Thursday, October 22, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 22, 2015

By: Keith Lockwood
It is not hard for anyone to realize that fall is upon us. Many areas of Maryland have seen their first heavy frost and Garrett County had a dusting of snow last weekend. The cool weather drives water temperatures down and causes most species of fish to become very active. The fall trout stocking program is in full swing and the fall colors add to the beauty of fishing inland waters or the Chesapeake Bay, don't miss out. The Fisheries Service has now gone to a 365 day license so if you purchase an annual fishing license this week, it will be valid till the same day next year. The short video below helps explain. 

Maryland has a new pending state record northern snakehead that was shot with a bow and arrow (bowfishing) last weekend by Michael Meade in Mattawoman Creek. Michael's northern snakehead weighed 17.49 lbs, squeaking by our current state record of 17.47 lbs. Northern snakeheads are reaching some astounding sizes, and it will not be a surprise when the world record is broken again, hopefully this time by a Maryland fishermen. In Maryland, bowfishing catches are grouped with hook and line catches, since northern snakeheads are considered an invasive species. IGFA world records must be caught on hook and line.

Photo by courtesy of Michael Meade
Recent cold weather is driving water temperatures down and they have reached the 60 degree mark which tends to change the dynamics in the upper bay. When wind conditions permit, there is striped bass action around the edges of the Susquehanna Flats and shoreline structure in the region. Topwater lures tend to be a favorite, but swim shads, crankbaits and jerkbaits will work well at times also, especially during the morning and evening hours. Many of the shoreline areas in the upper bay region and tidal rivers that have structure such as prominent points, rocks and wood are holding good populations of white perch. Casting small lures with an ultra light outfit can offer plenty of fun and some tasty eating. There are a lot of small striped bass in these areas also and care should be taken when releasing them; flattening barbs on hooks is a good idea. The old wharfs around the Patapsco and Gunpowder area as well as tidal rivers on the eastern side of the bay are great places to get in on the action. Larger striped bass will also show up in many of these areas and can be caught by casting lures towards the shallows or by trolling bucktails and sassy shads in deeper water. "Big" Irv Haddox caught this nice striped bass while trolling in the Wye River. 

Photo by courtesy of "Big" Irv Haddox
Out in the main body of the upper bay trolling along major channel edges with a mix of umbrella rigs, tandem rigged bucktails, spoons and surge tube lures in various depths has been a good option. There are still a few bluefish in the region so it will be a little longer before soft plastics can be used. Many are simply watching for the activity of diving sea gulls to point the way to striped bass and bluefish chasing schools of bait. Most of the striped bass being encountered are sub-legal size but offer plenty of fun action when matched up with the right tackle. There are some larger fish to be found and sometimes they might be beneath the surface action and other times found away from the action suspended along channel edges or structure.
The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles continue to hold striped bass and most are being caught by jigging with bucktails. A sinker or jig with sufficient weight to get to the bottom in strong currents with a dropper fly is often a good tactic for white perch. Live lining eels near the bridge piers has also been an effective option for striped bass.
In the middle bay region breaking fish are gaining the most attention as a mix of striped bass and a bluefish chase schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden in the main stem of the bay and lower sections of the region's tidal rivers. The action is frequently marked by diving sea gulls but at times there may be no birds present. Slicks and resting birds can also mark the way to fish suspended below the surface; a good depth finder is very important tool this time of the year to mark fish. Most are using metal jigs and flattening the barb on the hook since sub-legal striped bass will be a large part of the fish encountered. Areas such as Eastern Bay, the mouth of the Choptank and the western shore tidal rivers are seeing breaking fish on a regular basis. There are still some bluefish in the region and make a welcomed addition to the fish box. Two good options are jigging and casting to breaking fish, or trolling along channel edges with a mix of umbrella rigs, spoons and surge tube lures (hoses). Since water temperatures are now around 61° lures can be trolled at all depths. Most are using a combination of planers, inline weights and allowing some lures to troll near the surface. Also of note is that very clear water has been prevalent in the middle bay region.
Fishing for striped bass in the shallows has been good as cool water temperatures give the fish more freedom to roam. It is still a morning and evening fishery and topwater lures offer the most fun. Trolling single or tandem bucktails and crankbaits in the tidal rivers near prominent points and similar areas in waters about 10' deep can also be a productive option.
Fishing for white perch has been good in the lower sections of the region's tidal rivers near structure in relatively shallow water. Casting small jigs, spinners and spinnerbait type lures can offer a lot of fun on an ultra-light outfit. White perch can also be found holding in deeper water suspended over oyster reefs and can be caught on simple bottom rigs baited with bloodworms, clams or peeler crab. There has also been some small sea trout mixed in with the white perch at some locations. Jigs with a dropper fly can also be a good option for white perch at deeper depths.
In the lower bay region there are a lot of breaking fish being seen out on the bay and lower areas of the region's tidal rivers; unfortunately most of these fish are sub-legal striped bass but there are bluefish mixed in. There are some legal sized striped bass being caught by jigging and trolling but it would seem most of that action is occurring in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Shallow water fishing for striped bass with topwater lures in the mornings and evenings at locations such as Cedar Point have been good. Jigging over suspended fish on the steep channel edges in the lower Potomac and Patuxent has also been an option. Roy Harrell holds up a keeper he caught while jigging near Solomons. 

Photo by courtesy of Roy Harrell
White perch fishing has been good in the region's tidal rivers and Tangier Sound. Many of the white perch are still shallow so casting small lures with light tackle is a fun way to fish for them. They can also be caught in deeper waters suspended over reefs and shoals by using bottom rigs baited with bloodworms, clams or peeler crab.
Recreational crabbers are still able to find enough crabs to make a bushel limit this week but it will take some work. Most of the better crabbing is occurring in about 15' of water or more and with water temperatures hovering around 60°; it doesn't take much for the crabs to drop off a trotline. There are a lot of sooks and small crabs as well as a fair portion of the larger crabs being light. Razor clams are by far the best bait to use and using collapsible crab traps or rings can be a great addition to running a trotline. 

Photo by Rich Watts
Freshwater fishing in Maryland is seeing many changes as colder water temperatures cause many species of fish to become more active as they feel the need to build up body stores. Some species such as smallmouth bass, walleye, chain pickerel, northern pike and trout just feel more comfortable in colder waters.
At Deep Creek Lake largemouth bass are being found in transition areas outside of the shallow coves and most points. Crankbaits, tubes and soft plastic baits are good choices. Smallmouth bass can be found along rocky shorelines and walleye can be caught from these same shores towards dark with Rapala type baits. Northern pike are holding near deep grass edges and crappie are beginning to school up near deep water bridge piers.
The upper Potomac is running very clear and low making for some touchy fishing. Light lines, fluorocarbon and small lures are usually good choices in these situations. Crawfish are a big part of the smallmouth bass diet this time of the year so lures that resemble crawfish are a good bet. There are reports that the grass is beginning to break up as water temperatures drop to the 50° mark and drifting leaves are becoming more of a problem. Michael Day holds up a nice smallmouth bass from the Williamsport area of the upper Potomac. 

Photo courtesy of Michael Day
There has been some good fishing for smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna lately as water temperatures there drop to the 60° mark. The lower Susquehanna River is noted for holding some trophy sized smallmouth bass along with some walleye. Smallmouth bass can also be found at Liberty and Prettyboy Reservoirs.
The fall months offer some of the best largemouth bass fishing of the year as the bass feed heavily. Water temperatures are cold enough that they can move freely in shallow or deep waters and often can be found intercepting bait migrating from shallow cover to deeper cover. Crawfish are moving to deep cover and make up an important part of their diet so any kind of crankbait, jig or tube that represents a crawfish is a good option. Generally smaller baits will outperform large baits as waters become colder also. Drop shot rigged plastics and tubes worked on transition edges such as drop-offs are a good bet. 
The tidal rivers of the Chesapeake offer outstanding fishing for largemouth bass this time of the year. The tidal Potomac is very popular, but don't overlook less known waters such as the Gunpowder, Magothy, Nanticoke and Wicomico, which excellent places to fish for largemouth bass in the fall. In some of these waters you can also run into northern snakeheads such as this big one from the Wicomico River. 

Photo courtesy of Brett Coakley
The fall trout stocking program is well underway and it is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy the cool weather and fall foliage. The stockings are occurring in many of the more popular trout management waters including some such as Carroll Creek in the town of Frederick that are reserved for our young anglers.
Coastal anglers near Ocean City are seeing their fishing opportunities undergoing dramatic changes as water temperatures hit the 60° mark. Surf fishing has been mostly centered on small bluefish and striped bass. At the inlet tautog are moving into the bulkhead and jetty areas and flounder are moving out from the back bay area's to offshore waters. Bluefish and striped bass are being caught at the inlet mostly at night by casting lures and live lining eels. 
The Maryland sea bass season opens on October 22nd and is much anticipated. Most likely there will also be a mix of flounder and tautog coming aboard at the popular wreck and reef sites. Farther offshore at the canyons a few yellowfin tuna and wahoo are being caught.


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