Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 15, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

The results of the 2015 striped bass juvenile survey have been released and it spells good news for Chesapeake Bay and coastal fishermen. The survey, a measure of spawning success, found an average of 24.2 juvenile fish per sample, approximately double the long-term average of 11.9, which is the eighth highest ever recorded since the survey started.
The survey also documented healthy reproduction of other species. DNR fisheries biologists counted record numbers of juvenile American shad, which have been under a harvest ban in Maryland since 1980. The white perch juvenile index was the third-highest on record. River herring reproduction was also above average.
The annual survey is conducted throughout the summer to track the reproductive success of Maryland's state fish. Annual reproductive success can be highly variable due to environmental factors, such as water temperature, precipitation and river flow. This year, DNR collected more than 70,000 fish of 50 different species, including 3,194 young-of-year (less than one year of age) striped bass in 132 sweeps of a 100-foot beach seine at 22 sites.

Photo by Keith Lockwood
DNR has monitored the reproductive success of striped bass and other species in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay every year since 1954. The present day survey covers sites in the four major spawning systems—the Choptank, Potomac and Nanticoke rivers, and the Upper Bay. Biologists visit each site monthly from July through September to collect samples. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science conducts a similar survey in Virginia's portion of the bay, which can be viewed here.
This was a good reproductive year for a variety of anadromous species; winter runoff from snow and rain helped cause plankton blooms in the spawning rivers in February/March which was followed by a zooplankton bloom. Stable weather patterns in April supported a long protracted spawn; that coupled with an abundant food source for the larvae paved the way for a strong survival rate. Fishermen can look forward to this year class to begin to enter the legal Chesapeake Bay Fishery in about 4 to 5 years.
Water temperatures in the upper bay are in the 65° range this week and steadily falling. Temperatures at this mark and below cause striped bass to roam freely in various water depths as they feed on bait fish. Lately the topwater striped bass action around the Susquehanna Flats has been lackluster. The fish are there, but they are not always biting. It may take a change in tactics, such as trolling or jigging, or spotting diving birds and breaking fish. The Conowingo Dam has been scheduling afternoon water releases and some nice sized striped bass are being caught in the dam pool.
Farther down in the upper bay region there are striped bass spread out throughout the region. They are being found along channel edges and shallow areas near the tidal rivers and bay shorelines as well as the Bay Bridge. Diving birds can lead the way to surface action as striped bass chase bait fish in the upper bay region; slicks and resting sea gulls can mark the way to fish holding below the surface. Trolling spoons, bucktails, or umbrella rigs is a good tactic. They can be trolled near the surface or pulled down to deeper depths with inline weights and planers. There is also good action with topwater lures and Joe Bandy holds up a nice one that he caught near the mouth of the Magothy River this past weekend.

Photo by Rich Watts
The Bay Bridge continues to be a great spot to jig for striped bass around the bridge piers and rock piles. Bucktails dressed with pork rind or soft plastics are good choices to catch a nice grade of striped bass. There are a lot of small striped bass in the area and often can be seen chasing bait on the surface and sometimes large white perch and larger striped bass can be found holding deep underneath the surface action.
In the middle bay region breaking fish are being encountered at the mouths of the tidal rivers, prominent points and channel edges where striped bass of various sizes are chasing schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden being swept along by tidal currents. It pays to be flexible in regard to moving from one body of fish to another. The smaller striped bass are fun on ultra light tackle and larger fish can be found at times holding deep underneath the surface action but often it can pay to move on to another area looking for larger fish. The bluefish are beginning to clear out so the focus will be primarily on striped bass as the traditional fall fishery gets underway and water temperatures dip to below 65°. Jigging is often the most popular way to fish this time of the year and diving sea gulls, slicks and images on depth finders will guide one to the action. A fast action spinning or casting rod and a reel loaded with braid helps with sensitivity of working a jig in deep water. Metal jigs such as the Crippled Herring are popular and there are all kinds of metal jigs being sold; whichever you use just be sure to replace the treble hook with a single hook. You'll thank yourself when the action is fast and furious and the fish you release will thank you also.
Trolling is a good option and is popular with groups that enjoy relaxing while cruising along channel edges and promising areas. One effective approach is to troll a mixed spread laid out behind the boat consisting of umbrella rigs, tandem bucktails, spoons, surge tube lures (hoses), and Storm type swim shads. Inline weights and planers will help get some down to deeper depths and some baits will be allowed to troll close to the surface.
Striped bass can also be found in the shallower waters of the bay and tidal rivers along shoreline structure near prominent points. Old submerged rip rap is always a "go to" area and morning and evening hours usually offer the best fishing opportunities. Topwater lures such as poppers are favorites but swim shads and jerkbaits can be good choices also. In addition to the rockfish, White perch fishing in these areas is also good, and it pays to have an ultra light outfit rigged with a small spinner or spinnerbait on hand. White perch fishing has also been good around docks and piers located in deeper waters. Small jigs or simple bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp work well in these areas. Anthony Nicholas is certainly happy with these two striped bass he caught while casting a topwater lure near the Naval Academy.

Photo courtesy Anthony Nicholas
In the lower bay region there is good shallow water action being reported in the Tangier/Pocomoke Sound area and the western side of the bay for a mix of striped bass and white perch. Topwater lures are often the most exciting baits to use for striped bass but swim shads and bucktails are good options also. The white perch are being found in the lower sections of the region's tidal rivers and can be caught in the shallower waters on small lures such as spinners and jigs. In the deeper waters of the rivers the perch can be found on hard bottomed shoal or reef areas and often baits such as pieces of clams, bloodworms or peeler crab work well on a simple bottom rig. 
There are breaking fish being encountered throughout the region and are usually made up of striped bass and the last of the bluefish. Many of the striped bass are sub-legal but larger ones can be found at times deep underneath. Marty Zupancic sent in this picture of a southern visitor that has been showing up in coastal areas and the bay lately, a gag grouper. The old beleaguered Target Ship rests on the bottom in the background.

Photo courtesy Marty Zupancic
Trolling a mix spread of spoons, umbrella rigs and surge tube lures in the lower Potomac River and near the Middle Grounds has been accounting for a mix of bluefish and striped bass. It tends to be a slow pick but trolling does offer another option in the lower bay region.
Recreational crabbing continues to be good in most of the tidal rivers. The crabs tend to be deep at around 15' of water and are getting a bit sluggish. Razor clams are by far the best bait to use followed by chicken necks. Crabbers are reporting that a fair portion of the larger crabs tend to be light. 
Freshwater fishing is about as good as it gets this week for a wide variety of species across the entire state. Put and take trout fishing is perhaps at the top of the list for many and stocking crews are doing their best to get the trout stocked at your favorite fishing hole. The posted stocking schedule lists stocking by the week and it can be frustrating for the impatient who would love to be on site as the stocking truck pulls up. Stocked trout spread out quickly and crews strive to avoid stocking them all in one local spot so good trout fishing will continue for quite a while after the stocking. The stockings are posted on the trout program site and one can also be notified by signing up for email contact the day the stockings occur. 
Many of the other trout management waters such as catch and release or fly fishing only offer sportsman some wonderful opportunities to enjoy catching and releasing trout in picturesque settings as the fall color begins to unfold. Air temperatures are comfortable and the leaves have not yet begun to fall in many areas. This reduces the chances of fouled lines on fallen leaves and debris in the water.
The upper Potomac River is fishing well this week as higher water levels last week tended to move a lot of loose grass downriver. Smallmouth bass are active and a variety of lures such as tubes, jigs, crankbaits and even topwater lures prove effective. There is also good smallmouth bass fishing to be found at some of our reservoirs. Liberty, Prettyboy, Deep Creek Lake offer some wonderful smallmouth bass fishing opportunities. The lower Susquehanna River is often overlooked but has good numbers of smallmouth bass with some real lunkers in the 6 lb range holding there.
At Deep Creek Lake cooling water temperatures have most fish in a very active phase. Large yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, chain pickerel and large bluegills are all offering good fishing this week. Crappie are schooling up near bridge piers and also offer some fun fishing.
Largemouth bass are a popular target for freshwater fishermen this week as the bass feel the urge to feed and build up body stores for the winter. Most grass beds have not begun to break up yet so targeting them in the morning and evening hours is a good bet. Topwater lures, soft plastics and small crankbaits or spinnerbaits are all good choices to work around the edges. Sunken wood is also a good area to target as well as bridge or dock piers and fallen treetops. Sean Allen Sr. holds up a big Patapsco River largemouth bass for the camera before releasing it.

Photo courtesy Sean Allen Sr.
Crappie are schooling up in deeper waters around marina docks, bridge piers and deep structure in many lakes and tidal waters. Small jigs or minnows under a bobber are always a good bet. Marina areas in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge/Fort Washington area of the tidal Potomac, Liberty and Loch Raven Reservoir bridges and sunken brush structures in St. Mary's Lake are just a few good areas to fish for crappie.
The tidal Potomac River has plenty of blue catfish to entertain and fill ice chests for the winter months ahead; blue catfish freeze well. Most of the Chesapeake Bay tidal rivers have good populations of channel catfish to provide fun fishing and northern snakeheads are plentiful in the tidal Potomac creeks and lower Eastern Shore creeks.
Water temperatures in the Ocean City area are dipping to 65° this week and fishing is undergoing some seasonal changes. Small bluefish and kingfish are being caught in the surf. Finger mullet tends to work the best for the bluefish and bloodworms for the kingfish. Tautog are moving into the inlet area and flounder are moving out. The jetty rocks, bridge piers and bulkheads in the Route 50 Bridge/ inlet area are seeing more tautog every day. Flounder are moving out and fishing the channels can offer some of the best flounder fishing of the season. There are some striped bass being caught at the inlet at night but most do not make the 28" minimum.
There is good flounder fishing to be found on the inshore shoal areas off the beaches and out at the wreck sites. Tautog are holding on many of the inshore wrecks and reefs and the sea bass season is due to open soon on the 22nd of October.
Farther offshore a mix of large yellowfin tuna is being caught by trolling and chunking along with dolphin and a few bigeye tuna at the canyons. Deep drop fishing has also been good at the canyon edges for tilefish.


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