ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland is full of outdoor adventures, and getting out on the water is one of the most enjoyable. Being the captain of your own vessel can be a thrill and a learning experience for our younger anglers, under the watchful eye of adults tagging along and capturing those special moments.
Remember that hot weather creates tough conditions for striped bass survival. During the open portion of the summer season, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will run its striped bass fishing advisory forecast so anglers can better plan their fishing to lessen mortalities.
Forecast Summary: July 6 – July 12:
Sunny, warm, and relatively calm weather continues, with chances of rain on Saturday and Tuesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have reached 80 degrees, and Maryland rivers are running in the mid-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.
Coolest oxygenated bottom waters can be found from about Kent Island north to near Tolchester. At the following locations, adequate oxygen conditions can be found from the surface to these depths: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, 35 feet to the bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 25 feet to 35 feet; Bloody Point, 20 feet to 25 feet; Bay Bridge, 15 feet to 30 feet; Swan Point, 30 feet; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. Poor deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, where there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet.
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, 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 striped bass at the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna Flats areas is still very slow. Most of the striped bass are located south in the Pooles Island and Tolchester region. There certainly are plenty of flathead, channel, and blue catfish to keep anglers entertained in the lower Susquehanna River. The flatheads tend to take up residence in the dam pool waiting for injured gizzard shad coming through the power generation turbines, so fresh cut bait is almost a sure thing for catching a flathead. Blue catfish and channel catfish will be found farther down the river. Near the railroad bridge and the Havre de Grace area is a haven for large blue catfish.
The best striped bass action in the upper Bay continues to be found in the various lumps and knolls stretched from Pooles Island to the Still Pond area on a good running tide. Anglers are using spot they are catching off Sandy Point, for live-lining with very good success. A fair percentage of the striped bass are slightly undersized so care must be taken when releasing them. Rising water and air temperatures dictate that releases need to occur with the fish still in the water to protect their gills, and by regulation the use of non-offset circle hooks is mandated. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
Trolling along the channel edges in the upper Bay is a viable option for anglers this week. Most are pulling umbrella rigs behind inline weights to get down deep where the fish are suspended. Bucktails dressed with white sassy shads or twistertails are most popular with the striped bass.
The Key Bridge and the mouth of the Patapsco River offer good locations for live-lining spot or casting jigs near the bridge pier bases or the channel edges. Light-tackle jigging is also popular at the Love Point rocks and any channel edge or knoll where striped bass can be spotted on depth finders.
Casting along shoreline structure in the Bay and the lower sections of the tidal rivers in the early morning hours and late evenings is a fun and very productive way to fish for striped bass. Casting poppers over grass and shallow areas is an exciting way to find explosive surface action. Casting white paddletails in some of the slightly deeper waters near rock jetties or piers is a fun and effective way to catch striped bass this week.
Fishing for white perch is good in the tidal rivers. Anglers who can find them have been putting some nice sized white perch in the ice chest. Casting small spinners, roadrunner type lures, or small soft plastic jigs is a good way to target them near shoreline structure in the early morning and late evening hours. A simple bottom rig with a No. 4 or No. 6 hook baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm will catch them in deeper waters.
Blue and channel catfish can be found in all of the region’s tidal rivers; the blue cats tend to be in the lower sections of the rivers or out in the Bay. Any kind of cut bait works well, or items like chicken liver, clam snouts, or scented baits can be good choices. Northern snakeheads can be found in every tidal river within the upper Bay, and most are being caught on surface lures such as buzzbaits, chatterbaits, or soft plastic frogs when fishing over grass.
The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles continue to be a big draw for anglers when the tide is running. Drifting live spot, small live white perch, cut baits, or soft crab baits back to the pier bases is a popular way to fish for striped bass. At times it can be a hazardous place to anchor as the bottom snags might claim them, so some captains will nose their boat into the current and work controls in and out of neutral as anglers fish off the stern. Captains with smaller boats outfitted with GPS-controlled bow-mount electric motors definitely get their money’s worth when fishing like this. It pays to arrive early, as the fish bite better in the early morning hours and the best piers get claimed quickly. The east side of the Bay Bridge tends to offer the best striped bass fishing.
A fair percentage of the striped bass being caught tend to be undersized, so anglers need to be as careful as possible when unhooking and releasing striped bass. They represent this fall and next year’s legal-sized fish. Please visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
The west side of the Bay Bridge tends to offer the best white perch fishing opportunities in slightly shallower waters. Most anglers are using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm, and others are using dropper rigs with small soft plastic jigs, with or without a tiny piece of bloodworm on the jig. White perch can also be found at the shallower Key Bridge piers and old wharf piers nearby. The tidal rivers are a favored place to fish for white perch during the summer months, often from docks and bulkheads along the shorelines. Casting small spinners, beetle spins, and roadrunner type lures are a fun way to fish with light tackle in the morning and evening hours. Casting bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on dropper rigs is a great way to fish deeper waters any time of the day.
The channel edges in the middle Bay, whether they be the shipping channel edges or steep edges at the mouths of tidal rivers, can also be good places for live-lining spot. It just takes a little exploring to find where striped bass are suspended, but you will be rewarded with less crowding and good fishing. Some of these edges are also good places to jig with soft plastics.
The early morning and late evening shallow-water striped bass fishery is one of the best ways this week to enjoy light-tackle fishing. Anglers have been doing well with plenty of action at favored Bay spots such as the Poplar Island rocks and shoreline structure locations along the Bay and tidal rivers. Most anglers are casting poppers over shallow grass and white paddletails in deeper waters near docks and bulkheads.
Trolling along the shipping channel edges can be a good option for some. Most anglers are trolling with umbrella rigs and inline weights to get down where the striped bass are holding; white bucktails dressed with white sassy shads or twistertails are popular trailers. Bluefish are beginning to show up in the middle Bay so a few soft plastic tails may get nipped.
There are plenty of channel catfish in all of the region’s tidal rivers, and blue catfish can also be part of the mix. The Choptank River seems to hold the greatest concentration of blue catfish in the middle Bay and can be found below the town of Choptank. In the next couple of years other tidal rivers are expected to develop their own populations of invasive blue catfish – an ecological concern you can help with by fishing for them.
The tidal Potomac River will be closed to all striped bass fishing from July 7 through August 20. That steep channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges Island will be off-limits. Anglers can see all Potomac River Fisheries Commission regulations on their website. The Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay will still be open to fishing for striped bass until July 16, when all Maryland waters will be closed to fishing for striped bass though July 31. The edges of the shipping channel will attract anglers trolling umbrella rigs behind inline weights to get them down deep. Bucktails dressed with white sassy shads or twistertails are the most popular rig for striped bass. Small bluefish are steadily moving into the lower Bay and most anglers are putting one or two small Drone spoons behind inline weights into their trolling spread.
The lower Patuxent River offers some good fishing for striped bass this week. Anglers are enjoying very good light-tackle action along the shoreline docks, rocks, bulkheads and piers by casting white paddletails, jerk baits and crankbaits. Small red drum are becoming part of the light-tackle mix along with speckled trout.
The best speckled trout fishing tends to be on the eastern side of the Bay. Pearl-colored soft plastics with sparkles and those with a chartreuse bottom and pink top seem to gain their attention more than anything else. Striped bass and small red drum are also part of the mix. Anglers drifting soft crab baits at the mouths of tidal creeks and the cuts through Hoopers Island on an outgoing tide are catching large speckled trout and red drum.
The cobia fishery is slowly picking up speed and anglers are setting up chum slicks and fishing with live eels. The channel edges near Smith Point and the Target Ship area are two locations that are popular. Cobia can also be seen swimming close to the surface and a flying bridge is a great asset to spot them. Casting a live eel or a large pink soft plastic jig in front of them is exciting when they pick up the bait and the fight is on.
White perch are available in the many tidal rivers and creeks of the lower Bay – this is a popular summer species to fish for with light tackle. They can be caught in deeper waters with a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm. In the morning and evening hours casting a variety of spinners, roadrunner type lures, or small jigs is a fun way to catch some white perch. Anglers fishing with bloodworms or peeler crab are also catching small croakers and spot in the lower Patuxent River, Tangier Sound, and near the mouth of the Honga River.
The tidal Potomac, Patuxent, Wicomico, St. Marys, and Nanticoke rivers all hold large populations of blue catfish and are ready to provide plenty of fishing action. They tend to be holding in the lower parts of the rivers along channel edges this week. They will take a variety of baits including cut bait, chicken liver, and clam snouts. Anglers fishing with buzzbaits, chatterbaits, and frogs in these same areas as well as lower Dorchester County tidal waters near shallow grass will encounter northern snakeheads.
Recreational crabbing is showing some positive signs throughout the Bay. Crabbers are reporting good catches in a few of the upper Bay tidal rivers, middle Bay crabbers are reporting quite a few small crabs and immature female crabs on their trotlines, and lower Bay crabbers are also doing well. Some of the crabs being caught are extra-large and heavy and tend to fill a bushel basket rather quickly. As a reminder, the new crabbing regulations limit a boat to one bushel of crabs no matter how many licensed individuals are onboard.
Anglers are enjoying good fly-fishing opportunities for trout this week in many of the catch-and-release areas with specific gear restrictions. These cold-water streams offer world-class trout fishing for those who gear up and spend some time trying to trick trout into taking a fly, and also enjoy a very nice cool place to spend a summer day.
Anglers at Deep Creek Lake are enjoying fishing for a mix of species during the early morning hours before boat traffic picks up. As the sun climbs in the sky, smallmouth and largemouth bass will be looking for cool shade, and floating docks provide that. Skipping wacky rigged plastic worms and stick baits under the docks is a great way to entice a fish to pick up a bait.
The upper Potomac River is running low and clear this week, which is typical during the summer months. Anglers are experiencing the best smallmouth bass fishing in the early morning hours, making long casts with light lines, tubes, poppers, small crankbaits, and grubs. The shallow areas tend to be grassed up and the mats can be very thick. Although a nuisance at times, the grass provides shelter for small fish, including smallmouth bass.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently began stocking smallmouth bass fry that have been raised from adult fish that were spawned at the Joseph Manning Hatchery in Cedarville this spring. These supplemental stockings help smallmouth bass populations in the upper Potomac. After the fry emerged from their nests they were transferred to several grow-out ponds and held until they reached 2-3 inches in size. On June 14 crews stocked a total of 15,000 smallmouth bass fingerlings in the upper Potomac River at Taylors Landing, Snyder’s Landing, Shepherdstown, and Dargan Bend boat ramps. On June 29 an additional 15,000 smallmouth bass fingerlings were stocked at Brunswick, Point of Rocks, Noland’s Ferry, Whites Ferry, and Edwards Ferry boat ramps.
Largemouth bass are in a summer mode of behavior where they are feeding during the night close to shallow grass. They will linger in the early morning hours and will approach these areas during the late evening hours. Casting topwater lures in these shallow areas is a good tactic, and northern snakeheads can often be in the mix. Switching to grubs, wacky rigged plastics, and small crankbaits is a good bet when the fish retreat to deep water near structure. They will also find shade under docks, moored boats, thick grass mats, fallen treetops, and brush, and can be enticed to pick up a wacky rigged plastic.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Anglers fishing off the beaches are catching a summertime mix of kingfish and a few spot, flounder, and small bluefish. Flounder fishing off the beaches is good this week for those casting pink Gulp Baits or squid strips.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, flounder are being caught by anglers drifting in the channels or by those casting from the jetties and bulkheads. Casting pink Gulps, bucktails dressed with a strip of squid, or a bottom rig with squid or minnow is a great way to target them. Sheepshead are beginning to show up in the area and anglers using sand fleas are catching a few large ones. In the early morning and late evening hours, casting bucktails or soft plastics is a good way to target striped bass and bluefish before and after peak boat traffic.
Flounder fishing in the back bay channels has been very good this week due to clear water conditions. The channels near the inlet and Sinepuxent Bay are all good places to drift for flounder – just be careful of boat traffic.
Outside the inlet there are Spanish mackerel and bluefish to be caught relatively close to shore by trolling small Clark and Drone spoons behind inline weights. There are also flounder being caught by anglers drifting over some of the nearshore shoals. There are also reports of a few cobia being spotted near the shoal areas.
The captains taking their anglers out to the wreck and reef sites are finding good fishing this week. Most everyone can catch a nice batch of sea bass, and some are catching limits. Once catching their limit of sea bass, anglers targeting flounder are catching them as well.
Out at the canyons the trolling bite for yellowfin tuna has been a bit sparse, with only a few tuna being landed here and there, and some of them were undersized and had to be released. Many anglers are switching to deep-drop fishing for blueline tilefish, which makes some exciting action and great eating.
Offshore anglers should be aware that the shortfin mako fishery in Maryland state waters will close July 10, to implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s interstate fishery management plan for coastal sharks. The fishery is already closed in federal waters. For more information on the closure now in effect, see the NOAA website.
“One brisk morning spent fishing on a misty lake can bring home to a child the beauty, drama, and fragility of our natural heritage in a way a thousand classroom presentations never could.” – President George H.W. Bush
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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