By: Keith Lockwood
There has been some limited striped bass action in the lower Susquehanna River this week on topwater lures and soft plastic jigs such as Bass Assassins and grubs. Breaking fish can be spotted at times just south of the flats area but they are usually 14" to 16" fish. Water releases from the Conowingo Dam have not been on a daily schedule this past week. Farther south breaking fish can be spotted all the way down to the Bay Bridge area. Larger striped bass are being found in some of the tidal rivers such as the Patapsco, Bush, Gunpowder and Chester. At times they can be caught in relatively shallow water on topwater lures or by casting jerkbaits and crankbaits or by jigging. David Sohns sent in this picture of a nice striped bass caught in the Patapsco River recently.
Photo courtesy of David Sohns
Striped bass are spread throughout the upper bay region with some of the better grade fish being found along channels such as the Craighill Channel near the mouth of the Magothy and the edge of the Dumping Grounds. Many are trolling deep with heavy inline weights and medium-sized bucktails to cover a wider area to find the larger striped bass that tend to be in isolated pockets at times. Other times one can be lucky enough to get over a group of suspended fish and enjoy good jigging action with metal or soft plastic jigs.
White perch are also part of the mix in the upper bay and can be found holding deep at the mouths of the major tidal rivers. A two hook bottom rig tipped with pieces of bloodworms or dropper flies over a sinker are a great way to stock up on some nice white perch. A depth finder is an invaluable tool this time of the year for locating fish that are holding deep. White perch are also stacking up near the rock piles at the Bay Bridge and usually they're big ones mixed in with the striped bass.
South of the Bay Bridge it is the same story of small striped bass working on schools of bait that are exiting the tidal rivers and moving down the bay swept along by tidal currents. One has to either try working deep underneath the surface action or around the perimeters of the smaller fish. Sometimes one may just have to leave fish to find fish which seems to go against common sense but it can pay off with finding larger fish. The larger striped bass are looking for menhaden and even smaller sized white perch and soon river herring and hickory shad will be flowing out of the Choptank. The larger striped bass can move freely in the swift tidal currents along the shipping channel edges and of course they do like structure. The channel edges near Thomas Point, Kent Island, the mouth of Eastern Bay, off Chesapeake Beach, the False Channel and the mouths of the Little Choptank, West River and the Severn are all good place to check. Rich Watts holds up a nice striped bass he caught while jigging off Kent Island.
Photo courtesy of Rich Watts
Trolling medium-sized bucktails behind heavy inline weights is an excellent way to get down to fish holding deep and to also cover plenty of water. Keep an eye on those depth finders and when you find a good concentration of fish hopefully they will be in the mood to take a shot at your lures. White perch are doing much the same thing as the striped bass and there are some nice white perch out in the bay holding deep over oyster bottom and hard-bottom channel areas. Jigging with smaller metal jigs with a dropper fly is a great way to target them when found.
The striped bass story tends to repeat itself in the lower bay region; go deep along the outside edges of smaller surface breaking fish or target steep channel edges and similar structure. Depth finders will often lead the way and jigging or trolling deep are the two best options to target the larger striped bass. The lower Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke Rivers are good places to take a look since bait is pouring out of these rivers. When trolling, tandem rigged bucktails with sassy shads or twister tails are hard to beat and it will take a lot of lead to get down to the fish; often as much as a pound.
White perch are holding deep over oyster bottom in the lower portions of the tidal rivers and jigging with metal and a dropper fly, two dropper flies over a sinker or simple bottom rigs will do the trick. Small pieces of blood worm on dropper flies or hooks complete the ticket. In the lower Potomac River there are large numbers of medium-sized blue catfish and they can be easily caught on a moving tide on cut bait.
Freshwater fishing has solidly moved into a late fall phase of fishing where many species of fish continue to feed heavily as water temperatures continue to drop into the low 50's in most areas. Water levels in the western region of the state are still very low and can cause some difficulties for anyone not used to fishing light and with stealth. The upper Potomac and many of the trout streams are running low, but approaching with a stealthy mindset can result in some truly great smallmouth bass or trout fishing. Steve Peperak caught this beautiful 25" rainbow trout at the Yough last weekend near the Deep Creek Lake out fall on a wooly bugger. He and a buddy caught several other rainbows and a few small browns as well.
Photo courtesy of Steve Peperak
Largemouth bass are feeling the effects of cooler water temperatures and moving to slightly deeper waters. These deeper areas between the normal summer habitat and the deepest areas of lakes and tidal rivers offer great places for largemouth bass to ambush crawfish and small bait fish leaving the deteriorating grass beds and cooler waters looking for refuge in deep structure for the winter months. Hair jigs, plastic craws, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits and grubs are all good choices to work these transition water depths.
Crappie are schooling up near deep structure such as sunken wood, bridge piers and marina piers. It is hard to beat a minnow under a slip bobber for this type of fishing but small tubes and soft plastics can also work well. The colder water temperatures are much to the liking of chain pickerel, northern pike and walleye. Fishing for walleye has greatly improved in the upper Potomac, Deep Creek Lake and the lower Susquehanna. Northern Pike are very active in Deep Creek Lake and can be found near deep grass at the mouths of coves. Chain pickerel are spread throughout Maryland's many ponds, lakes and tidal rivers and offer lure attacks with total abandon and can spice up any fishing outing.
The fishing scene at Ocean City has moved into a fall fishing pattern as we move through the middle of November. Flounder fishing is just about at an end in the coastal bay areas and tautog, striped bass are targeted species now at the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area. Most are using sand fleas for tautog fishing and striped bass fishing at the inlet is mostly occurring at night by casting bucktails and swim shads or drifting live eels. There is some action in the surf for striped bass and anglers anxiously wait for the first large fall migrants to pass through our areas. Reports from up north hold hope that the fish will arrive soon.
Outside the inlet fishing for tautog and sea bass has been very good. Those targeting sea bass are catching limits of nice fish along with some medium-sized bluefish and flounder. Reports from New Jersey tell of large bluefish moving through the region. Up north these large bluefish are often called choppers or slammers and unfortunately when they show up at Maryland's sea bass fishing sites there are going to be some sea bass bitten off as they are reeled to the surface.