Friday, February 13, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | February 12, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

Winter weather is often a time for most fishermen to spend time indoors paging through fishing catalogs, attending outdoor shows or preparing their equipment for anticipated fishing seasons in Maryland or heading to more southern latitudes for a fishing fix. There is a group though that sees opportunity in several species of fish that are active in Maryland's cold water during the winter. The following is a tale of two fishermen who knew what they were after and made the necessary preparations to put them in position to take advantage of the opportunity if luck gave them a chance. 
Tautog fishing has been good on the wreck and reef sites located off Ocean City since the season opened on January 1st. More than a few out of state anglers have been coming to Ocean City in the colder months for years now and a group of fishing buddies from New York came prepared on January 2nd to fish for tautog on an Ocean City charter boat. Ken Westerfeld had a dream to catch a 20 lb. tautog one day and he figured the best place to make that dream come true was off Ocean City during the winter months. Ken surpassed his dream by catching a 28.8 lb massive tautog that established a new state record for Maryland and a pending all tackle world record. 

Photo by Kane Bounds

The same day (January 2) Lee Haile was fishing with his son targeting large chain pickerel in the deepest parts of an Eastern Shore lake where the largest chain pickerel are prone to be found. Chain pickerel do not mind cold water and many of Maryland's tidal rivers and freshwater impoundments hold healthy populations of chain pickerel. They are an aggressive fish and provide a lot of entertainment for fishermen often when other fish refuse to cooperate during cold water conditions. Smaller fish can usually be found along shoreline weed beds and are often labeled as "hammer handles". Lee had a dream of catching a trophy size chain pickerel and he certainly got his wish when he landed this 8 lb monster on a minnow jig combo. Lee's fish set a new official freshwater division Maryland state record.

Photo by Eddie Haile
Despite cold weather and icy conditions in many areas, open water can be found in some of Maryland's tidal rivers and yellow perch can be found in some of the deeper waters. The lower Susquehanna River in the Perryville area is holding yellow perch in about 50' to 55' of water and other tidal waters such as the Northeast, Gunpowder, Magothy, Chester, Choptank and Nanticoke to name a few all hold populations of yellow perch. Searching the deeper waters with a depth finder can help locate concentrations of perch. An ultra-light fishing outfit, some small jigs or shad darts tipped with grass shrimp, small minnows or piece of worm are a good choice where current flow is a factor. In waters that are more still, a minnow on a hook trailing a couple of feet behind a split shot is good choice to use. The perch are often holding close to the bottom and tend to be sluggish so the offering should be worked very slowly close to the bottom; the strike will be subtle.
In the western region of the state ice fishing is king this time of the year and ice fishing has been good at Deep Creek Lake and some selected impoundments in the region. Fisheries biologists John Mullican and Matt Sell have been getting their licks in on the yellow perch at Deep Creek Lake and Matt sent us this nice report. After a relatively mild December, Mother Nature turned down the thermostat to start 2015, allowing ice fisherman the chance to get out on the "hard water" for the first time of the year. Many of our lakes and reservoirs will build enough ice to safely fish; however, Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County is possibly the most popular destination for Maryland's ice fishermen. The primary targets there have been walleye, yellow perch, and bluegills; however the occasional northern pike or chain pickerel have been making appearances. It is an impressive moment when a northern pike comes up through an ice hole and certainly calls for bragging rights but for the uninitiated it is very difficult to fillet out the floating lateral bones they contain. Unless one really knows what they are doing in regards to filleting a pike; it is better to take a quick picture, note any tags and tag numbers and return them to the lake so they may thrill another angler some day. For walleyes and perch, anglers have been reporting success in a variety of locations and methods; some having good success on tip-ups with minnows and some having better luck jigging small spoons or jigs; some finding fish deep and some fishing very shallow. We have seen most of our luck in more than 15 feet of water jigging small jigs or Rapalas tipped with maggots or mealworms. More often than not the bites have been very light, so a spring bobber on your rod tip has proven invaluable for detecting strikes. 

Photos by Matt Sell
In central Maryland, ice fishermen can choose from numerous small lakes and private ponds (with permission). Check to make sure ice fishing is allowed before heading out as regulations can vary with pond ownership. Greenbrier Lake and Blairs Valley Lake are two small impoundments in Washington County that offer good ice fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, crappie, and large sunfish. 
The pre-season trout stocking began in Maryland's trout management waters last week with the stocking of 1,000 rainbow trout in Middle Creek and 1,000 rainbow trout in Beaver Creek on this past Monday and Tuesday along with 500 rainbow trout in Licking Creek. The pre-season trout stockings occur as stocking crews can deal with weather conditions and work schedules. To find out when stockings have occurred anglers can be notified by being on the Fisheries email subscription list or by checking the trout stocking website
Marshall Brown is the manager of the Albert Powell Trout Hatchery and Marshall was kind enough to send a short report concerning what trout fishermen may expect this year. There are a few changes this year regarding closure periods. We now only have a 1 and 2 closure period and after opening day, which will be March 28th this year, all streams, lakes and ponds will remain open for fishing. Trout numbers have increased by 2,900 this year and the new annual total will be 337,400. Trout size will be comparable to last year where the typical 1-year old will average slightly larger than ½ lb. The 2-year old holdover trout will average around 1.25 lbs each and trophy trout will average between 7 lbs and 8 lbs with some trout over 10 lbs. Catching a trout over 10 lbs will certainly spark up anyone's season! The trout are weighed as they are loaded onto the stocking trucks to give the crews an idea of how many trout are being loaded into the truck. The trout stocking program also stocks golden rainbow trout which are a genetic offshoot of regular rainbow trout but still a rainbow trout. They are stocked as a novelty fish for trout fishermen to add a little extra excitement to the put and take fishery. Ken Booth holds up a nice one that will be a thrill for someone this year.

Photo by John Mullican

Photo by Keith Lockwood
Fisheries Service survey crews have been out sampling resident fish populations in the upper bay for the past month aboard the Cooperative Oxford Laboratories research vessel. The method of sampling has been to tow a 30' wide bottom trawl behind the boat at specified areas usually at the mouths of the region's tidal rivers. The trawl is hoisted aboard where the fish are quickly counted, measured and returned back into the water. Fortunately due to the cold water the fish survive this disturbance to their loafing the winter months away in the deep waters of the channel areas. Yellow perch, white perch, small striped bass and channel catfish are the species of most interest but other species of catfish are noted along with fish such as carp. The boat's captain Mike Simonsen sent us a couple of pictures from a recent trip and one can see the fish being sorted and the other shows perch stacked up close to the bottom.

Photos by Mike Simonsen
Fishing in the Ocean City area has been centering on tautog fishing so far this year. Water temperatures are pretty cold and captains report that the fishing success has been a bit spotty lately. The recreational sea bass season is due to open on May 15th which will add additional incentive to boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites off of Ocean City.
The Fisheries Service will be in attendance at the Pasadena Sportfishing Flea Market/Show this coming weekend February 14th and 15th; Licensing will also be there selling fishing licenses. The show is being held at the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company on Route 2 in Severna Park from 8am till 2 pm each day, stop by and to say hello and pick up your new fishing license.
There is going to be a Blue Catfish Tournament on the tidal Potomac River to be held at Smallwood State Park on March 21st; for more information go to the CCA website at


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