ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Summer is in full swing and we’re going into one of the most popular weekends of the season – Fourth of July! It is a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends enjoying all that Maryland has to offer. The feisty bluegill is one of Maryland’s treasures that entertain anglers young and old in small community ponds to our larger reservoirs.
July 4 is a free fishing day! No fishing license is needed on this day so take an adult who has not been fishing in a while or introduce someone who has never been fishing before.
Remember that hot summer weather creates tough conditions for striped bass survival, which is why DNR once again will run its striped bass fishing advisory forecast for the warmest months, so anglers can better plan their fishing for striped bass to lessen mortalities.
Forecast Summary: June 29 – July 5:
Sunny, warm, and relatively calm weather prevails this week with chances of rain on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have risen to the mid 70s, and Maryland rivers are also running in the same temperature range. However, expect warming as the week progresses. 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.
Coolest oxygenated bottom waters can be found from about Kent Island north to near Tolchester. In the main Bay adequate oxygen conditions are found: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, surface to bottom; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 25 feet to bottom, and down to 10 feet near Cambridge and upriver; Bloody Point, 20 feet to 45 feet; Bay Bridge, 20 feet to 45 feet; Swan Point, surface to bottom; and Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. Poorer deep-water oxygen conditions are ramping up, and in most Bay tributaries, there is adequate oxygen down to about 20 feet. There is a positive outlook for later in the season, as the Bay “dead zone” is predicted to be 13% lower than average.
There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay as well as many rivers and streams. Expect poor water clarity from algal blooms in the Back, Bush, and middle Patuxent rivers.
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
Anglers looking for striped bass at the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River continue to experience slim pickings. The larger numbers of striped bass instead are holding farther down the Bay. There are plenty of blue, channel, and flathead catfish to tickle your fancy though. The flatheads prefer significant current and often station themselves below the dam’s turbine wash and in the river just below the dam pool. They prefer the freshest cut or live bait such as bluegill sunfish, white perch, or white suckers.
The blue and channel catfish can be found in the lower Susquehanna River, the surrounding tidal rivers, and in the Bay down to the Bay Bridge. They can be caught on cut bait, chicken liver, clam snouts, and a variety of other baits. Anglers that are chumming for striped bass often find blue and channel catfish waiting in line for any cut bait drifting down a chum slick. The catfish also have a habit of snacking on spot and small eels that anglers are using to target striped bass.
Anyone looking for striped bass action this week will find it in the areas near the lumps off Pooles Island between the main channels, Swan Point, and other lumps, shoals, and knolls in the general area between Tolchester and Rock Hall. The mouth of the Patapsco River and the Key Bridge piers are also providing good striped bass fishing this week.
Most anglers are live-lining spot since they are so readily available off Sandy Point State Park and around to the north up to the mouth of the Magothy River. Anglers are reminded to use the utmost care when releasing sub-legal striped bass which make up a fair portion of those caught in the upper Bay. They represent the fish that will be of legal size next year, you won’t be able to catch them next year if they’re dead. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
The Love Point Rocks have been providing a good location for those that would prefer to jig for their striped bass, the current wrapping around the structure offers a great place to work jigs. Captains will also be seen at this spot anchoring up and drifting live spot or soft crab baits for striped bass.
The Key Bridge piers are also providing good fishing for white perch this week. Working dropper rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm near the shallower bridge piers and old pier pilings is a good tactic. Small jigs and roadrunner type lures can also work well for white perch. The tidal rivers and creeks of the upper Bay continue to provide good white perch fishing. Use bottom rigs or dropper rigs along channel edges or deeper structure, or cast small spinners and roadrunners along shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours. These times also provide a window for anglers to cast poppers and paddletails near the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers for striped bass.
The Bay Bridge has been getting a lot of attention from striped bass anglers. Drifting live spot, cut spot or menhaden, and soft crab baits back to the pier bases is a very popular way to fish. There a lot of sub-legal striped bass mixed in with legal-sized fish so anglers are urged to use the greatest care when releasing undersized fish. Visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
The best action is occurring during the early morning hours on a running tide; as the morning wears on and more boats arrive, jockeying for position at favored bridge piers can be an issue. Jigging is another good option at the bridge piers, and a well-placed jig close to the pier bases can get the attention of a striped bass. Soft plastics are the most popular jig being used, and some anglers love their skirted jigs and also use menhaden or garlic paste scent on their jigs. Bucktails dressed with twistertails can also work wonders.
Almost anywhere striped bass can be found in the middle Bay is a good place for live-lining spot; diligent attention to depth finders is a good way to find them. Some locations worth checking are the steep channel edges off Kent Island, Thomas Point, Tilghman Point in Eastern Bay, and Buoy 83. Jigging to suspended fish is also a good tactic.
Trolling is another option for anglers and can be a good tactic when fish tend to be spread out along channel edges. Most anglers are trolling deep with umbrella rigs behind inline weights with bucktails dressed with sassy shads to get down to where the striped bass are holding.
The early morning and late evening hours are providing good fishing for striped bass in the shallower waters of the lower tidal rivers and in the Bay along shoreline structure. Casting poppers over grass or paddletails in deeper waters is a fun light-tackle way to fish for striped bass. The rocks at Poplar Island, Thomas Point, and in front of the Naval Academy, and rip rap rocks in the lower sections of the tidal rivers are all good places to fish.
Fishing for white perch is good in the tidal rivers and creeks this week. Deepwater piers and docks are a great place to fish around pilings with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple one hook bottom rig. In the morning or evening hours, casting small spinners, small jigs, or roadrunner type lures is always light tackle fun.
Fishing for blue catfish is good this week, there certainly are plenty of them in the Choptank River. It looks like they have left the upper river areas near Denton and have moved downriver near the town of Choptank and below. Channel catfish can still be found in the upper portions of the river and throughout the Choptank and the other tidal rivers in the middle Bay.
The lower Potomac River is once again one of the better locations to fish for striped bass. The steep channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges Island continues to offer good fishing for striped bass. Most anglers are live-lining spot with very good results, while others are chumming. A fair portion of the striped bass being caught are undersized so anglers are urged to be careful when releasing them since they hold the future of striped bass fishing this fall and next year. Please visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and for tips on using circle hooks.
The lower Patuxent River and edges of the shipping channel are also offering good live-lining action for striped bass, when fish can be located on depth finders. Trolling can be a good option when striped bass are spread out along channel edges. Most anglers are using umbrella rigs pulled behind inline weights to get them down to the depths where the fish are holding. Trolling small Drone spoons behind inline weights and bucktails behind umbrella rigs is another tactic. Bluefish are steadily moving into the region and in the coming weeks will become more of the fishing mix.
Jigging along channel edges where fish can be suspended is always an option. Casting topwater lures, paddletails, and jerkbaits along shoreline structure and the shallower grass flats of the Eastern Shore and the Tangier Sound area is a fun and productive way to fish for a mix of speckled trout and striped bass. Speckled trout fishing has been a bit off lately due to cooler weather, but with hot weather in the forecast the success is expected to increase.
The cobia season has gotten off to a relatively slow start in Maryland waters, but a few fish are being caught at the Middle Grounds and Target Ship areas. Most anglers are setting up chum slicks and drifting live eels back in the slick. Large red drum are in the eastern side of the Bay around Tangier Sound and continue to provide some exciting catch-and-release action.
Fishing for blue catfish in the lower Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers is very good this week. Based on observations in other tidal rivers, it is a good bet many of the blue catfish may have moved downriver. The channel edges are among the better places to fish, and cut fish and other baits will entice them to a hookup.
Fishing for white perch is good and a fun experience for young and older anglers. They can be found near docks and piers in the tidal rivers and creeks of the lower Bay. They can also be found on oyster bottom in the lower Patuxent River and Eastern Shore areas from Hoopers Island south through Tangier Sound. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm work well in deeper waters and casting small jigs and spinners are a fun way to catch them in the morning and evening hours along shoreline structure.
Recreational crabbing continues to move along at a rather slow pace but it is definitely worth the effort to go out and catch your own. Current market price is about $165 for a half bushel for large crabs if you can find them. Most knowledgeable crabbers in a good area can usually come up with a healthy half bushel per outing. Be sure to check the new Maryland blue crab fishing regulations that will be effective July 1.
Anglers at a few select trout management waters in Western Maryland and in the central region are enjoying some fun and exciting catch-and-release trout fishing. Several of these areas are limited to fly fishing, and floating a dry fly on the water’s surface or working a nymph or streamer is what many die-hard fly anglers are dreaming of.
Deep Creek Lake is in vacation season mode, so it’s nice to find a quiet spot to enjoy fishing as jet skis and boats race about on the lake. If you get out on the lake at dawn, you can find good fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass near floating docks. These fish along with yellow perch, crappie, and sometimes walleye can be found near deep grass edges by drifting live minnows down deep. There are trout in the reservoir and they can be found deep along the dam face by slow trolling nightcrawlers.
The upper Potomac River is in a typical summer mode of low, clear water. The best fishing for smallmouth bass is in the early morning hours near current breaks. Poppers, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, and tubes are all good choices. Water temperatures are heating up in the upper Potomac and anglers are urged to refrain from fishing for muskellunge since the warm water temperatures greatly increase the chance for catch-and-release mortalities.
The tidal Potomac is showing some stained waters from last week’s heavy rains, water temperatures are in the 80s and there is also quite a bit of floating debris from runoff. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits can be good choices in open water; buzzbaits and frogs work well over thick grass, and dropping a wacky rigged stick worm down through deep grass is a good way to entice a lounging largemouth bass to pick up a bait.
Northern snakeheads are always part of the mix when fishing for largemouth bass. Many have spawned and are busy protecting their young, which can be often seen in a cluster. All of this is occurring in shallow grass, so that is where your fishing efforts should be. Casting buzzbaits or frogs may aggravate a snakehead to strike.
Largemouth bass are providing good fishing in ponds, reservoirs and tidal waters across Maryland. They are slipping into a summer mode of behavior as water temperatures rise and the hot sun holds overhead. The best fishing is in the early morning hours or late evenings near the shallower waters. A variety of lures will work and as the bass retreat to shade in the form of docks, fallen treetops, or brush, wacky rigged worms are hard to beat for catching them.
Surf fishing remains in a typical summer pattern with kingfish and a mix of spot, blowfish, flounder, and small bluefish rounding things out. Bloodworms work well for kingfish and spot, blowfish and flounder like squid strips, and bluefish will go for cut spot or finger mullet.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, flounder are being caught on a regular basis along with bluefish and striped bass. In the back bay areas, flounder are the most popular target for anglers fishing the channels. A few incidental bluefish and striped bass are also being caught by those who target them.
Outside the inlet there are Spanish mackerel and bluefish being caught by those trolling small spoons behind inline weights. Clark and Drone spoons tend to be the most popular. At the wreck and reef sites, sea bass fishing has been very good with some limit catches around the rails of party boats. Flounder are also in the mix.
Those making the long run to Washington and Poorman’s canyons are finding yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Deep drop anglers are catching a mix of blueline tilefish and large sea bass and others are finding golden tilefish.
“Young anglers love new rivers the way they love the rest of their lives. Time doesn’t seem to be of the essence and somewhere in the system is what they are looking for.” – Thomas McGuane
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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