Thursday, March 17, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | March 17, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

Spring certainly shifted into high gear in the past week and a half, as warm temperatures and southerly winds brought the first harbingers of spring. Anyone living or passing by a nontidal wetland has been serenaded by the sounds of spring peepers; trees are budding out, daffodils are blooming and the adult ospreys have arrived along with the wood ducks. Spring is in the air and with it a lot of developing fishing opportunities, including spawning populations of yellow and white perch and the awakening of a multitude of freshwater species. David Wong sent in a picture that not everyone gets a chance to see; a school of yellow perch milling about in a spawning area of an upper Chesapeake Bay tributary.

Photo Courtesy of David Wong
The warm weather of the last week and a half pushed water temperatures from the low 40's into the low 50's in what seemed like a blink and the yellow perch spawned in earnest in most every spawning tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Masses of egg chains could be seen in the spawning areas last week hanging on submerged branches and woody debris. Many took advantage of the warm weather and continue to do so this week by fishing a little farther downstream of the spawning areas and targeting post spawn yellow perch. Most did very well on the lower tides by targeting some of the deeper holes where the perch were staging for their next push down stream. The white perch moved right into the same spawning areas last week and it was not uncommon to see white perch spawning amongst the yellow perch. This gave fishermen a chance to catch both yellow and white perch at the same time. The white perch should continue this week. Tammy O'Connell holds up a beautiful string of yellow perch she caught on the upper Choptank near Goldsboro last week.

Photo Courtesy of Tom O'Connell
The warmer water temperatures have also brought the alewife herring into many of the Chesapeake Bay's spawning tributaries and anyone fishing for white or yellow perch might notice them swirling along creek shorelines. The blueback herring and hickory shad will be the next species to follow. 
Warmer water temperatures and the calendar date have many starting to think about the opening of the spring trophy striped bass season on April 16th but also about trying a little catch and release fishing. Water temperatures in the Susquehanna Flats area are bouncing around 50° or so and there are some male striped bass in the area. Water conditions are a bit cloudy and there is some troublesome wood debris floating around but some fish are being caught. Crankbaits might be one of the better choices in such conditions and largemouth bass will also be part of the catch.
In the main stem of the Chesapeake, water temperatures are slowly creeping up and presently are holding around 47° on the surface and about 40° on the bottom. The male striped bass are moving into the spawning tidal rivers and the larger females are in the bay and working their way towards the major spawning tidal rivers. The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant warm water discharge is always a popular spot to try some light tackle jigging for these fish and can be a bit crowded at times. There is a definite rhythm to setting up for a drift in the warm water discharge and any new comer should first watch from afar to see how it is done in a polite and efficient manner. Plastic jigs in the 2 – 3 ounce size category or butterfly jigs are good choices and braided line and a fast action rod are real assets. Anyone wishing to give trolling a try is reminded that each boat is restricted to 6 lines, barbless hooks and no stinger hooks while trolling during this catch and release period.
Freshwater fishing certainly has certainly shifted into a higher gear in the past week due to higher water temperatures. This is a wonderful time to fish at local ponds, lakes and any freshwater body of water for a variety of species. Largemouth bass are very active now as they move into shallower areas where the bright sun warms the water. Often the midday sun brings the bass up into shallower waters to enjoy the warmth and they are more than eager to go after a variety of lures. Spinnerbaits, small crankbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastics are all good choices. Chain pickerel will be found in these same areas and ready to attack anything that moves through the water. Randy Siegman caught this fine looking largemouth bass while casting a spinnerbait from shore at Loch Raven Reservoir recently.

Photo Courtesy of Randy Siegman
This time of the year offers one of the best opportunities to target large crappie; success is often very good. The crappie are usually hovering in the deeper areas of ponds, lakes and tidal waters. A minnow or small jig or tube under a bobber is a great way to target them. Just cast out and slowly retrieve; any kind of sunken structure such as fallen tree tops, sunken wood or marina piers are good places to target.
The ice at Deep Creek Lake is quickly subsiding and there is only some ice remaining out in the main portion of the lake; the coves are open; this a great time of the year to target yellow perch along shorelines with minnows and a slip bobber. Northern pike can be found in the cove areas and will strike a variety of larger lures such as plugs, spinners and spoons.
Fisheries biologist John Mullican was kind enough to send us this report from the upper Potomac River. During the spring, river levels and weather are highly variable, and this spring has been no different. Walleye fishing has been tough at times, but some really nice fish have been landed recently. Walleye fishermen will also notice the abundance of 2015 year-class fish this spring, now ranging from 10 - 13 inches. Bass fishermen have also been catching good sized smallmouth as well. The pre-spawn period is one of the best times of the year to catch large bass. Overall catch rates, however, are not as high as the summer season as the abundant smaller bass are not as active this early in the year. Kevin Gladhill is all smiles as he holds up a beautiful upper Potomac walleye for the camera.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Gladhill
Fisheries Service biologists continue to be busy stocking trout in many of the state's trout management waters and conditions could hardly be more perfect for trout anglers. To find out the latest trout stockings in your area be sure to be on the Fisheries email subscription list or check the trout stocking website
The fishing scene at the Ocean City area has been a bit slow as could be expected this time of the year. Boats are going out and finding tautog on the wreck and reef sites but fishing has been described as fair with most catching a fish or two. There were some reports of striped bass moving through the region beyond the 3-mile EEZ line and a few boats even traveled out to the canyons for a little deep drop fishing which was successful for tilefish. 
For those who have to give surf fishing a try there are some spiny dogfish and clear-nosed skates in the surf. Angus Richardson was home for spring break with a couple of friends and enjoyed catching a few dogfish.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Gallagher


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