Thursday, December 4, 2014

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | December 04, 2014


By: Keith Lockwood

Last week's northeaster brought a lot of rain and chilly conditions to Maryland and distant memories to one who used to live near the ocean. For those living near the ocean a good northeaster always brings out folks to walk down to the beach and watch the power of the waves and to scour the beaches for what might be cast up from the depths of the ocean onto the beach. It could be lost surf fishing lures and rigs, a bucket full of surf clams, whelks, some lost artifact or even paper money that floated out of a summer swimmer's bathing suit pocket. A warm front moved in by the weekend and fishermen were out in force, especially on Sunday enjoying another dose of fishing.
Striped bass fishing in the very upper reaches of the bay is beginning to show real signs that the fish under 30" in length are moving to deeper water and their metabolism is slowing down. Water temperatures are close to the 40F mark this week so it is no wonder. Striped bass are being caught by jigging along the channel edges approaching the Elk and Susquehanna Rivers. The Conowingo Dam has been releasing water twice per day and early morning fishing for striped bass in the dam pool has slowed down considerably. Channel and flathead catfish are still biting in the areas tidal rivers.
The weatherman has not been kind lately but those who have not winterized their boats yet are venturing forth on the nicer days such as this past Sunday. Drifting live eels around piers and structure is still popular as is jigging over suspended fish when they can be found. Trolling is always popular this time of the year due to the fact of warm and inviting cabins. The major channel edges are the place to troll deep with a mixed spread of bucktails, parachutes and swim shads. Chris Phillips sent in this picture of why hardcore fishermen stick it out even when it is cold out and fishing success is waning. It only takes one fish like this 58 and a half pounder caught near Love Point to spark up anyone's enthusiasm. Chris mentioned that he has entered his fish into the 2014/2015 Maryland Fishing Challenge and perhaps his luck will continue next September and he may win one of the major prizes being offered at the finale awards ceremony.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Phillips

The Bay Bridge channel areas continue to hold schools of striped bass often in about 50' of water. Water temperatures in the bay are now down to about 44F so the fish in general are becoming sluggish and feeding less. Often a change of tide can turn the trick and being right on the fish can be a game changer. The deeper channel edges in the main part of the bay are the place to look for fish holding close to the bottom. Most striped bass and even white perch have left the tidal rivers looking for deeper water that will be a few degrees warmer. Gizzard shad are also camping out in some of these deeper areas and show up well on depth finders and often frustrating those who just can't quite understand why these fish on the depth finder won't bite!
Jigging is the most popular way for those in smaller boats to fish this week on fish holding deep; most are switching to soft plastics now except when white perch are the target. A metal jig with a dropper fly is the ticket for catching the white perch when you can get on them. Be sure to check out Warren Zick's recent angler's log about white perch jigging off of Matapeake. 
When the wind blows and whitecaps show on the bay shoreline fishermen can still enjoy some fishing if they can find a lee shore to get out of the wind. Nice weather on a weekend will always bring out those willing to soak baits or cast lures. Randy Richie went to the Sandy Point State Park jetty to try his luck on Sunday and certainly was not disappointed when he caught this nice fish. 

Photo Courtesy of Randy Richie
Fishing in the middle bay region is mostly focused now on fishing along the main channel edges out in the bay such as the shipping channel. Jigging is popular when fish can be spotted on a depth finder holding close to structure and there is still some breaking fish action being found throughout the region. Boats are trolling along the steep shipping channel edges around Thomas Point, Bloody Point and the western edge of the shipping channel south of Chesapeake Beach. Most are putting out a mixed spread of medium and large bucktails, parachutes and swim shads and fishing deep. There have been a few large fall migrant striped bass caught recently and every fisherman hopes he will be the next lucky one.
The lower bay region is seeing plenty of action this week as breaking fish and diving sea gulls are being reported. Jigging is always a favorite when this kind of action can be spotted but as colder temperatures set in the lure of a warm cabin on a larger boat is very inviting so trolling is becoming more popular. The steep shipping channel edges out in front of Cove Point, The lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers as well as Tangier Sound are all good places to troll. A mixed spread of large and medium sized lures trolled deep is in order since the lower bay usually offers the best chance for large fall migrant striped bass. More than a few boats have even been traveling south to Smith Point looking for the larger striped bass and a few are being caught.
White perch are being caught in some the deeper areas at the mouths of the region's major tidal rivers on bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or jigs with dropper flies. Blue catfish are abundant in the lower Potomac River and channel catfish offer good fishing opportunities in the Patuxent and Eastern Shore tidal rivers.
Freshwater fishermen at Deep Creek Lake have been watching ice form and retreat for the past couple of weeks and the scenario continues this week. There is some good fishing for walleyes and yellow perch along steep rocky edges with small jigs, minnows and Rapala type lures.
The North Branch Potomac River Upper Catch-and-Return Trout Fishing Area just downstream of the Jennings Randolph Lake Dam was recently surveyed to monitor the status of the trout population. Fisheries biologists found a trout population density of more than 500 trout per mile, which is one of the higher trout densities in recent years. They collected rainbow trout measuring up to 20 inches, brown trout up to 15 inches, and even a couple of beautiful brook trout.
The upper Potomac River has been running very low for quite a while now making for some difficult fishing conditions for those fishing for walleyes and smallmouth bass. Water level conditions are improving due to recent rain and snow fall in the watershed.
Largemouth bass are holding deep now in most areas and have slowed down their feeding due to cold water conditions. Targeting deeper areas and especially deep structure is a good tactic and now that largemouth bass are in their winter mode of behavior the mantra of "small, slow and deep" are in order when selecting lures, retrieval and depths to fish. Strikes will often be very subtle and can resemble being snagged at first.
Reservoirs such as Rocky Gorge, Piney Run and Liberty hold populations of landlocked striped bass that are stocked by the Fisheries Service. These fish can grow to large proportions and usually become more active with cooler water temperatures in the spring and fall months. Nick Cotter holds up a nice 32" landlocked striped bass he recently caught at Rocky Gorge.

Photo Courtesy of Nick Cotter
Ocean City area fishing has now settled down to fishing for striped bass and small bluefish in the surf and the inlet. The long awaited arrival of large striped bass moving along the coastal beaches has finally occurred. Casting a variety of lures or soaking fresh menhaden baits in the surf has been effective for the striped bass. The small bluefish are mostly being caught on finger mullet. Drifting live eels in the inlet at night has been very popular. Tautog season is now closed till January 1st 2015.
Outside the inlet striped bass are being caught at various inshore shoal areas by trolling, jigging and drifting live eels. Farther offshore the excellent sea bass fishing continues with limit catches being very common. Fishing with bait or jigs has been equally successful. Large bluefish and a few flounder tend to round out the mix.


No comments:

Post a Comment