Saturday, April 13, 2013

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 10, 2013


Perhaps the proper thing to expound upon this week would be that spring is popping out all over the Maryland countryside but most would agree today that it feels more like summer. Water temperatures in many bodies of water have skyrocketed as a result. Fisheries biologist Chuck Stence who is responsible for shad and herring restoration reported that the surface water temperatures in the upper Choptank rose from 44-degrees to 66-degrees in a little more than one week. The Striped Bass began spawning in the upper Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers yesterday and by this morning splashing and thrashing could be seen over wide areas of the two rivers. Typically the female slowly fins on her side and males thump into her belly to force the eggs out and fertilize them and they often rise to the surface together; one female and several males. The sight, sound and smell of this event is a wonder of nature to behold. Canoes, kayaks or just drifting in a boat with the motor turned off is the best way to observe. Since the fish are on top and have other things on their minds besides dodging boat propellers, care should be taken to motor slowly in spawning areas. As most responsible fishermen know it is illegal to catch and release Striped Bass in the spawning rivers for good reasons and stiff fines and possible license suspensions await fishermen who disregard this responsibility.

Photo by Keith Lockwood

The Hickory Shad arrived at Deer Creek and Octararo Creek like gang busters on Tuesday of this week and fishermen are enjoying excellent catch and release fishing. The fishing is likely to be very good this week and it is possible that the rain expected for Friday may tone things down a bit but warmer weather will surely pick up the pace again. The cold weather of earlier this month had Hickory Shad, Striped Bass and White Perch holding back in channels waiting for temperatures to rise. The hot weather has arrived and water temperatures have soared and it is "watch out here we come" for many anadromous fish spawning species.
Before the current heat wave fishermen were reporting that they were picking away at mostly the smaller male Striped Bass in the Susquehanna Flats catch and release area. The rise in water temperature to the high 50's will really kick this fishery into gear this week. Fishermen know that a big rain event and subsequent cold and turbid water releases from the Conowingo Dam can have a big effect on fishing success. Fishermen have been reporting that crankbaits, and soft plastic jigs have been the best producing lures this week. Many are also reporting the unexpected surprise of catching lunker sized Largemouth Bass while fishing for Striped Bass. The fishermen who are targeting White Perch in the Turkey Point area are catching some nice sized fish on small jigs and bait.
Farther down the bay, fishermen have been enjoying catch and release opportunities for Striped Bass along steep channel edges and the Bay Bridge piers where suspended fish can be found. Jigging with soft plastics has been the most popular way to fish. Fishermen have been drifting through the warm water discharge plume at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant now for weeks jigging soft plastics close to the bottom and enjoying good catch and release fishing for Striped Bass. Fishermen should see the peak of this fishing activity this week as large female Striped Bass move through the area on their way to the upper Bay spawning grounds.

Photo courtesy of Darren Rickwood

Anyone going westbound on the Bay Bridge in the early morning hours has probably noticed small figures standing on the tip of Sandy Point's beach at the water's edge. These sentinels are watching surf fishing rods that are connected to bottom rigs with circle hooks that are baited with either cut bait or a blob of bloodworms. This week should offer good catch and release fishing for Striped Bass for those who are prepared. Care must be taken to use heavy tackle and being able to meet the fish in the water to avoid undue stress from a prolonged fight and dry sand damaging the slime layer on the fish. The fishing pier at Matapeake also offers good opportunities for Striped Bass catch and release but fishermen must be prepared with a bridge hoist net.
Fishermen are reporting pulsing runs of White Perch in the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay's tidal rivers and creeks this week. One day it can be gang busters and the next day off. This warm weather will most likely cause a large portion of the fish to march up to the spawning areas so fishermen should keep a watch on this fishery. Soon these spawning fish will be heading down river and provide us with more traditional White Perch fishing in the lower sections of the region's tidal rivers and creeks.
Trout fishermen are reporting good to excellent trout fishing this week and thinning crowds. Fishermen report being able to find more elbow room this week and additional in season stocking of trout will keep fishing in high gear. More than a few fishermen have had the opportunity to gawk at a fellow fisherman proudly struggling to heft one of the large breeder trout that the fisheries service trout program has put out for fishermen. John Melchoir was one of those lucky fishermen to catch one of these lunker trout at Little Falls and proudly holds it up for the camera.

Photo courtesy of John Melchoir

The ice at Deep Creek Lake is quickly abating and fishermen are finding themselves waiting for larger portions of open water. At present there is open water around the bridge piers and shallower coves. Western region trout fishermen are enjoying excellent trout fishing in most trout management waters. John Mullican sent us a quick report form the upper Potomac. The Potomac River is in great shape with temperatures approaching 50 °F. Smallmouth Bass action has been very good lately with 13 - 18" bass taking suspending jerkbaits, crankbaits, and tubes. Bass have been moving from wintering spots to traditional spring locations, which means you may find them in a variety of habitats. Walleye have finished spawning and are moving away from the traditional spring concentration areas. This doesn't mean good fishing is behind us. Deep diving crankbaits and jigs will find walleye that have moved towards the deeper ledges and pools.
A presentation titled "Status and Management of the Potomac River Muskellunge Fishery" will be provided to the public on April 11, 2013 at the Greenbriar State Park Visitor Center beginning at 6:30 pm. Topics covered will include age and growth, mortality estimates, size distribution, angling catch rate data from the voluntary creel diary program, and factors influencing the population.
Electro-fishing surveys were conducted below Dams 4 and 5 on the upper Potomac River to assess the Walleye population and collect brood stock for Manning Hatchery. The relative abundance of Walleye was similar to 2012. However, eighty-two percent of the Walleye collected measured 18 - 21 inches in total length. Although this size distribution is popular with anglers, it suggests very poor recruitment from the 2011 and 2012 year classes. Erratic and highly variable year classes are quite common with Walleye, particularly riverine populations. To supplement the existing natural reproduction, Walleye fingerlings (25,000) produced from the brood collected during the survey will be stocked between Dam 3 and Dam 4 later this spring. The fingerlings will be marked with oxytetracycline (OTC) so they can be distinguished during future surveys and their contribution to the fishery evaluated.
The fisheries crew at the Albert Powell Trout Hatchery has some good news for trout fishermen looking forward to the 2014 trout season. Over 400,000 Rainbow Trout juveniles (at 225/lb) were transferred to outdoor raceways. These fish are much larger than those transferred outdoors in previous years (see photo). New culture systems and staging areas provide better growth and operational flexibility. Mortality of 2013 fish was extremely low and fish condition was high. This excellent head start should also result in a better product for spring 2014.

Photo courtesy of Albert Powell Trout Hatchery

Largemouth Bass fishermen are seeing a rapid rise in water temperatures this week with most waters showing temperatures approaching 60-degrees. Largemouth Bass are moving into shallower waters and actively feeding. Emerging grass and any type of structure are good places to try lures such as crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and a variety of soft plastics. Spatterdock fields are beginning to pop up in the tidal rivers of the lower eastern shore which always provide good habitat for bait fish and Largemouth Bass. Crappie are very active now and can be found near structure in deeper waters, Bluegills are active and Chain Pickerel continue to provide plenty of action.
Water temperatures alone the shores of Ocean City are slowly creeping towards the upper 40's and soon fishermen will start to see tautog action in and around the Ocean City Inlet. The warm weather has drawn surf fishermen to the beaches and skates tend to be the only entertainment being provided at the moment. Offshore fishermen are finding excellent fishing for large tautog at the wreck sites.


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