Thursday, July 23, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 23, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

For many this might be considered a half way mark for the summer; we've had a spell of hot and humid days and finally a little relief moved in last night. The summer fishing is falling into line, striped bass fishing is good in the middle and upper bay, the bluefish have arrived and Spanish mackerel may be here by the weekend. Recreational crabbing is finally paying off for those willing to put in the time. Freshwater fishing is in a typical summer mode and offers some very relaxing fishing at local ponds, lakes and rivers or creeks. The Ocean City area is in full swing with the typical summer mix of inshore and offshore species. Get out and enjoy with family and friends and especially the younger set. Unfortunately I happened to witness an ominous sign last weekend, back to school displays at a discount department store, have they no mercy.
The Susquehanna River continues to bring a lot of runoff water from the Pennsylvania region and the Conowingo Dam has been releasing a lot of water. Fortunately the water is not terribly stained and it is a bit cooler. Those who can get out on the water in the Susquehanna Flats area are experiencing great topwater action for striped bass in the early morning and late evening hours.
In the upper bay region from Swan Point south to the Triple Buoys, Love Point, The Muds, The Dumping Grounds, Podickory Point, Sewer Pipe and the Bay Bridge piers and rockpiles the striped bass fishing could hardly be better. Chumming has been one of the more popular tactics on all of these traditional locations and some of the striped bass being caught are of impressive size. Trolling has also been popular and most are pulling mixed spreads of spoons and red surgical tube lures behind planers or inline weights. Bluefish are becoming more common for those chumming and trolling this week and for some a welcomed part of the daily catch. 
There has been some light tackle jigging action where striped bass can be found suspended near structure such as channel edges or hard structure like the Bay Bridge piers. Drifting live eels, white perch or spot near these same areas is also a very good option, especially since there are so many larger fish in the region.
There are plenty of white perch to be caught in the upper bay region in the tidal rivers and creeks and many of the shoals and reefs out in the bay. Double bottom rigs baited with bloodworms, peeler crab or shrimp cast from shore or from boats are a good tactic as well as jigs and dropper flies. The Kent Narrows has been an excellent place to fish for white perch lately for shore bound anglers. As always there are also plenty of channel catfish in the upper bay's tidal rivers and cut bait or chicken livers are good baits to choose. This happy angler picked up a nice double on white perch while fishing near the Bay Bridge piers.

Photo courtesy of Matthew

The middle bay region continues to hold a lot of striped bass prospects in an area generally above the Choptank River and Chesapeake Beach. Chumming and live lining spot continues to be popular at the Hill and nearby steep channel edges. Live lining spot is becoming more common although many complain about the spot being too large and that bluefish are up to their pesky business. If you have striped bass under the boat and bluefish are giving you a fit you might consider cutting up what is left of your destroyed spot and using cut spot. The bluefish are there anyway and striped bass will grab cut baits if they can get to it before the bluefish. Sometimes a heavy sinker will give you a better chance of getting your bait through the upper level of bluefish and to the striped bass below. 
Trolling a mix of spoons such as Drones and red surge tube lures (hoses) behind planers and inline weights is a very productive way to cover a lot of water when looking for a mix of striped bass and bluefish this week. Channel edges where currents sweep through are a good choice as are structure such as ballast stone piles. Breaking fish are becoming a more common sight these days as a mix of striped bass and bluefish beat up on schools of juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies. Some bright news on the horizon is the fact that Spanish mackerel are being caught south of us in Virginia. At present the latest reports are coming from the York River area so they might start showing up in the middle bay region as soon as this weekend. If you are short on small Drone spoons and planers now is the time to stock up before you are staring at empty shelves at your local tackle shop.
Salinities in the middle bay region have bumped up a bit this week after we've gone a spell without heavy rains; water temperatures are about 86°. The shallow water fishery for a mix of striped bass and white perch is an early morning and evening fishery during the summer months and casting topwater lures is an exciting way to catch striped bass. White perch offer plenty of fun also on light tackle and can be caught on a variety of lures around shoreline structure. Spinners in the ¼ oz category are a favorite as are small spinnerbaits and beetle spin type lures for white perch. Jason Haney got to go fishing with his dad and together they enjoyed some excellent shallow water fishing for striped bass near the Choptank River. Jason proudly shows off one of the nice fish they caught that evening.

Photo courtesy of Jason Haney
Erik Zlokovitz is responsible for the artificial reef program in Maryland and sent us this report of a few recent reef material deployments. Greg's Marine deployed approx 100 tons of donated concrete rubble from Dominion last week on the eastern side of the MARI Taylor's reef site in 38-45 feet of water, near some previously deployed concrete and a sunken barge from older reef projects. MARI also deployed about 70 tons of donated playground concrete from the Benedictine school in Ridgely on Tilghman Fish Reef, on July 7. That deployment was accomplished with the help of the Maryland DNR Construction Unit based out of Cambridge. The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative or MARI is involved with creating fish habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Atlantic Ocean off Ocean City. Anglers can find out more about the program and where these reefs are by going to the MARI site link

Photo by Erik Zlokovitz
The lower bay region continues to offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities this week with the promise of Spanish mackerel arriving shortly. There are bluefish of various sizes throughout the entire region. The largest bluefish tend to be around the area of the Middle Grounds and smaller ones spread from Tangier Sound to the lower Potomac River and north. Boats are chumming at the mouth of the Potomac River, the Rock Piles above Point Lookout and near Buoy 72. They are mostly looking for striped bass and are catching some but bluefish tend to take over the chum slick action at times. Many are trolling a mix of red surgical tube lures and spoons behind planers and inline weights for a mix of bluefish and striped bass. The best striped bass action has been occurring in the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers along channel edges with chumming, trolling and either casting to breaking fish or jigging underneath accounting for some nice fish. The bluefish are making life tough for the bay anchovies and small menhaden in the region and the striped bass are joining in and will soon be accompanied by Spanish mackerel.
A mix of croaker and large spot continue to entertain fishermen in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. The croakers are not large but there are plenty of them in the 9" to 11" size range with some 14" or better thrown in once in a while. White perch can be part of the mix also and can often be found on oyster reefs and similar hard bottom. Blue catfish will be part of the bottom fishing mix in the lower Potomac above St. George's Island. 
There are mixed bottom fishing reports from the Tangier Sound area; some are having a hard time finding good croaker and spot fishing at traditional locations. Speckled trout seem to be off the list this year for those who love to fish the eastern marsh areas. There has been some small sub-legal sea trout (gray trout, yellow tail or weakfish, depending on where you fish on the east coast) caught in the deeper waters of the sound along with large spot and bluefish. There continues to be spotty catch and release action for large red drum in the Mud Leads area above the Target Ship.
Recreational crabbers are finally starting to make some decent catches for all their effort in most areas of the bay. The action tends to be slow in the upper bay and far up the bay's tidal rivers and creeks most likely due to depressed salinities. In the middle and lower bay regions most are doing fairly well with ½ bushel to full bushel catches per outing for those who work at it. The crabs tend to be shallow in many areas; doublers are becoming common as are sooks. Fresh bait tends to win out over old and razor clams reign supreme with crabs and cow-nosed rays. Jim Livingston took a shot of this hefty crab that he caught while using collapsible traps in the West River recently.

Photo by Jim Livingston
Freshwater fishing continues to hang in a somewhat summer mode of activity in most of the state's waters due to high water temperatures. Many fish species are either hunkered down in deep cool water and holding there or moving into shallower areas to feed at night. Largemouth bass are a classic example of this and the best time to fish for them in the shallower areas that have bait holding cover is early in the morning or late evenings. Topwater lures are a good choice when working cover and jerkbaits and spinnerbaits along the outside edges are another option. If you go deep for them, jigs and crankbaits close to deep cover such as bridge piers and structure are the places to look. Largemouth bass also like to hold in the shade under docks and brush or thick surface grass so soft plastics pitched under docks or through thick grass is a way to get to them. John Mead caught and released this nice largemouth bass at Little Seneca Lake at Black Hills Regional Park recently.

Photo courtesy of John Mead
The waters of Deep Creek Lake continue to be reported as stained and high from runoff and of course water temperatures are also up. Largemouth bass are being found in the upper part of the lake near grass in the mornings and evenings and under floating docks. Smallmouth bass fishing is also an early morning and late evening situation with rocky shorelines at good place to target. Summer time boat traffic is always an issue on Deep Creek Lake so get up early if fishing is on your mind before the boating public wakes up.
Savage Reservoir offers a quiet place to fish and the reservoir is known for the outstanding fishing there for yellow perch. The reservoir also holds good populations of largemouth bass and bluegills. Only electric motors or paddles and oars are allowed on the reservoir so there are no worries about power boats speeding by. Savage Reservoir can be accessed through Big Run State Park
It is summer time in Ocean City and fishing for a variety of summer species is in full gear. Water temperatures near the inlet are up to 78° now and the best surf fishing is occurring in the early morning and late evening hours. Kingfish and croakers are two of the species being targeted with small strip baits or bloodworms. There are also some small bluefish in the surf at times. Those wishing for a little more tug are catching a mix of inshore sharks and sting rays toward dusk. Anyone targeting inshore sharks should remember if you catch a protected species such as a sand tiger shark, dusky or a sandbar it is illegal to haul it up on the beach for a picture, it must remain in the water while being unhooked.
At the inlet/ Route 50 Bridge area bluefish are being caught on Got-Cha plugs and a few striped bass are being caught on swim shads or by those drifting live spot or eels. Most of this action is taking place towards dark. A few nice sheepshead are being caught along the South Jetty and there are always flounder moving through the inlet area.
In the back bay channels flounder are being caught and the throwback ratio is high for those using squid or minnows for bait. The 5" white or pearl Gulp Mullet bait helps weed out the smaller flounder. Croakers are in the back bay areas now as well as small bluefish which help round out a day's catch.
Outside the inlet there have been some nice flounder catches on some of the shoal areas such as Little Gull shoal and the Bass Grounds. Flounder are also making up a nice portion of the mix for those fishing for sea bass at the wreck and reef sites. Small or chicken dolphin are being attracted to the shade of the head boats and offer some exciting action for those willing to drift bait to them.
At the tradition fishing locations along the 30 fathom curve yellowfin tuna are being caught by trolling ballyhoo baits or by chunking. Farther offshore at the canyon areas a mix of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dolphin, bigeye tuna along with white and blue marlin releases are being reported. Those that fill out their trips with some deep drop fishing are loading up on tilefish and sea bass.


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