Monday, June 20, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | June 20, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

The summer season officially starts today, but for most, schools are out and it is time for family vacations and spending more family time together. Traveling the highways linking vacation destinations, family vehicles can be seen loaded down with all kinds of fun gear ranging from bicycles of all sizes to kayaks and pulling campers. On the Eastern shore, where I live, most of the traffic is on Route 50 headed towards Ocean City or returning. Last Saturday I happened to take stock of some of the traffic headed east and had fun guessing where families were headed by what gear they had packed. Some were headed to camp grounds and some to rental properties; one particular pickup truck from West Virginia was stuffed with mom, dad, the kids, and a pickup bed full of bikes, with a surf rod sticking out and a camper being towed behind. I suspect they were headed for Assateague State Park. When I was checking out of a discount department store familiar to all; a guy in front of me had a collection of hooks with wire leaders, a Got-Cha lure and a spool of new monofilament. I knew he was headed to Ocean City and wondered how he heard about the good fishing for bluefish there. I thought maybe, just maybe, he had read the fishing report? As I headed out the door a 12 year old girl in pigtails was proudly walking with her parents with a flashy metallic red spinning rod and reel and I surmised they were headed to do some local freshwater or tidal river fishing. All great sights as families enjoy the many fishing opportunities we have here in Maryland. Don't miss out on the fun and special time with family as we step into the wonderful summertime in Maryland!
Photo Courtesy of Tom O'Connell, children holding a blue crab
Photo Courtesy of Tom O'Connell

Fishing for striped bass in the lower Susquehanna River and flats area has now settled into a typical summer pattern of early morning and late evening action with topwater lures at the dam pool, the river or edges along the flats and surrounding shoreline structure. Crankbaits, suspended jerkbaits and swim shads can also be a good choice when fishing deeper water. Water temperatures near the flats are about 77° this week and one can expect colder water temperatures in the river when water is released at the dam for power generation in the afternoons. A portion of the striped bass being caught are falling a little short of the 20" mark but most of the fish being caught are falling into the 20" to 26"size range. There are also plenty of flathead catfish in the river and channel catfish are spread throughout the region. Don Goff holds up a "keeper" he caught at the Conowingo Dam pool.
Photo courtesy of Don Goff, holding a striped bass
Photo courtesy of Don Goff

The tidal rivers in the upper bay region are holding excellent populations of white perch this week. They tend to be deep at 12' to 25' and can be caught on bottom rigs baited with bloodworms. This can be some really fun nonstop action to introduce kids to as long as a good tide is running. In the early mornings and late evenings working shoreline structure with ultra-light tackle and small beetle-spins or spinners can provide a lot of fun and some nice white perch for the table. 
There is good fishing for striped bass in the Baltimore Harbor area and nearby tidal rivers and creeks for striped bass in the early morning and evening hours. At times there will be a lot of small fish but if one moves around larger striped bass over 20" can be found. Jigging with soft plastic jigs along channel edges or casting topwater lures, crankbaits and jerkbaits towards shoreline structure often will provide plenty of action.
Out in the main portion of the upper bay chumming has been very popular at the Love Point and Swan Point areas. Most are spotting fish on their depth finders before setting up a chum slick. Smaller striped bass tend to be a big part of the fish in the upper reaches of the slick but larger striped bass are often right behind them or holding farther back in the chum slick. It always pays to have a bait far back in the slick on the bottom. Cow-nosed rays are unfortunately also attracted by the chum and will give a good showing for anyone who thinks they might be a little bored.
Trolling is of course another option when fishing for striped bass in the upper bay. Most success is coming from along the channel edges by those who are able to get their lures down to about 25' along the 35' to 40' edges. Umbrella rigs are perhaps the most popular right now behind inline weights with bucktail or Storm shad trailers. Tandem rigged bucktails give one the option of using planers to get down to the fish as are spoons which must be trolled all by their lonesome or you're looking for a lot of twisted trouble.
Vertical jigging is always a fun option when fishing for striped bass and structure such as submerged rocks and bridge piers are good places to cast near and jig. Soft plastics are a favorite but bucktails will serve you well also when casting and jigging near deep structure. 
Below the Bay Bridge striped bass are being caught in a variety of locations and methods and most are remarking that this is some of the best striped bass fishing they've seen in years. This is not far off from the truth due to a very strong 2011 year class of striped bass which are now in the mid-twenties in regards to length in inches. Just about everyone is getting in on the action whether they are chumming, trolling, jigging or casting in the shallows.
Boats have been setting up on the outside edge of Hacketts, near the Hill, the Clay Banks and the Diamonds lately and having good success. A good tide is needed and most are setting up on fish they find suspended off the bottom with their depth finders. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 73° this week on top and about 10° cooler at about 35'.There are no spot predicted in the immediate forecast so chumming will most likely be popular into early July or longer. (Some folks have livelined white perch, but spot are absent.) Billy Fox was chumming on the outside edge of Hackett's when he caught this tagged striped bass.
Photo courtesy of Billy Fox, holding a striped bass.
Photo courtesy of Billy Fox

Trolling has been good along the channel edges on the western side of the bay from Thomas Point south. Umbrella rigs, tandem bucktails or swim shads along with spoons have been popular and trolled with inline weights and planers to get them down to the fish which tend to be holding at about 35' to 40'. Ballast stone piles are not to be overlooked either and if you find a bump out at the mouth of the Choptank for example; mark it because these are valuable spots to look for "rockfish". To those who might be wondering, these ballast stone piles are where 17th and 18th century sailing ships tossed the rocks over the side that were in the bilges of sailing vessels. The rocks helped to keep the ships upright in weather when coming across the Atlantic from England with a light cargo load. Once the ships were ready to enter ports at Oxford, Cambridge or Annapolis the ship crews set up a relay to dump the rocks over the side to make room for a full cargo load leaving the Americas and heading back to England. Cargo ships returning from the Caribbean often did the same thing but used coral for ballast.
Jigging near structure such as the Bay Bridge piers, rocks and edges near Thomas Point and the steep edges wherever one can find them can offer fun light tackle fishing. The main channel edges in the bay are always popular but the steep edges in Eastern Bay and most tidal rivers should not be overlooked. Soft plastics are the most popular jig being used and so far there has been no danger of bluefish.
The shallower water fishing for striped bass continues to be good in most areas despite cloudy water conditions due to severe weekend winds and our little friends the cow-nosed rays. The tides this week are not exactly ideal in the middle bay area with low tide occurring in the evening. In many areas the grass is fairly thick so topwater lures such as poppers or skipping bugs is the way to go and certainly provides the greatest entertainment factor.
Perhaps the most exciting fishing going on in the lower bay region right now is the welcomed arrival of substantial numbers of croakers. The croakers are now moving into the region in large enough numbers that it is not difficult to catch a daily limit of 25 croakers. The croakers are relatively small compared to what we experienced 10 to 15 years ago with most falling in the size range of 10" to 12". The minimum size for croakers is 9". The croaker are moving up the Patuxent River and fishing is hot and heavy at the mouth of the river. Other areas where excellent fishing is occurring are the lower Potomac River, Point Lookout, the Buoy 72 area, the Middle Grounds and Tangier Sound. 
Photo courtesy of Travis Franklin, holding a croaker.
Photo courtesy of Travis Franklin

The best fishing is at night when the croakers move into shallow areas. Peeler crab is perhaps the best and most economical bait to use on a bottom rig but bloodworms are great and wild domestic shrimp and squid can also work. Generally a number 4 hook is about right and little spinner blades can help attract croakers to the bait. Fortunately you can find them already snelled and ready to go on a two hook bottom rig with just enough sinker to hold bottom. No spot have been reported anywhere in the lower bay region yet. There are plenty of blue catfish in the lower Potomac River and channel catfish in the Patuxent.
Striped bass are being caught in a variety of locations in the lower bay region. There has been enough activity near Cove Point and Point-No-Point to keep those trolling busy. The lower Potomac channel edges are also providing some action as is the lower Putuxent River. Trolling deep with umbrella rigs or tandem lures has been the most popular. Storm shads, bucktails and spoons have been the lures of choice and inline weights and planners get the gear down to where the striped bass are holding.
There has been some jigging action to be found off of Hooper's Island and channel edges near Cedar Point and the Wilson Reef near Point-No-Point. Shallow water fishing with topwater poppers or swim shads has been good for striped bass on the eastern side of the bay and places like Cedar Point on the western side.
Recreational crabbing continues to be very good in the most all of the tidal rivers in the middle and lower bay regions. The crabs from the season's first molt are filling out nicely and it is not uncommon for recreational crabbers to catch a full bushel of heavy crabs per outing. Most crabbers are now using chicken necks since the cow-nosed rays have moved into the Maryland portion of the bay in force. 
Deep Creek Lake waters continue to warm as summer weather begins to descend on the far western landscapes of Garret County. Bluegills are actively spawning in the shallower cove areas and largemouth bass can be found nearby trying to pick off sub-adult bluegills and other species of sunfish attracted by the bounty of eggs in the bluegill nests. Smallmouth bass fishing has been good out on the lakes rocky points, near structure such as floating docks and sunken wood. Largemouth bass are also starting to hold near floating docks and downed tree tops. Stan Komacek holds up a whopper of a Deep Creek Lake largemouth he caught while fly fishing.
Photo courtesy of Ken Pavol, Stan Komacek holding a largemouth Bass
Photo courtesy of Ken Pavol

The upper Potomac River has settled down and the smallmouth bass fishing bounced back quickly with excellent fishing opportunities this week. Water temperatures are about 72° and the smallmouth can be found in a variety of locations. Submerged ledges, large boulders and shallower gravel bars are all good places to fish spinnerbaits or tubes.
In many areas of the central, southern and eastern regions bluegills are finishing up their spawning and are very actively feeding. They can provide some fun light tackle fishing with rigs as simple as a worm and bobber or by casting small tubes, jigs or spinners. Casting small rubber-legged poppers with a light fly rod is hard to beat for fun.
Largemouth bass fishing is very good this week in a variety of habitat locations such as small ponds, larger lake and reservoirs or tidal rivers. Water temperatures are still cool enough that the best action lingers into mid-morning hours and starts early in the evenings. Topwater lures, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits are good choices for some of the shallower areas and stick worms can't be beat for working grass. Structure such as bridge piers, fallen tree tops and sunken wood are good places to work jigs, tubes and plastic worms. When fishing tidal rivers, tides play an important role; low tides will find largemouth holding outside the deeper edges of spatterdock fields and grass. A high tide will often find the largemouth bass in those cover areas.
Ocean City is starting to look more and more like summer as water temperatures reach 64° in and around the inlet. Surf fishing has been good for a mix of bluefish and a few large striped bass and a whole lot of skates and sting rays. Cut menhaden has been one of the more popular baits, but finger mullet and sand fleas are also being used. Those targeting kingfish are using bloodworms for bait.
At the inlet bluefish continue to move in and out of the inlet and are being caught mostly on Got-Cha lures but they can also be caught on bucktails, spoons and chunk baits. Striped bass are being caught on swim shads, bucktails and by drifting live eels. There are still some nice tautog being caught near the jetties, bulkheads and bridge piers in the area. Sand fleas and pieces of crab have been favored baits. This happy angler holds up a nice striped bass he caught recently off the Route 50 Bridge in the early morning hours.
Photo courtesy of Karon Hickman, holding a striped bass
Photo courtesy of Karon Hickman

Bluefish have invaded the back bay areas and are providing some fun action. The flounder fishing has not been so good lately due to cloudy water conditions brought on by strong winds earlier this week.
Outside the inlet the boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites are still finding good sea bass fishing but limit catches are not as common as they were last month. Flounder are now being caught and help add to the mix. Farther offshore the boats trolling at the canyons are finding a mix of yellowfin tuna, dolphin and bigeye tuna. Rigged ballyhoo has been the most productive offering.


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