.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surfcasters along the Ocean City and Assateague Island beaches are enjoying excellent fishing for kingfish this week. Spot are also being caught, providing fine cut bait for the small bluefish that are present in the surf. Bloodworms and Fishbites are the most popular baits for kingfish but a small strip of spot belly can work well also. Flounder are also being caught in the surf along with northern blowfish, usually on squid.
Flounder fishing is good in the back bay channels this week. A recent storm churned up the bay a bit but water clarity now looks good. Large soft plastic jigs offer a great way to target the larger flounder; white and pink tend to be the most popular colors, and some will dress it with a strip of squid. The traditional baits of squid and minnows always work well. Boat traffic is up as the summer season is in full gear, so be careful when drifting near the channels, especially the Thorofare and the East Channel, and never assume an oncoming boat sees you.
Striped bass fishing in and around the inlet continues to be mostly catch-and-release, with most fish being caught on jigs and cut bait falling short of the 28-inch minimum. When targeting striped bass with cut bait, and eels or any other live bait, remember circle hooks are mandatory.
Fishing for black sea bass at the offshore wreck and reef sites could hardly be better. Limit catches of chunky sea bass are common. Some are also targeting large flounder that tend to hold near some inshore wreck and reef sites.
Farther offshore at the canyons, the yellowfin tuna fishery has taken off in the past week. The yellowfins tend to be on the small size, but some larger sizes are being caught in the mix. Bluefin tuna are also being caught near the canyons along with some gaffer-sized dolphin. The first white marlin was caught and released last week, which provided a nice cash payout for the captain and crew. Those deep-dropping are bringing catches of blueline and golden tilefish back to the docks.
“In every species of fish I’ve angled for, it is the ones that have got away that thrill me the most, the ones that keep fresh in my memory. So I say it is good to lose fish. If we didn’t, much of the thrill of angling would be gone.” — Ray Bergman