Thursday, March 3, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | March 03, 2016

By: Keith Lockwood
Yellow perch have been on the minds of a lot of anglers for the past couple of weeks and when warm weather kicks in, that interest increases. Everyone enjoys getting out and spending some time near a favorite fishing spot to take a chance of being in the right spot at the right time. Yellow perch are being caught in a lot of areas lately, with most being males that are still green in the upper spawning locations. The larger females are holding in holes farther downstream since water temperatures in most tributaries of the middle and lower bay are holding in the low 40's. Warmer temperatures may entice the perch to get a little more serious about spawning since temperatures above 46° to about 54° is the spawning temperature range. A few facts shared with us from yellow perch biologist Paul Piavis are that the strong 2011 year class of yellow perch should be 10" or better this year. Paul also added that the 2013, 2014 and 2015 year classes were also strong and that it generally takes 3 years for a yellow perch to reach 9" in length.

Photo Courtesy of Keith Lockwood
Trying to adjust our own busy schedules with what the spawning yellow perch have in mind is always a challenge; making the famous words "you should have been here this morning or yesterday" an all too common greeting with fellow fishermen. Keep an eye on the weather, and remember that rain events tend to drive water temperatures down, and warm sunny days cause temperatures to rise. If one was to pick a tidal flow to fish; an early low flood tide is a good choice. Predictive tides can be found on the Fisheries Service web site. Keep in mind that the site listed may be downriver of the area you wish to fish, but an educated guess can put you close to the tide situation you are seeking. If you plan to sit on a 5 gallon bucket with a rod in a forked stick, then minnows or worms on a bottom rig are a good choice. For those with a little more energy, a minnow or small tube or plastic crappie jig under a bobber slowly worked across likely looking areas can pay off. This is also a good way to stir up the interests of any crappie that may be swimming in the general area. One of my favorites is to hook a minnow through the lips, place just enough split shot about 2' in front of the bait, and retrieve slowly along the bottom. If some of your minnows happen to be too large or you have some chewed up and freshly dead minnows; diagonal cuts placed on a shad dart and worked slowly along the bottom can be just what the doctor ordered. This method of fishing is especially effective when the action is fast with a lot of throwbacks and conserving bait is a priority. There are reports of active yellow perch fishing coming in from the upper Patuxent at Route 4, the upper Wicomico off the Potomac River (Allen's Fresh), the upper Magothy, Middle River and the Bush at Route 40. On the eastern side of the bay, the upper Wicomico, Nanticoke, Choptank, Tuckahoe, Chester, Sassafras and all of their tributaries report steady action with more to come as temperatures warm. Many of these areas can be viewed on a yellow perch map we created in Google Maps showing historical yellow perch landing locations. Mike Miller enjoyed a nice day in his kayak in the protected waters at Allen's Fresh while catching some yellow perch.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Miller

Yellow perch are holding in the lower Susquehanna in about 50' of water. There is a lot of water coming through the Conowingo Dam, which is causing turbid, cold and fast moving water conditions in the lower Susquehanna River. To fish these deeper areas it will take a substantial sinker with two dropper loops rigged with either small jigs or minnows to get the attention of the yellow perch holding there. 
Local fishing show dealers and tackle shops have been doing a brisk business lately as fishermen begin to think about the start of the spring trophy striped bass season in April. Large parachutes, bucktails and sassy shads are always in demand and now is the time to get one's gear in shape. The regulations for this year's spring season have been finalized. The spring season striped bass kicks off on April 16 in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Spring recreational fishing opportunities for striped bass will run from April 16 through May 15, with a catch limit of one fish per person, per day, 35 inches or larger. See our Recreational Fishing Guide for more details.
The Chesapeake Bay summer striped bass season has also been finalized. Regulations for the bay and its tidal tributaries combined summer/fall season, running May 16 through Dec. 20, will remain the same as 2015. Anglers can keep two fish per day 20 inches or longer with only one being over 28 inches. (Size is measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail.) The strong 2011 year class of striped bass should provide plenty of opportunities when fishing on the bay this year since these fish will now be solidly in the mid 20's" size range.
A few boats have been slipping away from boat ramps and docks lately looking for a little catch and release striped bass action at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge. This is a light tackle jigging adventure as boats position into where the warm water boils up and drift away with the current. A few others have been exploring around the rock piles and bridge piers at the Bay Bridge looking for smaller school sized striped bass holding close to the bottom. This is also a vertical jigging proposition with a much more sluggish bite than a warm water discharge. Water temperatures in the bay are currently about 39°. After a quick picture these two striped bass were quickly released while fishing at the CCNPP discharge. You might notice the fish on the left has a small sea lamprey attached. 

Photo Courtesy of Darren Rockwood

Large adult striped bass are moving up the bay and are beginning to move into the major spawning rivers. Water temperatures in the middle and lower bay spawning rivers are running about 40° or a little better so these fish will hunker down until water temperatures rise into the low 50's. Usually the males make up the vanguard of the annual spawning run; this can also be said for white and yellow perch runs as well. Perhaps impatience is a male trait in fish when it comes to this type of thing, since it certainly is in young humans.
Freshwater fishing opportunities are beginning to awaken with warming temperatures for a variety of favored fish. Largemouth bass are moving out of the deepest areas into transition zones along drop-offs and channel edges holding near deep structure. Sunken wood, rocks, bridge piers and dock pilings are all good places to target. Generally smaller lures slowly worked close to the bottom are good tactics. Small crankbaits, grubs, various soft plastics, jigs, blade lures and slow rolled spinnerbaits are all good choices.
Crappie and chain pickerel are good cold water choices for fishing. Both of these species tend to enjoy the cold water and feed aggressively this time of year. Both species can be found in the upper regions of tidal rivers, ponds and lakes. The crappie can be found hovering over deeper water near structure. One of the most productive ways to fish for them is to use a small tube lure or minnow several feet under a bobber and retrieve it slowly. Chain pickerel will be holding in shallow and deep water and will strike a variety of spinners, spoons, jerkbaits and most other types of lures moving through the water. Mike Crocetti made the trip to Tuckahoe Lake to enjoy a beautiful day and a chance to catch and release a nice chain pickerel.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Crocetti

The pre season stocking of trout has been going well and trout anglers have been enjoying the efforts of the stocking crews and volunteers who work hard to create the best fishing experience. Often this means float stocking or carrying heavy buckets of trout a distance to spread the fish out so they are not all clumped up in a pool at a bridge or road access. It is a lot of work from the hatching of eggs at the hatcheries to hauling large bags of fish pellets to the grow out raceways and finally moving the fish to trucks and distributing them in the trout management waters. We are very fortunate to have the trout production team that we do, and perhaps evidence of that is all of the Pennsylvania fishermen who come to fish for trout in Maryland.

Photo Courtesy of Keith Lockwood

Fisheries biologist John Mullican sent us a short report from the upper Potomac. The upper Potomac is still high and cloudy, but is improving each day. Water temperatures are beginning to climb into the 40s. Fishermen are reminded that PFDs must be worn at all times on the upper Potomac unless anchored through May 15. (Check regulations for details)
Reports from Deep Creek Lake and Piney Reservoir speak of deteriorating ice conditions due to warm weather. Many areas of Deep Creek Lake are unsafe to venture on and the state boat ramp area tends to one of the last places left earlier this week. Fishermen have been fishing the hump out in front of the boat ramp with some success on yellow perch and walleye.
Fishing for catfish can be both an exciting and peaceful fishing experience. Channel catfish are fairly widespread throughout most of the Chesapeake's tidal rivers and upper bay. A simple bottom rig with some kind of fresh cut bait, chicken livers or worms is all that is needed except for a quiet sunny river bank, a comfortable seat and some snacks. A good fishing buddy to talk to and pass the time with is also a bonus. For the more adventurous, blue catfish in the tidal Potomac can provide some exciting action. A small boat usually offers the best access to good fishing but there are some areas such as Fort Washington Park that offer good bank fishing. The smaller blue catfish that are less than 5 lbs offer the best eating and if a major pull is your quest; the larger cats can be found near channel edges often in deeper water. Blue catfish like fresh bait and those serious about the big ones often use live bait. Finally flathead catfish can be found in the Potomac and lower Susquehanna Rivers and they too can reach some impressive sizes and the smaller ones can provide some excellent eating. They also prefer fresh cut bait or live bait. Karon Hickman enjoyed some fun fishing for channel catfish at Martinak State Park on the upper Choptank River and holds up a nice one for the camera. 

Photo Courtesy of Karon Hickman

The Department of Natural Resources is seeking stakeholder comment on potential change to the Coastal Atlantic Recreational Striped Bass management measures for the 2016 fishery. On February 4th, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's (ASMFC) Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board reviewed and approved Maryland's Addendum IV Conservation Equivalent Management Proposal for use in 2016. The following table summarizes the Board approved options available to coastal Atlantic recreational anglers in 2016. The preferred alternative (A3 in bold) was the recommendation received from the Department's Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission (SFAC) and provides consistency in regulations between Maryland and Delaware.


OptionBag LimitSize LimitSeason
A1: (Current)128" minJan 1 – Dec 31
A2: (Non-Preferred)233" minJan 1 – Dec 31
A3: (Preferred - DE Opt.)228" - 38" or ≥ 44" minJan 1 – Dec 31

If you would like to submit written comment, please email Feedback is due by midnight, March 4, 2016


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