Thursday, July 7, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | July 7, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

Summer is here and children are enjoying extra time with parents, grandparents and that special uncle, aunt or family friend that will spend time to take them fishing. I have always noticed that our young first time fishing buddies love to choose their first fishing outfit and it is usually a theme related push button spincasting outfit. Fortunately they are relatively inexpensive, just the right size for our little buddies and also just the right size for fish such as bluegills and white perch.

Photo by Photo courtesy of Pat Donlin
Frist photo by Pat Donlin, second courtesy of Photo courtesy of Nick Lee

The world is not without change. Tell all your friends and fishing partners that the fishing report has been switched to a new web page format which will be re-sizeable for mobile devices, the new address is

You should also be able to find the link on the left side of the horizontal blue bar (under Fishing reports) on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Service home page.

The water releases at the Conowingo Dam had been flat lined at just about nothing for several days until yesterday afternoon when a large power generation release occurred. This trend will most likely continue through this week as hot weather is predicted and folks will be using their air conditioners. There continues to be a limited striped bass bite in the dam pool and surrounding river area early in the morning. Most are casting topwater lures such as poppers but a few enterprising souls are using live white perch. There is also some limited early morning action out near the Susquehanna Flats area but again this is a "crack of dawn" type fishing with topwater lures and finishes up as soon as the sun pops over the horizon. This is a common pattern now that water temperatures are in the low 80's and fish are seeking cooler and deeper waters during the day.

There tends to be plenty of fishing opportunities this week in the upper bay region as striped bass are found in the lower sections of the region's tidal rivers. The most popular action is of course the chumming fleets that have been setting up on striped bass holding on major channel edges at Swan Point, Love Point and the edge from Sandy Point Light north to the mouth of the Magothy River. There is plenty of action in the early morning and late evening hours in areas such as the Patapsco River/Baltimore Harbor area along shore line structure. Old piers, prominent points, bridge piers and rock structure are all good place to enjoy casting topwater lures for striped bass. These areas also hold white perch for those casting beetle-spins and small spinners or jigs. During brighter daylight hours both striped bass and white perch will be found deeper and jigs will work well for the striped bass and smaller dropper jigs or bottom rigs baited with bloodworms will do the trick for white perch. Allison Lorden and Mary Beth Whalen have plenty to smile about with these two Patapsco River striped bass.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of Donald Lorden 

Charter and private boats from all regions of the bay continue to make the run to channel edges above the Bay Bridge where a large portion of our summer striped bass population has decided to take up residence. The western shipping channel edge from Sandy Point Light north to Baltimore Light tends to be one of the most popular locations to find good concentrations of fish to set up on for chumming or chunking. The Love Point channel edge has also be a good spot as well as Swan Point. A good tide is a must and a falling tide tends to be the best. Most are spotting fish on depth finders before setting up and obtaining a good spot on the 30' edge usually will result in some striped bass finding your offerings. The best catch reports tend to be coming from those who allow their baits to sink to the bottom at the back of a slick and this may take some weight to get baits down to where the fish are. Make sure that you experiment with fishing baits at different depths and varying distances from the boat.

The popular areas where the fleets are anchoring up can be fairly intimidating on the weekends so being a little adventurous and exploring new options along channel edges in other upper bay locations can pay large benefits in fish and peace of mind. Patience and flexibility can go a long way to enjoying some good striped bass fishing away from the densely packed fleets. Trolling deep with spoons or swim shads behind inline weights or planers is a good tactic when trying to cover territory as are umbrella rigs. Light tackle jigging is always a joy when fish can be found suspended over bottom and chunking or chumming over your own school of fish far from the crowds can be very satisfying. Another option is to catch some suitable sized white perch in one of the tidal rivers and try some live lining along likely looking shipping channel edges.

The Bay Bridge piers always hold an attraction to striped bass since it provides structure with plenty of food being swept by in fast moving currents. Chunking can be a good option if one can anchor up current of a likely looking set of bridge piers but the bottom does claim an anchor now and then. Casting bucktails or soft plastic jigs near the bases of the bridge piers is another good choice. White perch can also be found holding near shallower bridge piers.

In the middle bay region when it comes to chumming or chunking for striped bass the outer 30'+ edges of Hacketts, Dollys Lump, Tollys Bar have been good places to look for suspended striped bass to set up on. There has also been some limited action over at the Brick House Bar, the Hill and Buoy 83. A fair percentage of fish up in the chum slick will fall short of the minimum 20" required so handle them carefully and use non-offset circle hooks. Allowing baits to rest on the bottom can up the odds for larger fish.

Trolling umbrella rigs or single spoons and bucktails down deep is a good option for many in the middle bay region this week and don't be too surprised if you see your first bluefish this weekend. Light tackle jigging along steep channel edges is always fun and a great way to enjoy some quiet fishing. There are several steep channel edges just inside Eastern Bay on both the Tilghman Island and Kent Island sides that are great places to check as well as shipping channel edges or wherever birds may be found working over fish.

The early morning and evening shallow water striped bass fishery continues to be very productive and a peaceful way to spend time on the water. Prominent points, old submerged breakwaters and various shoreline structure areas are good places to cast topwater lures. Warmer water seems to have brought higher numbers of sub-legal striped bass into the shallows and they tend to attack poppers and similar topwater lures with abandon. Water temperatures in the shallower areas are now in the low 80's this week.

White perch can be found in the same shoreline structure areas as the striped bass and can provide plenty of fun action and wonderful table fare. An ultra-light spinning outfit matched with beetle-spins or small spinners is the perfect rig for enjoying the morning or evening fishery. During brighter daylight hours a simple bottom rig baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp fished near dock piers or oyster bottom is a good bet.

A few croaker are being caught in the middle bay region with the majority of the reports coming from the lower Choptank River. This fishery is not in the same place as it was several years ago so for now white perch are filling in the gap.

The lower bay region is seeing bluefish of different sizes rapidly moving into the region this past week. There are the smaller nipper size 12" to 14" ones found along bay edges and tidal rivers and a larger 2 lb to 3 lb size group out in the bay near locations such as the Middle Grounds, Point-No-Point to Point Lookout and over on the eastern side of the bay near Tangier Sound up to lower Hooper's Island. Bait is what brings them to the lower bay and when they find it they have no qualms about indulging, so the melee will often be marked by bird action overhead. Casting spoons or jigs into the action is always a fun and exciting way to catch bluefish but trolling spoons is also a tried and true method. If you are trolling in the area of the Middle Grounds or up near the Target Ship; it pays to have some larger spoons in your trolling spread for some catch and release fishing for the large red drum that are in the area.

Also of note there are good numbers of cobia in the same areas and you might be lucky enough to catch one. Cobia can be targeted by chumming and chunking or drifting live bait near structure.
The striped bass fishery is not exactly setting the lower bay on fire this week but resourceful fishermen are finding fish in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Trolling deep along channel edges with spoons, bucktails and umbrella rigs has been the most successful tactic lately. There is also an early morning and late evening shallow water fishery in the regions tidal rivers and bay shorelines on both the eastern and western sides of the bay.

The excellent croaker fishing is something the lower bay region continues to enjoy this week as the best croaker fishing in Maryland waters is in the lower bay region. The lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers have been a standout with Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds beginning to provide some bottom fishing action. The best fishing is in the evenings and at night as the croakers move from deeper and cooler waters to the shallows to forage for food during the night. They can be caught during the day but one will have to find deep holes to fish. Bottom rigs, baited with shrimp or peeler crab tend to get the job done. A few small spot are starting to show up in the shallower areas but only a few.

White perch are providing a lot of action for those bottom fishing and they are a welcomed addition to croaker catches in many areas. They can be found in all of the tidal rivers and creeks in the lower bay region. In the evenings they are also providing fun light tackle fishing for those casting small jigs, spinners or beetle-spins along shorelines.

Recreational crabbing continues to be good in most of the tidal rivers and creeks in the lower bay and middle bay regions. There has been some improvement in the upper bay tidal rivers and this may improve further with time and less rainfall. The recent rains have pushed some crabs out of tidal rivers and creeks within the lower bay and middle bay and some of the better catches have been in deeper waters of the tidal rivers. Razor clams tend to be the bait of choice for those searching for the largest and best crab catches. Chicken necks are of course the standard bait and will still put crabs in your basket but if you can give razor clams a try.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Barrett
Photo courtesy of Kathryn Barrett

Freshwater trout fishing in the western region has had some issues lately with runoff. In particular the North Branch of the Potomac River and the Youghiogheny River has had high water levels recently. If you are driving a distance to fish these wonderful trout management waters it can pay to check the USGS daily stream flow conditions beforehand.

Deep Creek Lake is settling into a summer mode of fishing with the best fishing occurring early in the morning before vacationing boaters get out on the water. Smallmouth bass and walleye fishing has been good for those casting jerkbaits or Finesse type baits. As the day wears on the shallower coves offer some refuge from boating traffic and largemouth bass can be found under thick grass or chain pickerel will always be nearby. Largemouth bass can also be found under floating docks looking for cool shade and flipping soft plastics under these docks is a good way to target bass. Drifting along deep grass edges with live minnows is also a good way to catch a variety of fish such as walleye, smallmouth bass, large yellow perch and largemouth bass.

The upper Potomac River water temperature is around 80° this week and conditions are reported to be slightly stained. Water levels could change with rain events so the USGS stream flow site link that is listed above is worth checking if conditions are in question. As water temperatures rise the best fishing tends to be early in the morning or late evening in low light conditions. Rocky flats tend to be good places to target at these times and deep submerged ledges during the brighter day hours. Tubes, Finesse type worms and topwater lures all have their place and time.

Largemouth bass are reacting to the summer heat much the way people do. They might not have air conditioning but they do know how to seek cool shade during the day under old docks and thick overhead grass. Pitching soft plastics under docks or stick worms and jigs down through thick grass are good day time strategies. Largemouth bass will venture into shallow areas towards dark and generally search for food all night long where bait fish might be found. Late evening and early morning are good times to work topwater lures in the shallows and jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and small lipless crankbaits are good choices for transition areas in slightly deeper waters adjacent to the shallows.

Photo courtesy of George Maddox
Photo courtesy of George Maddox 

The Ocean City area has drifted into summer and with that water temperatures close to shore are around 70° and summer species of fish are available. In the surf kingfish are being caught on small baits in the early morning and evening hours. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet rigs and there are plenty of inshore sharks and sting rays for those seeking a little more pull.

At the inlet there are a mix of tautog and sheepshead near jetties, bulkheads and bridge piers with the South Jetty offering the best fishing. Sand fleas have been the preferred bait. Flounder are moving through the inlet into the back bay areas. Bluefish and striped bass are being caught mostly in the early morning and evening hours. Got-Cha plugs have been a good choice when targeting bluefish and drifting cut bait or casting bucktails and swim shads have been good choices for the striped bass.

In the back bays, flounder fishing has improved with warmer water temperatures and clearer water. The channel areas offer the best day time fishing and channel edges are great places to target on a falling tide in the morning or evening hours. Silversides, live minnows, squid strips and white Gulp baits are all good choices for flounder.

Outside the inlet the wreck and reef sites have been offering fair to good sea bass fishing at times and flounder are becoming a larger part of the mix. A few bluefin tuna are being caught at traditional spots like the Fingers, Jackspot, Hot Dog and Massey's Canyon. Yellowfin have been showing up at some of these somewhat inshore areas also which is a real plus for those who hesitate running to the canyons. The size grade on the yellowfin tuna has improved recently to the delight of all with fewer throwbacks being reported. Gaffer dolphin, large wahoo and bigeye tuna have also been part of the mix lately at the canyons.


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