We wish you a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday with family and friends. Many anglers will take advantage of a little time off to fish and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with fishing. As a reminder, July 4 is the last free fishing day being offered in Maryland for 2023.
As we advise anglers every year, high summer air and water temperatures increase catch-and-release mortalities in striped bass. The Striped Bass Summer Fishing Advisory Forecast is an awareness campaign aimed to reduce striped bass mortality during times when conditions are most dangerous for the fish. A color-coded recommendation allows anglers to plan their striped bass fishing trips up to seven days in advance.?
Forecast Summary: June 28 – July 4
Expect partly cloudy with continued warm weather and a chance of rain later in the week. Main Bay surface water temperatures are holding in the upper 70s. Bay salinity is still above average. Some areas of low oxygen are present in bottom waters from Middle River down to Bloody Point, as well as in the Potomac River near Colonial Beach. Avoid fishing below 20 feet in these areas. However, there are still plenty of cool, well oxygenated areas in the Bay to pursue gamefish, including the main Bay from Tolchester north to the Susquehanna Flats, and the area from Gooses Reef south to the Virginia line.
Expect below average flows all week. However, localized thunderstorms may increase flows in nearby waters. There will be above average tidal currents Thursday through Tuesday as a result of the upcoming full moon on July 3. Expect average water clarity in Maryland’s waters. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
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
Anglers are witnessing typical power generation at the Conowingo Dam, which refreshes the lower Susquehanna with some cooler water. Anglers might expect some of the better striped bass fishing to occur during the evening hours in the river. Anglers are fishing the dam pool in the early morning and evening hours and catching striped bass and snakeheads by casting topwater lures and paddletails.
The lower Susquehanna River, much of the upper Bay, and its tidal rivers provide plenty of fishing action for a mix of blue and channel catfish. Drop any form of cut bait or a variety of other baits on the bottom and most likely you will soon have a catfish on your line.
The best striped bass fishing occurs again at the mouth of the Patapsco River and near Hart-Miller Island. Most anglers are using spot for live lining in the channel at the mouth of the river with very good results. Boats are also coming from the lower and middle Bay to fish in the area. The fish being caught are reported to be in the 20-inch and larger category and anglers are limiting out.
There are also good jigging and trolling opportunities in the Patapsco River near the Key Bridge and the mouth of the river. Jigging or trolling along the channel edges, or jigging near the bridge piers, provide good options for anglers. There are reports of striped bass action near the Love Point Rocks and Swan Point.
There are plenty of spot to be found this week to use for live-lining in the upper Bay – at the mouth of the Magothy River, and near the shores of Podickory Point, and the shallower west end of the Bay Bridge. Anglers are also finding a mix of white perch and small croakers in the same areas.
Anglers not targeting striped bass enjoy good fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers and creeks of the upper Bay. Grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig work well in deeper waters near structure. Casting small spinnerbaits, jigs, and spinners are a fun way to catch white perch along shorelines.
Plenty of blue catfish and northern snakeheads are to catch in the lower Susquehanna River area and south along the Bay shore and tidal rivers. The Middle River area has been offering excellent fishing for snakeheads in the grassy areas.
Striped bass anglers are finding some action on the east side of the Bay Bridge at the 35-foot drop-off by jigging or drifting back to the bridge pier bases with live spot or soft crab baits. The best action occurs on a good running tide during the early morning hours. The same can be said for exploring Thomas Point and the rocks at Poplar Island; the morning hours offer the best opportunities for those casting soft plastic jigs, paddletails, or topwater lures. Many striped bass anglers are making the run up to the mouth of the Patapsco River.
The lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers hold the best option for light-tackle anglers. The early morning and late evening hours offer good shallow-water fishing for striped bass. Casting poppers with spinning gear or skipping bugs with fly fishing tackle over grass beds is always an exciting way to fish for striped bass. A percentage of the striped bass are falling a little short of 19 inches but offer plenty of fun. Casting paddletails and jerkbaits in slightly deeper waters near docks, bulkheads, and breakwaters can also be a good option. Trolling a couple of flatlines with bucktails dressed with curly tails along the deeper edges of the shorelines can also be a great option.
A mix of white perch, spot, and small croakers are offering good fishing this week at the lower areas of the tidal rivers and out in the Bay behind Hacketts Point, Kent Narrows, Eastern Bay, and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. White perch can also be found around docks and piers and caught on small jigs and bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. White perch can be found along shorelines with sunken structure such as wood, breakwaters, and prominent points. Casting small spinnerbaits, spinners and soft plastic swimbaits can offer summer fun in the morning and evening.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources fish hatcheries have been raising and stocking young of the year hickory shad and American shad for many years, working to restore anadromous adult populations to suitable rivers in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Recently they stocked about 500,000 young of the year American shad into the upper Choptank River. The department hopes that in 3 to 5 years of living on the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean they will return to the Choptank River as adults to spawn and complete the life cycle naturally. They can also provide some fun catch-and-release fishing.
The best striped bass fishing in the lower Bay has been occurring in the Eastern Shore’s tidal rivers, Bay shorelines, and tidal marsh edges. This week, the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers and the Hoopers Island area are good places to fish for striped bass. Most anglers are either using spot for live-lining or jigging with soft plastics along the 20-foot channel edges.
The shallow water fishery for striped bass, speckled trout, and slot-size red drum is an option during the early morning and late evening hours. Grass beds, stump fields, and structure in bridge piers, docks, breakwaters, and prominent points are good places to target with spinnerbaits, paddletails, crankbaits, and topwater lures. Others are having good luck by drifting soft crab baits near creek mouths on a falling tide.
There are plenty of white perch holding in traditional summer habitat this week, docks, oyster beds and bridge piers are great places to find them in deeper waters with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. Shallower waters along shorelines are fun places to cast small lures for white perch.
Anyone fishing the Chesapeake Bay knows there are cownose rays in large numbers. The Environment and Natural Resources departments are receiving increasing reports from concerned citizens about illegal dumping of cownose ray carcasses at boat ramps and roadsides. This practice is a health hazard, a terrible sight for the public, and considered littering by law enforcement. Once dead, a cownose ray is a lot of stinky stuff to dispose of – please urge anyone you see dealing with them to be responsible when disposing of them.
Recreational crabbers are reporting fair to good catches of blue crabs from the upper Bay tidal rivers south to the lower Bay. Some of the best catches tend to come from water depths ranging from 8 feet to 12 feet. The crabs that shed in early June are filling out nicely and large and extra-large crabs are rounding out catches.
Flow rates in the western and central region trout waters are low this week, which is typical during the summer. Trout anglers will be tested for their stealth and presentation in these skinny water conditions. Terrestrials will be popular; ants and hoppers are popular choices and one can never go wrong with nymphs and streamers.
The upper Potomac River received a slight bump in water levels earlier this week but is leveling off once again to very low flow conditions, which are ideal for wading and fishing for smallmouth bass. This type of fishing was made just for the summer. The early morning and late evening hours offer the best fishing opportunities.
Deep Creek Lake is approaching the height of the summer vacation season on the coming holiday weekend. There is plenty of good fishing out on the lake but just be careful of recreational boat traffic; it is often best to be off the lake by 8 am. Smallmouth bass and yellow perch are holding deep along grass lines, northern pike at the mouths of coves, and largemouth bass near floating docks and sunken wood. Bluegills can be found along shorelines and floating docks.
Fishing for largemouth bass is very good this week across Maryland in farm ponds, reservoirs, and tidal waters. The largemouth bass are moving into their typical summer mode of behavior, so the best shallow-water fishing occurs during the morning and evening hours. Topwater lures are always fun and casting frogs and buzzbaits near shallow grass can elicit exciting strikes. Northern snakeheads are a big part of the equation when fishing shallow grass this time of the year; they can be found in every tidal river and creek.
Casting spinnerbaits and jerkbaits around the edges of grass beds, spatterdock fields and lily pads are a proven tactic. Grubs, wacky rigged worms, and crankbaits are good choices to fish deep cover like sunken wood, drop-offs, and bridge piers. As the day wears on, largemouths will look for shade in deeper water under old docks, overhanging brush, or under thick mats of floating grass. Wacky rigged worms dropped through the grass with heavy weight or flipped near shade and allowed to work slowly is a good tactic for loafing largemouths.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf conditions have not been ideal, but this week looks promising with calmer winds in the forecast. Kingfish and spot should entertain those fishing with bloodworms or imitation baits. Small bluefish will be looking for cut mullet, and unfortunately so will cownose rays.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, anglers enjoy good fishing for a mix of striped bass and large bluefish by casting soft plastic jigs and Got-Cha lures near the South Jetty and the bulkheads and dock piers in the area. Those fishing from the Route 50 Bridge are having luck drifting cut baits.
The channels leading from the inlet and many of the back bay channels are the place to be if you’re fishing for flounder. The Thorofare and East Channel are always popular, but hold the risk of large boats creating troublesome wakes behind them. Generally less boat traffic and good flounder fishing is found in front of the Ocean City Airport and Sinepuxent Bay. Many anglers are using live bait such as small menhaden and spot to target the larger flounder with good success. Gulp baits are another method for targeting the larger flounder. Various summer fish are beginning to appear in the Ocean City area.
Outside the inlet, anglers are catching Spanish mackerel and bluefish by trolling Clark spoons behind inline weights. Flounder are also being caught on some of the shoal locations.
Farther offshore at the wreck and reef sites, black sea bass and large flounder entertain anglers. Some of the flounder are impressive and limit catches are not uncommon. At the Wilmington and Poorman’s canyons, the trolling anglers are catching some large bigeye, yellowfin, and dolphin tuna.
“The question of sportsmanship depends entirely upon the individual, not on the tackle used in catching the fish.” – Ray Bergman