Memorial Day weekend is upon us and with it the traditional start of summer activities. The three-day weekend offers some wonderful opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.
If you have a friend you’d like to introduce to fishing, Maryland offers license-free fishing days on the first two Saturdays in June and also on July 4. Make some plans and take advantage of this offer from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The 2022 baywide blue crab winter dredge survey results are available on the DNR website.
Since May 16. much of the Chesapeake Bay has been open to fishing for striped bass measuring 19 inches or more. Some areas of the upper Bay and tidal rivers are still closed to fishing for striped bass. All areas of the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal rivers will be open to striped bass fishing on June 1 – be sure to check the DNR website for seasonal regulations in your area of the Bay.
Forecast Summary: May 25 – May 31:
Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have increased to the upper 60s. Warmest Bay waters will be found near the surface as well as near river mouths. There is plenty of oxygen for Bay fish from the surface to the bottom.
To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
In the reaches of the Lower Susquehanna River, white perch are holding in relatively shallow areas and provide plenty of fishing action. The upper Bay and tributaries above a line drawn from the south corner of Hart-Miller Island to Tolchester are still closed for striped bass until June 1. White perch have settled into their traditional summer habitat and are a fun alternative in the tidal rivers. Casting beetle spins, small jigs, and spinners are a fun light-tackle way to fish for them during the morning and evening hours in the shallower waters and shoreline structure. Fishing deeper with a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm also works well.
A mix of blue and channel catfish are spread throughout the upper Bay and are providing nonstop action for anyone dropping a cut bait or other preferred bait to the bottom of the bay and the region’s tidal rivers. They can be a welcomed alternative to fishing for striped bass in closed areas. At the Conowingo Dam pool, flathead catfish are also being caught on live or cut baits of gizzard shad, bluegill sunfish, white perch, or menhaden.
Fishing for striped bass in the areas south of the Hart-Miller-Tolchester line is good this week for anglers trolling medium-sized bucktails, and those chumming and jigging along channel edges. Trolling is one of the most popular ways to fish for striped bass this week near Swan Point, Love Point and the shipping channel edges down to the Bay Bridge. White and chartreuse bucktails dressed with sassy shads are the most popular lures being pulled in trolling spreads for striped bass in the 19-inch to the 28-inch size range.
Chumming is an alternative for those not wishing to troll and would rather sit on a lump or channel edge. The area around Swan Point is a popular location to fish. A mix of large blue and channel catfish are keeping anglers busy when baits settle to the bottom. Cut menhaden is perhaps the most popular bait being used.
Light-tackle jigging near the Love Point rocks and wherever striped bass can be found suspended near channel edges and shoals. Chartreuse soft plastic jigs have been popular in the past week and other favored colors will also work well. Confidence in colors and jigs being used is always paramount to any angler.
Anglers have been observing pods of bottlenose dolphins in the upper Bay for the past week and find they are in a little competition for striped bass. It is not uncommon for the dolphin to feed on the smaller school-sized striped bass. When the dolphins begin to hone in, the striped bass will scatter, and if you see them it’s a good idea to move to another fishing location. Many remember this lesson when we had good croaker fishing years ago.
Northern snakeheads are providing an increasing amount of fishing action in the upper Bay’s tidal rivers. The snakeheads are in a pre-spawn mode and feeding aggressively. Casting white paddle tails is the most popular way to fish along the shallower river and creek edges. Dead-sticking a large minnow under a bobber in slightly deeper water while casting is always a good idea.
The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles are always a draw for striped bass and anglers. Many anglers are casting jigs near the bridge piers and working them deep near the bases. Skirted jigs are popular and it does not hurt to apply a little scent of menhaden paste or garlic to the jig. Other anglers are anchoring up-current of the bridge piers and drifting soft crab or cut menhaden baits towards the pier bases. Trolling near the bridge and the sewer pipe on the northeastern side of the bridge can also be effective.
Trolling along the shipping channel edges with a mixed spread of large and medium-sized parachutes and bucktails is a very popular way to fish for striped bass this week. The traditional locations are near Bloody Point, Buoy 83, Breezy Point and the eastern edge of the shipping channel near the CP Buoy. School-sized striped bass can be found in a number of other locations including near Thomas Point, the False Channel, and the Gum Thickets. Check the DNR website for the current Bay locations that are open to striped bass fishing through May 31.
Another popular method is chumming or drifting cut baits or soft crab baits to suspended striped bass wherever they can be spotted on depth finders, usually along channel edges or structures. Channel and blue catfish can be unwelcome guests once baits hit the bottom. Anglers will also be watching depth finders near the Sharps Island reef in hopes of spotting large black drums this week with soft crab baits at the ready.
Casting a variety of surface poppers, jerkbaits, and paddletails near shoreline structures is a fun developing fishery right now. The rocks at Poplar Island, Thomas Point, and the Bay shoreline waters are great places to fish in the morning and evening hours. Fishing for northern snakeheads in the region’s tidal rivers can offer plenty of action at times.
White perch have moved into their traditional summer locations and are providing some fun fishing from shore. Most deepwater docks and piers have populations of white perch holding close to pilings or oyster reefs. Using a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm is a favored way to fish for them and a great way to introduce our younger anglers to fishing. Casting small spinners, beetle spins, and small jigs near the shoreline structures is a fun way to fish with ultra-light tackle. Fallen treetops, sunken wood, and rocks are all good places to look for white perch in the morning and evening hours.
Fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish is front and center this time of the year and the Choptank River is a great place to find both species. Blue catfish populations are expanding at an alarming rate in the Choptank River so anglers are encouraged to target them. Cut bait and a variety of other baits are popular choices for bottom rigs.
Striped bass fishing is good in the lower Bay, and trolling a mixed spread of bucktails is the favored way to fish. Medium-sized bucktails dressed with sassy shads in white and chartreuse are working well, and most captains are also pulling one or two large parachutes in hope of encountering a trophy-sized striped bass. The shipping channel edges are an excellent place to troll as is Smith Point. In the lower Potomac River, the steep channel edge from St. Georges Island to Piney Point is a very productive area. Anglers are reminded that the minimum size for striped bass in the main stem of the Potomac River is 20 inches. The minimum size in Maryland’s Bay waters is 19 inches.
Jigging is an effective way to fish for striped bass this week wherever suspended fish can be located. The shipping channel edges and the channel edges at the mouth of the Patuxent, the lower Potomac, and the cut between upper and lower Hooper Island are excellent places to fish. Skirted soft plastic jigs, as well as bucktails, are good choices for jigging. Casting surface poppers, jerkbaits, and paddletails in the shallows along the shores of the Bay are providing fun fishing in the morning and evening hours this week.
Speckled sea trout are beginning to show up in the lower Bay waters this week, mostly on the eastern side in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. They are being caught by casting soft plastic jigs and paddletails or by drifting soft crab baits in the mouths of tidal creeks on a falling tide. Unfortunately, cownose rays are beginning to make their appearance. Large red drum are also being caught this week near the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship. Trolling large spoons, or jigging over fish spotted on depth finders are popular ways to enjoy some heavy-duty catch and release fishing. Anglers are also watching depth finders for black drum, with soft crab baits at the ready.
Fishing for northern snakeheads in the lower Eastern Shore tidal rivers and creeks has been a little up and down due to fluctuating weather conditions. For the most part, the snakeheads are very active in a pre-spawn mode of aggressive feeding. Casting white paddletails is perhaps the most popular way to fish but many will also put out a large minnow under a bobber for snakeheads cruising in deeper waters.
In an effort to monitor invasive northern snakeheads in the Chesapeake Bay and Blackwater River, DNR announces a new tagging program in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Snakeheads have been tagged and anglers are urged to keep the fish and report tag numbers so biologists can better understand fishing pressure. There are rewards for tags properly submitted. More details of the tagging program are on the DNR website, along with more information about snakeheads.
Fishing for white perch has settled into a familiar summer pattern where they can be found in tidal creeks and rivers. Structures such as docks and piers are always a good place to drop a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. Casting small spinners, beetle spins, small spinnerbaits, and jigs are always fun in the morning and evening hours near the shoreline structures.
Fishing for blue catfish could hardly offer more action this time of year. The tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers are full of them and the populations are expanding to other tidal rivers within the region. Fresh cut baits of menhaden, gizzard shad, white perch, chicken liver, or your own concoctions will get you into the action in no time at all.
Most largemouth bass, outside of Western Maryland, are now in their post-spawn mode of behavior. Most have left the shallow spawning areas and are holding in a variety of intermediate depths near grass beds and structures. Sunken wood in the form of fallen treetops and logs lying on the bottom are always good places to target with small crankbaits and soft plastic jig baits such as craws. Wacky rigged worms are always a good bet in thick grass beds and spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits are good baits to work along spatterdock and grass bed edges.
Bluegill sunfish are active this week and can provide plenty of fun action for light-tackle anglers working lily pad areas or the edges of shallows and underwater structures. Casting small rubber-legged poppers, spiders, and ants can offer plenty of fun fishing on a calm summer evening. For our younger anglers, it is hard to beat a worm under a bobber cast into a community pond to provide instant action.
Reports from the upper Potomac tell of ideal conditions and excellent fishing for smallmouth bass. Some of the smallmouth bass are still spawning and many are holding in relatively shallow waters.
The spring trout stocking program has ended but there was a large push at the very end of April, so there are still trout to be found in the put-and-take waters of the central, southern, and western regions. The delayed harvest and other trout waters managed for catch and release hold plenty of trout to entertain anglers who do not wish to keep their catch. The delayed harvest waters will open to a daily possession limit of five trout starting June 1 until September 30.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Large post-spawn striped bass is moving up the coast, and a few will venture close enough to Maryland beaches to offer surf anglers some opportunity if they can keep a bait in the water long enough. Clearnose skates and dogfish are chomping baits at an alarming rate and tend to keep everyone on their toes — that means no lounging in a beach chair. Cut menhaden is the most popular bait and the head tends to put up with more abuse from skates and dogfish. Spot heads are another popular surf bait for striped bass and also for red drum later in the season. Bluefish are also being caught in the surf on the cut or whole finger mullet or cut menhaden, and a few black drum are still being caught on sand fleas.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, those casting bucktails and soft plastics are catching bluefish and striped bass. The bluefish are ranging from a few pounds to more than 5 pounds, while most of the striped bass are coming up a little short of the 28-inch minimum. Flounder can be found at the inlet, and are the big draw in the channels of the back bay. The water became a bit cloudy from the recent wind but it is clearing up. Striped bass, most smaller than 28 inches, are providing some fun catch-and-release action at the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges, and bluefish are also being caught.
Fishing for black sea bass has been excellent and there should be good fishing this weekend at the offshore wreck and reef sites. Yellowfin tuna are now being caught at the canyons and a few bluefin tuna have also been brought into the docks this past week. A 373-pound thresher shark was also brought in, which should provide a lot of delicious shark steaks. A new catch card kiosk for registering shark species has been installed at Assateague Island National Seashore, next to the hunting check-in station. The kiosk at the West Ocean City DNR office also remains open 24 hours every day.
“Like the fish that haunts the angler’s dreams, he was forever gaining size.” – Harry Middleton