Thursday, March 31, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | March 31, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

As Maryland enters into the second week of spring, all types of fishing are swinging into high gear. This is one of the most wonderful times of the year to take the young ones fishing since the weather is usually mild and there are plenty of fish to catch. One of the best things the Maryland Fisheries Service offers young anglers is the stocking of trout in special areas that are for children under the age of 16. These are called youth and blind areas on the state's stocking list. Young anglers need plenty of action to keep them focused on fishing and these areas offer a unique opportunity for parents and young anglers. The Maryland Fisheries Service is also offering a 50% discount on a young angler's first fishing license if they are going to turn 16 during 2016. To find out more about the youth trout areas be sure to check out the trout stocking schedule and sign up for the email subscriber list to get up to date trout stocking notification at our trout stocking website.
Rainbow Trout
Photo courtesy of Raymond Drayer

There has been a fair amount of striped bass catch and release action in the Susquehanna Flats Catch and Release area this week as water temperatures slowly increase. At present surface water temperatures are around 52° and water clarity has improved since last week. There are relatively low flows coming through the Conowingo Dam this week. Most all of the striped bass being caught are males with some exceeding 30" or better. Soft plastic jigs and crankbaits tend to be the most popular choices for lures. Hickory shad have been observed in the lower Susquehanna River near the mouth of Deer Creek but they do not seem to be in the biting mood and water temperatures are still too chilly for them to think about making spawning runs up Deer Creek. The peak spawning temperatures for hickory shad are in the range of 59° to 66°. White perch are also moving into the lower Susquehanna River and can be caught on small jigs or bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, bloodworms or small minnows. White perch can also be caught in the lower sections of the upper bay's tidal rivers. In many cases the white perch have finished spawning in the upper reaches of these tidal rivers and are descending into the lower parts of the tidal rivers. The white perch tend to be in deeper waters so bottom rigs and bait are a good choice but if fishing from a boat, a sinker and two dropper flies or small jigs can be very effective. It does not hurt to tip the flies or jigs with a piece of bloodworm or a small slice of fresh minnow to make the rig a little more attractive to the perch. 
In the middle bay region, striped bass are moving up towards the spawning reaches in the Nanticoke and Choptank Rivers. The male fish have been in place for a time and the largest females are now arriving in the spawning reaches. Water temperatures in the Choptank River are in the low 50's and there has been some evidence that early spawning has begun. If warmer weather prevails the striped bass spawn in these rivers should begin in earnest as early as next week and hopefully will be spread out over the month of April as more striped bass arrive. Fishermen are reminded that these spawning areas in the tidal rivers are strictly off limits to catch and release striped bass fishing.
A few striped bass are being caught close to the surface near the shipping channel edges by trolling. Most of the action can best be described as a very slow pick and the lines off the planer boards are getting the most attention from striped bass. Bay water temperatures in the middle bay region are still in the high 40's. There continues to be some light tackle action at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge in the boiling current.
In the lower bay region the spawning populations of striped bass are moving into the spawning reaches of the tidal Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Water temperatures in the tidal Potomac River are presently holding around 52°. There is some striped bass catch and release action along the western edges of the bay shipping channel and reports have the fish in the upper levels of the water column. The white perch are moving down the Patuxent River and can be found in the middle region. 
The opening day of trout season was heralded in by thousands of eager fishermen last Saturday and the fun continues as supplemental stockings bolster the fun and excitement. The lack of heavy rain events and mild weather has conditions in most trout management waters as near perfect as they can be. 
Trout pool
Photo courtesy of Joe Evans

The upper Potomac River has also been flowing clear with relatively low water levels for this time of the year. Fishing for smallmouth bass has really picked up as water temperatures warm up into the low 50's. The smaller bass are now becoming more active and make up a larger percentage of the action. Casting tubes near submerged ledges and rocky bottom has been a favorite tactic and larger smallmouth bass and walleye are also part of the mix.
Deep Creek Lake is now completely free of ice and more and more fishermen are fishing from small boats for a variety of fish. Perhaps one of the largest trophy fish to be encountered is the northern pike which can be found in the mouths of coves in relatively shallow water. Chain pickerel will be also found in the same areas. Largemouth bass are beginning to shake off the cold and moving to transition areas closer to shallower water. A variety of crankbaits and soft plastic jigs worked close to the bottom is a good tactic. Smallmouth bass can be found on rocky points and shores. Tubes, small jigs and crankbaits are good choices when fishing for smallmouth. Walleye may also be found in these same areas. Yellow perch and walleye can be caught on live minnows under a slip bobber along deep grass edges.
In many areas of Maryland, largemouth bass are moving into transition areas leading to shallower areas where spawning occurs. This is particularly true in ponds and small lakes where water temperatures are creeping up into the mid 50's. In tidal rivers the largemouth bass can often be found this week staging at the mouths of feeder creeks and coves. Casting jigs and small crankbaits near sunken cover in these areas is a good bet.
Fishing for channel catfish in the tidal rivers of the Chesapeake Bay could hardly be better this week. Water temperatures have warmed up and the catfish are very active. Most any kind of fresh cut bait or chicken livers is a good choice for baits. My personal favorite is to use a bottom rig with smaller hooks and garden worms and catch fresh white perch for bait. The same holds for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac also. There are plenty of blue catfish to be caught in the tidal Potomac and they make for some good eating.
Blue Catfish
Photo courtesy of Bill Boteler

CCA is holding a blue catfish tournament this weekend based out of Smallwood State Park this coming Saturday. It promises to be a fun event and it is not too late to sign up or just stop by to see all of the weigh in action. 
There has been much controversy over the tidal largemouth bass biologists need to address declining largemouth bass populations in the tidal rivers of the Chesapeake. Program manager Joe Love has provided us with the latest revised proposals for bass tournaments in the tidal Potomac.
Tournament directors that have not received a permit for 2016 can choose between one of two options for a tournament permit where the tournament will be held in Maryland on Potomac River or Upper Chesapeake Bay from June 16 through October 31. Option 1 requires the tournament director/participants to adhere to the slot limit permit condition (i.e., possession limited to a 12 inch minimum size, 5 fish creel, with only one fish which may measure 15 inches or bigger). Option 2 requires adherence to special conditions that minimize fish stress, thereby reducing fishing mortality. Option 2 allows possession limits specific to statewide regulations during this time period. Details are provided below: 
Option 1: the following language is added to the director's permit: For tournaments held from June 16 to October 31 at Maryland weigh-in locations on the Potomac River or Upper Chesapeake Bay (Susquehanna, Northeast, Elk, Susquehanna flats), participating anglers are limited to a 12 inch minimum size and a possession limit of 5 bass (largemouth and smallmouth combined), only one of which may be 15 inches or greater (per angler, per day). Therefore, an angler can weigh-in 5 fish over 12" but only one of these fish may be 15"and bigger.
Option 2: the following language is added to the director's permit All rules and conditions within the Special Conditions for Black Bass Tournaments must be followed and among these are: a) Allows anglers to participate within existing possession regulations (5 fish creel, 12 inch minimum size, no maximum) for tournaments held from June 16 to October 31; b) Requires directors to recover exhausted bass following a tournament and redistribute them to approved locations; c) Requires all anglers to possess a free participant permit; d) Requires other actions to improve survival of large bass.
Ocean City area fishing is slowly coming to life this week as near shore water temperatures creep to the 50° mark. In the surf there are a few short striped bass being caught along with a lot of eager spiny dogfish. At the inlet the first tautog of the season are being caught at the south jetty and bulkhead areas inside the inlet. Sand fleas and pieces of crab have been the preferred baits and the bottom of an ebb tide tends to offer the best fishing. In the back bay areas near the Route 90 and Verrazano Bridges there is some fun action for short striped bass.
Photo courtesy of Tim Campbell

Outside the inlet at the wreck and reef sites boats are finding fair action on the sites for tautog. Cold water temperatures have been putting a damper on the fishery lately and this situation will improve shortly as water temperatures warm.


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