ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland anglers are adjusting to some unexpectedly changing fisheries and are targeting invasive species. Northern snakeheads, blue catfish, and flathead catfish populations are expanding rapidly in Maryland waters, and anglers are taking up the challenge to reduce their populations. The old adage of making lemonade out of lemons comes to mind, since they all taste so good.
The next two Saturdays, June 4 and June 11, are license-free fishing days in Maryland waters, so don’t let them pass without taking someone out who has not been fishing in a while, or someone who has never fished before. The last free fishing day of the year will be July 4.
Forecast Summary: June 1 – June 7:
Expect sunny, warm, and calm conditions this week, perfect for enjoying fishing in Maryland’s waters. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have increased to the middle to upper 70s and will likely continue to rise all week. If you are seeking the warmest waters, fish the surface later in the day as well as downwind areas. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, and deeper waters or upwind areas later. Maryland rivers are currently running in the mid to upper 70s.
There is plenty of oxygen for Bay fish from surface to bottom in most areas. However, in the Choptank River above Cambridge, adequate oxygen can only be found down to about 20 feet.
There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the Tolchester area of the main Bay and the Back and Patapsco rivers, along with the middle Potomac River near Colonial Beach.
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
The upper reaches of the Bay and the lower Susquehanna River are now open to striped bass fishing. The minimum size is 19 inches and the catch limit is one fish per day. Casting soft plastic jigs, topwater lures, and jerkbaits in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna river and flats edges in the morning and evening hours will be a favorite way to fish.
Constellation Energy has been operating both fish lifts at Conowingo Dam and transporting American shad and river herring to upstream locations on the Susquehanna River. By the end of May, more than 3,800 American shad and almost 10,000 river herring had been captured and transported upstream to spawn. American shad catches are low this year while river herring captures have been the highest in the past 20 years. In addition, more than 700 invasive fish, mostly snakeheads, have been removed from the fish lifts. The annual operation to support the shad migration will be complete in the coming days.
Although striped bass will be a new and favored target in the lower Susquehanna River and the surrounding tidal rivers and upper Bay, blue catfish will be a major player in the fishing scene. There are a lot of large blue catfish in the region and any bait meant for striped bass close to the bottom will surely be picked up by blue catfish or channel catfish. Many anglers are becoming more familiar with blue catfish and enjoying the action and the fine table fare they provide.
Trolling is one of the most popular ways to fish for striped bass this week in the upper Bay. Popular methods are trolling a mix of bucktails dressed with sassy shads in white or chartreuse, or swim shads in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. The shipping channel edges near the Triple Buoys, Swan Point, Love Point, Podickory Point, and near the Bay Bridge are all good places to troll.
Jigging is another popular way to fish for striped bass where fish can be found suspended along channel edges, as well as the piers of the Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge. The Love Point rocks also provide a good place to find striped bass this week.
A few anglers are drifting soft crab baits, live eels, or cut bait back to the bases of the piers at the Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge. They do run the risk though of encountering blue and channel catfish if baits are allowed to reach the bottom. Fishing with live eels is also popular near the channel edges at Hart-Miller Island. Chumming near channel edges or bridge piers is an option for anglers, but catfish will be a large portion of the fish attracted to chum slicks.
The tidal rivers are now open to striped bass fishing and anglers will now be able to enjoy quiet mornings and evenings casting topwater lures, paddletails, or jerkbaits in the shallower waters near the mouths of the tidal rivers.
White perch are now holding in their typical summer habitat, and anglers are enjoying the popular summer pastime of fishing for them. Docks and piers offer good places to fish with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworms on bottom rigs. Casting small spinners, jigs, or roadrunner type lures are fun choices to work near shoreline structure with ultra-light tackle in the morning and evening hours.
In the middle Bay. trolling is one of the most popular ways to fish for striped bass and for good reason – catches have been very good in the edges of the shipping channel near Hacketts, the steep channel edge from the Brick House Bar south to Buoy 83, and locations on the west side of the shipping channel from Thomas Point south past Breezy Point. Success can be had with medium white or chartreuse bucktails dressed with sassy shads or swim shads pulled in tandem or behind umbrella rigs.
Jigging is a great way to catch striped bass if you want to stay away from trolling with heavier tackle. The shipping channel edges are good places to look for suspended striped bass with depth finders. Structure such as rock piles, artificial reefs, and channels leading out of the tidal rivers should not be overlooked. Soft plastic jigs in a variety of colors are being used and are sometimes skirted. Shades of red, chartreuse, and pearl sparkles are popular with soft plastics and chartreuse skirts with yellow or orange are also popular. Placing menhaden paste or other favorite scents on the soft plastics does not hurt either.
Chumming is a viable option for striped bass and it has worked very well for a number of anglers along the main channel edges in the Bay. The outside edge of Hacketts, the Brick House Bar, Thomas Point, and the outside edge of the Hill are just a few locations where striped bass may be found. Baits that are allowed to rest on the bottom may be gobbled up by catfish, and cownose rays are a major problem at times.
Now that all areas of the tidal rivers are open to striped bass fishing, this is a wonderful time to fish the shallower waters along the tidal river and Bay shorelines with a variety of lures. Casting paddletails and topwater poppers can work well. In some areas where grass is not an issue, crankbaits and jerkbaits can also work. The morning and evening hours provide the best fishing opportunities on a moving tide.
A few anglers are using their depth finders at locations such as Stone Rock and near the Sharps Island Light for large black drum, with soft crab baits ready to drop when the heavy blips of black drum show up on the screen. Large red drum are being caught and released in Tangier Sound, and some may be found in the main Bay.
White perch are providing plenty of fun fishing for anglers dropping grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm off docks and piers this week. Others are casting small spinners, beetle spins, or roadrunners near shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours.
Fishing for blue and channel catfish is good in the Choptank River from the town of Choptank to Denton. Fresh cut bait of menhaden, gizzard shad, white perch, or prepared baits on a simple bottom rig with a circle hook is all that it takes. The blue catfish population in the Choptank River is expanding rapidly so any help anglers can provide to reduce their numbers is a help. On the positive side the blue catfish provide excellent eating.
Trolling is perhaps the most popular and effective way to fish for striped bass in the lower Bay. Most anglers are trolling bucktails dressed with sassy shads in white and chartreuse and targeting medium sized striped bass. They are being rigged in tandem, single or behind umbrella rigs. Most are also pulling one or two larger bucktails or parachutes if by chance a trophy striped bass would enter the trolling spread. The edges of the shipping channel on both sides of the Bay tend to offer the best trolling opportunities in the region. The steep channel edge in the lower Potomac River from Piney Point to St. Georges Island is also a productive place to troll.
Jigging with soft plastics along channel edges where striped bass can be spotted on depth finders is a fun and productive way to fish. The mouths of the tidal rivers and places like the cuts through Hoopers Island are wonderful places to fish. Chumming can work to attract striped bass, but cownose rays will also hone in on any chum slick.
Light-tackle fishing in all of the tidal rivers and creeks is now open, and with water temperatures still below 80 degrees, fishing these areas can be very productive. The morning and evening hours tend to offer the best opportunities. Casting a mix of paddletails, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and soft plastic jigs are working well near shoreline structure like docks and bulkheads. Shallower waters that have extensive grass beds are best fished with poppers or unweighted paddletails rigged weedless. Speckled trout are becoming more common, and especially on the eastern side of the Bay are part of the shallow-water mix.
Large red drum have been present in Tangier Sound and eastern side of the Bay for more than a week and their numbers are increasing every day, offering fun catch-and-release action. Trolling large spoons is one way to catch them, as is jigging with large soft plastic jigs when fish can be spotted on depth finders. Dropping soft crab baits on concentrations of red drum or black drum is also an effective way to catch them, but don’t let baits stay down there long due to all of the cownose rays in the lower bay.
Fishing for white perch is good this week and they can be found in the creeks and tidal rivers near docks, piers, oyster reefs, and any kind of underwater structure. Fishing with bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm always works well. Casting small lures in the morning and evening hours near shoreline structure is a fun light-tackle way to fish for them. Spot and small croakers are showing up in the lower Bay and their number should increase later on this month.
Northern snakeheads are aggressively feeding as they are solidly in a pre-spawn mode of feeding. Casting white paddletails to catch them is hard to beat right now, but large minnows under a bobber work well, as do soft plastic frogs cast over thick grass.
Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers is very good this week. The rivers are overpopulated with them and all you have to do is be there with some fresh cut bait or your favorite alternative bait and get it down on the bottom. Be sure to bring a large ice chest and share the bounty with friends, or fill your freezer.
It is vacation season at Deep Creek Lake, and many anglers are looking for some fun fishing action there. At the upper end of the lake, the coves are holding largemouth bass and chain pickerel. Northern pike can be found at the mouths of many of the coves. Floating docks around the lake provide shade and structure for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Deep grass provides cover for a mix of walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie and yellow perch. Rocky points are a good place to find smallmouth bass in the morning and evening hours. The dam face depths often hold the best opportunities for finding trout.
A variety of soft plastics, crankbaits, and topwater lures are good choices for largemouth bass in the coves and along shoreline structure. Large spinnerbaits, soft baits, and spoons work well on northern pike. Soft craw jigs are a good choice for smallmouth bass. Flipping wacky rigged soft plastics under floating docks can entice loafing largemouth and smallmouth bass to strike. Drifting minnows along deep grass edges is one of the better ways to target yellow perch, crappie, and walleye holding there. Slow trolling nightcrawler rigs down deep near the dam face is a good way to target trout. Anglers at the lake are urged to report catches for two ongoing tagging studies, one for northern pike and another for walleye.
Trout fishing in the put-and-take management waters is slowing down, but anglers casting small spinners and spoons are finding trout that have evaded bait anglers. The delayed harvest trout management waters open today with a creel limit of five trout per day until September 30. The various catch-and-release trout fishing areas of western Maryland will offer good fishing throughout the summer months.
Fishing for smallmouth bass on the upper Potomac River continues to be very good this week, with good water quality and flow conditions. Anglers are casting a variety of soft plastic jigs, tubes, and crankbaits near current breaks, underwater ledges, and the shallower edges of the river. The Harpers Ferry area of the Potomac was sprayed for black flies this week and anglers can expect slightly discolored water in that area for a short time.
Largemouth bass are finished spawning in most waters of Maryland and aggressively feeding to rebuild body stores. Water temperatures are still forgiving, so the fish are often feeding until mid-morning, and again during the early evening hours in the shallower waters. Casting soft plastics, frogs, buzzbaits, or poppers near or above grass is a good bet. Spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits work well around the edges of grass, and spatterdock fields and wacky rigged stick worms dropped down through deeper heavy thick grass can entice bass underneath to pick up a bait. Shoreline structure, creek mouths, and places that provide shade offer good places to fish.
Crappie can be found near deep structure this week. The tidal Potomac River in the Wilson Bridge-Fort Washington area offers some excellent fishing opportunities near shoreline fallen treetops, sunken wood, bridge piers, and marina docks. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a bobber are a great way to target them. When fishing ponds and reservoirs, look for structure in the form of sunken brush or similar structure in deeper waters.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
This is an exciting week as large striped bass are being caught in the Ocean City and Assateague surf. Many the maximum of the 28-inch to 35-inch slot limit and so must be returned to the surf, but the memories will last. Most anglers are using cut menhaden for bait, and the head tends to survive the onslaught of skates and dogfish. Large red drum are also part of the mix and are also strictly a catch-and-release proposition.
Those fishing sand fleas are catching a few black drum. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut menhaden and the first kingfish have shown up for those fishing with bloodworms.
Cade Smith cradles a large 45-inch striped bass before returning it to the surf. Photo courtesy of Cade Smith
At the inlet anglers are catching bluefish, flounder, and striped bass that mostly fall short of the 28-inch minimum. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a project to repair the south jetty at the inlet and extend it 150 feet into Sinepuxent Bay, although no time frame has been given yet.
The back bay waters are clearing up from recent strong winds, and flounder fishing is very good this week in the channels. Large Gulp baits tend to be popular when targeting the larger flounder and the traditional baits of squid and minnows continue to be the standard bait for most anglers. They are tried and true. Bluefish have been part of the mix in the back bays and anglers are catching mostly sub-legal striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs.
Fishing for black sea bass has been consistent at the offshore wreck and reef sites, with limit catches being very common. Farther offshore near the canyons, anglers are catching large sea bass and blueline tilefish. The offshore trolling bite for yellowfin tuna has been off recently, but tuna are being reported south of us, so fortunes will likely improve soon.
“The moment of catching a fish unites all lovers of fishing in the same but perhaps ultimately indescribable joy.” – Michael Hordern
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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