Angler Nochienna Agubuzo caught a 31-inch northern snakehead in the Anacostia River at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Prince George’s County. Credit: Nochienna Agubuzo

As we move through September, the thrill of beautiful weather beckons everyone to get outside. There are lots of fishing opportunities to be found this week in Maryland waters, from the western mountains to the Atlantic Coast and everywhere in between.

Forecast Summary: September 14 – September 20:

Warming weather is predicted all this week, with daytime temperatures around the mid to upper 80s. Expect calm winds less than 10 knots with a low chance of rain all week.  Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures dropped to about 78 degrees. Maryland rivers are currently running in the mid to low 70s. 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, 45 feet; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 20 feet to 45 feet; Bloody Point, 30 feet to 40 feet; Bay Bridge, 20 feet to 30 feet; Swan Point, 25 feet; and Still Pond to Susquehanna Flats, the surface to bottom. Good deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, with adequate oxygen down to the bottom. On the Potomac River, there is adequate oxygen down to 10 feet near the Route 301 Bridge and from surface to bottom at other locations. In most locations, gamefish will likely be deeper in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures. 

Expect average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams all week. There will be above-average tidal currents on Wednesday and Thursday due to the September 10 full moon.

Most of the main Bay and rivers will have average water clarity. 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

The fishing scene at the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River has not changed to any degree this past week. A few striped bass are being caught in the early morning and late evening hours by casting topwater lures, crankbaits, and paddletails. 

Most anglers in this general area enjoy excellent fishing for catfish. Flathead catfish can be found in the dam pool, and nearby, blue catfish are found in great numbers in the lower Susquehanna, and channel catfish are spread throughout the region. Fresh cut bait of gizzard shad and menhaden tend to be the most popular, but clam snouts, chicken liver, and various scented baits also work well. Blue catfish can be found in most tidal rivers in the upper Bay. The Chester River has many blue catfish, and channel catfish can be found in every tidal river. 

Striped bass is the big draw near Pooles Island and the various lumps and shoals southeast towards Tolchester and south to the Love Point rocks. Live-lining spot, eels, and small white perch are the most popular way to fish for them, but anglers are also having good luck using soft crab and peeler baits. The piers bases at the Key Bridge are also a great place for live-lining or drifting cut bait or crab baits. Water temperatures are beginning to drop, but striped bass still struggles with temperature stress. Please visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and tips on using circle hooks to help the released fish survive.

Anglers who can get up before dawn – getting easier with the later sunrise – enjoy good fishing along the shorelines of the upper Bay and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Casting poppers, paddletails, and crankbaits are a fun, light-tackle way to fish for striped bass this week. 

White perch can be found in deep water over knolls and shoals in the Bay or oyster bottom in the tidal rivers. Fishing with peeler crab on a bottom rig is the best way to catch them. They can also be found along shoreline structures by casting small spinners and various small lures in the morning and evening hours.

Middle Bay

Credit: Herb Floyd

The Bay Bridge has good fishing action for striped bass and a mix of white perch and spot. The striped bass is being caught in the deeper waters near the bases of the bridge piers. Drifting with live spot, eels, and small white perch is excellent, but drifting cut spot, soft crab, or peeler crab baits back towards the pier bases also works well. Dropoff edges at Thomas Point and similar channel edges can also be great for live-lining or drifting baits when striped bass can be spotted on depth finders. A percentage of the striped bass at these locations can fail to meet the 19-inch minimum so anglers are urged to follow the best catch-and-release practices and remember that circle hooks are mandatory when targeting striped bass with bait.

The shallow-water fishery for striped bass is productive this week. Water temperatures have cooled a bit, and with sunrise occurring later in the morning, this is a great opportunity to cast poppers and paddletails for striped bass. The rock jetty at Poplar Island, the shores of the tidal rivers, Thomas Point, and other similar structures are all good places to fish. Speckled trout can sometimes be a bonus at times and a prize for any angler.

Spanish mackerel and bluefish continue to chase schools of bay anchovies throughout the middle Bay. These fish will be headed south soon — it will just take one cool weather spell, and they’ll be gone. To catch these summer species, trolling small gold and chartreuse Clark or Drone spoons behind planers is a good method along channel edges, from Bloody Point south past Buoy 83 down to the False Channel to the steep edge at RN2. 

Keep watch for diving birds that reveal breaking fish, and slicks are also a good sign. If casting to breaking fish, be aware that Spanish mackerel tend to move quickly through an area, so it can be difficult to keep up with them. Small metal jigs and heavy spoons are a good choice when casting into breaking fish. Speed reeling is a good tactic for Spanish mackerel, with slower retrieves for bluefish.

Fishing for white perch in the lower sections of the tidal rivers over oyster bars is a good opportunity this week. Using peeler crab for bait is a good choice on a bottom rig, and this method also works well around docks and piers over deeper waters. Casting small spinners, jigs, and roadrunner-type lures is a fun fishing option along shoreline structures during the morning and evening hours. 

Fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish continues to be good in the region’s tidal rivers. The channel catfish tend to be everywhere, and one of the best places to fish for blue catfish is the middle section of the Choptank River. The catfish can be found deep in the channels. Cut menhaden is one of the best choices for bait.

Lower Bay

Credit: Eric Packard

This will be a big week for lower Bay anglers – the weather has calmed down, and cooler nights are lowering water temperatures. Several species of summer migrant fish are extremely active. A mix of Spanish mackerel and bluefish are ripping through schools of bay anchovies along the Bay’s channel edges. The eastern edge of the shipping channel from Buoy 76 south past 72B, the Target Ship area, Tangier Sound, and the mouth of the Potomac are all good places to look for Spanish mackerel and bluefish this week. 

Trolling small gold Clark spoons and chartreuse patterned Drone spoons behind planers at 8-9 mph is a proven tactic to catch Spanish mackerel. Slower speeds will allow bluefish to catch up. Keeping a spinning rod rigged with a small metal jig or heavy spoon is a good idea when breaking fish are encountered. Trolling around the edges of such action is also a good idea, but never go through breaking fish. 

Striped bass is being found along the shorelines of the tidal rivers, creeks, and the Bay shore. The Cedar Point rocks are always a good place to cast poppers or paddletails. Casting crankbaits can also work well, and docks, piers, jetties, and bulkheads are all good places to explore. Bluefish, speckled trout, and small red drum can often be part of the mix.

Large red drum are still in the region, and watching depth finders is a good way to find them. The Target Ship, Mud Leads, and Southwest Middle Grounds are good places to look. Once spotting the fish, many anglers are jigging with large soft plastics, and others drop soft crab baits down to the fish. Trolling large spoons and hose lures behind planers or inline weights is another option, and cobia can sometimes take a hose lure.

Cobia season closes on September 15, which is the last chance to keep one. Catch-and-release fishing for cobia will be legal until the last of them depart our waters, whether you are chumming and fishing with bait, sight casting with soft plastics, or trolling. 

Spot are gaining size this week, and fishing for them has been a wonderful opportunity if you enjoy simple bottom fishing. White perch, croaker, and kingfish are often in the mix. The mouth of the Patuxent River, the lower Potomac, and Tangier Sound are excellent places to fish for them over the hard bottom. Pieces of bloodworm have been the favored bait for the spot, and peeler crab works well for white perch. 

Recreational crabbing remains good in the middle and lower Bay. The crabs are filling out for their big sleep this winter; many are at their finest and heavy with meat. The largest crabs, which are often 7 inches or larger, are coming from the deeper waters, often as far down as 20 feet. There are plenty of crabs in shallower waters, but large numbers of small crabs and sooks can make short work of trotline baits.

Freshwater Fishing

Gavin Masser caught this large redear sunfish recently at Cunningham Falls Reservoir. Credit: Gavin Masser

The waters of the mountain streams and rivers of western Maryland to the small ponds of the Eastern Shore are beginning to show signs of cooling as nighttime air temperatures dip this week. As we approach the middle of September, many freshwater fish will become more active for longer periods of time during the day. As the photoperiod of daylight diminishes, anglers will see grass beds start to break up, so any existing grass and spatterdock will be good places to target.

Working lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits around grass edges and transition zones between deeper waters and the shallower areas will be a good tactic. Dropping stick worms down through floating grass mats is a good choice for smallmouth and largemouth bass that are lounging underneath. Casting buzzbaits and frogs over grass is still an excellent choice, and in the tidal areas, northern snakeheads will be part of the mix when fishing in the grass.

If you are fishing tidal waters for largemouth bass, a falling tide is an excellent time to fish the edges of grass beds and spatterdock fields as the fish move to slightly deeper water. Northern snakeheads will often stay put in the grass, but as water temperatures cool and grass beds break up, they will be found in more open water. For the next month, casting white paddletails or fishing large minnows under a float is a good way to fish for snakeheads.

Credit: Gregory Swift

Trout fishing in the catch-and-release waters is improving with cooler conditions and good flows due to recent rains. Hatches of aquatic insects occur during the afternoon and evening hours, and there are plenty of terrestrial insects to imitate, such as grasshoppers, ants, and inchworms. 

The upper Potomac is running clear, and anglers are using light lines and long casts to have a chance of hooking up with the smallmouth bass there. Anglers report that some grass beds are beginning to break up. Boat traffic is diminishing at Deep Creek Lake, making for better fishing conditions. 

Triadelphia and Howard Duckett reservoirs are experiencing toxic blue algae blooms this week, and although the reservoirs are open to fishing, anglers are cautioned to avoid contact with the water. Centennial Lake had a similar problem earlier this summer and was closed to all boating and fishing activities but is now open. Blue-green algae blooms can cause skin irritations, rashes, and nausea.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Angler Bryan Reburn caught and released a 62-inch white marlin. Credit: Bryan Reburn

Surfcasters are catching a mix of kingfish, spot, and small bluefish again now that high surf and tide conditions have subsided. Some inshore sharks are being caught by those soaking large baits of cut menhaden and hoping the late September run of the large red drum will arrive soon.

At the inlet, sheepshead and a few tautogs are being caught at the South Jetty and the Route 50 Bridge on sand fleas. A mix of striped bass and bluefish are being caught by drifting cut bait or casting soft plastic jigs.

The back bay waters are calming down after last week’s wind, and clearer water conditions will greatly improve flounder fishing this week. Boat traffic is down, so drifting in the channels leading towards the inlet will be much less hazardous. 

Those trolling small silver Clark and Drone spoons behind planers off the beaches still catch a few Spanish mackerel, and there is plenty of bluefish. Flounder are being caught near the nearshore wrecks and reef sites this week.

The anglers heading out to the farther offshore wreck and reef sites are catching good numbers of black sea bass and a mix of small dolphins and flounder. Boats heading out to the canyons are filling fish boxes with small dolphins and those deep droppings are catching blueline tilefish. White marlin is being caught and released at the canyons by those trolling.

“Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” – Mark Twain

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