ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The glorious outdoors are waiting for all to come and enjoy some peace, contemplation from our busy world, and special time with those we love. There are few better opportunities for quality time with our children than fishing together on a quiet stream, pond, or reservoir.
Forecast Summary: May 10 – May 16:
Warm weather in the upcoming week will keep water temperatures rising for fish in Maryland waters. Main Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are currently in the low 60s.
Bay salinity is still above average and as is typical this time of the year, we are beginning to see some areas of low oxygen in the bottom waters along the lower western shore. However, there are still plenty of cool, well oxygenated areas to pursue gamefish.
Expect average flows all week. There will be above average tidal currents through Wednesday as a result of the previous full moon on May 6. Expect average water clarity in Maryland’s bay, rivers and streams. 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
Striped bass anglers in the upper Bay are watching their calendars, waiting for when summer season begins on May 16. For the Susquehanna Flats and river areas, striped bass caught beginning that date must measure between 19 inches and 26 inches in length. For the rest of the Bay, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will incorporate a new maximum size of 31 inches for keeper striped bass this year, following action taken for the entire East Coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This regulation does not affect the remainder of trophy season in Maryland.
Anglers who have been trolling for trophy striped bass along the shipping channel edges below the Brewerton Channel report very slow fishing success. Most are reporting a skunk on the boat (for the uninitiated, that means fishing without success) or catching a few undersized striped bass.
Blue catfish are plentiful enough for anglers to cash in on some exciting and bountiful fishing. The lower Susquehanna River, the surrounding tidal rivers within the region, and the Bay itself contain large populations of blue catfish and channel catfish. Fresh cut bluegills, white perch, menhaden, and gizzard shad tend to top the list for the best baits, but many anglers do well with chicken liver and other chicken parts, and scented baits.
Northern snakeheads are being caught by anglers fishing at the Conowingo Dam pool and the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. May is an excellent time of the year to fish for snakeheads since they are in a pre-spawn mode of behavior and feeding aggressively in open waters. Casting white paddletails is a good tactic in open water near grass, and buzzbaits are a good lure when fishing over grass.
White perch are holding in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers and can be found near structure; channels, dock piers, and rocks are good places to look for them. Grass shrimp and pieces of bloodworm are the preferred baits. As waters become more comfortable for the white perch, they can be found holding near shoreline structure in the mornings and evenings. Casting small jigs and spinners with ultra-light spinning tackle is a fun way to fish for them.
Last week’s heavy rains brought a lot of runoff to the upper Bay, including Deer and Octoraro creeks. The increased creek flows may have spurred on the last hickory shad spawning run for the 2023 season, but time will tell.
In the middle Bay, fishing for trophy sized striped bass has been very slow. There are some post-spawn striped bass moving through the region from the upper Bay spawning sites. The post-spawn striped bass from the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers seem to have moved farther south. The beginning of summer season, May 16, is just around the corner. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will incorporate a new maximum size of 31 inches for keeper striped bass this year, following action taken for the entire East Coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This regulation does not affect the remainder of trophy season in Maryland.
White perch have made it to their summer habitat areas and can now be found near dock piers, oyster beds, and submerged structures near the lower sections of tidal creeks and rivers. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple one-hook bottom rig that is fished close to structure is a good way to catch some perch. In the early morning and evening hours, casting small jigs, spinnerbaits, and spinners along shoreline structure is a fun way to catch them.
A mix of channel and blue catfish are entertaining anglers in the region’s tidal rivers this week. The blue catfish are particularly numerous in the Choptank River and are spread out between the towns of Choptank and Denton. Cut bait is very popular and the oily baits tend to attract more bites. Using live minnows or nightcrawlers, scented baits, and chicken livers and other parts also work well. Setting out a chum slick from a chum dispenser set close to the bottom can work wonders.
Those elusive post-spawn striped bass in the lower Bay have been intercepted by some anglers in the lower Potomac River, the edges of the shipping channel, and in Tangier Sound. Most anglers are trolling large parachutes and bucktails along the main channel edges, but some are having good luck fishing with cut bait and soft crabs along these same edges. On the Eastern Shore, large speckled trout can also be in the mix when fishing soft crab. In the lower Potomac River, it can be difficult to get past the blue catfish, so bring plenty of bait.
Starting May 16, anglers will be able to fish for smaller striped bass when trophy season gives way to summer season. In the Maryland portion of the Bay, the minimum size will be 19 inches, and 20 inches in the Potomac River. Virginia waters will have a slot of 20 inches to 28 inches for striped bass. Maryland will incorporate a new maximum size of 31 inches for keeper striped bass this year, following action taken for the entire East Coast by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The hickory and American shad spawning runs are about over in the upper tidal waters of the Potomac and Mattawoman Creek. The tidal creeks of the lower Potomac are providing good fishing for white perch this week in the lower sections of the creeks and in the river. Blue catfish tend to dominate the tidal Potomac fishery and they can be found along the river’s channel edges.
Blue catfish can be found in the middle to upper Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers this week. In many areas they are actively spawning. Various cut fish baits and chicken liver are good choices for bait. The area of the Patuxent below Jug Bay is a good place to fish this week and the Sharpstown area of the Nanticoke is an excellent place to fish for blue catfish. Channel catfish can be found in every tidal river and creek in the lower Bay.
Northern snakehead fishing is very good this week. The fish are moving around and feeding aggressively. The Tributaries of the tidal Potomac, the Patuxent, and the Eastern Shore rivers are all good places to fish for snakeheads. Casting white paddletails is perhaps the most popular way to fish, but fishing with large minnows under a bobber is another good way to catch them. The Department of Natural Resources instituted a tagging program to reward snakehead anglers who catch these invasive and report the tags. Read more on the department website.
Trout fishing is still good in many of the stocked waters, especially the larger bodies of water. The smaller community ponds will also hold trout until warmer water temperatures become too much for them in June. In the many put-and-take streams and rivers, casting small lures is a great way to cover a lot of water and entice holdover trout to strike a lure. Small spinners, spoons, and jerkbaits are a few examples of good lures to use on spinning tackle. The trout waters that are designated as catch-and-release and have limits on the types of gear allowed will offer good trout fishing through the summer months.
The fly-tackle-only trout management areas in western and central Maryland offer some excellent fly-fishing opportunities for trout. This type of fishing is catch-and-release and it is all about fun. Other species that can be targeted with fly fishing gear include largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, and even tidal species such as striped bass and white perch. Check out the website for Maryland’s Fly-Fishing Trail to find various locations for fly-fishing.
Fishing for largemouth bass is about as good as it gets; the fish are hungry after spawning. Water temperatures are still cool enough that the largemouth bass do not have to retreat to shade in daylight, so they are feeding most of the day. Grass beds are a prime target to cast soft plastics and to work plastic frogs over the tops of thick shallow grass. Structure in the form of fallen treetops, sunken wood, and drop-offs can be good places to try spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and wacky rigged stick worms. In tidal waters, working the outside edges of spatterdock fields or thick grass during a low ebb tide can provide some good action. Also, when fishing tidal waters, northern snakeheads will often be part of the mix.
Bluegill sunfish are often the first fish our younger anglers catch but using a very light fly rod and floating ants or rubber-legged bugs can offer a lot of fun to our older anglers. The fishing rodeo season is well underway in many parts of Maryland and offers some great fun for our younger anglers and good family time. Check the Department of Natural Resources website and see what fishing rodeo events will be near you.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Striped bass continue to show up in the surf of Assateague Island this week and a few bluefish are being reported, all caught on fresh cut menhaden. At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, striped bass are being caught by those jigging with soft plastics along the South Jetty rocks and the bulkheads and bridge piers inside the inlet. An increasing number of school-sized striped bass are exceeding the 28-inch minimum. Beginning May 16, a new coast-wide maximum size of 31 inches will be in place. The Route 90 and the Route 611 bridge piers are also holding striped bass. A few large bluefish and speckled trout are also being caught by jigging with soft plastics.
The channels leading away from the inlet are the best place to drift for flounder this week, and the Thorofare tops the list. White and pink Gulp baits are popular for a larger grade of flounder; minnow and squid will always remain go-to baits.
The anglers aboard boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites are catching some impressive tautog this week. Anglers have until the season closes May 16 to get their fill of tautog fishing. The season will reopen July 1 and the daily creel limit will drop to two fish per angler per day. The black sea bass season opens May 15 with a creel limit of 15 fish per day per angler with a 13-inch minimum length.
All it took was a break in the weather for anglers to make the run out to the canyons for some exploratory fishing. Those who were trolling between the Baltimore and Poorman’s Canyons picked up a couple of yellowfin and bigeye tuna, a great start to the season. Deep drop anglers caught limits of blueline tilefish and some large golden tilefish.
“Angling, if followed in the spirit of contemplation and thoughtful attitude it fosters, is bound to strengthen the character. Because of it, I look forward to a beautiful old age. Declining years filled with glorious memories. And even when I do get so feeble that I cannot wade a stream, I shall have the blessed memories with me until the end.” – Ray Bergman
Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”