Thursday, July 30, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 30, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

This morning on my way into work as I drove past a local gas station/food mart on Route 50, I had to do a double take when I recognized the unmistakable name on a familiar boat that belongs to a friend of mine. He and his family were headed to Chincoteague to watch the ponies swim and to do some serious offshore fishing. It put a smile on my face to talk to his excited wife and daughter and to see the large variety of fishing tackle in his truck and boat. It was obvious they had been planning for this trip for a while and seemed to be prepared for anything that would swim their way. I hope you can plan your own family fishing adventure somewhere soon and enjoy summertime fishing before it slips away. Your fishing report author is going to take a break next week for some pacific offshore fishing adventures so Erik Zlokovitz has offered to step up to the plate and inform you of the latest Maryland fishing news. 
The water releases at the Conowingo Dam continue to be high this week as runoff from the Susquehanna watershed continues our way. Water temperatures around the Susquehanna Flats are about 8° cooler than the middle bay region and may account for some of the good striped bass fishing that is occurring in the area. Everyone knows you have to get out early to beat the heat or wait till late evening but there has been great topwater action lately; definitely worth getting up early. Most of the fish being caught are of legal size and can top the 30" mark at times. White perch, yellow perch and channel catfish help round out the mix for those that take the time to target them. In the tailrace of the dam flathead catfish are being caught and some of them are fairly large so it takes stout tackle to land them.
Fishermen often know that they can be in for surprises when they cast their lines into the water. Most hope for a large fish but sometimes the strangest critters can wind up on the end of the line. Clinton Richardson was fishing in the lower Susquehanna River when he caught this strange looking catfish. It turns out to be a hybrid catfish from the aquarium trade that is a cross between a red tail catfish and a tiger shovel nose catfish, both are from South America and can grow to enormous size. Irresponsible aquarium owners continue to introduce exotic and at times invasive fish to our waterways when their pet fish become too large or they tire of them. The introduction of the northern snakehead is a perfect example.

Photo courtesy of Clinton Richardson

Striped bass fishing in the upper bay continues to be very good at most traditional locations from Swan Point south to the Bay Bridge. Podickory Point, the Sewer Pipe and the Bay Bridge concrete abutments on the east bound span have been particularly good recently. Boats have been anchoring up current of the abutments or bridge piers and drifting back live spot, cut spot, live eels, soft crab baits, chunking and also chumming. As always a good tide is a must and some of the best fishing opportunities tend to present themselves early in the morning. Small bluefish are showing up more and more in the chum slicks this week. Also of note is that many of the larger striped bass being caught are early in the morning and on the bottom at the back of the chum slick. Trolling has also been a good way to catch a mix of striped bass and bluefish and it is definitely a worthwhile option. Red surge tube lures (hoses) and small to medium sized spoons or bucktails have been favorite choices. Umbrella rigs will work well but most are trolling single lures behind planers and inline weights.
There is plenty of white perch action in the upper bay region this week. Most enjoy casting with ultra-light tackle along shoreline structure with small lures but bait on a bottom rig is also a fun way to fish, especially for kids. A variety of baits will work such as shrimp, grass shrimp, small minnows, peeler crab and bloodworms. A #2 or #4 hook and a small sinker is all that is needed. Out in the deeper waters of the bay or tidal rivers heavier sinkers may be needed and many often switch to jigs and dropper flies.
In the middle bay region striped bass fishing remains very good in most areas with the area from the Choptank River north getting the most attention. Striped bass are still holding around the mouth of Eastern Bay and the Hill but the outside edge of Hacketts has also been a good place to chum or live line spot. Many of the striped bass caught in the general area are nice fish, often 25" or better. As more bait moves into the area breaking fish in the form of striped bass and small bluefish can been seen in the general area and into Eastern Bay. Striped bass are also being found suspended along steep channel edges in Eastern Bay. 
Spot are becoming more available and the area known as the "Sands" which is south of Black Walnut Point and in the lower Choptank has been one of the better places to catch them. Pieces of bloodworms on #4 hooks and a simple bottom rig is the ticket to catch them. Many are pretty fair sized but still good for live lining or using as cut bait. There are some croakers to be found in the region but they are usually holding deep during the day and offer the best fishing opportunities at dusk when they move out of the channels to nearby shoal areas.
Shallow water fishing for a mix of striped bass and white perch continues to be a fun option for light tackle fishing in the early morning and late evening hours. Topwater lures offer the most fun action with the striped bass and also gets one over the shallow grass that will foul lures such as crankbaits. Spinners in the ¼ oz category, small jigs and spinnerbaits work well for the white perch. Skylar Hepner got to do some light tackle fishing for white perch with her mom and dad and had some fun catching white perch. 

Photo courtesy of Skylar Hepner
There are a lot of breaking fish to be seen in the tidal rivers chasing juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies. Many of the striped bass are small (approximately 14") fish but out towards the mouths of the tidal rivers larger striped bass can be encountered. As most know when encountering breaking fish that are made up of mostly smaller striped bass and bluefish on top, larger striped bass can sometimes be found holding deeper under the surface action. This is when jigging with metal or bucktails comes into play.
Lower bay region fishing has centered mostly on bluefish, a few striped bass and bottom fishing for croakers and spot. The bluefish seem to be everywhere; the smaller ones are close to shore and in the tidal rivers and the larger ones tend to be holding out in the bay near the Middle Grounds. Chumming is very effective for catching the bluefish and those doing so in the lower Potomac are also picking up a few striped bass. Trolling red surge tube lures or spoons behind planers and inline weights is another good way to catch them over a wide area. Striped bass tend to be hard to find in the region and the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers offer the best opportunities whether trolling, jigging, live lining or shallow water fishing early and late in the day. Traditional locations such as the 35" edge off Cove Point are not holding striped bass of any consequence this year so far.
Croaker and spot fishing continues to be very good in the lower Patuxent and Potomac River this week and it seems that perhaps a large pod of bottlenose dolphins have found them also. They can be a thrill for boaters to watch but croaker and spot tend to run for their lives when they hear those sonar clicks coming through the water.
Recreational crabbers continue to see conditions improve in the bay with the best crabbing being reported in the middle and lower bay regions. Some of the crabs are gaining impressive size and doublers are commonly seen. Due to runoff in the tidal rivers and creeks the best crabbing results have been coming from the middle and lower portions of the waterways. This big jimmy seems to be ready to protect his girl friend from all comers. 

Photo courtesy of Jim Livingston
Freshwater fishing is locked into a summer mode of activity and like many fishermen, fish are looking for a cool place to spend the day. This often means deeper water and shade conditions. Fish still have to eat and most of them are more active in the early morning hours and late in the day since many of the fish are feeding all night. Trout fishing in western Maryland can be fun this time of year for fly fishermen as there always seems to be some kind of aquatic insect hatch going on. Many of the special trout management areas that are catch and release only with gear restrictions can offer some exciting and fun fishing. At some of the impoundments in western Maryland largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing can offer some action in those early morning and late day hours along shoreline cover. 
The central, southern and eastern region impoundments from small ponds to large reservoirs all have something to offer from feisty bluegills to largemouth bass. Once again low light and cool conditions will provide the best fishing opportunities as fish become more active.
Its summertime in Ocean City and there is plenty of good fishing to be found. Along the beaches early morning and evening fishing for a mix of kingfish, croakers, spot and small bluefish can provide some fun action and tasty eating. At the inlet bluefish are being caught on Got-Cha lures and striped bass are being caught by casting lures or drifting live spot or eel. Flounder are moving through the inlet and sheepshead and tautog can be found around jetties and the Route 50 Bridge piers. Destinee Pennypacker holds up a nice bluefish she caught while fishing off of the Route 50 Bridge.

Photo courtesy of Destinee Pennypacker
Flounder are being caught in the back bay channels north and south of the inlet. The throwback ratio can be high for those using minnows and squid for bait. Using live spot or 5" Gulp Mullet baits will help improve the odds of catching a doormat sized flounder.
There is good flounder fishing outside the inlet on some of the near shore shoal areas and out at the wreck and reef sites. Sea bass fishing has been fair at the wreck sites and the addition of flounder and a few triggerfish are very welcomed. 
The offshore waters from the 30 fathom line east seem to be alive with dolphin this summer and everyone is enjoying catching them. Most of them are the smaller sized ones but some gaffer size ones are being caught while trolling. Charles Krell caught this huge dolphin recently. 

Photo courtesy of Charles Krell
Yellowfin tuna are being caught at the Jackspot, Hot Dog and similar lumps along the 30 fathom line by trolling and chunking. Farther offshore at the canyons, a mix of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, lots of dolphin and even a few wahoo are filling out the bill. White marlin and a few blue marlin releases are being reported from the Norfolk Canyon north to the Wilmington Canyon.


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