Spend your time enjoying family and friends as the end of summer now looms on the horizon. Before they return to school, load up your young’uns and take them on summer fishing adventures. There is plenty of fun out there and plenty of fish to keep them busy and build lasting memories.
Striped bass fishing has resumed in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The July two-week closure to protect the resource during the hottest part of summer has ended, but the Department of Natural Resources still advises you to take caution when targeting striped bass. Please check our weekly Striped Bass Advisory Forecast to ensure weather conditions are safe for the fish you catch and release.
Forecast Summary: August 2 – August 8:
Bay waters will continue to warm up with moderate, sunny conditions ahead with a chance of thunderstorms on Thursday, Friday, and Monday. Main Bay surface water temperatures are about average this time of year but will likely increase back to the mid 80s later this week. The coolest main Bay surface waters are found between the Patapsco River and Annapolis.
Bay salinity is still above average. While there is still low oxygen, or hypoxia, in bottom waters, the hypoxia volume in June was very low and among the best on record. On the west side of the Bay from the Patapsco down to the Rhode River, avoid fishing below 15-20 feet. In these areas, better oxygen conditions will be found on the east side of the Bay. Check the areas of low oxygen map to help determine the maximum fishing depth in your favorite area.
Expect average flows all week, although localized thunderstorms may increase flows in nearby waters. There will be above average tidal currents through Sunday as a result of the full moon on August 1. Expect average 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
The 2023 summer-fall striped bass season is open, and anglers will be casting topwater lures and paddletails for striped bass in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River. The best fishing will occur during the early morning and late evening hours. The dam is now in its summer power generation schedule so evening anglers need to be aware of increased flows if wading.
Blue catfish remain a focus for anglers in the lower Susquehanna and most of the tidal rivers in the upper Bay, because there are plenty of them, they are relatively easy to catch, and they make fine eating. Fishing for white perch is also a major focus for anglers in the tidal rivers and select knolls in the upper Bay. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, pieces of bloodworm, or artificially scented baits are popular. Casting small jigs, spinnerbaits and beetle-spins along shorelines is a fun way to catch white perch during the morning and evening.
Spot are still being found close to Podickory Point, Sandy Point State Park, the shallower west end of the Bay Bridge, the mouth of the Magothy River, and inside the Patapsco River and Curtis Creek. Most are small enough to use in live-lining for striped bass.
The mouth of the Patapsco River would be a good place to start fishing for striped bass by live-lining spot. Striped bass fishing should also be good at the Love Point rocks and the Tolchester Lumps.
Striped bass anglers picked up right where they left off now that the striped bass season has reopened. One angler reported success catching striped bass off Chesapeake Beach by live-lining spot in 30 feet of water. It will take some exploring to track down where striped bass might be holding. Some good places to start will be the east end of the Bay Bridge, the shipping channel edges, the mouths of the tidal rivers, and near Poplar Island. Due to warm water temperatures and bright sun, the best fishing will be during the morning and evening on a running tide.
Jigging and trolling along the edges of the shipping channel are good tactics this week. Soft plastic jigs are the most popular lure to use when jigging. Trolling umbrella rigs with swimshads or bucktails dressed with curly tails as trailers and small Drone spoons behind No. 1 planers or inline weights can be a good way to fish. The channel edge from Buoy 83 south to the Sharps Island Light is reported to be a good place to find bluefish.
Anglers fishing early mornings and late evenings along the shallow waters in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers are finding speckled trout and striped bass. A few slot-size red drum are also being reported by anglers. Casting topwater lures in the form of poppers and Zara Spooks are a popular way to fish, paddletails also make a good choice. Once the sun climbs above the horizon fishing success usually declines quickly.
Bluefish are becoming more common in the middle Bay, and Spanish mackerel can be found mixed in with them. If you’re lucky you may see diving gulls marking locations where the bluefish have pushed schools of bay anchovies to the surface. Casting small heavy and shiny metal jigs or Got-cha lures into the breaking fish, allowing it to sink before retrieving is popular. Slower retrieves will entice bluefish to strike, faster retrieves are more effective for Spanish mackerel.
Fishing for white perch is in full swing and they can be found in many easily accessible locations. Any dock or pier over some decent depth of water usually holds white perch close to the pilings. White perch love structure, so fish straight down with a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp. Pieces of bloodworms, peeler crab or small minnows provide an easy and fun way to catch them. Make sure to check local tide tables, since a good moving tide is important. During the early morning and late evening, casting small spinnerbaits and beetle-spins near shoreline structure will catch white perch.
In the tidal rivers, anglers are enjoying good fishing for channel and blue catfish from small boats and from shore. Blue catfish can show up in any tidal river, but the lower Choptank River holds the greatest number within the region. The deeper channel water from the Dover Bridge downriver to below the town of Choptank is holding blue catfish.
Anglers have many options in the lower Bay. Striped bass season is now open again in Maryland waters, although Virginia waters and the main stem of the Potomac River remain closed. Increasing numbers of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, red drum, and cobia are steadily moving into the region.
Striped bass can be found along the shorelines on both sides of the Bay and in the tidal rivers. Casting topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails is a popular way to fish during the early morning and late evening when tides are moving. Structure such as rocks, deepwater piers, bridge piers, stump fields, and grass beds are all good places to target. When fishing over grass beds, placing a popping cork over the paddletail will help keep it above the grass; this is an excellent way to target speckled trout. Red drum within the 18-inch to 27-inch slot limit are being caught this week, mostly on the eastern side of the Bay around Tangier Sound, but they can also be found along the western shore.
Fishing for a mix of white perch, small croaker, and spot could hardly be better in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. The lower Patuxent River has been a standout lately, and as the summer progresses the spot are becoming larger. This is a great opportunity to take youngsters out fishing since the action is nonstop. The top choice for bait is bloodworms and artificial bloodworm-scented baits. White perch can also be caught in shallow waters during the mornings and evenings on small spinnerbaits, beetle-spins, and jigs.
Bay anchovies are the general target of the bluefish and Spanish mackerel, which are providing good fishing opportunities for anglers along the edges of the shipping channel, Tangier Sound, and other areas. When they push baitfish to the surface the action can be an exciting event to encounter – casting small but heavy and flashy metal jigs or Got-Cha plugs into the fray is a fun way to catch them. Fast retrieves are best for Spanish mackerel, slower for bluefish. Anglers should watch for large marks on their depth finders under the surface action and keep a sturdy outfit rigged with a large soft plastic jig or spoon in case large red drum show up.
These large red drum are found mostly in the general area of the Target Ship, the Mud Leads, and the Middle Grounds. Often, they can be found by troubled or discolored water and large marks on a depth finder. Dropping soft crab baits to them or jigging with large soft plastics is a great way to enjoy some exciting catch-and-release action.
Anglers are anxiously waiting for better numbers of cobia to move into the lower Bay. Chumming and sight-fishing are the two most popular ways to fish for them near the Target Ship, the Middle Grounds, Tangier and Pocomoke sounds, and Smith Point. Anglers are drifting live eels at the very back of their chum slicks. Those sight fishing are casting large soft plastics and live eels to cobia when they are spotted.
Recreational crabbers are reporting mixed results this week. Water temperatures in most tidal rivers are holding around 86 degrees and some areas have experienced heavy rain. Most upper Bay crabbers can catch up to a half bushel per outing. Middle and lower Bay crabbers are reporting a half to a full bushel of crabs. Many are finding the best crabbing in shallow waters that are less than 10 feet, but they report encountering a lot of small crabs. Others are reporting large crabs in 12’ to 15’ of water. Although reported success is mixed, one thing is definite – you can’t catch crabs while sitting on your back porch contemplating whether to go or not.
It is the peak of summer vacation at Deep Creek Lake and there is plenty of safe fun to be found, whether you are with the kids watching a bobber from shore or out in the lake fishing the depths. Rainbow trout can be found deep along the dam face by trolling worm rigs, and a mix of smallmouth bass, large yellow perch, and perhaps a walleye can be caught by drifting live minnow deep along grass beds. A mix of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass can be found lounging in the shade under floating docks and caught by flipping wacky rigged worms under the docks.
Many of the trout streams and even the upper Potomac River are experiencing typical low flows this week. Fishing them often calls for light lines and long casts. Tailrace waters usually have good flow rates – the upper Gunpowder and the North Branch of the Potomac are just two examples. Many anglers write off trout fishing during the summer, but the catch-and-release trout management waters offer good fishing opportunities all season.
For many freshwater anglers, the summer months mean lazily fishing favorite ponds, reservoirs, and tidal waters for largemouth bass. If you get out on the water early you can find largemouth bass still cruising in relatively shallow water feeding on baitfish, crawfish, and whatever else looks like food. Casting topwater frogs, buzzbaits, and weedless soft plastics over grass can cause some exciting surface strikes. Working spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastic baits along the edges of grass beds and brush piles in slightly deeper waters is a great tactic for largemouth bass moving along the deeper edges.
As the sun climbs into the sky, most largemouth bass will go deep looking for cool shade and structure like sunken wood and bridge piers. Largemouth bass can also be found under thick mats of floating grass in slightly deeper waters and under old docks or overhanging brush. Proven tactics include working wacky rigged soft plastics near deep-water hideouts or dropping them through the floating grass and working them slowly.
Northern snakeheads are holding in the same grassy waters as largemouth bass. Most are protecting fry balls – their very young – and they will attack anything that threatens their progeny. Casting noisy buzzbaits, frogs, and chatterbaits near the fry balls can elicit a violent strike.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Along the beaches of Assateague Island, surf anglers are enjoying some exciting catch-and-release action with large red drum during the evening hours. Large baits of cut mullet, menhaden, or clams are enticing these large fish. Inshore sharks can also be part of the evening mix. When fishing these species using circle hooks, it is a good idea for fish and angler to flatten the barb. It makes removing the hook a lot easier, especially on sharks, and if a fish breaks away they can often loosen the hook over time.
Anglers using smaller baits of bloodworm – real or artificial – are catching kingfish and spot. Casting Gulp baits or squid strips into the surf can be a good way to catch flounder; northern blowfish are also hitting the squid baits. Cut bait or finger mullet is a good way to catch bluefish in the surf.
At the Ocean City Inlet, sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas near the South Jetty and the bridge piers of the Route 50 Bridge. Bluefish and striped bass are roaming the area and are being caught by casting soft plastic jigs and Got-Cha lures and by drifting cut bait.
Outside the inlet and relatively close to shore, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are being caught by anglers trolling Drone and Clark spoons in gold, chrome, and various colors behind No. 1 and No. 2 planers. At the wreck and reef sites fishing for a mix of sea bass and flounder has been very good.
Farther offshore at the 30-fathom lumps and the canyons, anglers who are trolling are finding improving catches of yellowfin tuna, with a few bigeye tuna at times. White marlin are being caught and released and anglers are finding good numbers of small dolphin near lobster pot buoys and flotsam. Deep-drop anglers are catching blueline and golden tilefish.
“I have fished through fishless days that I remember happily without regret” – Roderick Haig Brown
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.