Friday, October 18, 2013

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 17, 2013


By: Keith Lockwood

Last week a good old northeaster settled in on Maryland and lingered for what seemed an eternity, dumping rain and northeast winds on most of Maryland and especially the coastal areas. Usually a blow like this in early fall is the signal for many of our migratory and resident fish species to contemplate a change in behavior and location. Summer migrants in the bay and ocean waters have bid us goodbye for the most part and coldwater species such as Tautog and Black Sea Bass are coming in closer to shore. Freshwater species are starting to think about beefing up for the colder water that is ahead and for fish such as Smallmouth Bass, Walleye and trout that enjoy colder water, this is the best of times. It is the best of times for fishermen as well, as active fish present more fishing opportunities. Trout fishermen will be enjoying the fall stocking of 24,000 trout in trout management waters which will certainly offers increased opportunity. This is a marvelous time of the year to be in the outdoors so make sure to enjoy it as much as possible.
Fishermen who enjoy fishing in the lower Susquehanna River and upper most reach of the bay have been dealing with major water releases from the Conowingo Dam and cloudy water conditions. Water temperatures are falling and as soon as fishermen can find some clearer water, fishing should begin to resemble a typical fall pattern of finding Striped Bass chasing bait in the channel areas. Soft plastic jigs such as Bass Assassins are a good bet to begin with; surface poppers and crankbaits like the classic Rat-L-Trap are also good choices. Rob Enslin holds up a "keeper" that he caught in the Susquehanna just before the northeaster last week.

Photo Courtesy of Rob Enslin

In the upper bay region fishermen began to venture out on the bay early this week and found Striped Bass and White Perch waiting for them. Casting soft plastic jigs, popper and crankbaits near shoreline structure often near prominent points where current flows are swift is a good bet this time of the year. Bait in the form of Bay Anchovies and small Menhaden are leaving the tidal rivers and are being swept along in currents near channel edges and points. Trolling along the steep channel edges in the upper bay continues to be a good way to put some of the larger Striped Bass in the boat. It remains to be seen how many Bluefish are still left in the upper bay after our recent northeaster so it might still be perilous to place Storm Shads and similar soft baits in a trolling spread with spoons and bucktails. Chumming should pick up this week and if Spot can be found live lining will certainly be a good bet. Finding Spot remains to be seen since a blow like we just experienced is usually what sets them on a southerly course. The traditional locations such as Love Point, Podickory Point and the Bay Bridge piers should all come into play.
White Perch are schooling up in the deeper waters of the upper bay and the lower sections of the major tidal rivers. Fishermen may find 15" Striped Bass as part of the mix in these areas. Jigs with a dropper fly will be standard fare for putting some fat White Perch in the boat.
Middle bay region fishermen will find Striped Bass action this week in a variety of fishing situations. Trolling will be a good bet along major channel edges in the region. Spoons behind planers and inline weights will be the most popular offerings in trolling spreads and when the Bluefish depart swim shads will become a more common presentation, whether in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. Time will tell if there are still some spot around in the shallows of the bay and tidal rivers, if there are fishermen will be live lining them at places like the mouth of Eastern Bay, various steep channel edges, and shoal edges such as Stone Rock.
Most fishermen will be watching for birds and any sign of fish on their depth finders near channels and prominent points. Striped Bass should be holding to structure such as steep edges where swift currents sweep schools of baitfish by. Vertical jigging with metal and soft plastic jigs tends to be a rite of fall in the Chesapeake Bay for fishermen who will start to dress a little warmer as air temperatures begin to cool off. Sometimes the signs of feeding fish will be as obvious as diving birds and splashing fish and other times slicks and birds sitting on the water give sign of what might be going on deep beneath the surface. A good depth finder is a very valuable tool for this type of fishing.
White Perch are schooling up in the deeper sections of the tidal rivers near the bay and can offer some great fishing this time of the year. They can often be located over hard bottom such as oyster reefs and a good depth finder is an important tool in finding them. A metal jig that is heavy enough to get down to them with a dropper fly above is worked preferably with braided line for less resistance to current and more sensitivity to touch.
There is still plenty of action in the shallower areas of the bay and tidal rivers but fishermen were reporting before the northeaster that the best action was being found where currents swept past structure in 3' to 8' of water. Prominent points with old rip rap that is far offshore are classic places to fish poppers and swim shads for Striped Bass and perhaps a few Red Drum or Bluefish. Matt Mahoney holds up a nice Striped Bass caught in the lower Choptank during an evening of shallow water fishing with light tackle and poppers.

Photo by Keith Lockwood

Lower bay fishermen should find plenty of Striped Bass moving about in the major tidal rivers and bay near traditional locations where bottom structure such as steep channel edges hold fish. The lower Potomac River has a steep channel edge near St. George's Island that has been productive as has out in front of Cove Point, Cedar Point and Buoys 72 and 72A. Most fishermen were trolling before the blow and catching a mix of Bluefish and Striped Bass. Jigging on suspended fish in these and other locations should prove to be productive as more bait comes down the bay along these edges.
Chumming will certainly be productive for a mix of Bluefish and Striped Bass at the mouth of the Potomac, the Middle Grounds and Buoys 72 and 72A. Fishermen who are able to still find some Spot of suitable size for live lining will be targeting channel edges this week. Everyone no matter how they target Striped Bass this week will be constantly scanning the horizon for diving gulls and breaking fish and hoping to key in on the action. Just remember to move in carefully upwind of the action and turn you motor off and drift into the fish; nothing puts Striped Bass down faster then someone charging into a mass of fish.
There should be plenty of White Perch in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers often deep and over hard bottom. Jigging with metal jigs and dropper flies will be the most common way of fishing for them although bank fishermen will be using bottom rigs baited with bloodworms, shrimp or peeler crab. Spot and croaker most likely got the hint to hit the road after the northeaster but it will take fishermen hitting all of the traditional spots to truly find out what the situation is. Shallow water fishermen should still be able to find a mix of Striped Bass, Red Drum and Speckled Trout close to shore on shoals and edges and perhaps the Bluefish are still here.
Freshwater fishermen are seeing most of their favorite fishing areas in fine shape this week. Water levels have dropped back to good shape in most areas in the western and central regions. Fisheries crews have begun stocking trout once again and fishermen can see the scheduled stockings on the fisheries trout stocking website. For daily updates of actual stockings sign up for the nontidal recreational fisheries email list.
Fishermen were out this week on Deep Creek Lake and are reporting that the Smallmouth Bass fishing has improved considerably. Cooler water temperatures will spur the walleye into coming closer to shore and being more available to fishermen. Deep running crankbaits are always a good start to try when trying to locate walleye.
John Mullican reports that he was out on the upper Potomac Tuesday near Paw Paw and the river looks in fine shape. Access is limited due to all the boat ramps that are on federal property being chained off but there are some state ramps open and John mentioned that fishermen can launch at Paw Paw. Smallmouth Bass fishing has been very good despite heavy grass and floating leaves fouling fishermen's lines.
Fishermen looking for Largemouth Bass action in the tidal Potomac and surrounding tidal creeks are still finding the fishing a tough nut to crack. There are a lot of theories out there as to why the fishing is so bad but none seem to really stick. Elsewhere in the many Reservoirs, lakes and ponds that dot the Maryland landscape fishermen are enjoying good fishing for Largemouth Bass. Fishermen are reporting that targeting grass continues to be a good option but also the transition areas between shallow grass and deeper water has been holding fish. Plastic frogs, buzzbaits and poppers are being used near or over grass and spinnerbaits, crankbaits and soft plastics in the transition areas or sunken structure. Jim Gronaw holds up a nice bass for the camera before returning it back into a local pond.

Photo Courtesy of Jim Gronaw

Crappie are schooling up in deeper waters near structure such as bridge piers, sunken wood and boat docks. The tidal Potomac near the Wilson Bridge and near by marinas are great places to look for crappie with small tubes or minnows under a slip bobber. Blue Catfish are plentiful in the same general area of the Potomac, with the larger fish being found in the channel areas out in front of Fort Washington. In most of the tidal rivers of the bay, channel catfish are plentiful and active and can be caught on a variety of cut baits, chicken livers and nightcrawlers.
Ocean City area fishermen had to deal with a lingering northeaster which will most likely have some profound effects on the fishing scene near Ocean City. Summer species such as flounder, Croaker, Spot, and Kingfish are headed out and with water temperatures now in the mid 60's Tautog are moving in. Over the weekend fishermen were able to fish inside the inlet at places like the Route 50 Bridge and some nice Tautog were caught. Bluefish are still moving in and out of the inlet area and Striped Bass will become more common along the beaches and at the inlet.
The shift to cooler waters on the inshore wrecks and reef sites will hopefully put the Sea Bass fishery into a higher gear and there will still be some large flounder to be caught near these sites. The action offshore is shifting from Yellowfin Tuna to Longfin Tuna and it will not be long before Bluefin Tuna will be moving through our waters.


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