Thursday, July 21, 2016

Maryland's Weekly Fishing Report - July 21, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

Here is an overview of fishing around the state as we get into late July, starting with Conowingo Dam and ending up at Ocean City.

Water releases at the Conowingo Dam have been sporadic with several days passing before an afternoon water release. There continues to be a limited early morning striped bass bite in the dam pool for those casting swim shads and topwater lures.

White perch fishing continues to be good in most of the upper bay's tidal rivers and creeks this week. The early mornings and evenings have been offering good white perch fishing for those casting beetle-spins, spinners and small jigs along shoreline structure. White perch can be found deeper during daytime bright sun and heat. Rigs with dropper flies or bait will get the job done in the deeper waters. Striped bass can also be found in some of the major tidal rivers such as the lower Patapsco outside of Baltimore Harbor in much of the same way. They can be found early and late in the day close to shallower structure and deep at other times.

The chumming fleets continue to anchor along the channel edges from Sandy Point to above Baltimore Light as well as the Love Point and Swan Point areas. Most boats are chumming and drifting cut baits back into the chum slicks but chunking can also be a good option as well as live lining small white perch; an ebbing tide tends to offer the best action. Striped bass can be found in many other locations along 30' or better channel edges in the upper bay for those seeking a little elbow room. When fish are spotted on a depth finder, jigging can be a satisfying way to catch one's fish. Some enjoy the trolling option and pulling umbrella rigs behind inline weights or small spoons behind planers can be a good way to catch a nice grade of striped bass with a few bluefish thrown in for good measure.

The Bay Bridge piers continue to live up to their reputation of holding striped bass and as long as a good tide is running a variety of fishing methods will work. Casting bucktails and soft plastic jigs at the pier bases to suspended fish, chunking or drifting small live white perch are all good tactics. Alex Cain holds up a nice striped bass caught while jigging near the Bay Bridge rock piles.

Photo courtesy of Alex Cain
Photo courtesy of Alex Cain

In the middle bay region the western edges of the shipping channel from Hacketts south to Thomas Point have been good places to look for striped bass suspended along the 30' to 35' edges. Boats have been anchoring up from Hacketts to Thomas Point and chumming or live lining white perch for striped bass. Bluefish are attracted by the chum slicks and have been nipping off fluorocarbon and mono leaders. Light tackle jigging offers opportunities as does trolling or anchoring up and chumming. Bluefish are in the region and the classic scene of breaking fish and diving sea gulls is becoming a more common sight. Experience tells us that bluefish and smaller striped bass will usually be involved in the surface melee and large striped bass often lurk below so jigging is an effective strategy to catch larger striped bass. Aaron Hoxworth is all smiles with this 21" bluefish he caught off Chesapeake Beach recently.

Photo by Lonnie Johnson
Photo by Lonnie Johnson

The shallow water fishery for striped bass continues to be good this week with a few adjustments as water temperatures climb into the mid-80's. The early morning bite tends to be over as soon as the sun breaks the horizon and the evening bite starts a little later than it did a month ago. Topwater poppers tend to be the most popular way to fish near shoreline structure but swim shads work well when the water is a little deeper. Eastern Bay, Kent Narrows, Poplar Island and most of the larger tidal rivers and creeks all offer fishing opportunities. White perch can be found in many of the same areas and beetle-spins, small jigs and spinners can be a lot of fun with ultra-light tackle. Bottom fishing for white perch has been taking up much of the slack in the bottom fishing scene so far this summer. Croakers are hard to come by in the middle bay region but some are being caught out in the bay and in the major tidal rivers and a few sea trout of both species have been showing up here and there and even a few small spot have been reported.

All kinds of exciting fishing options are open in the lower bay region this week. The cobia fishery continues to come on strong and offers cobia fishing opportunities that has not been seen for a long time. Most are being caught by chumming and chunking at the area around the Target Ship, the Mud Leads, the Middle Grounds and south near Smith Point and the Cut Channels. A few have been caught while trolling and cobia are always a sucker for live eels cast near buoys or if cobia can be spotted on the surface.

Bluefish in the ¾ lb to 2 lb size range can be found throughout the lower bay region. They are being caught by chumming, trolling or casting to breaking fish. Striped bass fishing tends to be an early morning and late evening shallow water event near likely structure. Casting topwater lures and swim shads has been the most popular tactic. There is very little striped bass success occurring in regard to trolling or jigging.

The croaker fishing has now become almost exclusively an evening/night fishery. Water temperatures are in the 80's and the fish are holding deep during the day and are not interested in feeding. Daytime bottom fishing tends to center around white perch; they are ready and willing near the deeper oyster reefs. Some of the better evening croaker spots are the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers and the Wilson Reef. The croakers are being caught on peeler crab, shrimp, squid and bloodworms; most are in the 9" to 11" size range. The croaker fishing in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds has been poor. A few sea trout and small spot are also being caught.

Recreational crabbing continues to be good this week as warm waters cause shedding and more legal size crabs entering the fishery. Recreational crabbers have been relying on razor clams for the best catches in the lower and middle bay regions and finding the best crabs in deeper waters. One note that a commercial crabber reported to me recently was that he noticed that the brightly colored mesh bags caught more crabs than black ones. Commercial crab potters all know that clean and bright pots catch more crabs than dull or fouled ones. Another interesting note I learned from another commercial trot liner was the fact that due to clear water he could notice crabs dropping off early in the process of the trotline being lifted. Recreational crabbers in the upper bay's tidal rivers are seeing opportunities improving and tend to be doing fine with chicken necks or even better yet with fresh cut menhaden or white perch in collapsible traps. Lucas Livingston got to go crabbing with his granddad and shows off one of the nice crabs they caught together.

Photo by Jim Livingston
Photo by Jim Livingston

The freshwater fisheries in Maryland have slipped into a summer mode of fish behavior which corresponds with the heat of the day and the effects of a bright sun overhead. Just about all species of fish from coldwater species such as trout and smallmouth bass to warm water loving fish like largemouth bass tend to sit the day out in the best cool and shaded spot they can find.

The best fishing at Deep Creek Lake is during the early morning hours when smallmouth bass can be caught in about 10' of water near rocky bottom. Largemouth bass are near heavy grass and under floating docks. Walleye and trout are deep near the dam face and steep edges. On the upper Potomac River the water levels are low, clear and warm. The best smallmouth bass fishing is early and late in the day in the deeper current areas.

Largemouth bass fishing is also an early morning and late evening show with topwater lures and whacky rigged soft plastics being the ticket to the shallow water show. Grass is the major target to fish as is sunken wood or similar structure. In tidal areas a high flood tide will find largemouth bass in the shallow grass and just outside it as the tide ebbs to low or creek mouths; once again though this is an early morning and late evening bite. Megan Goodrich has plenty to smile about as she shows off a beautiful Broadford Lake largemouth bass before releasing it.

Photo by Megan Goodrich
Photo courtesy of Megan Goodrich

Ocean City area fishing in the surf has settled into fishing for familiar summer species. Kingfish are being caught on bloodworms or Fishbites, small bluefish on finger mullet and flounder on squid. A few larger bluefish are being caught on cut menhaden baits but most of the takers are sting rays, dogfish and inshore sharks. A word of note for anyone catching sharks, most are protected and should be released while still supported by water which is not always easy in the wave action of the surf. Large sand tiger sharks are especially vulnerable to organ damage if they are dragged up on the beach for a photo. Certain species of inshore sharks in the coastal bays, such as sandbars, duskies, and sand tigers, are protected and it is illegal to possess them. 

If you are planning to fish for coastal sharks in the surf and back bays, please take the time to learn how to ID the protected species. The following links provide some valuable information. Go to, then click on shark catch card. Circle hooks and careful release techniques are strongly encouraged, this catch and release page is very informative and also has a species identification link. As a final note, here are some additional links on how to identify coastal sharks, from NOAA, and another from our neighboring state of Delaware

At the Ocean City Inlet bluefish are being caught on Got-Cha plugs, Spec rigs. Striped bass continue to entertain those fishing in the Jetty and Route 50 Bridge area. Casting swim shads, bucktails or drifting live eels have been good choices. Flounder can be found in the area and a few triggerfish and sheepshead are being caught near the South Jetty on sand fleas.

Flounder fishing in the back bay channels has been good as water temperatures have risen to the upper 70's and water clarity has been very good. White Gulp mullet baits, squid strips and minnows have been good choices while drifting for flounder. Small sea bass and sea robins also love those stripes of squid. 
At the wreck and reef sites there is a mix of sea bass, triggerfish and flounder being caught. At times double digit catches of sea bass can occur and some of the wrecks are swarming with gray trigger fish which make great table fare once one learns to cut out through the tough hide before filleting. Otherwise they can dull a knife fairly quickly.

Farther offshore there is good chunking action for a mix of bluefin and yellowfin tuna at the Hot Dog, Jack Spot, Massey's Canyon and the Lumpy Bottom. Out at the Washington and Poorman's Canyons there is a mix of bluefin, yellowfin, dolphin and white marlin.


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