ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Colder temperatures have anglers bundling up to enjoy the good fishing available for a variety of species that are still being caught this fall. Anglers can now be seen dressed in duck hunting garb, gloves, knee boots, or similar warm clothing. Be prepared and have fun!
Forecast Summary: November 16 – November 22:
We will experience a sunny, cool week with a low chance for rain. There will be windy conditions through Friday and again Sunday with winds of 15-20 knots with higher gusts. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures are holding in the upper 50s and should continue to drop this upcoming week. Maryland rivers are currently running in the upper 40s.
As waters cool, resident and juvenile striped bass will continue to follow baitfish and move out of the river mouths towards overwintering areas in deeper, warmer waters of the main Bay such as channel edges, underwater points, hard bottom, and drop-offs.
Expect average water clarity for most Maryland portions of the Bay and rivers. However, expect poor water clarity from algal blooms in the Back and North East rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps on the Maryland DNR website.
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 who are persistent are catching a few striped bass in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River. Those that are jigging in the river with soft plastics are also catching smallmouth bass once and a while. Flathead, channel, and blue catfish are the most common fish being caught in the region’s tidal rivers on cut bait.
Striped bass are being found at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers. The Patapsco, Magothy, and Chester rivers have been standouts, but others should not be overlooked. Jigging is the most popular way to fish in these areas and the striped bass are most often being found deep along channel edges. A good depth finder is a valuable tool to find these fish.
Trolling is a good option and a good way to cover plenty of water in search of striped bass. The main channel edges in the Bay and at the mouths of the tidal rivers are the best places to troll using tandem rigged bucktails dressed with twistertails, sassy shads, or umbrella rigs pulled behind inline weights. Water clarity has generally been good, so white has been the best performing color for lures.
The shallow-water fishery for striped bass is becoming less productive as water temperature dips into the 50s and striped bass are moving to deeper waters. White perch have already moved to the deeper channel areas at the mouths of the tidal rivers, often as deep as 40 feet over hard bottom. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms or dropper flies is the best way to target them.
The Bay Bridge continues to attract anglers to fish for the striped bass that are holding near the bases of the deep-water piers. Jigging is the most common way to fish for striped bass, but some anglers are drifting with live eels, pulling them back to the pier bases with good results. The rock piles are holding striped bass, but schools of large white perch also tend to hold there this time of the year. Anglers are also having success trolling tandem or single rigged bucktails along the sewer pipe on the northeast side of the bridge.
Some of the best fishing for striped bass in the middle Bay is occurring in the area from Thomas Point to Chesapeake Beach on the western side of the Bay, and the area from Eastern Bay out past Buoy 83 and south to the False Channel at the mouth of the Choptank River. The striped bass are feeding on juvenile menhaden for the most part, although young of the year hickory shad are moving out of the Choptank and will have to pass through the gauntlet of hungry striped bass stationed at the mouth of the river.
There is still occasional bird action to direct anglers to striped bass feeding on schools of bait, but much of the action is now occurring deep, making depth finders a valuable tool this time of the year. Jigging with soft plastic or metal jigs is a productive and fun light-tackle way to catch striped bass. White tends to be a very productive color for soft plastic jigs this week.
Water clarity is very good in many parts of the Bay, due to the work of sea squirts or Molgula. These funny little tunicates cover dock lines left in the water, dock piers, and substrate on the bottom on the Bay floor, and will squirt water when handled. Oysters are doing their best to also help in the cleanup job. Salinity values are up in the middle Bay this week, up to 18 parts per thousand in many areas.
Trolling is a good bet along channel edges, using tandem or single rigged bucktails in white with twistertails or sassy shads pulled behind inline weights. Umbrella rigs in white and pulled behind heavy inline weights are also working well when allowed to get down to where striped bass are suspended close to the bottom of channel edges.
Colder water temperatures are beginning to force striped bass that have been prowling the shallower waters of the Bay shores and lower sections of the tidal rivers to head for deeper water.
White perch have moved out to the deeper waters near the mouths of the major tidal rivers, the rock piles at the Bay Bridge and the deeper channel areas off Matapeake. Bottom rigs with hooks baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs rigged with small flies are the best way to reach them in the deeper waters. Watching a depth finder is the best way to locate the schools which can be dense at times and holding close to the bottom.
The lower Potomac River continues to be a major draw for anglers, spurred by a two-fish minimum at 20 inches or more, and excellent fishing. The striped bass are spread from the Route 301 Bridge south to Point Lookout. The steep channel edges offer excellent opportunities for jigging and trolling.
The lower Patuxent River is also offering good striped bass fishing out to Cedar Point. Channel edges in the 30-foot range off Cove Point, and on the eastern side of the Bay, the area from the HS Buoy south is also holding striped bass. The channels in Tangier Sound are also holding striped bass. As water temperatures decline for the next couple of weeks, striped bass will be found in even deeper waters in the channels.
Jigging is always a fun light-tackle way to fish for striped bass in the fall and once fish are located, the action can be exciting. Soft plastics in the 6-inch and larger size range tend to be the most popular, in shades of pearl and white. Braided line, fluorocarbon leaders, and fast action rods help make jigging more productive in the deeper waters.
Trolling is a good option to get down where the striped bass are suspended close to the bottom in the deeper channel areas. Heavy inline weights are often needed to get umbrella rigs to the depths where the striped bass are holding. White teasers and trailers are popular in the clearer waters this week. Tandem rigged bucktails dressed with sassy shads are also a good option but will also need inline weights to get them down. Using braided lines can reduce drag or water resistance when trolling.
White perch are holding in the deeper waters at the mouth of the Patuxent, Nanticoke, and Wicomico rivers this week. It will take some weight to get down as deep as 40 feet where they are holding. Bottom rigs with hooks baited with pieces of bloodworms tend to be the most popular way to fish for them.
Fishing for blue catfish is as good as ever in the middle to lower waters of the Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers. The blue catfish are beginning to move up the rivers from where they were holding during the summer. Fresh menhaden baits tend to be the easiest to acquire but gizzard shad is a good bait also if you can find it.
Anglers at Deep Creek Lake are enjoying fishing for a variety of coldwater species. Fishing for smallmouth bass is good along the edges of rocky points and steep lake edges. Baitfish and crayfish are heading for deeper waters and smallmouth bass are feeding on them, especially the crayfish. Small crankbaits and jigs that mimic crayfish are an excellent choice for baits. Largemouth bass are in the same feeding mode and can be found in transition zones between shallower and deeper waters, spinnerbaits, small crankbaits, and jerkbaits are all good choices for lures. Chain pickerel can be found in the coves, and northern pike at the mouths of the larger coves.
Trout can still be found in many of the put-and-take areas that were stocks this fall, and tend to have spread out. Casting small spinners, spoons, and jerkbaits are good choices to cover water in search of trout. Fly casters can use a variety of nymphs and wooly bugger flies are always a favorite.
Colder water temperatures are pushing largemouth bass into deeper waters this week, and they can be found holding near drop-offs and any structure that is available in these areas. Sunken wood, rocks, and piers all provide structure that largemouth bass like to hold nearby. Working crankbaits, grubs, craw jigs, and slow-rolling spinnerbaits close to the bottom near drop-offs and structure can bring about a strike.
Northern snakeheads are beginning to hunker down for the winter months. During the day they may be found on the sunny sides of riverbanks near sunken wood, tree tops, or brush in slightly deeper waters. Fishing large minnows under a bobber near these areas is one of the better ways to entice a snakehead to take a bait.
Fishing is good for a mix of blue and channel catfish in the tidal rivers. The blue catfish are moving up the rivers from where they were holding during the summer. Fishing the channel edges with cut baits of menhaden or gizzard shad is a good tactic. If fishing from a boat, a chum pot can help bring the catfish closer.
Crappie are holding in deeper waters near structure. Bridge piers, marina docks, and fallen tree tops are good places to look for them. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a bobber are a good way to fish for them around structure.
Chain pickerel love colder water temperatures. Shorter daylight hours and colder water have caused grass beds to decline, so chain pickerel are looking for any kind of structure to set up an ambush. Sunken wood along shorelines is a great place for them to set up shop, and if you can find structure in deep waters you may find a lunker size chain pickerel holding there. A variety of lures will work, and because chain pickerel tend to engulf lures, anglers should consider removing treble hooks and replacing them with single hooks. It will make dehooking easier and cause less catch-and-release mortality.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers are still catching kingfish on bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. A few flounder are being caught in the surf on strips of squid. Striped bass are being caught on cut menhaden, but most fail to meet the 28-inch minimum. Clear-nose skates are keeping everyone busy as they chew up baits.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge, tautog and sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas near jetty rocks, bulkheads, and bridge piers. Striped bass are being caught by casting soft plastic jigs, in most cases it is a catch-and-release situation. The same holds for good striped bass fishing at the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges.
Fishing for sea bass has been excellent at the offshore wreck sites, with boat limits occurring at times. Flounder are also being caught near the wreck and reef sites. Any boats headed out to the canyons are fishing for swordfish and blueline tilefish.
“There is … one constant in all types of fishing, which is: The time the fish are biting is almost but not quite now.” – P.J. O’Rourke
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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