This is an exciting week for fishing and crabbing in Maryland! The Chesapeake Bay striped bass season has reopened, and more seasonal fish are arriving in the Bay, rivers, and Atlantic Ocean.
Remember that hot weather creates tough conditions for undersized striped bass that are caught and released. From now until September, DNR once again will run its striped bass fishing advisory forecast so anglers can better plan their fishing for striped bass to lessen mortalities.
Forecast Summary: August 3 – August 9:
Very warm weather is predicted all this week with daytime temperatures in the 90s through most of Maryland. Calm winds are expected throughout the next week., with a chance of rain and thunderstorms possible Friday through 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.
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.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
Now that striped bass season is open again, anglers have been casting topwater lures in the Conowingo Dam pool in the early morning hours. The reports from the pool and the Susquehanna Flats reveal a few striped bass are being caught with a fair percentage measuring shy of the 19-inch minimum.
Many anglers in the lower Susquehanna River are sticking to fishing for a mix of flathead, blue, and channel catfish from the dam pool and beyond the mouth of the river. The catfish are providing plenty of exciting fishing action and good eating.
The fishing fleet showed up on August 1 at the lumps and shoals between Pooles Island and Rock Hall to resume the live-lining spot. The striped bass was still holding there, and fishing picked up where it left off before the late July closure. What also resumed is the warm water conditions that create stress on striped bass that are returned to the water. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks
There are good reports from the Love Point rocks, where anglers are having good luck with live-lining spot and jigging with soft plastics. The bridge piers at the Key Bridge at the mouth of the Patapsco River is another location where anglers are succeeding with live-lining spot or eels, or working soft plastic jigs close to the pier bases.
Anglers are finding white perch on the 7-foot and 9-foot knolls and the Snake Reef by using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. White perch are also being found in the lower Patapsco River near old pilings, and the Key Bridge piers in about 15 feet of water. All the region’s tidal rivers and creeks have populations of white perch that provide summer fun by fishing from docks or by casting small lures during the morning and evening hours along shoreline structures.
Striped bass fishing at the Bay Bridge piers started August 1 right where it left off before the late July closure. Boats were lined up early, drifting live spot, cut bait, or soft crab baits to the pier bases. Most anglers did well but there continues to be a significant number of fish being caught that fall short of the 19-inch minimum so extreme care needs to be taken when releasing them to prevent discard mortality. Always release them in the water if possible to protect their gills and reduce stress.
Anglers that did a little exploring along channel edges with their depth finders found striped bass suspended near the mouth of Eastern Bay at the Hill and the thin shelf between Stone Rock and the clay bank. Once they locate a concentration of fish, most anglers are live-lining spot. Striped bass can be found along channel edges throughout the middle Bay. In all situations, the mornings offer the best fishing opportunities on a running tide.
Small bluefish are present in the middle Bay and can be found as far north as Kent Island. They tend to be in the 14-inch to 16-inch size range and can be caught by trolling small spoons or by casting into breaking fish. They are also showing up for those that are live lining-spot but will fall short of the hook when biting a spot in half. If you are interested in getting vengeance for that and reaching your three-bluefish limit, try a few chunks of fresh cut spot.
Spanish mackerel are becoming more common in the middle Bay this week and their numbers will most likely increase. Casting small jigs into breaking bluefish, Spanish mackerel can often be caught by allowing the jig to sink deep and then speed-reeling it in. Trolling small Drone or Clark spoons behind planers at 7 to 9 knots is a tried-and-true method.
Speckled trout continue to be caught this weekend although the action seems to have slowed down a bit. Casting a variety of soft plastics along deeper shoreline structures such as the Poplar Island rocks or breakwaters is often a good tactic in the early morning hours. Striped bass is being caught in the same areas and shallower waters along the Bay shore and lower sections of the tidal rivers. You must be out before dawn because once the sun rises above the horizon the striped bass and speckled trout head for deeper waters.
Fishing for white perch in the summer always provides some fun fishing from docks and shorelines in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. It doesn’t take much, just a dock in the water of 8 feet or more, a running current, and some grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig. Others find their fun by casting small spinners and roadrunner-type lures near shoreline structures during the early morning and late evening.
There are plenty of channel catfish to be caught in the region’s tidal rivers on cut bait and a variety of other baits. Blue catfish tend to show up here and there but the greatest concentrations of them are in the lower Choptank River, from the town of Choptank to the town of Secretary. The edges of the channel are the best place to find them.
Some of the best-striped bass fishing to be found in the lower Bay is along the deeper shorelines that have structure. Docks, piers, rock jetties, and seawalls are all good places to cast a mix of paddle tails and soft plastic jigs for a mix of striped bass and speckled trout. The best-striped bass fishing is on the western side of the Bay, and the speckled trout tend to be more plentiful on the eastern side. An early start before dawn is best and the action tends to shut down by mid-morning. A good tide is always important and the late evening hours also offer some success.
Small bluefish are spread throughout the lower Bay this week and Spanish mackerel are becoming more common. The bluefish are in the 14-inch to 16-inch size range and are chasing bay anchovies, which often presents the opportunity to cast into breaking fish. Casting a small metal or plastic jig, letting it sink a bit, and then speed-reeling is the best way to target the Spanish mackerel.
Trolling a small Drone and Clark spoons behind inline weights or No. 2 and No. 3 planers is the best way to target the bluefish and Spanish mackerel. A slower trolling speed of about 5 knots will allow the bluefish to catch up to lures, while 7-9 knots is the best speed to target Spanish mackerel.
Catch-and-release fishing for large red drum is good for those who take the time to target them. They can be targeted by looking for slicks or cloudy water conditions, or by picking them up on a depth finder. The area around Buoy 72A and the Target Ship are good places to look for them. Red drum have a large and thick air bladder, so they often show up on a depth finder like submarines. Casting and jigging into likely-looking waters are a favorite way to fish with heavy spinning outfits. Others choose to drop a large piece of soft crab on a circle hook into the mass of fish. Trolling large silver or gold spoons behind heavy inline weights is another way to target red drum and a good way to cover a lot of water during the search.
Fishing for spot has been excellent at the mouth of the Patuxent River and in Tangier Sound. Most anglers have no problem catching a good mess of them, they tend to be medium in size but are very tasty. Fishing for white perch is good this week in the tidal rivers, most are using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm near deep-water piers or oyster bottom out in the rivers.
Fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish in the tidal rivers offer some fun and productive outdoor experience. The channel catfish can be found in every river and creek within the region; blue catfish concentrations are at their greatest in the Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers. The edges of the channels tend to be the best place to fish for them during the summer months.
Recreational crabbing continues to be worth the effort. In many areas, the 10-foot edge seems to be the sweet spot for trotlines and collapsible traps. Both razor clams and chicken necks are working well. You will have to work for your crabs but most who stick it out can catch a full bushel of large crabs per outing in the middle and lower Bay. Upper Bay crabbers are averaging a half-bushel per outing. Be advised that female crabs, light crabs, and small crabs – all of which are thrown back – are reported to be hogging up trotline baits.
We are deep into the hottest part of the summer, and in many areas, there is a distinct lack of rain. Many freshwater fish species are having as tough a time as we are, and they don’t have air conditioning. The western region streams do have elevated water temperatures, but many have a tree canopy over them to help keep the waters cool. Waters that are open to the relentless power of the sun can become borderline trout habitats. In most cases, trout are feeding late in the evening and before dawn in the early morning hours and in stressful conditions just lay low and try to bear it until the cooler temperatures in fall.
The upper Potomac is running very low and clear this week. Anglers are talking about fishing with a 6-pound test line and making long casts. The best fishing is before the sun rises in the sky. Topwater lures are working well near grass beds and shallow rock shelves. Tubes, crankbaits, and soft plastic craw jigs in crayfish patterns are working the best. The warm-water hatchery program released another stocking of juvenile-sized smallmouth bass recently to bolster populations in the upper Potomac.
In this weather, you will notice that dogs are lying in the shade and people are staying inside during the heat of the day – doing outdoor work in the morning or evening hours. Largemouth bass and northern snakeheads are doing the same thing. They are fed at night and loafing during the day under any kind of cool shade they can find. The best fishing opportunities are early in the morning and late in the evening when the fish are prowling the shallows looking for a meal. Poppers, buzzbaits, and frogs can be good choices for this type of fishing. The fish will retreat to shade in the form of docks, fallen treetops, or thick floating mats of milfoil. Dropping a wacky rigged stick worm in front of their face can often entice a pickup.
Northern snakehead fishing is best during the morning and evening hours, and anglers are catching plenty of them this week in the tidal Potomac and Patuxent and the creeks and tidal rivers of lower Dorchester County. Casting buzzbaits or frogs over grass is an exciting way to fish for them; casting white paddletails probably accounts for more snakeheads than any other lure. If rigged weedless it can be worked through thin grass and spatterdock fields.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
The hot days of summer have arrived at the Maryland beaches and the surfside fish are feeling it. The best fishing for kingfish is occurring during the early morning hours or evening hours, and a high tide helps. Bloodworms are the steady ticket for kingfish and some spot that are roaming the surf. Bluefish are being caught on cut spot or mullet and flounder on squid strips.
At the inlet, sheepshead and triggerfish are being caught around the rocks and bulkheads on sand fleas. Striped bass and bluefish are being caught during the morning and evening hours by casting bucktails dressed with twistertails or soft plastic jigs near piers, rocks, the Route 50 Bridge, and the channel.
Flounder are being caught in the inlet and most all the channels leading from the inlet; the Thorofare and East Channel are always popular. The channel in front of the Ocean City Airport is also a good place to find flounder.
Anglers that are trolling small Drone and Clark spoons within a mile of the beaches are still catching Spanish mackerel this week. Inline weights and planers help get the spoons down to where the fish are moving. A trolling speed of 8 knots or so is required to entice Spanish mackerel to strike, slower speeds near 5 knots will allow bluefish to catch up.
The boats hauling anglers out to the wreck and reef sites are reporting limited catches of black sea bass on many days. Some anglers who have met their limit are focused on floundering and catching some nice ones. Small dolphins are showing up from time to time and a real bonus for anglers who have never caught one.
There continues to be some on and off again action at the 30-fathom lump; the Hog Dog produced some nice yellowfin tuna for that chunking with butterfish recently. The boats heading out to the canyons are reporting a mix of yellowfin tuna, and bigeye tuna. and white marlin releases. Small dolphins are also being found at the lobster pot buoys now and then. Deep-drop anglers are catching blueline tilefish.
“Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery elements are made for wise men to contemplate and for fools to pass by without consideration.” – Izaak Walton