By: Keith Lockwood
October is a favorite month for sportsman as temperatures moderate and most of summer seems to be behind and there is a taste of fall in the air. It is an exciting time for fishermen as both freshwater and saltwater fish species shift to an active fall feeding pattern.
At the very top of the bay near the mouth of the Susquehanna and Elk Rivers striped bass in a mix of sizes are being caught this week. Small 12" to 14" fish tend to be following bait and are usually marked by diving birds. Larger fish above 20" are being caught on topwater lures along the edges of the flats and shoreline structure areas. Sparse water releases at the dam are making for clear water conditions in the area. Those who fish the lower Susquehanna River and the Flats area are well aware there are other kinds of bass in the area such as largemouth and smallmouth bass and they can be part of the mix. Beth L'Heureux was fishing in the lower Susquehanna when she caught this beautiful smallmouth bass that weighed close to 5 lbs.
photo by Douglas Rash
Farther down the bay in the vicinity of Rock Hall and Baltimore there are plenty of small striped bass chasing bait and every once and a while one of those schools of breaking fish will turn out to be fish over 20" in length. Striped bass are in a fall pattern now and jigging over suspended fish or casting to breaking fish is a light tackle delight for fishermen. Trolling deep with inline weights in front of umbrella rigs or tandem bucktails and swim shads which can usually be pulled behind planers if they do not cause too much drag. The action continues south to the Bay Bridge where striped bass can be found suspended near the bridge piers and white perch are beginning to stack up near the rock piles.
In the middle region of the bay the striped bass fall pattern situation brings to mind a saying I've heard somewhere. "They're everywhere, they're everywhere!" Maybe it was a line out of some movie but it sure pertains to striped bass fishing in the middle bay region. Now they might only be 12" long but there sure is plenty of them. It will often take some moving around which is hard for some to do which brings up another quote "Don't leave fish to find fish"; but that is what it may take to find fish measuring over 20". They are out there; you may get lucky and find them right off and you may have to burn some gas.
Vertical jigging is the name of the game for light tackle fishing out in the deeper waters of the bay and the mouths of some of the major tidal rivers. Small gray trout are also being caught while jigging and many are measuring over the 13" minimum. Menhaden and bay anchovies are on the menu and the striped bass are lining up in the buffet line. Herb Floyd sent in this picture of a striped bass he caught that just had to eat one more mouthful.
photo by Herb Floyd
Trolling is another option and pulling medium sized bucktails and swim shads or spoons behind planers and inline weights can be productive; you must get down to where the fish are. Umbrella rigs will need quite a bit of weight to get them down and unfortunately except for a few head shakes there will not be much fight in the fish. Some of the better locations to check for birds and suspended fish are Eastern Bay, Thomas Point to Dolly's Lump, the False Channel and the mouth of the Little Choptank.
Fishing along the shorelines of the bay and tidal rivers has been a fun way to catch striped bass with topwater lures. Water temperatures are in the upper 60's so striped bass feel comfortable in either shallow or deeper waters. Others are having good luck casting jerkbaits and swim shads from boats, local docks and shorelines in the morning and evening hours. This time of the year presents a wonderful opportunity for shore bound fishermen to travel down to local waters and enjoy some peaceful casting with a variety of lures.
Fishing for white perch could hardly be any better right now and they can be found in a wide variety of water depths. Bottom fishing with pieces of bloodworms on hooks or small jigs is a great way to fish the deeper waters. Small lures and ultra-light fishing tackle are a good choice for fishing shoreline structure areas.
In the lower bay region there seems to be striped bass spread from one end to the other and then some. All it takes is a moving tide and the action starts. Diving birds will shout the way to breaking fish and slicks will whisper that there may be something going on below. The edges of the shipping channel are a "Go to" when the tide is moving but the tidal rivers are also very good places to find striped bass. Frank Nesbit III and his friends reported nonstop action in the lower Potomac recently while jigging with pearl sassy shads near channel edges.
photo by Paul Skeens
Quite a few gray trout are being caught by those bottom fishing for the last remnant of the spot and croaker as they leave for parts south. The trout are spread from Tangier Sound to the western shore and they are also being caught by those jigging for striped bass. Anglers are reminded of the 13" minimum length and creel limit of one per day. White perch fishing has been excellent in the tidal rivers whether one is fishing deep with bloodworm tipped hooks or fishing shallower with small jigs and spinners.
There are still plenty of blue crabs to be caught by recreational crabbers and now that many commercial crabbers have switched over to oystering there is a little more elbow room. The better catches tend to be coming from the lower sections of the bays tidal rivers and deep.
In the freshwater fishing circles this month much of the excitement is about the fall trout stocking program and the fun fishing it provides across the state where most fishermen can find access to trout fishing close to home. Fisheries staff are busy stocking trout each week this month and they may be stocking a local favorite fishing hole of yours soon. The stocking schedule is not posted in advance like the spring trout stocking program so one needs to check the trout stocking website each day to see what has been stocked. http://dnr.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/trout/stocking.aspx
Better yet is to be on the Fisheries email subscribers list and you will be notified by email within a few hours after the stockings are completed. http://dnr.maryland.gov/Fisheries/Pages/email-contact.aspx
Many of the streams and rivers in the western portion of Maryland are running low and clear this week so light lines and a stealth approach is in order if one is fishing for trout or smallmouth bass. Deep Creek Lake water levels are down due to draw off and water temperatures are holding around 62 degrees.
Casting jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and various soft plastics around grass beds or sunken wood and rocks is a good bet. Yellow perch are being caught on small jigs tipped with a piece of worm or live minnows under a slip bobber. The floating docks at the state ramp have been pulled and private floating docks are quickly disappearing also. The upper Potomac River water temperature is about 62 and water levels are low. Grass is breaking up and causing problems with fouled lures. Targeting submerged rock ledges and large boulders with tubes is a good choice.
Largemouth bass fishing has taken a new dimension as the bass have now shifted to a fall pattern and are freely moving in various water depths throughout much of the day. Shallow areas can be targeted with topwater lures, sunken wood and grass in intermediate depths are a good place to try whacky rigged stick worms, small crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
At the Ocean City area water temperatures at the inlet are hovering around the 70 degree mark this week. There are still a mix of kingfish, medium-sized black drum and small bluefish being caught in the surf on bloodworms, sand fleas and finger mullet. At the inlet there is much the same mix of species plus flounder are beginning to move through the inlet headed offshore and striped bass are being caught in the evenings. The channels leading to the inlet are the place to be this week if flounder are your target.
The big push by flounder to exit the bays has not started in earnest yet but there is indication that flounder are moving towards the inlet. Small red drum are also being caught in the channels near the inlet and some are falling within the 18" – 27" legal slot size.
photo by Steve Hill
Offshore there have been some good catches of flounder at the wreck and reef sites with a mix of sea bass and assorted species coming over the rails. Farther offshore there are good numbers of small yellowfin tuna to be found at the canyons and the Rock Pile along with a mix of dolphin and wahoo.