Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 02, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

It certainly was a cold opening day for trout fishermen this past Saturday and one that will be talked about for many years. One can imagine many of our young anglers 20 or 30 years from now relating to their children. "When I was your age it was so cold on opening day that my fishing rod guides froze with ice". The weather service tells us that so far this is the coldest spring on record in Maryland. Warmer weather is in the forecast and continued trout stockings will make for good fishing this week and for weeks to come. Neil Villanueva and Brandon Collins braved cold fingers and toes on opening day but proudly hold up their reward.

Photo Courtesy of Neil Villanueva

The big story for anyone watching for the window of opportunity to be able to fish the anticipated spawning runs of white perch, is the fluctuating water temperatures. Water temperatures in the tidal rivers recently took a nose dive due to chilly weather and the tidal rivers and are barely holding at 50ºF today. Warmer weather is in the forecast for the rest of the week and a few sunny days will help a lot. Water temperatures at the mouth of the Susquehanna are a finger numbing 40ºF. A few folks have been out trying some catch and release fishing for striped bass around the flats but there have been no takers and the large females might not even be there yet since the bay water temperatures are not much warmer. There are some yellow perch being caught in the deeper waters of the lower Susquehanna River and a little bit of action in the Northeast River. Other tidal rivers in the upper bay such as the Sassafras and Chester can provide some good fishing action for post spawn yellow perch in the upper sections and the vanguard of the white perch spawning run may also be experienced. 
Farther down the bay; the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge seems to be the only show in town when it comes to catch and release action for striped bass. Bouncing soft plastic jigs or metal in the wash of the discharge in a drifting boat has been providing some rod bending catch and release action.
Since fall/winter 2014, Fisheries Service has been taking steps to assure recreational anglers are aware of recreational and commercial striped bass fishery management rule changes necessary to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) approval of Addendum IV to the Interstate Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. Addendum IV required a 25% reduction in the coastal fisheries and a 20.5% reduction in the Chesapeake Bay fisheries.
After public input and lengthy discussions with the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission (SFAC) of several different options to achieve the mandated reduction, the Department proposed the option which best meets the diversity of interests among Maryland's anglers. It continues to provide an opportunity for a trophy fish (>40") while also providing an opportunity to those which would like to have a better chance to bring a fish home. It also provides increased protection to the female spawning stock which is an objective of ASMFC's recent management action. In mid-March we learned that the ASMFC Striped Bass Technical Committee had approved Maryland's proposal. Therefore, regulations for this year are as follows: 
A person may only take or possess: 
  • One striped bass between 28 inches and 36 inches or one striped bass larger than 40 inches from April 18, 2015 to May 15, 2015.
  • Two striped bass larger than 20 inches, only one of which may be larger than 28 inches, from May 16, 2015 to December 15, 2015.
EXCEPTION: A person may only keep one striped bass between 20 inches and 26 inches in the Susquehanna Flats and the Northeast River, as described in COMAR, from May 16, 2015 through May 31, 2015. 
Maryland has submitted an appeal to the ASMFC concerning the 20" minimum for striped bass in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
There are white perch staged in just about every tidal river in the middle and lower regions of the bay. Cold water temperatures have most of the white perch holding in deeper water a few miles downriver from the spawning areas. Fisheries biologist Butch Webb has been monitoring the white perch spawning run in the Choptank River recently and offered us these observations. We are seeing a lot of smaller white perch this year. There hasn't been a run of big perch to this point and they are starting to spawn so we may not get a run of good ones further up the river. The water temps have been variable from 47º to 50º depending on night time air temperature. We have caught at least one blue catfish a day for the past four days. 
Although rain is predicted towards the end of the week; warm air temperatures and plenty of sun penetration into the waters of the tidal rivers should spur the white perch runs this coming weekend which will fit nicely into folk's schedules. Small shad darts tipped with a piece of minnow or other favorite baits will be a good choice for weeding through the surge of small white perch in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers. The throwback ratio is usually high on spawning white perch runs so lures such as shad darts get you back into the action faster than the classic grass shrimp bait under a bobber.
There seems to be a bit of a shortage in the bloodworm market so far this season. Cold temperatures and heavy snow in Maine have made it difficult for diggers to supply enough bloodworms to go around. Apparently European buyers are also purchasing as many bloodworms as they can for their fishermen. Hopefully the market will ease up as we get farther along into spring.
Trout fishing is now shifting gears as anglers begin to find more elbow room at trout management waters and additional trout stockings at numerous locations. In season trout stocking will continue into May. Anticipated stockings can be found on the trout stocking schedule link; anglers are reminded that the date listed means "the week of". Completed stockings can also be observed on the trout stocking website.
An ultra light spinning outfit, some hooks, a few split shot and some Powerbait are the basics for trout fishing in the put and take areas. Something to put your trout in is a handy thing to have and a landing net can be a very valuable tool to have especially if you happen to run into one of the trophy sized trout that are stocked at every location. There was a funny video several years ago of an angler jumping into the Patapsco to bear hug his trophy trout because he did not have a landing net. Ronny Rice looks happy and dry in this photo of the largest trout he has ever caught; Ronny was fishing on the Gunpowder this past Monday.

Photo Courtesy of Ronny Rice
There are many ponds near populated areas that are stocked with trout which make them ideal for taking young anglers, some are even set aside just for young anglers so be sure to check out the trout stocking website and the trout stocking maps site can also be very helpful. 
Fisheries biologist John Mullican sent us a wonderful report from the upper Potomac River. The upper Potomac River is in great shape with slightly below average flow. Temperatures are now in the mid-40s and climbing. Smallmouth bass are becoming more active and fishermen are catching quality-size bass on tubes, hair jigs, and suspending jerkbaits.

Photo by John Mullican
Walleye have begun spawning and consequently the fishing has been slow. However, once the spawn is complete, walleye will resume feeding and the fishing should improve. After completing their spawning activities, walleye will spread out throughout the river. This is a good time to throw jerkbaits and crankbaits to cover water more efficiently and find fish. A lightweight jig and grub combo presented slowly near the bottom will be more effective when the fish are not as active. 
Inland Fisheries staff recently collected brood walleye for the Manning Warmwater Hatchery in Cedarville. Ice and high water resulted in a very small window of opportunity to conduct the collection. Unfortunately for fishermen, the pre-spawn walleye fishing was reduced to only a week or two before spawning began. The fingerlings produced from the Potomac River walleye are used to supplement existing natural reproduction in the river as well as supply fingerlings for stocking throughout Maryland. Several large muskie were captured during the survey as well. 

Photo by John Mullican
Maryland's many small ponds and impoundments are beginning to warm up as sunny days prevail and night time air temperatures are becoming more moderate. Largemouth bass, bluegills and crappie are beginning to stir and can be found in the deeper areas of transition zones leading from the deepest waters to shallower areas. Sunny afternoons can be a good time to fish as species such as largemouth bass respond favorably to the warming sun. Soft plastics worked slowly and close to the bottom in these areas is a very good tactic. Crappie and bluegills can be caught under slip bobbers rigged with a small jig or bait about 3' to 5' under the bobber. Crappie tend to be found near deep structure right now, such as bridge piers, fallen tree tops or sunken wood. 
More and more open water is being seen at Deep Creek Lake this week; most of the coves are open and the state boat ramp is open. The shorelines of the main lake are open but main lake ice still prevails. Winter is always a little less than ready to give up its grip on the western most sections of Maryland and Deep Creek Lake is no exception.
The parking lots and every other available space in the Ocean City area tends to be full of boats up on chocks, but more and more activity can be seen as owners and crew prepare boats for the upcoming season. A few boats have been venturing offshore though in search of tautog at some of the wreck sites farther offshore. Boats have also been traveling out to the canyons for deep drop fishing and one boat while trolling in the Baltimore Canyon area recently caught a small mako shark.


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