Maryland anglers will gradually begin to see their varied fisheries react to cooling water temperatures through September. Currently, the summer migrant species in the Chesapeake Bay and offshore waters are present in good force, and freshwater anglers have plenty of fishing action across the entire Maryland landscape.
Forecast Summary: September 8 – September 14:
Bay conditions will continue to be dominated this week by the recent impacts of Ida and the higher-than-normal freshwater flows. In the upper Bay, expect muddy, cool waters as well as floating debris. Expect rain on Wednesday and Thursday and higher than normal winds on Wednesday and Friday. After Friday, expect sunny and warm conditions. Bay surface water temperature has cooled and is holding in the upper 70s. In addition, cooler freshwater flows have reached the Bay, resulting in decreasing surface water temperatures that will provide anglers opportunities to catch fish in shallower waters.
Adequate oxygen levels are found at all depths from the Susquehanna Flats to Still Pond and at Swan Point. Due to low bottom oxygen levels, avoid fishing below the following depths in these locations: Bay Bridge to Bloody Point, 30 feet to 40 feet; Choptank River to Point No Point, 20 feet to the bottom. On the Potomac River from Colonial Beach to Piney Point, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet to 40 feet. Conditions can vary daily so be sure to check the depth-to-oxygen level online prior to your next fishing trip to check your specific location.
While flows are decreasing from the remnants of Ida, still expect high flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents through Monday as a result of the Sept. 7 new moon.
Expect poor clarity for many of the Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, however, expect very poor water clarity on the mainstem of the Bay down to the mouth of the Chester River due to the remnants of Ida. The Conowingo Dam spill gates were open as a result of the high flows hitting the area, resulting in floating debris causing boating hazards in the upper Bay as well as localized areas. The Potomac River is also still running above normal. Throughout Maryland, in the larger rivers, expect muddy water conditions for several days while smaller streams will clear more quickly. 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, check the Maryland DNR website for 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 Conowingo Dam flood gates were open in the days following Ida, with up to 15-18 gates open due to runoff from the tropical depression. At the time of this writing, no gates are open, but the dam is still under spill conditions, with anywhere from 1-9 gates possibly open the next few days. Expect the Susquehanna River to be running with heavy sediment loads for the next few days, and floating debris will be quite prevalent. Some roads in Port Deposit are closed due to flooding. Boaters should use extreme caution to avoid floating debris that may damage boats and props.
Expect fishing in the river and the Susquehanna Flats area to be severely hampered this week; anglers are urged to try fishing at rivers on the eastern side of the Bay, such as the Bohemia and Sassafras. Fishing with crankbaits with rattles may help striped bass locate a bait in stained water conditions.
Fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish offers a good alternative on the eastern side of the Bay. The Northeast River along with the Bohemia, Sassafras, and Chester rivers hold good populations of catfish. Fresh-cut menhaden, gizzard shad or white perch make excellent baits, chicken livers, and clam snouts work well also.
The Live-lining spot for striped bass will take a hit this week as stained waters dominate the western side of the Bay from the mouth of the Susquehanna south past the Bay Bridge. Anglers will have some luck at the Tolchester Lumps, the Key Bridge, and Sandy Point Light, but many are finding good fishing success at Swan Point, Love Point Rocks, the Sewer Pipe, and bridge piers on the eastern side of the bridge.
Boats anchored up on the eastern side of the bridge from the two-legged concrete piers through the multi-pier sections have done well catching striped bass. Most were live-lining spot or drifting soft crab baits down-current towards the pier bases, but jigging can also be effective. The morning hours tend to offer the best results, and spot can readily be found at the shallower ends of the Bay Bridge.
As the tidal rivers calm down and water conditions improve, fishing for white perch offers a fun alternative to fishing out in the Bay for striped bass. Many of the rivers on the eastern side are clearing up, and the western tidal rivers will soon follow. Kent Narrows is also an excellent place to fish for white perch with small jigs and dropper flies along with pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig.
Spanish mackerel are beginning to make themselves scarce, as unfortunately, it is about that time that they head south. They’re still being caught near the Poplar Island and Buoy 83 area, the mouth of the Choptank River, and along the edges of the shipping channel. They are being caught by boats trolling small Drone spoons behind planers and by those casting small heavy jigs into breaking fish. Bluefish are still being caught in the middle Bay and they usually hang around a little longer than the Spanish mackerel.
Casting paddletails and topwater lures in the shallower areas of the middle Bay has been good for a mix of striped bass and speckled trout. The eastern side of the Bay is showing clearer water and therefore better fishing success. The Poplar Island rocks, Sharps Island Light, and the mouth of the Choptank at Cooks Point are a few of the better locations being reported.
Fishing for white perch is a fun option that should not be overlooked if packages of fillets are something you value in your freezer. When water temperatures begin dropping in the next month, the perch will be heading out into the Bay. Casting beetle spins, spinners, and small jigs in the morning and evening hours along shoreline structures is a great way to catch them on light tackle. Fishing with grass shrimp near dock pilings and breakwater rocks with a simple bottom rig is also a great way to catch them.
Fishing for Spanish mackerel is still a viable option this week but the numbers of fish being caught are diminishing. Trolling is an excellent way to catch them and a great way to cover water along channel edges in the Bay and in Tangier Sound. Small Drone spoons pulled behind planers are the most popular method being employed. When schools of breaking fish can be spotted, they are usually a mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Casting small but heavy jigs into the action and speed-reeling the lure back to the boat is a proven tactic.
Trolling for a mix of large red drum and cobia is another viable fishing method right now. Large spoons are used to entice the red drum for some heavy-duty catch-and-release action. Green and red rubber hose lure pulled behind inline weights is the choice for catching cobia. The areas around the Target Ship, Point Lookout, and Smith Point are good places to troll.
Red drum are also being caught by locating schools by slicks, fishing deep under breaking bluefish and Spanish mackerel, or by spotting them on a depth finder. Large soft plastic jigs work well or dropping a soft crab bait to the drum can’t be beaten.
Chumming is the primary method being used this week to fish for cobia, and dropping a live eel down to the bottom in the chum slick has been working well for many. Smith Point, Point Lookout, and the area around the Target Ship are good places to set up.
Anglers casting paddletails near shoreline structures in 10 feet to 15 feet of water in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers are catching a mix of striped bass, slot-size red drum, and speckled trout. Tangier Sound is also an excellent place to target speckled trout and slot-size red drum.
Fishing for a mix of spot and white perch is very good in the lower section of the Patuxent River, the Cornfield Harbor area, and Tangier Sound. The spot are about as large as they’re going to get in Maryland waters, and although the white perch will stick around, the spot will soon head south, so it is advisable to enjoy their abundance while it lasts.
Recreational crabbing continues to provide enough success for those using trotlines, collapsible crab traps, or simply running hand lines off a dock. It continues to be a fickle fishery with some areas producing excellent catches of large crabs, some of which weigh a pound or more. Other areas may give up a half-bushel of decent crabs at best. The largest crabs tend to be coming from waters 10 feet to 15 feet deep, smaller but legal crabs are being caught in shallower waters.
Fishing and boat traffic conditions are improving at Deep Creek Lake as the vacation season begins to slow down. Largemouth bass can be found in the cove areas during the morning and evening hours and under shade during the day. Smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch can be found along the edges of deep grass, while trout are deep along the dam face.
The upper Potomac River is recovering from last week’s storm event and the heavy rains that caused high water flows. Fishing conditions for this week should be good for smallmouth bass in the deeper holes, submerged ledges, and current breaks.
Many trout anglers are looking forward to fall fishing conditions as water temperatures begin to cool this month. One of the trout fishing jewels in Western Maryland is the North Branch of the Potomac River. Perhaps the most exciting and adventurous way to fish it is during a float trip. For this activity, you can either team up with a buddy to have a vehicle at the drop-off and endpoints of the float or hire a guide. Either way, it is a wonderful experience. You can find a map that provides information on the Department of Natural Resources website, by searching Western Maryland water trails.
On the website, you can also find an article called “Go West, Young Angler,” to learn about float fishing in the North Branch, along with finding river guides.
DNR staff recently completed annual sampling on the Lower Savage River. The upper station, located in the artificial fly-only management area of the river, supported an estimated overall population of 1,170 trout per mile, with 89 percent of fish collected being brown trout. The lower Aaron’s Run station, located in the artificial flies and lures management area, was lower than average with an overall population estimate of 669 trout per mile, with 90 percent of fish collected being brown trout. Fish were in excellent condition with higher average weights than previous samples. Great fish condition could be attributed to the large periodical cicada hatch that occurred during the late spring and early summer months, providing a robust diet. Young-of-the-year collected during the survey suggest limited reproductive success.
Largemouth bass will begin to shake off their summer mode of feeding behavior with cooler water temperatures. As of now, they are still holding to a summer pattern. Working the shallower grassy areas in the early morning or late evening hours with topwater baits will remain the best bet for now. Buzzbaits and frogs are great baits to work over grass, and northern snakeheads will be in the mix when fishing tidal waters. As largemouth bass retreat to shade under deep grass mats, dropping wacky-rigged stick worms through to the fish holding underneath is a good tactic. Largemouth bass will also seek shade under overhanging brush, fallen treetops, and deep sunken wood. Small crankbaits, craws, and grubs often work well in these areas.
Northern snakeheads are on the prowl and fishing for them is very good right now. Anglers are enjoying excellent fishing success in the many creeks that feed into the tidal Potomac River and the rivers and creeks of the lower Eastern Shore. Most are casting buzzbaits and frogs into grassy areas or fishing large minnows under a popping cork or bobber in more open waters.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers are reporting excellent fishing for spot in the morning hours along the beaches of Assateague Island. There is also a mix of kingfish and croaker at times, and pompano for those rigged for them and fishing with sand fleas. There are also small bluefish in the surf that can be caught on cut spot.
At the inlet, striped bass are being caught in the evenings near the jetties on soft plastic jigs and bucktails. During the day bluefish are providing plenty of action on bucktails. Flounder are in the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area.
Flounder fishing in the back bay areas is good with plenty of fish being caught. The largest flounder are hitting live spot and finger mullet drifted along the bottom. Traditional baits of squid and minnows are catching their fair share of flounder.
Outside the inlet, large flounder are being caught on some of the inshore shoals, and the inshore wreck and reef sites are especially good for limits of large flounder. The wreck and reef sites a little farther offshore are providing good catches of black sea bass, triggerfish, and flounder.
Those venturing farther offshore to blue water are finding good numbers of chicken dolphin near lobster buoys and floating grass. Out at the canyons, boats are bringing a mix of yellowfin tuna, dolphin, large wahoo, and blueline tilefish. White marlin releases are common and a blue marlin is being caught and released now and then.
“Fishing a good spot under the wrong conditions is like lacing up your ice skates in July.” — David DiBenedetto