Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report - September 27, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

At the very top of the bay water temperatures near the Susquehanna Flats area are still around 79° this week. One of the contributing factors is that very little water is coming through the Conowingo Dam. Recent rain may change that and help water temperature fall to a more comfortable level for striped bass. There is a limited amount of topwater action early in the mornings but legal-sized striped bass are hard to come by. Lane Miller is very happy with this nice striped bass he caught on a topwater lure near Battery Island.

Photo courtesy of Shane Miller

Farther down the bay sub-legal striped bass can be found chasing bait and marked by diving gulls throughout the upper bay region with larger striped bass, small bluefish and the occasional Spanish mackerel being mixed in at times. Favorable water conditions in the middle and lower bay regions seem to be drawing striped bass in the over 20" size range farther south.

Fishing for white perch has been very good in most of the region's tidal rivers and hard-bottomed reef and shoal areas in the bay. In some of the shallower areas, spot are also being found. Live lining spot continues to be popular along the western edge of the shipping channel from Baltimore Light to the mouth of the Magothy River and near the deeper piers at the Bay Bridge.

The middle bay region has plenty of action this week as a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel actively chase schools of bait throughout the region. Most of the striped bass are from 12" to 16" in length and tend to be the ones seen on the surface chasing schools of bay anchovies. The larger striped bass may be found underneath the surface action by jigging or by live lining spot along channel edges or trolling. The 30' channel edge from Dolly's Lump south to Thomas Point has been a popular place to live line as well as off of Poplar Island and the False Channel. Trolling a mix of small Drone spoons, bucktails and surge tube lures (hoses) behind planers and inline weights has been a good way to catch a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel along channel edges and near breaking fish. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are holding around 77° this week and salinities are 17p.p.t. out in the main stem of the bay.

Cooler water temperatures in the tidal rivers will help revive the shallow water fishery for striped bass in the next week or so. Topwater lures are the favorite for this type of fishing along likely looking shoreline on a high falling tide in the mornings and evenings. White perch can also be found in these same areas and can be targeted with lighter tackle, spinners and small jigs. Bottom fishing for white perch has also been very good in the deeper waters of the lower tidal rivers over good oyster bottom. A mix of spot, croaker, northern puffers (also known as "blowfish") and the occasional, small red drum or sea trout may also round out the mix. Blowfish always get a chuckle out of everyone when they inflate while being unhooked. This is a defense mechanism when the fish is under duress. (Hint: rubbing the belly often triggers a response which causes the blowfish to inflate). Here is a blowfish in its non-inflated natural state, caught by Elvin Philip in the Choptank River. 

Photo Courtesy of Elvin Philip

Anglers in the lower bay region are enjoying a wide variety of fishing opportunities this week as larger numbers of striped bass move into the region from the north and bluefish and Spanish mackerel round out the mix. This trio of predatory fish are chasing schools of bait in the lower bay region and are often marked by diving sea gulls who are joining in when bait is driven to the surface. Most of the striped bass are small but there are fish over 20" in the mix and they can often be found deeper by jigging. Trolling a mix of small Drone spoons, surge tube lures and bucktails behind planers and inline weights has been a very effective way to get in on the action near channel edges and on the outside edges of breaking fish or when suspended fish can be marked. The action extends into the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers, east to Tangier Sound and north to the middle bay region. Speckled trout are being caught along the Eastern Shore tidal marshes, rivers and creeks by casting Gulp Mullet baits and similar soft plastics as well as by drifting pieces of soft crab baits.

Large red drum continue to provide exciting catch and release action in the vicinity of Buoy 72, the Target Ship and the HS Buoy. Most are being caught by trolling large spoons but jigging when schools can be located is also very effective and provides some intense rod bending action. There are still some cobia in the region and they are being caught by chumming near the Target Ship or farther south below Smith Point.

The bottom fishing for large spot has been one of the greatest opportunities in the lower bay region. The large spot are stacked in the lower Patuxent River and to a lesser degree in the Tangier Sound area. White perch are being caught in just about every creek and tidal river from the Eastern Shore to the Western Shore. The larger ones are being caught on bait in the deeper waters over good oyster bottom. Casting small lures along shoreline structure in the mornings and evenings is also effective and light tackle fun.

Recreational crabbing has been good to excellent in most regions of the bay this week. The upper bay tidal rivers are providing the best crabbing of the season and the middle and lower bay regions have been excellent. Larger male crabs are filling out and are a welcomed sight. Sooks and small crabs are a large part of what is being found on trotlines and collapsible crab traps this week. 

Cool nights are beginning to lower water temperatures in the freshwater reservoirs of the western and central regions and fish are starting to show signs of increased activity. Smallmouth and largemouth bass are becoming more active at Deep Creek Lake and fishermen are enjoying the decreased boat traffic. Floating docks and grass are good places to target with whacky rigged stick worms and small crankbaits. The federal boat ramp at Jennings Randolph Lake has been closed due to low water levels but the Maryland DNR ramp off of Mt. Zion Road is extended enough to be useable. 

The many small ponds and larger lakes that dot the Maryland landscape are providing plenty of good largemouth bass fishing. Extended daylight is becoming a bit sparse these days and making it easier to get out on the water at dawn to enjoy the early morning topwater action. Targeting shallow grass and structure with frogs and poppers provides exploding surface strikes that help define what largemouth bass fishing is all about. The evenings will also be a good time to give this tactic a try. Targeting thick grass and woody structure with whacky- rigged soft plastics during brighter daylight hours will tease shade seeking bass to strike. Jayden Venable got to spend some time at his favorite local pond and holds up a nice largemouth he caught.

Photo courtesy of David Jackson

The Ocean City area is seeing water temperatures dipping to the 72 degree mark this week and as September rolls along subtle changes are beginning to occur with the regions summer migrant species. A mix of kingfish, blowfish, croaker, small bluefish and flounder are being caught in the surf this week. At the inlet a few striped bass and sea trout are being caught in the evenings along with bluefish. Live lining spot has accounted for a good portion of the sea trout and striped bass being caught along with some large flounder. In the back bay areas the water clarity is improving and flounder fishing has been good. Large Gulp baits and live spot have been catching the larger flounder. 

Offshore some nice flounder are being caught on the nearshore shoal areas and the wreck and reef sites. At the canyons white marlin catches have been very good with multiple releases being common. A mix of medium-sized yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo and blue marlin round things out.


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