Sunday, May 31, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | May 31, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

As the large plane banked a turn on it rapidly descending approach to Reagan Airport, I glanced out the window and was hit in the chest with the potent sight of seemly endless rows of stark white markers marking the graves of patriots who fought and died for the freedoms we all enjoy; a vivid Memorial Day image that I certainly will not forget anytime soon. Additional parts of the sight below were families picnicking on grassy areas along the Potomac and several boats with fishermen casting to shoreline structure. I was returning from Homer, Alaska where I satisfied my bottom fishing fix for the largest flounder imaginable, the Pacific halibut. I hope that you all enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend and spent quality time with family and friends and gave some thought to those who have served.
Striped bass are being caught in and around the channel regions in the Susquehanna Flats area this week by casting or trolling crankbaits and jigging. Water temperatures in the area are in the low 70°'s and there is also a mix of channel catfish and white perch to be caught. In the lower Susquehanna River white perch are being caught by casting small jigs and a few striped bass are also being caught near the Conowingo Dam pool in the mornings. The dam tends to be on a mid-day power generation schedule. Beginning Monday June 1st the striped bass regulations for the Susquehanna Flats area will fall in line with the bay regulations of two fish 20" or larger or one under 28" and one over 28" per day. Jason Haney has plenty to smile about as he holds up a nice striped bass he caught while fishing with his dad at the Susquehanna Flats. 

Photo Courtesy of Jason Haney

White perch and striped bass are becoming common in the lower sections of the upper bay's tidal rivers and can be found near structure such as channel edges and various types of submerged structure. Channel catfish are also very common in the upper bay tidal rivers. Chumming for striped bass in the upper bay is becoming popular at traditional locations such as Swan Point and Love Point. Throwbacks are common and circle hooks should be a priority on everyone's list when fishing bait while chumming. As is typical with this upper bay fishery a good tide is essential and the larger striped bass can often be found close to the bottom and far back in the chum slick. Trolling is an option along channel edges with medium sized bucktails and spoons often behind umbrella rigs rigged with spoons or sassy shads.
There has been plenty of striped bass action around the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles this week for those that are jigging or trolling. Chumming and chunking can also be effective with the right tide but as most know, anchoring up current of the bridge piers can be tough on anchor retrieval. 
The two most popular ways to catch striped bass in the middle bay region this week are trolling and chumming. Those trolling are working the steep channel edges with a mix of large and medium sized lures. Large bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads are still being towed in spreads for lingering large striped bass. Smaller bucktails are being employed in tandem or behind umbrella rigs and medium sized spoons can be very effective. Boats can be seen anchoring up at the outside edge of Hackett's Bar, the Hill, Clay Banks, Thomas Point and the Diamonds and laying out chum slicks. These two fishing buddies are certainly happy with this fine looking striped bass they caught while trolling near Buoy 83.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Roberts
Black drum are being caught by those adventurous enough to look for them at shoal areas in the middle bay region. The James Island Flats and Stone Rock are two favorite places to dunk half a soft crab when heavy marks are seen on a depth finder. The soft crab bait is usually only dropped when good marks are seen since a soft crab bait on the bottom of the bay sure to be hit by croakers or white perch.
Croakers have moved into the middle bay region and can be found up the major tidal rivers. They are being caught in the Choptank River at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier and other traditional locations such as Hackett's Bar, Thomas Point and Eastern Bay. Early in the season many fishermen talk of good luck using squid as bait but most opt for peeler crab, fresh wild shrimp or bloodworms. Clams and clam snouts are also an effective bait at times and some have good luck with the artificial bait called Fishbites. So far this season it would seem that a croaker over 10" is a rare sight; a bit of a let down from the large 17"+ croakers we enjoyed in the fishery 10 years ago.
White perch are filling into their summer haunts around tidal creeks, rivers and the bay. They are often a favorite for light tackle fishermen of all ages around sunken structure such as docks, fallen tree tops, submerged rocks and of course oyster reefs out in the bay and lower sections of tidal rivers. Spot will soon arrive if they haven't already in some areas and will be a welcome bait item for those wishing to switch from chumming to live lining for striped bass.
Striped bass fishing in the lower bay region has made a rapid transition to fish less than 28" in the last week. Boats have been trolling along the shipping channel edges on both sides of the bay with good luck. The lower Potomac River has been producing good opportunities as well as the Tangier Sound area. Most are trolling medium sized bucktails and spoons along with larger bucktails and parachutes in hopes of catching a lingering larger striped bass. Light tackle jigging has been effective when fish can be spotted suspended over structure and shallow water fishing along shorelines is now in full swing. Casting poppers is a wonderful way to spend an early morning or evening while fishing for striped bass. There have been a few rumors of a bluefish showing up now and then in the region and it will only be a matter of time before they arrive in force.
Croakers have arrived in the lower bay region and can now be found in most of the traditional areas. The mouth of the Honga River, Buoy 72, Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, the lower Patuxent River and the lower Potomac River. Fishing from a boat along shoal areas bordering channels at dusk is a favorite tactic. There are also some good locations on the Eastern Shore to fish from land or piers such as Point Lookout and the Solomons pier under the Route 4 Bridge. Croaker fishing has been good at the mouth of the Wicomico River on the lower Potomac and blue catfish are very plentiful there also and making a good contribution to filling a cooler. Squid, peeler crab, bloodworms, shrimp and strip baits from spot are all good baits. When using shrimp, make sure you use wild shrimp and not the freshwater aquaculture shrimp that are commonly sold at seafood markets.
White perch fishing has been very good in the tidal rivers and creeks of the lower bay region. Casting small lures around shoreline structure is a fun way to spend a morning or evening. Fishing a simple bottom rig baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp is also popular near structure such as docks or oyster reefs. This fine looking white perch fell for a Panther Martin spinner cast along a marsh shoreline.

Photo by Keith Lockwood
Recreational crabbers continue to have just enough success to keep them coming back. The best crabbing seems to be from the middle and lower bay regions with some of the better catches coming from the lower Eastern Shore's tidal rivers and creeks. It has been pretty windy since the weekend so that does not help when trying to position over a trot line.
Deep Creek Lake water temperatures are now in the mid 60°'s on the lake and warmer in the shallower coves. Largemouth bass tend to be in a post spawn mode now and can be found guarding fry or positioned in areas leading from the coves. They will also be found in increasing numbers under floating docks as the summer progresses. Smallmouth bass fishing has been good in the evening hours or early mornings along rocky bottom with shallow running crankbaits, craws and poppers. Yellow perch are being caught along deep grass edges by drifting minnows under a slip bobber. Walleyes are going deep as the lake warms up and night time fishing will offer the best opportunities while slow trolling worm harness rigs or drifting minnows. As can be expected there are plenty of chain pickerel in the shallow and grassy coves to give most any lure tossed at them a what for. Western region fisheries biologist Alan Klotz wrote a nice angler's log about a recent Deep Creek Lake population survey and it can be viewed in his May 21st entry.
Trout fishing in the western region continues to be an excellent choice for anglers this week and there are many choices to pick from. There are put and take areas, delayed harvest, catch and release; something for everyone. The trout management waters in the central region also continue to provide good fishing but supplemental stockings will now taper off as waters warm up. Robert Madison holds up a beautiful Beaver Creek brown trout that he caught recently. 

Photo Courtesy of Robert Madison
Fisheries biologist John Mullican wrote a short report for us from the upper Potomac this week. The river is in great shape, but flows are below average. We landed a fair number of smallmouth; mostly on unweighted 4" stick worms and tubes. Topwater lures have also been effective at times. Bass are now in the post-spawn period and are attracted to areas with more current around boulders and ledges. 
Fishermen have been doing well on invasive flathead catfish below the dams using cut and live bait. These aggressive, opportunistic predators can occur in large numbers and reach a large size, potentially causing ecological harm; flatheads have been known to reduce sunfish populations in other rivers. There is no size or creel limit on flathead catfish, but they cannot be transported alive. 
Largemouth bass are beginning to slip into their typical summer mode of behavior as the month of May begins to slip behind us. The morning bite still lasts well into mid morning and the evening bite starts early but the signs are beginning to appear. Shallow grass is the number one target during these times and a variety of lures are effective but few offer the excitement of surface lures such as frogs, chatterbaits and poppers. Surface explosions from largemouth bass are just one of those things that get imprinted in our brain and remain with us for quite a while. When fishing on the tidal Potomac and a few other waters on both the western and eastern shore - northern snakeheads can also offer the same explosive surface strikes and excellent eating as well. Higher tides in the tidal areas tend to entice largemouth bass back into grass and spatterdock and lower tides will have them holding along the outside edges. When they are holding along the edges, spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits are a good choice.
Bluefish tend to dominate the close inshore fishing action in the Ocean City area along beaches and inside the inlet. They have been offering a lot of fun fishing with the aggressiveness they are known for. Surf casters are using bottom rigs baited with cut menhaden or finger mullet and not only catching large bluefish but also smaller ones. Large striped bass are becoming more common this week and some really nice ones are being caught along the beaches and at the inlet. Most surf casters are using cut menhaden and at the inlet most are casting bucktails, swim shads or drifting cut menhaden baits. David Beach holds up a nice striped bass he caught at the inlet on a Got Cha lure. 

Photo Courtesy of David Beach
There are tautog to be caught along the bulkheads and jetties inside the inlet on sand fleas and pieces of green crab and flounder fishing is good when water clarity prevails. The back bay channels are offering more consistent flounder fishing but windy conditions have kept bay waters cloudy. Water temperatures in the back bay areas are in the low 60°'s this week.
Outside the inlet and out to the wreck and reef sites sea bass fishing has been good with some anglers achieving double digit catches but limits have been evading most this week. Tautog and a few cod are helping bolster catches. At the 30 Fathom Line a mix of thresher, mako, blue sharks and large bluefish are being caught. There have been some double digit catches of yellowfin tuna at the Baltimore Canyon and Rock Pile recently as well as at least one bigeye tuna. Deep drop fishing for tilefish has also been good.


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