By: Keith Lockwood
At the very top of the bay there has been some good striped bass action in the lower Susquehanna and channel areas beyond the mouth of the river. A good number of the fish are well over the 20" minimum and topwater lures have been working in the mornings on the river. Jigging has been a good choice later on in the day in the channels and deeper areas. Water temperatures are around 55° and the water clarity has improved. White perch can also be found in some of the deeper areas of the channels and channel catfish are very active.
Striped bass are spread throughout the entire upper bay region and can be found in the tidal rivers and out in the bay near the deeper channel edges. Light tackle jigging with metal or large soft plastic jigs is a good way to target suspended fish when they can be found under birds or spotted on a depth finder. Trolling with heavy inline weights is another way to target fish holding deep along channel edges.
Bucktails dressed with a twister tail, Storm type swim shads, spoons and surge tube lures are all good choices to troll with. The Brewerton Channel has been a good place to troll as well as the edges of the main shipping channel. There is plenty of action to be found in the tidal rivers on topwater lures early in the morning, and jigging along channel edges when fish move deeper. The mouth of the Chester River, the Magothy, and the tidal rivers near Baltimore have all been providing good fishing. Michael Loyd caught this nice striped bass while casting in the Gunpowder River.
Photo by Todd Wallace
The Bay Bridge area continues to be a great spot to check out with a depth finder. There are striped bass suspended near the bridge piers, cement abutments and the rock piles. White perch are also stacking up in the deeper areas and often these are larger perch. Larger white perch can navigate in the swifter waters near the deep bridge structure so often a wonderful grade of white perch are available to those who jig for them.
Sub-legal sized striped bass tend to be dominating the surface action seen in the middle bay region but there are also larger fish to be found. At times they can be found deep underneath the surface action or on the outside edges and again deep. Depth finders are about the most important tool on a boat this time of the year. They can help find suspended fish but keep in mind there are other species of fish schooling out in the deeper regions of the tidal rivers and bay. Schools of gizzard shad can confound anglers at times when guys just can't understand why the fish beneath them just won't bite. The mouth of Eastern Bay, West River, Choptank, Little Choptank have all been good places to start the search for fish. Also of note is there is some topwater action to be found in the tidal rivers in depths in the range of 10'.
Light tackle jigging with metal jigs or soft plastics is a fall favorite but trolling with a mix of bucktails, Storm type swim shads, spoons and surge tubes behind heavy inline weights is also very effective. Trolling also allows one to cover a lot of water in the search for striped bass over 20" in length.
In the lower bay region striped bass of various sizes are spread from the shores of Hooper's Island and Pocomoke Sound to the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. There seems to be striped bass everywhere but finding ones over 20" in length can seem challenging at times. The deeper edges of channels and the outside edges of surface action down deep can give one the best chances of finding larger fish. On the eastern side of the bay, the Hooper's Island area, the mouth of the Nanticoke, Wicomico and Pocomoke all have fish colliding with bait that is exiting the rivers. On the western shore the lower Potomac and Patuxent have been real standouts as has the Middle Grounds and the Cedar Point channel edges. Look deep for the better grade of striped bass whether you are jigging or trolling. Sea trout are still part of the jigging mix in the lower bay for a little while longer.
Photo by 123 Fishing Rigs
There are a lot of white perch stacking up in the deeper areas at the mouths of the region's tidal rivers, often over good oyster bottom and 35" of water or more. Jigging is one of the better ways to catch the larger sized perch and using a jig with a dropper fly or a sinker with two dropper flies is a proven tactic. If you can get out on the tidal Potomac hordes of blue catfish await you if you feel like bottom fishing and all they want to do is jump into your freezer; don't miss out.
Despite the light rain we received yesterday, most freshwater streams and rivers are experiencing low flow conditions. Many reservoirs are low in the western region and boaters are having difficulty launching boats. If you are trout fishing and enjoying the trout that are still present in good numbers as a result of the fall stocking program, think about stealth. If you are using spinning tackle drop to 2lb. test line and think about some of the fluorocarbon monofilament lines on the market. If you are fishing with bait look at switching to 3X dry fly hooks. Western Region fisheries biologists Josh Henesy and Kenny Wampler both agreed that when fly fishing go light. Put an emphasis on the longer, lighter tippet. The water levels are extremely low and clear and trout can be particularly spooky. Minimize line drag/drift and go subsurface with larger (#8-12) attractor nymphs for big browns. These can be fished tandem with a smaller nymph below. Pheasant tail, stonefly, bead head prince nymph, midge nymphs are good choices for flies.
Fishing at Deep Creek Lake has been good this week, water temperatures are about 53°. Largemouth bass are being caught near structure in about 10' to 20' of water on crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics. Smallmouth bass are being found in about 12' of water and plastics that resemble crawfish have been a proven winner.
The upper Potomac like many western region streams is experiencing very low flow conditions with extremely clear water. Long casts with light line and small lures such as tubes will be one of the better tactics. The deeper underwater ledges will be good targets and unfortunately grass beds are breaking up and fallen leaves are adding to line fouling headaches. Smallmouth bass are not the only fish in the upper Potomac as Solomon Jovenal proves with this large walleye he caught recently.
Photo by Solomon Juvenal
Fishing for largemouth bass in the tidal rivers, lakes and ponds is very good this week and the action continues throughout the day. Tactics may change but the bass are very active and feeling the need to fatten up. There is topwater action in the morning hours and good fishing in the intermediate or transition zones that are slightly deeper. Crawfish are leaving the shallow grass beds and other cover and running the gauntlet to get to deep cover to sit out the winter months. Crankbaits, jigs and soft craws are good choice when fishing these areas close to the bottom.
Crappie are schooling up due to cooler water temperatures and deep structure such as marina piers and docks in the tidal Potomac are a great place to target them. Bridge piers such as those at Liberty Reservoir and Deep Creek Lake are great places to fish small jigs either as they are or under a bobber and of course it is pretty hard to beat the real thing, minnows.
At the Ocean City area cooler water temperatures have made big changes for those who fish the inlet, surf and coastal bay areas. Flounder are exiting through the inlet, so targeting the channels leading to the inlet and the inlet itself are the place to be. Tautog are setting up residence at the jetties, bridge piers and bulkheads just inside the inlet. Sand fleas have been a popular bait recently with the added bonus of attracting medium-sized black drum and a few triggerfish that are still hanging around. The evening crew fishing for striped bass have been enjoying a lot of action with just enough keeper size fish to make it all worthwhile. Casting swim shads, bucktails and drifting live eels have been good tactics. Fall migrant striped bass are showing up along the beaches of New Jersey this week so with a little luck we may see some action in the Maryland beaches soon.
Outside the inlet sea bass fishing have been excellent on the onshore wreck and reef sites and farther out to some of the sites beyond the 30 Fathom line. Flounder have been a big part of the catches and besides limits of sea bass with limits of flounder added.