ANNAPOLIS, Md. – As we move through September, the thrill of beautiful weather beckons everyone to get outside. There are lots of fishing opportunities to be found this week in Maryland waters, from the western mountains to the Atlantic coast, and everywhere in between.
Forecast Summary: September 14 – September 20:
Warming weather is predicted all this week with daytime temperatures around the mid to upper 80s. Expect calm winds less than 10 knots with a low chance of rain all week. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures dropped to about 78 degrees. Maryland rivers are currently running in the mid to low 70s. If you are seeking areas with cooler waters, fish the surface early in the day, or fish deeper waters or upwind areas.
At the following locations, adequate oxygen conditions can be found from the surface down to these depth ranges: from the Virginia state line up to the Gooses Reef buoy, 45 feet; Little Choptank up to the Choptank River, 20 feet to 45 feet; Bloody Point, 30 feet to 40 feet; Bay Bridge, 20 feet to 30 feet; Swan Point, 25 feet; and Still Pond to Susquehanna Flats, surface to bottom. Good deep water oxygen conditions are present in most tributaries, where there is adequate oxygen down to the bottom. On the Potomac River, there is adequate oxygen down to 10 feet near the Route 301 Bridge, and from surface to bottom at other locations. It is likely that in most locations, gamefish will be deeper in the water column to find adequate oxygen and their preferred water temperatures.
There will be average water clarity for most of the main Bay and 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
The fishing scene at the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River has not changed to any degree this past week. A few striped bass are being caught in the early morning and late evening hours by casting topwater lures, crankbaits, and paddletails.
Most anglers in this general area are enjoying the excellent fishing for catfish. Flathead catfish can be found in the dam pool and nearby, blue catfish are found in great numbers in the lower Susquehanna, and channel catfish are spread throughout the region. Fresh cut bait of gizzard shad and menhaden tend to be the most popular, but clam snouts, chicken liver, and various scented baits also work well. Blue catfish can be found in most tidal rivers in the upper Bay. The Chester River has a great number of blue catfish and channel catfish can be found in every tidal river.
Striped bass are the big draw near Pooles Island and the various lumps and shoals southeast towards Tolchester and south to the Love Point rocks. Live-lining spot, eels, and small white perch are the most popular way to fish for them, but anglers are also having good luck using soft crab and peeler baits. The piers bases at the Key Bridge are also a great place for live-lining or drifting cut bait or crab baits. Water temperatures are beginning to drop, but striped bass are still having a tough time with temperature stress, so please visit the DNR website for responsible catch-and-release procedures and tips on using circle hooks to help the survival of released fish.
Anglers who can get up before dawn – getting easier with the later sunrise – are enjoying good fishing along the shorelines of the upper Bay and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Casting poppers, paddletails, and crankbaits is a fun light-tackle way to fish for striped bass this week.
White perch can be found in deep water over knolls and shoals in the Bay or oyster bottom in the tidal rivers. Fishing with peeler crab on a bottom rig is the best way to catch them. They can also be found along shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours by casting small spinners and various small lures.
The Bay Bridge has good fishing action for striped bass and a mix of white perch and spot. The striped bass are being caught in the deeper waters near the bases of the bridge piers. Drifting with live spot, eels, and small white perch is excellent, but drifting cut spot, soft crab, or peeler crab baits back towards the pier bases also works well. Dropoff edges at Thomas Point and similar channel edges can also be a great place for live-lining or drifting baits when striped bass can be spotted on depth finders. A percentage of the striped bass at these locations can fail to meet the 19-inch minimum so anglers are urged to follow the best catch-and-release practices, and remember that circle hooks are mandatory when targeting striped bass with bait.
The shallow-water fishery for striped bass is productive this week. Water temperatures have cooled a bit and with sunrise occurring later in the morning, this is a great opportunity to cast poppers and paddletails for striped bass. The rock jetty at Poplar Island, the shores of the tidal rivers, Thomas Point, and other similar structure are all good places to fish. Speckled trout can sometimes be a bonus at times and a prize for any angler.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish continue to chase schools of bay anchovies throughout the middle Bay. These fish will be headed south soon — it will just take one cool weather spell and they’ll be gone. To catch these summer species, trolling small gold and chartreuse Clark or Drone spoons behind planers is a good method along channel edges, from Bloody Point south past Buoy 83 down to the False Channel to the steep edge at RN2.
Keep watch for diving birds that reveal breaking fish, and slicks are also a good sign. If casting to breaking fish, be aware Spanish mackerel tend to move quickly through an area so it can be difficult to keep up with them. Small metal jigs and heavy spoons are a good choice when casting into breaking fish. Speed reeling is a good tactic for Spanish mackerel, with slower retrieves for bluefish.
Fishing for white perch in the lower sections of the tidal rivers over oyster bars is a good opportunity this week. Using peeler crab for bait is a good choice on a bottom rig, and this method also works well around docks and piers over deeper waters. Casting small spinners, jigs, and roadrunner type lures is a fun fishing option during the morning and evening hours along shoreline structure.
Fishing for a mix of channel and blue catfish continues to be good in the region’s tidal rivers. The channel catfish tend to be everywhere, and one of the best places to fish for blue catfish is the middle section of the Choptank River. The catfish can be found deep in the channels. Cut menhaden is one of the best choices for bait.
This will be a big week for lower Bay anglers – the weather has calmed down and cooler nights are lowering water temperatures. Several species of summer migrant fish are extremely active. A mix of Spanish mackerel and bluefish are ripping through schools of bay anchovies along the Bay’s channel edges. The eastern edge of the shipping channel from Buoy 76 south past 72B, the Target Ship area, Tangier Sound, and the mouth of the Potomac are all good places to look for Spanish mackerel and bluefish this week.
Trolling small gold Clark spoons and chartreuse patterned Drone spoons behind planers at 8-9 mph is a proven tactic to catch Spanish mackerel. Slower speeds will allow bluefish to catch up. Keeping a spinning rod rigged with a small metal jig or heavy spoon is a good idea when breaking fish are encountered. Trolling around the edges of such action is also a good idea, but never go through breaking fish.
Striped bass are being found along the shorelines of the tidal rivers and creeks as well as the Bay shore. The Cedar Point rocks are always a good place to cast poppers or paddletails. Casting crankbaits can also work well, and docks, piers, jetties, and bulkheads are all good places to explore. Bluefish, speckled trout, and small red drum can often be part of the mix.
Large red drum are still in the region and watching depth finders is a good way to find them. The Target Ship, Mud Leads, and Southwest Middle Grounds are good places to look. Once spotting the fish, many anglers are jigging with large soft plastics, others are dropping soft crab baits down to the fish. Trolling large spoons and hose lures behind planers or inline weights are another option, and cobia can sometimes take a hose lure.
Cobia season closes September 15, so that is the last chance for keeping one. Catch-and-release fishing for cobia will be legal until the last of them depart our waters, whether you are chumming and fishing with bait, sight casting with soft plastics, or trolling.
Spot are gaining size this week and fishing for them has been a wonderful opportunity if you enjoy simple bottom fishing. White perch, croaker, and kingfish are often in the mix. The mouth of the Patuxent River, the lower Potomac, and Tangier Sound are excellent places to fish for them over hard bottom. Pieces of bloodworm have been the favored bait for the spot, and peeler crab works well for white perch.
Recreational crabbing remains good in the middle and lower Bay. The crabs are filling out for their big sleep this winter, and many are at their finest and heavy with meat. The largest crabs, which are often 7 inches or larger, are coming from the deeper waters, often as far down as 20 feet. There are plenty of crabs in shallower waters, but large numbers of small crabs and sooks can make short work of trotline baits.
The waters of the mountain streams and rivers of western Maryland to the small ponds of the Eastern Shore are beginning to show signs of cooling as nighttime air temperatures dip this week. As we approach the middle of September many species of freshwater fish will become more active for longer periods of time during the day. As the photoperiod of daylight diminishes, anglers will see grass beds start to break up, so any existing grass and spatterdock will be good places to target.
Working lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits around grass edges and transition zones between deeper waters and the shallower areas will be a good tactic. Dropping stick worms down through floating grass mats is a good choice for smallmouth and largemouth bass that are lounging underneath. Casting buzzbaits and frogs over grass is still an excellent choice, and in the tidal areas northern snakeheads will be part of the mix when fishing in the grass.
If you are fishing tidal waters for largemouth bass, a falling tide is an excellent time to fish the edges of grass beds and spatterdock fields as the fish move to slightly deeper water. Northern snakeheads will often stay put in the grass but as water temperatures cool and grass beds break up, they will be found in more open water. For the next month, casting white paddletails or fishing large minnows under a float is a good way to fish for snakeheads.
Trout fishing in the catch-and-release waters is improving with cooler conditions and good flows due to recent rains. Hatches of aquatic insects are occurring during the afternoon and evening hours and there are plenty of terrestrial insects to imitate, such as grasshoppers, ants, and inchworms.
The upper Potomac is running clear, and anglers are using light lines and long casts to have a chance of hooking up with the smallmouth bass there. Anglers are reporting that some of the grass beds are beginning to break up. Boat traffic is diminishing at Deep Creek Lake, making for better fishing conditions.
Triadelphia and Howard Duckett reservoirs are experiencing toxic blue algae blooms this week and although the reservoirs are open to fishing, anglers are cautioned to avoid contact with the water. Centennial Lake had a similar problem earlier this summer and was closed to all boating and fishing activity, but is now open. Blue green algae blooms can cause skin irritations, rashes, and nausea.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surfcasters are catching a mix of kingfish, spot, and small bluefish again now that high surf and tide conditions have subsided. Some inshore sharks are being caught by those soaking large baits of cut menhaden and hoping the late September run of large red drum will arrive soon.
At the inlet, sheepshead and a few tautog are being caught at the South Jetty and the Route 50 Bridge on sand fleas. A mix of striped bass and bluefish are being caught by drifting cut bait or casting soft plastic jigs.
The back bay waters are calming down after last week’s wind and clearer water conditions will greatly improve flounder fishing this week. Boat traffic is down so drifting in the channels leading towards the inlet will be a lot less hazardous.
Those trolling small silver Clark and Drone spoons behind planers off the beaches are still catching a few Spanish mackerel, and there are plenty of bluefish. Flounder are being caught near the nearshore wrecks and reef sites this week.
The anglers heading out to the farther offshore wreck and reef sites are catching good numbers of black sea bass and a mix of small dolphin and flounder. Boats heading out to the canyons are filling fish boxes with small dolphin and those deep dropping are catching blueline tilefish. White marlin are being caught and released at the canyons by those trolling.
“Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.” – Mark Twain
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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