Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | June 23, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

It is summertime, and as the song goes “the living is easy”. Many of our fisheries are transitioning as water temperatures warm and summer migrants drift into our bay and ocean areas. The living is easy and we all need to take time to enjoy it. There is no better way to spend special time with family and friends, to relax and do nothing but concentrate on fishing. There are a lot of wonderful fishing opportunities available no matter where you live in Maryland, don’t miss out. Mary Mahoney accompanied her husband for some fun shallow water fishing recently and proudly holds up a nice striped bass caught on a popper in the shallows of the Choptank River.
Woman holding a striped bass.
Photo courtesy of Matt Mahoney

At the lower Susquehanna River the Conowingo Dam is releasing some fairly hefty power generation water releases in the afternoons. There is some early morning striped bass action at the dam pool on topwater lures as well as crankbaits and swim shads. Down river, there are plenty of channel catfish and medium-sized flathead catfish. Out beyond the mouth of the river there is an early morning and evening striped bass topwater bite along the deeper grass edges. 
Farther down in the upper bay region there is striped bass action to be found in the early morning and evening hours along shoreline structure such as rock breakwaters and channel edges. Topwater lures are perhaps the most fun way to fish but where channel edges are deeper swim shads or vertical jigging is a great option when fish can be spotted suspended over structure. There has been good action in the lower Patapsco River/Baltimore Harbor area this week with a mix of sub-legal and legal-size striped bass along with extremely good white perch fishing. White perch are also being found in good numbers in most of the other tidal rivers and coves within the upper bay region. Cownose rays have taken up residence in the upper bay and will be seen most anywhere and interfering with most types of fishing.
A lot of striped bass have been moving into the upper bay this past week and the dense fleets of boats are a sure give away to the action. Last Friday morning charter boats from the middle and upper bay region were trolling in a tight pack right off the beaches of Sandy Point working on striped bass. Large fleets of private and charter boats are anchoring up at Love Point, near the Triple Buoys, Swan Point and the steep channel edges from the mouth of the Magothy south to beyond Sandy Point Light chumming and chunking for striped bass. The striped bass are a mix of sizes with a lot of 16” to 18” fish up in the chum slicks and fish larger than 20” back in the lower tail end of slicks or right up in the water column close to the boats. Everyone is urged to use circle hooks even though many inexperienced find more fun fishing with J style hooks and enjoying setting the hook. The unfortunate price is deep hooked fish that are often seen floating down current below the fleets after being released. 
The Bay Bridge continues to hold striped bass near many of the piers this week. The fish are suspended off the bottom and can be caught by casting bucktails and soft plastic jigs or by chunking. It can be tricky anchoring up current of the bridge piers and there are many anchors that never came back to the surface to their owners. There are cables and steel debris down there under the bridge, so be careful. White perch are also holding near some of the shallower bridge piers and can be caught on small jigs on a dropper rig or bottom rigs baited with bloodworms.
Close up photo of a white perch.
Photo courtesy of Travis Long

There is plenty of good trolling action for striped bass in the upper bay along channel edges. The mouth of the Patapsco and Magothy Rivers has been good as well as locations such as the Triple Buoys and Podickory Point. A word of caution would be to stay clear of the chumming fleets; when things get tight, tempers tend to flair. Umbrella rigs with inline weights are favorite, single spoons or tandem bucktails and swim shads can trolled behind a planer to get them down.
In the Middle Bay region the outside edge of Hacketts is one of the better shows in town. A lot of striped bass have moved north of the Bay Bridge from the Chesapeake Beach area, and Hacketts is a prime stop off point for them. The spot has been attracting a considerable fleet and some are also poking around the Hill looking for fish on depth finders to drop chum on. The striped bass have been spread out lately in the middle bay region so unless concentrations can be found suspended, trolling might be a good option over chumming or jigging. The striped bass tend to be along 35’ to 40’ channel edges so planers and inline weights help get lures down to the fish. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 76 degrees on top and about 10 degrees cooler at 40’.
The early morning and evening shallow water striped bass fishing has improved this week with clearer water and favorable tides. The shorelines of the bay and areas like Poplar Island, Eastern Bay and the lower Severn and Choptank Rivers have been great places to cast topwater lures. Often good white perch fishing can be found in these same locations and casting spinners, small jigs or beetle-spins with an ultra-light outfit can create some great fun. Anthony Nicholas and Andrea Deleonibus spent some fun time together casting topwater lures in the Severn recently.
A man and a woman both holding striped bass
Photo courtesy of Anthony Nicholas

The croakers have moved into the lower Choptank River this week and may be found in the western tidal rivers this week as well. Peeler crab, bloodworms or table shrimp make good baits on a double bottom rig. One needs to make sure if they use table shrimp pieces, to purchase wild caught shrimp and not the farm raised white shrimp which have no scent. Croakers are being caught along channel edges in the early evenings and shallower areas at night. The Bill Burton Fishing Pier is a good place for shore bound anglers to give croakers and white perch a try.
Lower bay fishing for striped bass this week takes some luck and knowledge to find the fish and put them in the boat. They are spread sparse through the region this week. Perhaps one of the better tactics when searching for fish is to troll along channel edges in the lower Potomac River and along the edges of the shipping channel in the bay. If you do decide to troll it looks like it is starting to be a good idea to put swim shads away for a while. Small bluefish in the 14” to 16” size range are beginning to move into the Point Lookout area and their larger friends will be right behind them. Small to medium-sized spoons or bucktails would be a good choice for trolling lures.
There has also been some good early morning and evening topwater striped bass action along shoreline structure such as Cedar Point and places in the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers as well as the shorelines on the eastern side of the bay. A few speckled trout are being caught along the eastern marsh edges and large red drum are beginning to show up near the Target Ship.
Croaker fishing is hot and heavy in the lower bay this week from Tangier Sound to the lower Potomac River. The lower Patuxent has been particularly good from shore or in boats. As can be expected during the day the croakers are holding deep, often 50’ or more. At dusk they begin to move up channel edges to forage in shallower waters during the night. Oyster bars and channel edges are good places to anchor up and fish with peeler crab baits on a two hook bottom rig. Squid, shrimp and bloodworms can also be good baits and bloodworms will certainly attract any white perch in the vicinity.
Recreational crabbing this week continues to be very good in the middle and lower bay regions. Most tidal rivers on both sides of the bay are providing bushel catches for most that are using trotlines and or collapsible traps. Razor clams remain favored bait for many but with an abundance of crabs in all sizes around, chicken necks will work just fine. Jim Livingston kneels next to a nice bushel of crabs he caught while running 30 collapsible traps near the West and Rhode Rivers area recently.
A man with a bushel of crabs.
Photo courtesy of Jim Livingston

Photo courtesy of The Deep Creek Lake area has been hammered with heavy rains recently and water levels are up in the lake and shoreline edges are showing stained water conditions. There were also two unfortunate sewage spill events in the McHenry Cove area recently. Water temperatures are in the low 70s. It is that time of the year where serious fishing happens early in the morning due to crazy boat traffic. There is good fishing for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and a mix of rock bass, bluegills and chain pickerel. Largemouth bass are starting to hold under floating docks now looking for shade. Stick worms, crankbaits and suspended jerkbaits tend to some of the favored lures to use. Some have been having good luck trolling night crawlers down about 30’ deep along the dam face for rainbow trout.
The upper Potomac River has been running clear with water temperatures around 78 degrees. The smallmouth bass have been skittish in the clear water so light line and long casts will go a long way to increasing success. Tubes and stick worms have been favorite baits lately. Heavy rain in the upper watershed of the Potomac can change water levels quickly so it pays to keep an eye on things. There is a saying among big wave surfers that is also good advice for small boat fishermen – “When in doubt, don’t go out!”
Trout fishing is still good in many of the trout management waters in the central and western regions where trout fishing is more restrictive than the usual 5 trout per day in put and take areas. Many of these management waters provide fun catch and release fishing through the summer months.
Largemouth bass are beginning to hold to grass or any kind of cover they can find including fallen tree tops, sunken wood, lily pads or spatterdock fields. Spinnerbaits are good to work through thin cover or along edges of thick cover. Buzzbaits are coming into their own now over shallow grass and stick worms dropped through grass is a good tactic. The best fishing is the early morning hours and evenings as largemouth bass transition into their summer modes of behavior. In tidal rivers grass near creek mouths are good places to fish as are the edges of grass or spatterdock field at low tide.
Fishing in the Ocean City area continues to transition into a typical summer fishery as water temperatures pass the mid-60’s this week along the surf and inlet areas. Small bluefish and some medium-sized ones also are being caught in the surf on finger mullet rigs. A few striped bass are being caught on cut menhaden baits. Dogfish, skates and sting rays tend to dominate the surf at the moment. Kingfish are being caught on bloodworms along with a few blowfish.
At the inlet bluefish tend to move in and out but the real action is fishing for striped bass. They are being caught with good regularity from the jetties and Route 50 Bridge on bucktails, swim shads, cut bait and live eels. Steve Doctor holds up a nice one caught from the Route 50 Bridge recently.
A man holding a striped bass on the Ocean City pier.
Photo courtesy of Steve Doctor

Flounder fishing is steadily improving but there is no getting around that the fishing is tough and keepers are even tougher to find. The channels leading to the inlet offer some of the best action but the edges of flats and shoals should not be over looked on a good falling tide. Small sea bass and sea robins have moved into the channels and can’t help but make short work of squid baits.
Sea bass fishing at the offshore wreck and reef sites has been steady with many rail huggers being able to put together double digit catches. Flounder are becoming a larger portion of the bottom fishing mix and certainly a welcomed addition.
Out at the canyons when weather conditions allow, the boats making the trek are finding some exciting fishing opportunities. There tends to be a lot of small yellowfin tuna around and many are sub-legal in size and being released. At times boats will run into a nice grade of 35 lb to 65 lb yellowfin. Dolphin and white marlin releases are part of the mix but perhaps the most exciting news is the bigeye tuna that are being caught.


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