As we approach the end of July, families are enjoying vacations, and anglers of all ages are fishing together. Sometimes the unbounded hope of angling offers up some surprises.
For those anglers who are also photographers, be sure to enter your best shots in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Photo Contest. Entries for the 2022 contest are due Monday, August 1, and details are on the DNR website.
Salisbury University, in partnership with DNR, is hosting the Nanticoke River Invasive Fishing Tournament on Saturday, July 30 at Cherry Beach Park in Sharptown. There is no fee to enter the tournament. A tournament registration form is available online, and more information is available on the Salisbury University website.
The Bay and its tributaries will reopen for striped bass fishing on August 1. The annual July two-week closure is to protect striped bass from summer’s warm water and air temperatures that cause unacceptable catch-and-release mortalities. To further help protect the fishery, we resume our striped bass fishing advisory forecast for the reopening of the season.
Forecast Summary: July 27 – August 2:
We can expect continued warm, partly cloudy conditions with stable temperatures and calm winds throughout the next week. There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms Wednesday through Friday, and again Monday and Tuesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are holding in the low to mid-80s, and Maryland rivers are running in the mid to upper 70s. Expect continued warming as the week progresses. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, or fish deeper waters or upwind areas.
At the following locations, adequate oxygen conditions can be found from the surface down to these depth ranges: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, 35 feet to the bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 35 feet to bottom, and 15 feet on the western shore; Bloody Point, 20 feet to 35 feet; Bay Bridge, 15 feet to 20 feet; Swan Point, 30 feet; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, the surface to bottom. Poor deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, where there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet. On the Potomac River, there is adequate oxygen down to 15 feet from the Route 301 Bridge down to the St. Mary’s River. It is likely that in most locations, gamefish will be deeper in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. In addition, if you are seeking areas with cooler waters in your area, fish surface waters early in the day, or find deeper waters and upwind areas.
Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams all week, but higher flows in the Potomac River watershed. There will be above-average tidal currents all week because of the upcoming new moon on July 28.
There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
As always, the best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the Bay, be sure to check out Eyes on the Bay’s Click Before You Cast.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
Fishing for a mix of flathead, blue, and channel catfish is occupying most anglers’ time this week. Flatheads can be caught on the cut or live bait in the Conowingo Dam pool and nearby sections of the Susquehanna River where waters flow briskly. Blue catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna and most of the surrounding tidal rivers in the upper Bay. Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river, all can be caught on cut bait and a variety of other baits.
White perch offers some fishing opportunities in the upper Bay. They can be found in the tidal rivers, often near structures. Bridge piers, old pilings, rock walls, and channel edges in 10 feet to 15 feet of water usually are the best places to look for white perch. In these deeper waters most, anglers use bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. Small dropper rigs with two dropper flies or a single jig and dropper fly is another option. During the morning and evening hours, casting small spinners, jigs, and roadrunner-type lures is a fun way to catch white perch along the shoreline structures.
The striped bass season in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay will reopen on August 1. The same conditions that increase catch-and-release mortality will still be possible until September, so anglers are cautioned to use the greatest care when releasing fish. If you are unsure about the best practices, please visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
The first location anglers will flock to will be the lumps between Pooles Island and Rock Hall, since this was the last known hotspot for striped bass fishing. Boats will be showing up with plenty of spot for live-lining. The Love Point rocks and Swan Point will certainly be worth a look.
Anglers in the middle Bay are lucky to have good number of speckled trout and bluefish during the striped bass closure. Speckled trout are being caught from Poplar Island south past Taylors Island. Most of the action tends to be on the east side of the Bay during the morning and evening hours. Casting a variety of paddletails and soft baits along shorelines is the most popular way to fish for them.
Anglers are reminded to avoid striped bass that is in the area, especially near the Poplar Island rocks and Thomas Point. The hot air temperatures and warm water conditions make it tough for striped bass recovery. If accidentally caught, the striped bass should be immediately released in the water, do not take pictures or remove the fish from the water.
Small bluefish in the 14-inch size range are wandering through the middle Bay and chasing schools of bay anchovies. Many anglers are trolling small Drone spoons behind inline weights and enjoying good success. The daily creel limit for recreational anglers is three bluefish per day. Keeping an eye out for diving seagulls and breaking fish can make for some fun light-tackle fishing by casting small metal jigs into the fray. In the next week or so, Spanish mackerel may start to appear in greater numbers.
Anglers will be fishing for catfish in the region’s tidal rivers this week. All the region’s tidal rivers are holding healthy populations of channel catfish and a scattering of blue catfish. The Choptank River has the greatest concentrations of blue catfish in the region. At this time the blue catfish are residing from the Dover Bridge downriver past the town of Choptank. Fresh-cut bait is good for blue catfish and setting out a small chum slick can up the odds of a successful fishing trip.
White perch are providing plenty of fishing fun in the tidal rivers and creeks near docks and piers in 10 feet to 15 feet of water. Points and places with a good current really help to up the odds, and oyster bars can be another good place to look for white perch. In this situation, bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm work well. In the morning and evening hours, casting small spinners and similar lures along shoreline structure can provide some fun light-tackle action and quality perch.
There are several species of fish that are filling in the gap during the striped bass closure. Striped bass fishing will resume August 1 for Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and tidal rivers. The tidal Potomac River will not reopen to striped bass fishing until August 21. Any striped bass caught accidentally must be immediately released in the water, do not bring fish aboard for photos.
The presence of speckled trout in the lower Bay is providing plenty of fun fishing for those casting a variety of soft plastics along shorelines, creek mouths, and channel edges. Paddletails and similar soft plastics in colors of pearl, yellow, chartreuse, and pink with sparkles are very popular choices. Drifting soft crab and peeler crab baits on an ebbing tide in the tidal creeks is another good option for targeting speckled trout and the occasional red drum. Large red drum are also being caught and released by anglers trolling large spoons and locating schools, and either dropping soft crab baits to them or jigging with large soft plastics.
Small bluefish are roaming throughout the lower Bay this week and anglers are enjoying catching them in a variety of ways. Trolling small Drone spoons behind inline weights is a good option, casting metal jigs into schools of breaking bluefish that are chasing bay anchovies is another.
Chumming is another option for catching bluefish; most of the chumming in the lower Bay region is taking place near Smith Point, and also for cobia near the Target Ship. Lately cobia fishing has been slow, and bluefish attracted by the chum are nipping the tails off the eels meant for cobia. Placing a piece of cut menhaden or spot and drifting it back in the chum slick offers a little action. Most of the bluefish being seen this week in the lower Bay are in the 14-inch to 16-inch size range. Three bluefish per day is the recreational creel limit for anglers.
There is a large influx of spot in the region. and Tangier Sound and the lower section of the Patuxent River are two of the best places to catch them. They tend to be medium in size and offer plenty of fun fishing for young and old. White perch can be mixed in at times along with a few small undersized croakers. Pieces of bloodworm and shrimp are two of the most popular baits. There have been a few reports of flounder along the channel edges of Pocomoke Sound this week, which is a very encouraging sign for anglers.
Recreational crabbers are enjoying another good week in all three regions of the Bay. In the middle and lower Bay, many can catch a full bushel of crabs per outing. Crabbers are reporting quite a few light crabs, which should be released, and also a mix of females and small crabs chewing up baits. Last week a few reports were received of dolphins following trotlines and snacking on the crabs as the trotline is hauled up to the boat.
Summertime temperatures are causing many species of freshwater fish to feed at night, so getting out on the water before the sun rises and as the sun sets can offer some of the best opportunities to fish for them. As the sun rises in the sky, fish will seek cool shade wherever they can find it.
The upper Potomac continues to flow low and clear this week, causing anglers fishing for smallmouth bass to fish with great stealth before sunrise and late in the evening hours. Throwing long casts with lines of around six-pound test and keeping a low profile make the best chances to hook up with a smallmouth bass. Casting topwater lures is always an exciting way to fish for smallmouth bass near grass and relatively shallow bottom. Root beer-colored tubes, small crankbaits, and soft plastic swim jigs offer chances at smallmouth holding in deeper waters near current breaks and underwater ledges.
The tidal Potomac and the creeks that feed into it are offering good fishing for largemouth bass and northern snakeheads. The vast hydrilla grass beds offer plenty of places for baitfish to hide, and these thick beds also provide overhead shade when floating over waters deeper than a couple of feet. Largemouth bass and northern snakeheads are feeding at night and the early morning and late evening hours often present the best opportunities to find them in a feeding mood. The snakeheads will also be found in these same locations and now that they are in a post-spawn mode they are feeding as much as possible. Casting frogs, buzzbaits, and other weedless topwater lures over grass is a great way to entice a largemouth bass or snakehead to strike a bait. Casting near the edges of these grass beds as well as spatterdock and lily pad fields is also a good tactic with white paddletails, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and chatterbaits.
These tactics carry over into tidal rivers, reservoirs, and small ponds. Northern snakeheads unfortunately are showing up in more and more non-tidal waters, so anglers are urged to remove them any chance they get, and on the fortunate side they make excellent eating.
Fishing for bluegill and other species of sunfish is a summertime passion for many, no matter one’s age. Casting small lures or just watching a bobber from a small boat, kayak, or favorite shoreline is one of those things to be enjoyed on a summer day. For fly-fishing anglers, casting small flies and foam ants with a lightweight fly rod offers plenty of excitement.
Fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish offers some lazy day bank fishing or relaxing in a small boat anchored up near a channel edge in a tidal river or creek. It does not take a lot of fancy tackle to fish for them, and cut bait, clam snouts, or chicken liver is easy to come by to entice them. Once cleaned properly by removing all the red meat and silver skin, make excellent eating. It is hard to beat fresh fried catfish and hush puppies.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Summer along the Ocean City and Assateague beaches means anglers are catching a mix of species. The best fishing opportunities are reported to be during the morning hours and a high tide helps a lot. Kingfish and spot are being caught on pieces of bloodworm, flounder and blowfish on stripes of squid and small bluefish on cut spots or mullet. Those who are throwing out large cut baits are hooking into quite a few stingrays but occasionally, an angler can be rewarded with catching and releasing a large red drum.
Fishing around the Ocean City Inlet rocks is producing a few large sheepshead that are being caught on sand fleas. The inlet is also a good place to fish for flounder from the bulkheads and the Route 50 Bridge area. Drifting baits of squid or minnows along the bottom or working Gulp baits is a good way to fish for them. In the early morning and late evening hours when boat traffic is at a minimum, casting and jigging for striped bass and bluefish can be an exciting endeavor. The back bay channels leading towards the inlet, the Thorofare, East Channel. and the channel in front of the Ocean City Airport are all good places to fish for flounder this week.
Outside the inlet, Spanish mackerel are being caught within a mile of the beaches by trolling small Clark or Drone spoons behind inline weights at about 7 knots. There are bluefish roaming the same areas and if one is trolling around 5 knots or less you may catch some bluefish in the 16-inch to 18-inch size range.
The boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites are finding good fishing for black sea bass for those anglers onboard. Strips of squid on a two-hook bottom rig are a traditional set up for sea bass fishing, but a growing number of anglers are using soft plastic jigs and small butterfly jigs with good success. Flounder are also being caught by those fishing for them and small dolphin are showing up around the boat giving anglers a thrill.
Out at the 30-fathom lumps a growing number of anglers are having good luck chunking for yellowfin tuna lately. Others are making the long trek out to the canyons to troll for a mix of yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, white marlin, and dolphin. Anglers are also deep-drop fishing for blueline tilefish with good results.
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher standard of living is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” – Aldo Leopold