Thursday, July 31, 2014

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 31, 2014


By: Keith Lockwood

Your fishing report author is still on vacation but keeping tabs on the beautiful weather that has been occurring recently in Maryland along with some good fishing opportunities. It is summer time in Maryland and we are passing the half way mark so don't miss out on the action, especially for our summer migrant species in the Chesapeake Bay and the Ocean City area. My offshore fishing at the Big Island of Hawaii is now over but not before experiencing a blitz of small Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna that really provided a lot of exciting fun behind the boat and a lot of good eating. We were hand lining plastic squids behind the boat and the tuna would come up like speeding torpedoes, hit the squid and then the fight would switch over to a fishing rod. In the Aloha spirit of things we were able to barter for our baggage fees on a small plane coming back to Maui by sharing some tuna and all of our friends on Maui have been enjoying it as well. We've had sashimi, sushi, poke and have cooked it in many different ways in the past week and also managed to borrow a pressure cooker and put up 3 dozen jars of canned tuna for our island friends and hopefully will be able figure out how to bring some back to Maryland. Although vacations are always grand; I will be anxiously looking out the window of a big jet liner next week as it approaches recognizable Maryland landscape. Below is a shot of my friend Rubin sending one of our small but tasty butterballs for an ice bath in the fish hold.

Photo by Keith Lockwood

In the lower Susquehanna River most of the Striped Bass action is taking place at the Conowingo Dam Pool at first light. Casting swim shads, plugs or drifting live eels and small White Perch have been the most popular ways to fish for them. Power generation water releases later in the day at the dam make for more difficult fishing. Smallmouth Bass and catfish are being targeted in the lower river and Largemouth Bass out on the flats. Most all of the major tidal rivers in the upper bay have good populations of White Perch and Channel catfish in them; small spinners and jigs work well for the perch and cut bait or nightcrawlers are a good choice for catfish.
The upper bay continues to provide very good fishing for Striped Bass this week by a variety of methods. Trolling bucktails behind inline weights and spoons behind planers has been a good option for catching a nice grade of Striped Bass along channel edges. Chumming and live lining or chunking Spot has been good at locations such as Love Point, the Dumping Grounds and Baltimore Light. Many of the Striped Bass being found in chum slicks tend to be the 2011 year class fish that are just shy of 18" at this time. Striped Bass can also be found along other channel edges in the upper bay and a little exploring while watching a depth finder can pay big dividends. Often jigging is a good option when fish can be found holding along edges. There has also been some good White Perch fishing being reported on some of the knolls and shoals out in the bay such as Belvidere Shoals; most fishermen are using small jigs or bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or bloodworms at these sites.
The Bay Bridge continues to be a good place to look for Striped Bass holding near the piers. Sometimes they may be suspended a good distance off the bottom so it often pays to make a run through the bridge and watch the depth finder to spot where they are holding. Live lining Spot continues to be a very popular way to catch them but chunking with fresh Spot works as does jigging. In the shallower areas of the bridge a mix of White Perch, small croaker and Spot can be caught on bottom rigs baited with bloodworms.
The fishing for Striped Bass in the middle bay region continues to be very good at a number of locations this week. It seems that the Striped Bass may have spread out a bit since there are a number of areas where the fishing has been good, this also helps spread the fishing pressure out so things aren't so crowded. The Hill area continues to get a lot of pressure from live liners but other nearby locations such as channel edges in Eastern Bay, Bloody Point. The Gum Thickets, the outside eastern edge of Hackett's Bar, Thomas Point, the Clay Banks, the Diamonds and Stone Rock edges are producing action at times. These are just a few places to start looking; any edge with good current flow and acceptable oxygen and temperature can hold fish.
Fisheries biologists and our young anglers from the Maryland Youth Fishing Club were out tagging Striped Bass for the July segment of Diamond Jim. One of these fish could be worth $20,000 to a lucky fisherman and if not caught, the August release of Diamond Jim will rise to a $25,000 pay out. One of our young anglers gets a little help holding a tagged Diamond Jim Striped Bass before it is released into the bay.

Photo Courtesy of Charlie and Ben Ward
Catching the proper size Spot for live lining tends to be difficult for many fishermen as the season progresses and Spot get larger. In a pinch cutting them up into fresh baits will often work well when Striped Bass are under the boat and often enough the only way to keep your sanity when Bluefish come charging in. Another option for the larger Spot is the frying pan; if they are filleting size they are fine fare. Croaker are also being found while fishing for Spot and although many are small they make good eating also. Some of the better croaker catches are taking place in the evening hours along channel edges in the lower areas of the tidal rivers and edges like Stone Rock.
Shallow water fishing for Striped Bass in the tidal rivers and bay shorelines is mostly a crack of dawn and late evening affair this week. Water temperatures are about 80-degrees in the bay so warm temperatures coupled with bright sun light have the Striped Bass holding deeper during the day. There is plenty of good fishing for White Perch in the tidal rivers and creeks during the morning and evening hours for those casting small spinners and jigs with light tackle. Shore based fishermen at various locations such as the Matapeake Pier and the Bill Burton Pier on the Choptank have been catching a mix of Spot, croaker, White Perch, small Bluefish and Striped Bass.
Lower bay region fishing has a lot of variety to it this week. Chumming for a mix of Striped Bass and Bluefish is still popular at the mouth of the Potomac River; although many of the Striped Bass are just shy of 18" and Bluefish can dominate chum slicks at times. Live lining Spot along channel edges near Cove Point, Buoy 72 and the mouth of the Patuxent has been accounting for some Striped Bass. Trolling bucktails and spoons deep with inline weights and planers has been a good option for a mix of Striped Bass and Bluefish along popular channel edges. The Middle Grounds are holding a lot of Bluefish and there has been some fun action up by the Target Ship. Some large Red Drum have been caught and released while trolling spoons north of the Target Ship and some slot sized Red Drum have been caught while jigging in the area. The area around the Target Ship has a history of large fish and Greg Fawcett holds up a very large Sheepshead he caught there.

Photo Courtesy of Greg Fawcett
There has been good fishing for a mix of croaker, Spot and small Bluefish in the Tangier Sound area as well as the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. There are some Speckled Trout and Red Drum being caught in the Tangier and Pocomoke Sound area and Bloodsworth Island as well. There are also some flounder being caught along the hard shoals near the channel areas in Tangier Sound. In the lower Potomac River medium sized Blue Catfish can often make a large portion of the bottom fishing there.
Recreational crabbers are reporting poor success in the upper bay this week, fair to good in the middle bay region and generally good in the lower bay tidal rivers and creeks. Catches have varied from a few dozen good crabs to a full bushel. One thing that most are agreeing upon is the large number of small crabs chewing up baits.
Fisheries biologist John Mullican was kind enough to send us a report from the upper Potomac River. The upper Potomac River is very low. The water has cleared considerably as the SAV grows and expands. Under the low and clear conditions a stealthy approach is necessary. Several anglers have reported a light to fair hatch of White Miller mayflies in the Williamsport and Big Slack water areas. These mayflies hatch right at dark and can bring a variety of fish to the surface. During the day finding deeper ledges and boulders with current will give you a better chance at larger Smallmouth. Tubes and small crayfish imitating jigs have been best during daylight hours.
Largemouth Bass are providing plenty of entertainment for fishermen all over the Maryland landscape from lakes, ponds and reservoirs or tidal waters. Most of the best shallow water action is occurring in the early morning or late evening hours. Much of this action is in and around grass, lily pads and spatterdock fields and topwater lures usually provide some of the most exciting strikes that Largemouth Bass are known for. As the day wears on targeting deeper grass, the shade under docks and sunken structure such as wood and bridge piers is a good tactic. Crankbaits, soft plastics and spinnerbaits are often good choices for deeper waters and shade. Ryan Griffiths got to go fishing with his dad at a Montgomery County farm pond and holds up his prize Largemouth Bass with his dad before releasing it.

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Griffiths
The Ocean City area has been providing plenty of fishing opportunities this week. Surf fishing tends to be focused around a mix of small summer species such as kingfish, croaker, Spot, small Bluefish and smooth Dogfish. Water temperatures in the surf are around 74F so often the best fishing is in the early morning and evening hours. In and around the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area there has been good flounder fishing during the day and some Tautog and Sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas. At night the action shifts to Bluefish and Striped Bass that are being caught on swim shads and Got- Cha lures. There are plenty of flounder and a mix of croakers and small bluefish being caught in the back bay areas.
Fisheries biologist Steve Doctor has provided us a report about some of the offshore action. The big story oceanside was the Big Fish Tournament held at Talbot Street Marina this weekend. One of the challenges with tournaments and summer time fishing is that many species bite at the break of dawn, dusk and at night. Most of the tournaments are day time which is OK for marlins but not for swordfish and tunas mid-summer.
The Big Fish Tournament was a 36 hour contest which allowed for overnight fishing, the results were great. There was a 200 pound swordfish and lots of big tunas landed.
On the reef and wreck front there were few flounder but some really large Sea Bass landed. In the coastal bays when the water is clear there are a lot of Summer Flounder being caught with most of the fish being on the small side.


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