Friday, December 13, 2013

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | December 11, 2013


By: Keith Lockwood

s could be expected the weather is getting colder and water temperatures are dropping fast. Fish that are going to sit out the winter months in Maryland are holding deep where water temperatures are just a bit warmer and will hunker down for the winter. Recently I had the opportunity to get in "one last trip" out on the bay before our Striped Bass season closes down on the bay this December 15th. The fish were holding deep and jigging with braid was the name of the game. Striped Bass from the 2011 and even the 2012 year classes tended to dominate our hookups and they looked to be in great shape. We were targeting larger fish and were not disappointed when we hooked into some real bruisers up to 30". It was a very pleasant scene to see the fish in such good shape; they were fat like footballs, had that beautiful purple tint on top and just looked like the perfect Striped Bass. I even caught one that was on the road to recovery from Mycobacteriosis; the fish showed all skin lesions had healed, it had regenerated lost skin, the scales were in the process of regenerating and the fish was fat. It was a fine way to end the 2013 Striped Bass season on the Chesapeake. There is still time and weather for others to make one last trip out on the bay and enjoy some trolling or light tackle jigging. For those fishing our coastal waters or the lower Potomac there is even more time. The fishing report will be taking a break for the next couple of weeks but we plan to have a few feature articles about fishing in Maryland and some fishing updates.

Photo by Keith Lockwood

The best opportunities on the lower Susquehanna for catching a Striped Bass or two still remain at the Conowingo Dam pool and will most likely continue until the closing bell on December 15th. Most fishermen are casting topwater lures, crankbaits and swim shads and a few are drifting live eels. Channel Catfish will continue to be available to fishermen in the Susquehanna and Elk Rivers while Crappie and a few Yellow Perch are being caught near deep water piers in the lower Susquehanna.
Fishermen in the upper bay down to the Bay Bridge continue to troll deep with bucktails, spoons and plugs along deep channel edges for Striped Bass up to 32" and the occasional 40"+ fish. The Love Point area and the Dumping Grounds just above the Bay Bridge have been giving up some nice plump winter Striped Bass. The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles continue to be a good place to jig with metal or soft plastics where Striped Bass and White Perch can be seen on depth finders holding close to the bottom. Water temperatures in the upper bay and middle bay regions are now in the low 40's on the surface and high 40's on the bottom so most fish are now holding deep; along with bait in the form of Bay Anchovies and Menhaden. James Caramberis was trolling just north of the Bay Bridge when he caught this whopper of a Striped Bass.

Photo Courtesy of James Caramberis

Middle bay region fishermen are trolling along the edges of the shipping channel with a variety of lures in a variety of sizes. Medium bucktails, swim shads and crankbaits are being deployed deep for Striped Bass in the 24" size range. Large parachutes and bucktails are in trolling spreads for the chance at a larger Striped Bass over 30". Only a few are being picked up now and then but it only takes one of these brutes to make your day. The main body of coastal migrating Striped Bass is now off Ocean City so their arrival in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake may be too late for Maryland fishermen. The western edge of the shipping channel from Breezy Point south to Point Lookout, Buoy 68 and 72 as well as the channel edges in the lower Potomac River have been good places to troll. When concentrations of suspended fish can be found on depth recorders, light tackle jigging is a fun option. Fishermen are finding Striped Bass and White Perch holding at the mouths of some of the larger tidal rivers in the middle and lower bay regions and jigging with metal and often a dropper fly. If you can find White Perch holding deep on solid bottom the rewards can be great. The lower Patuxent in particular has been holding some nice Striped Bass and White Perch. The water temperatures in most areas are still warm enough in the deeper waters to entice the perch to bite such as this fine specimen.

Photo by Rich Watts

Freshwater fishermen in the western region are finding a snow covered landscape lately and many are thinking about ice fishing at traditional locations such as Deep Creek Lake. The ice in the cove areas receded last week due to warmer weather but is forming up once again and if cold weather persists, fishermen may see suitable ice by the end of December. Until then casting small crankbaits along steeper shoreline edges has been a good way to catch Walleyes and fishing with minnows under a slip bobber is a good way to catch Yellow Perch and also Walleyes.
Trout fishing in the many trout management waters will remain good through the winter months. Tailwater stretches such as the Savage and the Youghiogheny can experience winter hatches of May Flies and Stone Flies on a sunny day. Fishermen using large flies such as Muddler Minnows and Wooly Buggers can enjoy some great trout fishing in many of the Catch and Release or Delayed Harvest areas.
Walleye fishing will remain a good option for fishermen on the upper Potomac River this winter when water conditions allow for safe and effective fishing. Soft plastic jigs and tubes or swim shad type lures worked close to the bottom are a good choice.
Fishermen looking for Largemouth Bass will be fishing deep along channel edges and deep pockets in lakes and reservoirs. It can be difficult to get a bass to pickup a bait so most fishermen will be practicing the mantra of slow, deep and small. They will be working baits slow and right on the bottom in deep areas. Baits such as jigs and spinnerbaits or blade lures that are on the smaller side are the norm and bites from Largemouth Bass will be more of a subtle pickup than a strike. Mark Lim holds up a Largemouth he caught while slowly working a jig with a soft plastic crawfish close to the bottom.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Lim

Crappie offer some good fishing opportunities this month and can usually be found schooled up in deep water near some kind of structure. Deep marina docks in tidal waters often hold crappie and small minnows and tubes worked slowly can entice them to bite. The tidal Potomac and the lower Susquehanna are two of many areas that can offer this type of good fishing. The cold winter months are the time to fish for Chain Pickerel in tidal waters and impoundments throughout Maryland. Heavy grass beds are now diminished and these cold water loving fish are on the prowl for anything that moves.
Channel Catfish can offer some good fishing this month and in many areas it can be done from shore where it is easier to stay warm. Tidal rivers such as the Susquehanna, Elk, Sassafras, Chester, Bush, Magothy, Choptank, Nanticoke and Patuxent all hold good Channel Catfish populations. The tidal Potomac holds plentiful Blue Catfish that can be found as far south as Cobb Island.
Ocean City area fishermen are enjoying good fishing for large Striped Bass as the main body of the migration has arrived off Ocean City beaches. Most fishermen are traveling outside the inlet and trolling large crankbaits such as Stretch 25's, parachutes and large bucktails dressed with sassy shads. The shoals within 3-miles of the beach such as around the Delaware/ Maryland Line, Little Gull Shoals and just south of the Ocean City Inlet have been offering some of the best catches. Surf fishermen have been getting in their licks on the Striped Bass by fishing bottom rigs baited with large cut baits from Menhaden. In and around the inlet there are Striped Bass being caught by fishermen casting bucktails and swim shads or by drifting live eels.
Fishermen continue to venture out to the offshore wreck sites when the weather permits for Sea Bass. The fishing continues to be very good and most fishermen are limiting out. Jigging and fishing bottom rigs baited with clams are both effective fishing methods and large Bluefish can also be part of the mix.

Photo Courtesy of Elvin Philip


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