Friday, July 17, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 17, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

Most will agree so far it has been a rather wet summer with thunderstorms moving through areas of Maryland just about every day or evening. Freshwater and Chesapeake Bay areas are often showing discolored water due to runoff causing some adjustments in fishing. The runoff has also depressed salinities in many tidal rivers and most parts of the bay affecting where the best areas are to find fish and blue crabs. One can only adjust to what nature gives us and find some solace in the fact that we are not experiencing extreme drought conditions.
The torrent of water coming through the gates of the Conowingo Dam continues this week as thunderstorms dump rain into the Susquehanna River watershed. The lower Susquehanna and surrounding areas near the mouth of the river are presenting anglers with discolored water making for some tough fishing. Topwater lures have been the best option in the early morning and evening hours for a mix of striped bass and largemouth bass. There are plenty of white and yellow perch in the area along with channel catfish and bait is often the best way to catch them. Farther down the bay in some of the tidal rivers that are handling the runoff better, small spinners, jigs and spinnerbaits can catch a mix of white and yellow perch. Casting larger soft plastic jigs and bucktails around bridge piers and structure is also a good way to catch striped bass. The Frances Scott Bridge piers are one of the better places to jig for large white perch and striped bass.
There have been white perch holding on some of the reefs and knolls between Baltimore and Rock Hall. The Snake Reef, 7' knoll and Tea Kettle Shoals have been holding white perch and channel catfish. Bloodworms have been one of the better baits for the white perch but a jig with a dropper fly above has also been very productive. Sometimes it pays to live line a small white perch at these spots or a steep channel edge and one can be rewarded with a nice striped bass like this one that John Beaudet caught at the 7' Knoll recently with an old USFW tag on it.

Photo courtesy of John Beaudet
Chumming for striped bass at locations like Swan Point, Triple Buoys, Love Point, Podickory Point, Dumping Grounds, Sewer Pipe and the Bay Bridge piers continues to be good this week. Upper bay fishermen have been very fortunate this year that these upper bay sites are holding excellent concentrations of striped bass. Trolling is also a good option in these general areas and planners with spoons or bucktails trailing behind have been very popular. Those using umbrella rigs rigged with sassy shads or spoons are using inline weights to get their rigs down and rigging bucktails or spoons behind the umbrella rigs. Jigging with bucktails around the Bay Bridge pier bases and rock piles has also been a good tactic for striped bass as well as live lining spot and eels.
In the middle bay region chumming continues to be very popular but as spot become more available live lining is quickly gaining popularity. Boats have been anchoring up at the Hill, Hacketts and along steep channel edges in the surrounding area. Spot continue to slowly become more plentiful in the middle bay region and most anyone will quickly switch to live lining if they can obtain a supply of spot. Anyone fishing near the Hill will notice boats have been making the trip from lower bay region ports and bringing spot with them. Trolling for striped bass in the middle bay region has been centering around Buoy 83 north to the Bay Bridge on both sides of the bay along channel edges. A mixed spread of spoons behind planers and umbrella rigs behind inline weights has been the norm. Some are still putting out bucktails but sassy shads and swim shads are usually staying aboard now that bluefish are showing up in the middle bay region.
Bottom fishing for a mix of croakers and spot has been slow lately in most areas of the middle bay region. Day time heat is causing the croakers to hold deep and they do not head for shoal areas along channels till dusk. Fishing for white perch remains good in the tidal rivers and they can be caught on bait near most any kind of structure. Shallow water fishing with light tackle for a mix of striped bass and white perch remains good this week but is limited to early morning and evening hours as water temperatures pass the 80° mark.
Lower bay region fishing holds a variety of fishing opportunities this week. Out in the bay bluefish reign supreme with most being around 2 lbs and some reaching the 6 lb mark. The smaller bluefish are spread over a wide area of the region but the Middle Grounds hold the greatest concentrations. Trolling has been one of the better ways to catch them with spoons behind planers or surgical tube lures. There are some large red drum being caught and released around the Target Ship. Anglers should also watch near buoys for cobia. Bruce McGrath was fishing near the Target Ship and holds up a big sheepshead he caught and released there recently.

Photo courtesy of Bruce McGrath
Perhaps the best place to fish for striped bass is in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Chumming has been a good tactic at the mouth of the Potomac and bluefish are a large part of the chum slick mix. Trolling along channel edges has been another option with spoons and surge tube lures as well as jigging over suspended fish. 
Fishing for a mix of croaker, spot and white perch continues to be excellent in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers this week. Anglers are also reporting some small sea trout being caught. Unfortunately catches of croakers and spot in the Tangier Sound area have fallen off leaving local anglers scratching their heads as to why. One bright note is the reports of a few flounder being caught along channel edges in the Pocomoke Sound area.
Recreational crabbing continues to improve slowly in most regions of the bay. The lower bay regions tidal creeks and rivers have been offering the best opportunities and the middle bay region following close behind in success rates. As with any situation regarding fishing or crabbing those with a few tricks up their sleeves tend to do the best. Exploring different depths, using fresh bait and trying a combination of trotlines and collapsible traps often bolster success.
Freshwater fishing at Deep Creek Lake continues to hold in a typical summer pattern this week. Largemouth bass can be found in the far ends of shallow coves in the early morning and evening hours. Smallmouth bass and yellow perch are being caught near grass on small jigs and jerkbaits. Trout and walleye are being caught deep near the dam.
John Mullican sent us a report from the turbulent waters of the upper Potomac. Recent and predicted rainfall will cause the upper Potomac River to rise this week. Very heavy rains in the Shenandoah watershed caused significant rises and muddy water downstream of Harpers Ferry. The river above the confluence of the Shenandoah is in good shape for now, but that could change with localized storms. Before venturing to the river, check the river gauge where you intend to fish as well as the upstream gauges. Smallmouth bass action has been consistent on 4" stick worms and tubes. Evening insect hatches spur activity and small surface baits and buzzbaits can be effective too. 
Although we are hopeful that this year's hatch of smallmouth bass was good based on the stable spring flows, the unprecedented high July flows have prevented us from conducting our annual seining survey to assess the year class. 
Just about every tidal river or impoundment is showing the effects of the rain we keep experiencing and the pattern seems to be continuing this week. Fishing for largemouth bass may be difficult in some areas and using noisy topwater baits can help tip the scales in your favor. Poppers, buzzbaits and frogs are all good choices for shallow water fishing in the early morning or late evening hours. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits worked in deeper waters or along the outside edges of grass and structure are a good tactic. Rick Norris holds up a nice Rocky Gorge largemouth bass for the camera before releasing it. 

Photo courtesy of Rick Norris
Surf fishing along the Ocean City and Assateague Island beaches for small species such as kingfish, croakers and small bluefish has become a morning and evening affair due to warm water temperatures and a blazing sun. Bloodworms, squid and small cut baits have been good choices to catch them. Inshore sharks and sting rays are happy to entertain those using large cut menhaden baits.
In and around the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area flounder are being caught and a mix of tautog, sheepshead along the south jetty and near bridge piers. Bluefish continue to move through the inlet on flood tides and casting Got-Cha plugs and bucktails will catch them Some anglers have been catching a few striped bass on swim shads or by drifting live spot and eels. In the back bay channel areas flounder are being caught with a high throwback ratio for those using minnows and squid. Large baits such as the 5" white or pearl Gulp Mullet will help weed out the smaller flounder. Croakers, small bluefish and sub-legal sea bass round out the bottom fishing mix.
Outside the inlet on the inshore shoal areas flounder are being caught, they are also an important part of the mix for boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites for sea bass. Sea bass fishing has showed some improvement this week and captains are reporting limit catches of sea bass for some of their anglers. Triggerfish are starting to show up on some the wreck sites now and offer excellent table fare.
A mix of bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and dolphin are being caught on some of the traditional lumps along the 30 fathom curve this week. Farther offshore at the canyons, dolphin, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and a mix of white and blue marlin fill out the trolling ticket. Those who take the time to do some deep drop fishing near the canyons are catching golden and blueline tilefish.


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