Children always offer a different window into our world, certainly a simpler type of fun and excitement. This could not be truer when they accompany us on our fishing and crabbing adventures.
Right now blue crabs are heavy and laden with meat so do not put that crabbing gear away just yet.
Forecast Summary: October 13 – October 19:
It’s another great week to get out and enjoy Maryland’s fall foliage and Chesapeake Bay waters. Aside from possible showers Friday and Saturday, expect sunny and calm days and cool nights. Bay surface water temperatures are holding in the lower 70s. Improving oxygen and water temperature conditions will continue to provide anglers great opportunities to catch fish in shallower waters and the traditional places deeper in the water column such as channel edges, underwater points, hard bottom, and drop-offs.
Check the Department of Natural Resources website to find adequate oxygen depths for fishing in areas throughout the Bay. Conditions can vary daily so be sure to check the depth-to-oxygen level online for your specific location prior to your next fishing trip.
Expect average clarity for many of the Maryland portions of the Bay and 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, 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
At the very top of the Bay, water clarity is steadily improving in the lower Susquehanna River and the Susquehanna Flats. Water temperatures are holding about 65 degrees and anglers are catching striped bass in the morning and evening hours on topwater lures and paddletails. A fair percentage are under the minimum of 19 inches – although the hot summer months are over, please use caution when catching and releasing these fish. Other anglers are live-lining small white perch and eels with good success along the channel edges. Large blue and channel catfish often tend to gobble up live baits and will chase down a paddletail or crankbait.
Those fishing the Conowingo Dam pool are casting topwater lures and paddletails in the morning hours with fair to good striped bass success. Large flathead catfish are also being caught in the dam pool on fresh cut bait or live bait in the form of small white perch, suckers or eels.
In the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and out in the Bay, white perch are being caught over shoals, oyster bars, and hard bottom. The lower Patapsco River has been providing good fishing along channel edges and hard bottom. The Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge piers are also providing good white perch fishing opportunities.
Striped bass are being found near the mouths of the Patapsco, Magothy, and Chester rivers in the morning and evening hours. Casting topwater lures and paddletails is the most popular way to fish. Jigging along channel edges and under breaking fish, or when suspended fish can be spotted on depth finders, is also a good tactic.
Live-lining eels along the channel edges at Pooles Island continues to be good, but large blue catfish are also taking the eels meant for striped bass. There are still some live spot to be found near the mouth of the Magothy River and the shallower end of the Bay Bridge on the Sandy Point side, but their numbers are dwindling. Drifting soft crab baits or cut spot and menhaden near the bases of the Key Bridge and Bay Bridge piers is also an excellent way to target striped bass. The sewer pipe just north of the east side of the Bay Bridge is also getting the attention of those jigging and trolling.
Casting soft plastic jigs and working them along the bottom at the Love Point rocks and the Sandy Point and Baltimore lights is a good striped bass fishing option.
Anglers are encountering breaking fish, comprising a mix of bluefish and striped bass, along the edges of the shipping channel and at the mouths of Eastern Bay and the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore, and the Severn, South, and West rivers on the Bay’s west side. As schools of baitfish in the form of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden move out of the tidal rivers and into the Bay to head south, there are bluefish and striped bass waiting for them. It pays to have a good set of binoculars or someone with the eyes of an eagle onboard to spot diving seagull action on the horizon.
Remember that proper fishing etiquette should always be observed for others who may already be fishing the same school you are. Come in slow as you approach the action on the upwind side, turn off your engine, and drift into casting range. Never troll through a school of breaking fish if others are casting into it. Failure to follow these responsible actions will drive the fish down; the action will cease, and you undoubtedly will receive the stink eye and a few stinging comments from your fellow anglers.
Much of the breaking fish action or subsurface feeding activities will occur along the steeper edges of the shipping channel, as schools of bait are swept along by strong tidal currents. The channels at the mouths of the tidal rivers is another area where striped bass will be feeding on schools of bait.
The shallow-water action offers excellent fishing opportunities along shoreline structure at the mouths of the tidal rivers and the rocks at Poplar Island. Casting topwater lures and paddletails in the morning and evening hours is a fun and effective way to fish.
White perch are now beginning to stack up on oyster bars near the mouths of the tidal rivers. They are gradually moving out of their shallower summer haunts as water temperatures in the tidal rivers become cooler. Most anglers are using either bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or peeler crab, as well as dropper rigs with small soft plastic lures. A good depth finder is invaluable to spot the schools of white perch holding over bottom.
Bluefish and striped bass are at the top of the list for anglers in the lower bay region this week. Bluefish ranging from ¾-pound to about 3 pounds are being found chasing baitfish throughout the lower Bay, at times accompanied by striped bass. The striped bass have more of a presence in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. The steep channel edge from St. Georges Island to Piney Point has been holding good numbers of striped bass and bluefish.
Keeping vigilant for breaking fish that are often marked by diving seagulls can pay huge dividends for those who enjoy casting with light tackle to breaking fish. Casting metal lures and jigs tends to be popular when toothy critters are involved; soft plastics often take a beating when bluefish are involved.
Trolling is another option, and pulling umbrella rigs with a small spoon or bucktail for a trailer is perhaps the most popular way to troll for a fall mix of bluefish and striped bass. Trolling single spoons behind inline weights is also an effective offering when trolling.
Shorebound anglers are enjoying good action with bluefish at the Point Lookout fishing pier and the causeway just north of the pier. The small pier under the Route 4 Bridge on the Patuxent River is another good place to fish from shore. Most are casting cut baits of menhaden or spot on a simple one-hook bottom rig with a floater cork to keep the bait off the bottom.
White perch are steadily moving into the deeper sections at the lower ends of the Lower Bay’s tidal rivers. Fishing with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs with small soft plastic dropper flies will work well. There are still some spot around, but they are quickly disappearing in the region’s tidal rivers. A few large speckled sea trout are being caught on the eastern side of the bay.
Recreational crabbing continues to be a bright spot for those hoping for a fall crab feast or to pick crab meat for the winter months. The size of the crabs being caught is something to marvel at, with some weighing as much as a pound each. They are heavy and laden with meat so do not put all of that crabbing gear away just yet. The best catches are being found in 10 feet to 15 feet of water. Recreational crabbers report that chicken necks seem to be just as good as razor clams for bait.
The fall trout stocking program continues, providing great opportunities for freshwater anglers to visit nearby waters and enjoy trout fishing with family and friends. Check the latest trout stockings on the Department of Natural Resources website, where you can also find maps to guide you to specific stocking locations.
Rainbow trout are the most common variety stocked across Maryland. Good water flows brought on by plentiful rain this past summer provided excellent growth rates for the rainbow trout at the DNR hatcheries. Brown trout production was also excellent due to upgrades at the Cushwa hatchery, with additional staff onsite 24/7.
The upper Potomac River is in good shape for fishing right now — flows are good and water temperatures are now in the 60s, which is a comfortable temperature for smallmouth bass. Casting tubes, swimshads, and small crankbaits are good choices to fish for them near submerged ledges, current breaks and boulder holes. DNR biologists recently sampled the upper Potomac fish populations and found that flathead catfish numbers are increasing.
Fishing for largemouth bass has reached an exciting level for anglers as the fish are transitioning into a fall pattern of feeding behavior. They are aggressively feeding later into the morning hours and can be enticed to strike lures throughout most of the day. Water temperatures are cooler and largemouth bass are more comfortable. Grass beds are beginning to show signs of diminishing, so any existing grass is a good place to target. Buzzbaits, frogs, and weedless soft plastics are good choices near or over grass, while jerkbaits, poppers, and spinnerbaits work well along the edges. Sunken wood, drop-offs, and any underwater structure are good places to target with small crankbaits, grubs, and craws.
Recent fish population survey work on the upper Chester River near Millington found abundant numbers of largemouth bass, with one specimen weighing 8.5 pounds. Biologists electrofishing also pulled up a large 12-pound northern snakehead that had a large yellow perch in its stomach. The upper Chester River has long been a favorite destination for largemouth bass anglers and has a strong yellow perch run in March of every year. Downriver, the Crumpton area is an excellent place to fish for blue catfish.
Eastern Shore anglers should note the boat ramp at Smithville Lake will have limited access October 13-14. Contractors will be deploying equipment into the lake for an upcoming repair to the lake’s water control structure. The ramp may be unusable for several hours each day while they complete this work.
Northern snakeheads will be part of the mix when fishing for largemouth bass in most tidal waters and in some nontidal waters. They are feeding aggressively, especially during the afternoon hours when the sun slightly warms the shallower waters. Buzzbaits and frogs are two of the most popular lures when working shallow grassy areas.
Cooler water temperatures are causing crappie to school up near structure in slightly deeper waters this week. Marina docks and piers, sunken brush, fallen treetops, and bridge piers are all good places to look for crappie. A small minnow or marabou jig under a slip bobber is a good way to fish for them.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers continue to enjoy excellent catch-and-release fishing for large red drum this week along the Ocean City and Assateague beaches. Heavy surf gear and large baits of cut menhaden or mullet tend to be the favored baits. Those fishing smaller baits of bloodworms are catching kingfish, spot, and croaker. Fishing with cut spot or mullet will entice bluefish.
At the inlet, anglers are catching bluefish and striped bass in the morning and evening hours by casting bucktails and soft plastic jigs. A few anglers are also having luck drifting cut bait of menhaden or mullet. Sheepshead can be found near the jetty rocks and can be caught on sand fleas. Croaker, flounder, and triggerfish can also be part of the mix if targeted.
The back bay channels are providing good flounder fishing this week; water clarity is good and cooler water temperatures have the flounder feeding. Many are using large Gulp baits or live finger mullet or spot to target the larger flounder. Traditional baits of squid will work well and will also attract croakers. Small bluefish can also be part of the mix.
The black sea bass fishery at the wreck and reef sites is going strong this week and many anglers are enjoying the bonus of catching large flounder in the same areas. Flounder are also being targeted on the inshore shoal areas. Cooler water temperatures are also attracting tautog to some of the wreck and reef sites.
Farther offshore at the canyons, the yellowfin tuna catches could hardly be better. Limit catches of large yellowfin tuna have been common at the docks for the past week. They are being caught by chunking and trolling.
“If I take my problems fishing and leave them behind out there, they are not waiting for me when I get back home.” — Dave Hughes
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.