Thursday, April 30, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 30, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

The transition from somewhat fussy April weather to what we all expect to be a balmy May continues to be a back and forth but somewhat steady progression towards milder weather. Last week's cold front that gave us chilly night time temperatures did not do good things for the previous week's striped bass spawn. The good news is that this year's spawn has been protracted due to cooler water temperatures and the next wave of striped bass began to spawn yesterday in the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent and Potomac Rivers. 
Cold nighttime temperatures, cold local runoff and increased water releases from the Conowingo Dam have the Susquehanna River and flats fisheries in a bit of a seesaw pattern lately for hickory shad and striped bass catch and release fishing. Water temperatures took a nose dive last week and stained water tended to prevail in the flats and lower Susquehanna River area. Hickory shad catch and release success tends to be based on warmer water temperatures at Deer and Octoraro Creeks as well as the Susquehanna. Striped Bass catch and release success tends to be based on water clarity and to a lesser degree, water temperature. It can be frustrating for anglers traveling a distance in hopes of some fun catch and release fishing and about the best one can do is look for warm sunny days and keep watch on dam releases and rain events. The striped bass catch and release fishery will only get better in the next week as more adult fish move into the region to spawn. Another fishery to look forward to is the arrival of the spawning white perch which as are most spawning runs this year, late. This fishery should begin to develop in the Susquehanna River shortly.
Trolling for striped bass in the upper bay has been good recently as fish move up the bay towards the Susquehanna/Elk River spawning areas. There has been a lot of action on the eastern side of the bay recently with the channel edges near Love Point getting a lot of attention. Boats have also been catching fish at the Dumping Grounds and to a lesser extent along the Podickory Point channel edge. In most areas there tends to be a thermocline at about 25' and bait in the form of menhaden has been showing up on depth finders above that mark. John Barbare holds up a nice 42" striped bass he caught in the upper bay recently. 

Photo Courtesy of John Barbare
Jellyfish have been troublesome above and below the Bay Bridge fouling lines and demanding attention to clear lines. Unfortunately the tidal current lines along steep channel edges are where the jellyfish tend to be swept along by the current and are most abundant. The jellyfish that are being encountered are called winter jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay and they are usually seen from November to May. They usually do not grow any larger than 6" in diameter and have a reddish center and are capable of a mild sting. There may be a lot of them this year due to an abundance of zooplankton that has occurred following this past winter's snow and rain runoff. Anyone who has fished the mouth of the Chesapeake or along the coast, most likely has seen this same jellyfish in a much larger form, the lion's mane jellyfish. At times they can grow to be 2' in diameter and carry a full load of stinging tentacles that are the bane of surfers, swimmers and gillnetters. The stinging cells are called nematocysts and each cell has a harpoon like filament that punctures the skin and causes the sting and they do not need to be attached to the jellyfish to do their job. The sea nettle that summer time swimmers in the bay are so familiar with carries the same type of stinging nematocyst cells.
Some of the traditional hot spots below the Bay Bridge continue to produce this year and the channel edge near Bloody Point south to Buoy 83 is no exception. Most are trolling a mixed spread of white and chartreuse bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads. Thomas Point usually catches the attention of more than a few boats and presents another steep channel edge to check. A few larger fish are moving out of the Choptank and Nanticoke from last week's spawn and the False Channel is a good place to try for post spawn Choptank fish leaving the river and Tangier Sound for the Nanticoke River post spawn fish. 
The western side of the shipping channel is always a good place to troll from Breezy Point south to Point No Point. Strong westerly winds make this side of the bay a sweet spot for boats coming out of western shore ports. It is nice to be on the leeward side of the bay in such a blow. The fish tend to be in the top 25' of water so early morning trolling and planer boards are a definite asset to productive fishing. The steep edge of the shipping channel on the eastern side of the bay from Taylor's Island south to the HI Buoy and Buoy 72 have also been productive places to troll. David Roberts is all smiles with this beautiful 45" striped bass he caught near Cove Point. 

Photo Courtesy of David Roberts
The channel edges out in front of St. Georges Island and Piney Point have usually been excellent places to troll for post spawn striped bass coming down the Potomac and this year is no exception. There has been good fishing success there this week and the action will continue as long as striped bass are moving down the river. There have been rumors about the first croaker being caught recently in the Point Lookout area and this area is where the season's first croakers are seen. This past week there has been good croaker fishing near several of Virginia's tidal rivers and some of that action will be drifting north as Maryland's waters warm up.
Freshwater fishing at Deep Creek Lake has been a bit tough recently with cold temperatures and even sleet at times. Water temperatures are running about 48° to 50° this week with the shallower coves being a little warmer. Chain pickerel are very active in the grassy cove areas and a few northern pike are also being caught. Drifting along the shorelines in a boat or fishing from shore with minnows under a slip bobber has been a good way to catch large yellow perch, walleye and a few smallmouth bass this week.
The upper Potomac River has been settling down since the dangerous flood stage event last week. It is predicted that the river will be safe for fishing later on this week. Fishing for walleye and smallmouth bass can be counted on to resume once conditions are safe. 
Trout fishing is a great choice for freshwater fishing this week and the fact that stocking crews have placed over 27,000 trout in management waters last week and more this week certainly helps a lot. Water temperatures are still cool enough and water flows are excellent for great trout fishing opportunities. A quick check of the trout stocking website will inform you when and where trout are stocked and the trout stocking maps link can help you find that special spot to try your luck. Jason Sweeney holds up a trophy sized rainbow trout he caught in Owens Creek in Frederick County on a nightcrawler recently. 

Photo Courtesy of Jason Sweeney
Largemouth bass are still in a pre spawn mode of behavior in some areas due to cold water temperatures but in many areas they are now moving into the shallower and warmer spawning areas. Spinnerbaits, shallow running crankbaits and topwater lures are good choices when fishing shallower waters. A bright sunny day will often do much to warm up the shallower areas and some of the better fishing can be encountered later on in the day after the sun has done its work. Soft plastics and jigs are good choices when fishing deeper cover near coves and feeder creeks. 
In several tidal river areas such as the tidal Potomac, stained water and the recent cold front have diminished fishing success for largemouth bass. This week's warmer weather should do much to improve fishing. The Eastern Shore rivers such as the Pocomoke usually fare much better when it comes to runoff causing stained water. Fishing for largemouth bass has been very good in the upper Pocomoke and Marshyhope branch of the Nanticoke River this spring.
Fishing for crappie and bluegill sunfish remains good this week as does fishing for catfish. The tidal Potomac blue catfish are beckoning to jump into ice chests and they make for some of the finest eating catfish anywhere to be found. The best size for table fare is about 2 lbs to 5 lbs and they are easy to catch in the tidal Potomac this time of the year. Channel catfish can be found in most all of the tidal rivers feeding into the Chesapeake and flathead catfish can be found near the Conowingo Dam on the lower Susquehanna River.
The Ocean City area surf and inlet experienced a good old fashioned bluefish blitz this past week when large spring migrant bluefish followed schools of menhaden close to the Maryland and Delaware beaches. These large bluefish are often called "runners" and typically are fairly thin with skinny bodies and large heads and are on a mission to gain some body weight by plundering schools of menhaden. Most surf casters are using cut menhaden or finger mullet on bottom rigs; those fishing at the inlet are using bucktails and Got Cha plugs. They can also be caught by casting or trolling off of the beaches.
Water temperatures along the inshore areas off Ocean City are running around 49° and the tautog are beginning to move into closer inshore wrecks and reef sites. There is also some tautog action going on at the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area. Inside the inlet in the coastal bays there are a few flounder being caught on the ebbing tides.


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