The pleasant days of September offer wonderful opportunities to spend time with children and make lasting memories they will take into their adult life.
Forecast Summary: September 22 – September 28:
As we welcome the arrival of fall, Bay conditions will stabilize later this week after a windy and rainy period from Wednesday through Thursday. However, after Friday, expect sunny and calmer conditions with cool nights the rest of the week. Bay surface water temperatures continue to cool and are holding in the upper 70s. Improving oxygen and water temperature conditions will provide anglers more opportunities to catch fish in shallower waters along with more places deeper in the water column.
With cooling waters and windy days, Bay oxygen conditions have improved. Adequate oxygen levels are found at all depths from the Susquehanna Flats to Still Pond and at Swan Point. Due to low bottom oxygen level , avoid fishing below the following depths in these locations: Bay Bridge to Bloody Point, 25 feet to 35 feet; Choptank River to Point No Point, 25 feet to the bottom. On the Potomac River from Colonial Beach to Piney Point, avoid fishing deeper than 40 feet to the bottom. 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.
Expect normal flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. There will be above average tidal currents through Monday as a result of the Sept. 21 full moon.
Expect average clarity for many of the Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers, except the middle Patuxent, Bush, lower Chester, and Back rivers. In the mainstem, expect poor water clarity from algal blooms along the western shore from the Patapsco River south to Chesapeake Beach. 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 waters of the lower Susquehanna River and below the mouth of the river are still showing stained conditions, but water clarity is slowly improving. The Conowingo Dam water releases have been sporadic but nothing too severe. Anglers are casting crankbaits and jigging along the channel edges of the Susquehanna Flats, but many are fishing the tidal rivers on the eastern side of the upper Bay looking for clearer water. The mouth of the Bohemia and Sassafras rivers are great places to start looking for the early morning and late evening shallow water bite.
Live-lining spot is still the most popular and perhaps productive way to fish for striped bass. The spot will be thinning out soon as cooler water temperatures push them south, but for now the mouth of the Magothy River and the shallow ends of the Bay Bridge are good places to catch them. Some of the more popular places to seek the striped bass include the Tolchester Lumps, Swan Point, the Love Point Rocks, the mouth of the Magothy River, the Sandy Point Light, and the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles.
Chumming and live-lining eels is also an alternative to using spot. Drifting pieces of soft crab back to the pier bases of the Key Bridge and Bay Bridge are always very effective. A mix of large channel and blue catfish can often be part of the mix, whether live-lining or fishing baits of soft crab or menhaden.
As water temperatures drop in the upper Bay, trolling along channel edges with umbrella rigs is becoming more popular. Most anglers are using bucktails dressed with curlytails as trailers or swimshads. Some are using umbrella rigs with hookless spoons and a single spoon as a trailer; all need plenty of weight to get down to where the striped bass are suspended. A fair percentage of the striped bass being caught are falling short of the keeper length of 19 inches.
Fishing for white perch is good in the tidal creeks and rivers. Cooler water temperatures will soon have the white perch to begin to move into the lower parts of the rivers. There is still good morning and evening action along shorelines by casting beetle spins, small spinnerbaits, spinners, and soft plastic jigs. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm, peeler crab, and grass shrimp are a good choice when fishing deeper waters.
In the middle Bay much of the fishing focus is on striped bass and the last of the Spanish mackerel. The striped bass are being found in waters 5 feet to 10 feet deep along shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours. The slightly cooler waters are making this type of fishing a success with top water lures and paddletails. The Poplar Island rocks, Thomas Point, and shorelines near the mouths of the region’s rivers are a few of the places to explore.
Cooler waters are also making Bay waters more to the liking of striped bass as they begin to hold along channel edges and at the mouths of the tidal rivers. This is the very beginning of a typical fall pattern. By this time next month, schools of baitfish will be exiting the tidal rivers and striped bass will be stationed along the major channel edges feeding on them. Jigging with soft plastic and metal jigs along these channels will become the front-and-center tactic for anglers. To be ready, make sure to have plenty of your favorite half-ounce to ¾-ounce jigs and braided line on a fast-taper fishing rod. Often you can spot breaking fish by watching for flocks of diving seagulls, an experience all anglers are looking forward to.
Trolling with umbrella rigs pulled behind inline weights along these same channel edges will also come into its own. Medium-sized bucktails dressed with soft plastics are popular. Small Drone spoons pulled behind planers or inline weights are being trolled at slower speeds than for Spanish mackerel, catching striped bass and a few bluefish.
Anglers pushing the throttle to 7 or 8 knots are still catching Spanish mackerel in the middle Bay. Blind trolling along the edges of the shipping channel is a good way to cover a lot of water in the search for these forked-tail speedsters. When diving seagulls are spotted, trolling around the distant outside edges is a good tactic. An even better tactic is to pull the lines in, drift into the action from upwind, and cast small heavy jigs into the breaking fish. Speed reeling will catch the attention of the Spanish mackerel, while slower speeds will allow small bluefish and striped bass to catch up. Good places to look for Spanish mackerel include the Buoy 83 channel edge, in front of Chesapeake Beach along the shipping channel edge, and the False Channel.
This is another good week for white perch fishing in the tidal rivers and creeks of the middle Bay. There are still plenty of perch to be found along the shorelines during the morning and evening hours. Beetle spins, soft plastic jigs and spinners are great lures to cast on light tackle. Dunking grass shrimp on a simple one hook bottom rig near dock pier bases is another excellent way to fish for them.
The annual Chesapeake Bay Foundation Rod and Reef Slam this year runs from October 9-17. This is a unique fishing tournament that celebrates the difference restored oyster reefs are making in the return of healthy, diverse populations of Chesapeake Bay reef fish. The impetus for the tournament is to draw attention to the variety of species that can be found on restored bottom and to increase the awareness of artificial reef and oyster restoration sites.
Anglers will have a multitude of reef locations throughout Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers at which to fish. Instead of focusing on catching the biggest fish, prizes will be awarded for how many species you catch, as well as size. Past angler surveys have shown as many as 12 different species being caught in one day at the Clint Waters Reef at Cooks Point. Register for the Slam on the CBF website.
Anglers in the lower Bay have a lot of exciting fishing options ranging from shallow-water. light-tackle, to heavy weights. A mix of striped bass, speckled trout, and slot-sized red drum can be found in waters 10 feet to 15 feet deep near shorelines of the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Those fish, along with bluefish, are being caught there by casting paddletails. Large red drum and cobia are being caught and released from Point Lookout to Tangier Sound. A lot of them are being caught by trolling large spoons and rubber hose lures behind inline weights. Even some casters from the Point Lookout Fishing Pier got into the catch-and-release action for large red drum by fishing with cut bait rigs.
On the eastern side of the Bay, from Hoopers Island south to Pocomoke Sound, a mix of speckled trout, slot-sized red drum, and small bluefish are being caught along the shorelines. Some large speckled trout and slot-sized red drum are also being caught at the mouths of the tidal creeks draining from the marshes of Tangier Sound, by drifting soft crab baits.
Spanish mackerel are being caught throughout the main part of the lower Bay along channel edges. Many anglers are trolling small Drone spoons behind planers and inline weights at a good clip. Others who love their light tackle are watching for diving seagulls and carefully approaching from upwind and drifting into the action. Casting small but heavy epoxy jigs or metal into the breaking fish and reeling fast will entice the Spanish mackerel to strike. The Spanish mackerel are sharing the feast with bluefish, and sometimes small striped bass and very large red drum.
There is some live-lining of spot along the channel edge between St. Georges Island and Piney Point, with some nice striped bass are being caught. Others are jigging at the same location, or trolling umbrella rigs down deep along the steep channel edge there. There are also some reports of successful live-lining spot for striped bass at Point No Point.
The spot are still holding in the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers. They can also be found in Tangier Sound along with a mix of white perch and small croakers. A lot of small flounder are being reported by those bottom fishing on the western side of the Bay. In the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds, some larger flounder are being caught on the hard bottom shoal channel edges. Most are using strips of cut spot or white and pink Gulp baits.
Some very impressive blue crabs are being caught this week, some weighing in at a pound or more. Most crabbers are reporting the largest crabs in deeper waters of 10 feet to 15 feet. There are plenty of legal-sized crabs in shallower waters. Most recreational crabbers are able to put together a half-bushel catch per outing, and some are catching a full bushel.
The cooler nights are starting to cause water temperatures to slowly drop, which is a good thing for freshwater anglers across Maryland. Various species of fish will begin to become more active as they feel the urge to feed more.
Deep Creek Lake anglers are enjoying less boat traffic and more tranquil fishing conditions. Smallmouth bass can be found on rocky points and sunken wood, largemouth bass are being found in the cove areas and near floating docks that have not been pulled yet. Yellow perch, walleye and smallmouth bass are holding along the edges of deep grass — drifting minnows are one of the best ways to target them. Large bluegills can be found in a variety of areas and using small jigs is a great way to target them. Crickets and mealworms also work well.
The upper Potomac River is fishing well right now, and anglers can look forward to good fishing for smallmouth bass. Current breaks, submerged ledges, and deep pockets behind boulders are all good places to target. A variety of small crankbaits, tubes, and soft plastic craws are good choices for baits.
The fall trout stocking program is set to begin in early October, and trout management waters across the state will be receiving generous stockings of trout. The put-and-take areas are often the most popular, and many are close to population centers so anglers do not have to drive far to enjoy some fishing fun.
Largemouth bass fishing remains in a bit of a summer mode of feeding behavior – the fish may linger in the shallows and will be feeding longer into the day, especially on cloudy days. Casting frogs and buzzbaits over grass and lily pads is always a fun way to target them. Northern snakeheads will be holding in these same areas and can provide some explosive strikes. This is one of the best times of the year to target northern snakeheads because they are feeding aggressively and still holding near grass and shallow structure.
Targeting transition areas between the shallow grass and deeper waters is a good bet with lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits. If there are thick grass mats, dropping a wacky-rigged stick worm with a sliding weight down through the grass and giving a few subtle twitches once it settles on the bottom is a great way to entice a strike. Deep sunken wood, channel edges, and rocks are good places to work soft plastic craw jigs, small crankbaits, and grubs.
Crappie can be found schooled up near deep structure and targeted with small jigs and minnows under a slip bobber. Bluegills are always ready for action in community ponds and most any piece of water. Blue and channel catfish occupy every tidal river within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and provide plenty of fishing action. In some areas there are still blue crabs that can be pesky bait stealers, but they will soon finish traveling out to the Bay
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers are enjoying beautiful days on the beach and catching some fish while they’re at it. A mix of kingfish, spot, and croaker are being caught on bloodworms and Fishbites. Small bluefish are taking cut spot, and a few pompano and small black drum are being caught on sand fleas. The anglers fishing with large cut baits are finding some large red drum and enjoying exciting catch-and-release fishing.
At the inlet, a mix of sheepshead and triggerfish are taking sand fleas near the South Jetty rocks. Striped bass are holding in the inlet; working bucktails and soft plastics along the bottom in the morning and evening hours is a good way to catch them. Flounder are also present and soon will be flowing to offshore waters, so the inlet will be a great pinch point to target them in the coming weeks.
The back bay channels are the place to look for flounder this week. Drifting along with squid strips, minnows, or Gulp baits is the way to target them. Croakers will be part of the mix for those fishing with squid.
Outside of the inlet, the boats that are targeting flounder on the inshore shoals, wreck sites, and artificial reef sites and catching some impressive flounder. There are still some Spanish mackerel in the inshore areas and they can be caught by trolling Drone and Clark spoons behind inlet weights. False albacore are showing up in area inshore waters this week and taking a variety of trolled lures.
Fishing for black sea bass at the wreck and reef sites continues to be very good, and anglers are also catching a mix of flounder and small dolphin at some sites. The boats heading out to the canyons are enjoying catch and release fishing for white marlin. They are also making impressive catches of bigeye and yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Those taking the time for some deep drop fishing are bringing in limit catches of golden and blueline tilefish.
“I never lost a little fish, yes I am free to say. It always was the biggest fish I caught that got away.” — Eugene Field
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.