Marylanders are beginning to hear Old Man Winter knocking on the door this week, with repeated temperatures below 30 degrees in some areas. Water temperatures are declining in all areas, changing the fishing conditions. Dress appropriately and enjoy the exciting fishing opportunities. All of us at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wish everyone a happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.
Forecast Summary: November 24 – November 30:
Expect sunny and cool weather all week with windy conditions on Friday and Saturday. Chesapeake Bay surface waters and rivers continue to cool faster than the bottom waters. Bay surface water temperatures have dropped to the lower 50s. Baitfish continue to move out of the rivers and search for the deeper, warmer waters with gamefish close behind. While there will be some breaking fish action, focus on the warmer, deeper bottom waters such as river mouths, channel edges, underwater points, hard bottom, and drop-offs from the Bay Bridge south to the Virginia state line.
There is suitable oxygen to the bottom in all of Maryland’s Bay waters. Upper Bay waters down to Tilghman Island are running fresher than normal.
Expect poor water clarity for the Patapsco River due to algal blooms. Expect good water clarity for other Maryland rivers and main Bay areas. 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 water releases at the Conowingo Dam are slowly decreasing but are still above average this week. Water temperatures at the dam pool are slipping below 50 degrees. There is still some striped bass action in the dam pool but it has slowed down considerably. Casting topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails is the most common way to fish in the morning hours. Reports from the mouth of the Susquehanna River are similar, as colder water temperatures are slowing down the striped bass fishery. Jigging close to the bottom in the channel areas or trolling deep with umbrella rigs tend to be the best options.
Blue catfish are providing plenty of action at the mouth of the Susquehanna, the tidal rivers, and out in the Bay. Most kinds of cut bait work but fresh menhaden, eel, and gizzard shad are at the top of the list. Alternative baits include clam snouts, chicken liver, and a host of others — chicken breast, uncooked hot dogs, and clams are not out of the realm of baits being used in a pinch. If you can coordinate with an extreme low tide you can collect rangia — commonly called brackish water clams — which make an excellent fresh bait.
The Key Bridge area has been a good location to fish for striped bass; jigging near the bridge piers or channel edges is one of the most proven tactics right now. Generally speaking the striped bass are suspended deep and close to the bottom due to colder water temperatures. The Love Point rocks are another location where jigging with soft plastics close to the bottom is popular.
Trolling deep with umbrella rigs and heavy inline weights is quickly becoming the most popular way to fish for striped bass. Colder water temperatures are causing the fish to hold deep and close to the bottom. Good locations are the channel edges at the mouth of the Patapsco, Magothy, and Chester rivers; the Brewerton Channel, the Triple Buoys area; Swan Point; and Love Point.
White perch are holding deep and close to the bottom at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers and locations out in the Bay. It will take a good depth finder to locate them and once you do, dropper rigs or bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm may get them to bite.
The striped bass fishery in the middle Bay is undergoing some changes as water temperatures decline into the low 50s. Once the water hits the 40s, anglers are going to see decreased activity with striped bass under 20 inches. They will be holding deep and close to the bottom but may not bite. It is not uncommon to find them stacked like cordwood at various locations, and those that attempt to jig for them may find they snag as many fish that actually take a jig.
The Bay Bridge is still a draw for anglers. Many are tossing jigs near the bridge piers and picking up a striped bass now and then. Others are drifting live eels or chunks of menhaden to the pier bases with some success. The sewer pipe is another destination that anglers are targeting.
Jigging deep where suspended striped bass can be located is still a viable option, and there is still some bird activity being spotted at times. The shipping channel edges off of Hackett’s, the Gum Thickets, and the mouth of Eastern Bay south past Buoy 83 to the False Channel area are good places to jig for striped bass.
Many are switching to trolling now, and the above locations are also excellent places to troll umbrella rigs with heavy inline weights to get them down to where the fish are holding. An enclosed cabin is a very inviting proposition to get out of the cold.
The water temperature in the lower Choptank River is at 50 degrees and dropping this week due to very cold nighttime temperatures. Most of the juvenile menhaden have now left the region’s tidal rivers but there are still striped bass to be found near the mouth of the Choptank.
Colder water temperatures have white perch and striped bass under the 14-inch mark hunkered down in waters from 35 feet to 50 feet deep out in the Bay and near the mouths of the tidal rivers. They can still be urged to bite once they are found on depth finders by using pieces of bloodworms on a bottom rig or a dropper fly rig. The Bay Bridge rock piles often hold large white perch down deep, but so far this season the reports of white perch at the rock piles has been negative.
Trolling for striped bass along deep channel edges tends to be the most popular and successful way to fish for striped bass this week. Good places to work the deep edges of the shipping channel are near Cove Point down to Smith Point and the HI Buoy south to the Middle Grounds. The lower Potomac River, the mouth of the Patuxent River, and the channels leading from the mouth of the Nanticoke River south through Tangier Sound are also good places to troll.
Umbrella rigs with bucktails or a spoon for a trailer and rigged with heavy inline weights are the most popular and successful ways to fish for striped bass this week. The fish are holding close to the bottom in deep areas so it will take those heavy inline weights to get down to where the fish are holding.
In the lower Bay, anglers still have some success with jigging, mostly under birds, slicks, and where fish can be spotted on depth finders. Most legal-sized striped bass are holding deep and close to the bottom. The lower Potomac River, the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, the mouth of the Patuxent River and the Tangier Sound area are all good places to fish. The western side of the Bay holds mostly striped bass; on the Tangier Sound side there are some speckled trout mixed in with the striped bass. Most are casting a mix of jerkbaits, paddletails, and crankbaits near shoreline structure. Those jigging are mostly using soft plastic jigs.
Trout anglers continue to enjoy good catch-and-release fishing in the special management areas limited to fly fishing tackle, artificial lures only, delayed harvest, and other restrictions that ensure there will be plenty of trout to entertain anglers looking for good fishing but not necessarily a full creel. The waters that cater to catch-and-release fishing can be found on the DNR website — just click on the county and body of water you’re interested in.
There are still trout to be found in most of the put-and-take areas, and especially those ponds and lakes where they were stocked last month. Casting small spinners and spoons or jerkbaits is a great way to cover water in your search for a holdover trout.
Deep Creek Lake is providing good fishing for a mix of walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and northern pike. The walleye can be found near deep grass lines along with the yellow perch, or at steep rocky shores in the evenings. Using live minnows is an excellent choice for fishing deep grass lines and small crankbaits and jerkbaits for fishing those rocky shores. Smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found near deep structure and small diving crankbaits, soft plastic craws, and grubs are good choices to target them. Northern pike will go after large spoons, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits.
The upper Potomac River is running low and clear this week and like many other waters across Maryland, floating leaves can thwart the best efforts of anglers to keep their lures litter-free. Muskellunge fishing is about as good as it gets and the cold water temperatures help with successful catch and release. Smallmouth bass and walleye are holding in the deeper parts of the river and jigs and small crankbaits are good lure choices to target them.
Largemouth bass are generally holding to deep structure along drop-offs and transition areas. Sunken wood or any kind of structure is a magnet for them and they will hold tight to it as they wait for possible crayfish or baitfish to pass by on their way to the deepest waters and structure. Soft plastic craw jigs, grubs, and small crankbaits that mimic crayfish are all good choices for baits.
Crappie are schooled up in deeper waters near structure this week. Bridge piers, marina docks, fallen treetops, and sunken brush are all good places to look for them. Small minnows or marabou jigs under slip bobbers are a great way to fish for them.
Colder waters get many anglers thinking about chain pickerel, which are common in both nontidal and tidal waters throughout the state. The chain pickerel is an ambush predator that attacks with abandon almost anything that moves and looks like food. Most anglers release the chain pickerel they catch because they tend to inhale lures, so care should be taken. Single hooks on most lures are favored to lessen damage to the fish’s gill rakers. Treble hooks should be avoided and a good pair of long nosed pliers is invaluable when removing hooks from a toothy mouth. Chain pickerel like to hold near sunken wood, and shoreline debris of fallen wood offers plenty of places to hold them since the grass beds are mostly gone. The largest trophy-sized chain pickerel tend to hold in deeper waters and will lay claim to stumps and any kind of structure they can find.
Blue catfish will be filling a large niche for many anglers looking for plenty of action and good eating. Most every tidal river in Maryland has blue catfish in them now. Some of the largest populations of blue catfish on the western shore can be found in the tidal Potomac and Patuxent rivers. The Susquehanna River and surrounding tidal rivers in the upper Bay hold large populations of blue catfish, as do the Chester, Choptank, and Nanticoke rivers. Fresh-cut bait is favored but a wide variety of other baits will catch them also.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf casters are soaking large baits in the hope of catching a striped bass or perhaps a red drum. Most are using cut menhaden or mullet for bait. Tautog are being caught at the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area on sand fleas. Striped bass are being caught by casting and jigging bucktails and soft plastic jigs near the jetties, the Route 50 Bridge, and the Route 90 Bridge piers. Flounder are still being caught in the channels leading to the inlet but cold and cloudy waters have made flounder fishing tough.
Outside the inlet the best show in town is fishing for black sea bass. The fishing could hardly be any better with boat limits of sea bass being a common occurrence lately. Anglers are also catching a few porgies, flounder, and triggerfish. Some are beginning to target tautog on the offshore wreck and reef sites.
“‘A sportsman is a gentleman first,’ the old man said, ‘but a sportsman basically is a man who kills what he needs, whether it’s a fish or a bird or an animal, or he wants for a special reason, but never kills anything just to kill it …. He tries to preserve the very same thing that he kills a little bit of from time to time.’” — Robert Ruark, The Old Man And The Boy