Thursday, December 10, 2015

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | December 10, 2015


By: Keith Lockwood

This past Monday December 7th I found myself in a very reflective mood while fishing. My thoughts drifted to how this date defined a generation and the many outdoorsmen that were caught up in the perils that WWII had in store for them. As a young boy I was surrounded by WWII veterans that were involved in the different theaters of the war. Some, like the old Coast Guard and Navy guys, fought German submarines right off the coast where I grew up. My dad was in the South Pacific, and others saw action in Europe. As a small boy, I of course wanted to hear all the stories but alas, all these men wanted to do was forget. Even as a young boy it was obvious to my young eyes that when fishing with these men as I often did; they felt at peace while fishing. Although our troubles in this day and age can't compare, stress is stress, so take some time for yourself, and fit some fishing into your pre-Christmas schedule. It does not matter what type of fishing you are doing, it is just important to get out there!
As we approach the last week and a half of the 2015 striped bass season; water temperature is the strongest factor affecting the striped bass fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. In the upper bay the larger striped bass tend to be deep where water temperatures are slightly warmer. The 30' to 40' channel edges tend to be some of the better places to look for striped bass suspended near the bottom. Trolling has been one of the more popular ways to fish this week and employing inline weights will help get lures down to where the fish are. Fortunately the water clarity is very good so fish can see lures from a good distance. Most are using mixed spreads of umbrella rigs with swim shad or bucktail trailers, tandem rigged swim shads and bucktails, Stretch 25 crankbaits and spoons. Most of the striped bass being caught are between 18" and 30" but a few over 40" have been caught recently. Jigging is another good option and is a favorite with light tackle anglers. Fish can often be spotted on depth finders suspended near the bottom as this depth finder shows. 

Photo by Matthew Mahoney
The main channels in the bay near the Triple Buoys, Love Point and Podickory Point have been good places to look for striped bass holding on channel edges as have the mouths of the Chester, Patapsco and Magothy Rivers. A few anglers have also been having good luck chumming at some of these steep channel edges with good luck. They report that the fish tend to stay close to the bottom far back in the chum slick, picking up baits on the bottom. The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles continue to be a great place to vertical jig for striped bass and white perch. The striped bass and perch are holding close to the bottom often in about 50' of water. Both metal and soft plastic jigs are the ticket for jigging for striped bass and a heavy sinker with two dropper flies is often the best bet when jigging near the rock piles for white perch.
In the middle bay region trolling and jigging have been the two most popular methods of fishing this week with a few having good luck chumming at selected channel edges. The western side of the shipping channel has been a very good place to troll a mixed spread of various types and sizes of lures. Umbrella rigs with swim shad or bucktail trailers, tandem rigged swim shads and bucktails dressed with sassy shads, Stretch 25 crankbaits and spoons are all being used with inline weights except the Stretch crankbaits. The channel edges around Thomas Point, Bloody Point, Buoy 86 and the False Channel have also been productive places to troll or jig. There are enough large fall migrant striped bass in the region to make it worth the effort to have larger baits in your trolling spread. Jason Haney holds up a nice pair of school sized striped bass he caught while jigging near the mouth of the Choptank River. 

Photo Courtesy of Jason Haney
Anyone trolling in the middle or lower bay is beginning to see lines and lures being fouled by jellyfish. These are winter jellyfish that are common in the bay from November thru the winter and grow to adult size during that time. They are carried by winds and tides into relatively lower salinity areas of the bay but can only reproduce in the very lower part of the bay and ocean. Their sting is not as painful as our common sea nettle and they generally disappear from our section of the bay by May. They are common in the Atlantic Ocean and can grow quite large, with an orange-brown center, and can produce an annoying sting. These winter vistors are called lion's mane jellyfish. 
Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 50° on the surface and 54° on the bottom in most areas in the bay and colder in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. Anglers are jigging on suspended striped bass near channel edges or under slicks or surface action indicated by diving sea gulls and generally smaller striped bass chasing bait on top. Metal and soft plastic jigs are equally popular. Now that water temperatures are chilly the warm water discharge at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant is a good place to check for striped bass that may have their nose poked into the warmer water of the discharge.
There has been a limited amount of white perch fishing in the lower sections of the region's tidal rivers. Cold water temperatures have them hunkered down in deep water and they are becoming less active with the colder water temperatures. When they can be located a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm tends to be the best way to catch them.
Fishing for striped bass in the lower bay continues to be very good this week. There are plenty of school sized striped bass to be found by jigging and trolling in deeper waters and large fall migrant striped bass are being caught on a more common basis lately.
Striped bass in the 18" to 30" size range are being found spread throughout the lower bay region. The eastern side of the bay from Hooper's Island south the Middle Grounds have been a very good place to find striped bass under birds or suspended near channel edges. Jigging is one of the more popular light tackle methods of fishing but trolling has been a very effective method also.
On the western side of the bay the shipping channel edge near Cove Point south to Point Lookout has been an excellent place to troll a mixed spread of lures behind inline weights. Most everyone is now trolling larger lures mixed within their trolling spreads in the hope of catching some of the large fall migrant striped bass that are frequenting the area. The mouth of the Potomac down to Smith Point and north to Cove Point and Buoy 72 has been one of the better places to encounter these larger fish. Jason Zagalsky holds up a 47" striped bass he caught and released while trolling in 60' of water in the lower bay. 

Photo Courtesy of Jason Zagalsky
School sized striped bass are being caught in the lower Potomac River and the lower bay proper either along channel edges, under birds or slicks. Smaller striped bass in the 14" to 18" size range tend to causing most of the surface havoc as they chase bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden with the larger 20" to 30" fish underneath.
There are some white perch holding in about 50" of water in the lower Patuxent River on some hard bottom this week. The perch are holding close to the bottom and fishing with bottom rigs and bloodworms is proving to be the best way to catch them. In the lower Potomac there are plenty of blue catfish to entertain anyone's hankering to battle with a hard fighting and good eating fish. Channel edges from the Wilson Bridge south to the 301 Bridge have been some of the better places to catch them. Bill Davis holds up a nice blue catfish he caught near Mattawoman Creek. 

Photo Courtesy of Bill Davis
Chilly temperatures have definitely thinned out the ranks of fishermen in western Maryland and other regions of the state this week. Many areas are seeing their first icing conditions in the early mornings, which is a hint of what is to come later on this month. There is still plenty of good trout fishing in the trout management waters of western Maryland. At Deep Creek Lake a mix of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, chain pickerel, yellow perch and walleye are being caught. The upper Potomac River is offering good fishing for large smallmouth bass and walleye this week.
Largemouth bass fishing continues to be good in the freshwater areas and tidal rivers of Maryland this week. The bass are holding relatively deep as they lounge close to the bottom near drop-offs hoping to intercept baitfish and crayfish migrating to deep cover for the winter. Crappie are schooled up near structure such as bridge piers, rocks and brush. Chain pickerel and yellow perch are very active in the upper sections of the tidal rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay. Kris Kronner holds a really nice largemouth bass he caught in the Northeast River in the upper bay recently. 

Photo Courtesy of Kris Kronner
Those anxiously waiting for the fall migrant striped bass to arrive in the state waters off Ocean City are becoming impatient to say the least. Present reports have the bulk of the striped bass migration hung up off the mouth of the Delaware Bay or cruising south outside the state's 3-mile limit and in the federal EEZ zone (greater than 3 miles offshore). The rewards have been good for anyone that can trailer their boats up to Lewes or Indian River, or make the run out of Ocean City on a calm day. The striped bass are large and eager to take lures trolled deep, jigs, or live eels. There have been some fish caught on Fenwick Shoals, the Bass Grounds and along the beaches; it is hoped the local action will pick up shortly.
The boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites continue to find plenty of sea bass this week. Limit catches are not uncommon and some of the sea bass are of impressive size. The Maryland sea bass season runs thru December 31st. Large bluefish and flounder have also been part of the mix while sea bass fishing. Mike Hepburn holds up a big sea bass for the camera on the way in from the fishing grounds. 

Photo Courtesy of Mike Hepburn 


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