Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Maryland Weekly Fishing Report - December 20, 2016


By: Keith Lockwood

This week's fishing report will be the last for the 2016 season but the Fishing and Boating Services has a special treat for our readers next week. For those that might be confused by our new title; the Fisheries Service that everyone is familiar with has merged with Boating Services in an effort to be more efficient and save money in administrative costs.

At the very top of the bay in and around the lower Susquehanna and Elk Rivers a few striped bass are being caught by those casting jigs and swim shads. Most are undersized but a few legal fish are being caught and in the lower Susquehanna there is a chance to catch a nice walleye. John McMullen enjoyed catching this nice walleye while fishing for striped bass.

Photo courtesy of John McMullen
The water releases at the dam have been skimpy lately and when power generation is curtailed there is hardly any water coming through the dam gates. Yellow perch are starting to be targeted more in the mouths of the tidal rivers in the area and it is definitely worth the effort to fish for them. Yellow perch will start to congregate in the deeper channel areas but have not taken a deep six journey to the very deepest holes yet so they are accessible. It is hard to beat a small minnow on a drop shot rig but small jigs will work well also and a small piece of minnow on the jig will really brighten up your perch prospects. Channel catfish will be found in the same areas so expect to get more than you bargained for in regards to a tussle once and a while.

Farther down the bay those who persevere are finding striped bass in the channel areas at the mouths of the major tidal rivers and the shipping channels in about 30' of water. The fish are close to the bottom and rather lethargic so slow trolling speeds very close to the bottom are in order. This is also the time of the year when bottom bouncing can really pay off. It can be tiring to one's arms but it does put fish in the boat. Others have some success with jigging but with water temperatures around 45°, the action is slowing down.

At the Bay Bridge there is some limited action to be found near some of the deeper bridge piers, the rock piles and the concrete bridge abutments. The striped bass and white perch are holding deep and are not exactly much in the mood to eat. Cold water temperatures have their metabolism slowed down and they are hunkered down for the winter. The edges of the shipping channel are another place to look and the edges off Kent Island are holding both striped bass and white perch. Sinker rigs with two dropper flies of a metal jig with a dropper fly are a good choice for white perch. The larger striped bass in the range of 28" or better are a bit more active than their smaller cousins so larger soft plastic jigs tend to be one of the better choices. Rich Watts went out yesterday in search of large white perch and managed to put some nice ones in the boat while jigging with a sinker/ dropper fly combo.

Photo courtesy of Rich Watts
Trolling for striped bass is still an option for many fishermen, especially those who happen to be on a boat with a heated cabin. There has been some excellent trolling opportunities for large fall migrant striped bass that have finally moved into the Point Lookout area this week so there is a good chance some of those large fish will also be found in the middle bay region so large parachutes and bucktails in chartreuse and white should be part of everyone's trolling spread. Water temperatures in the middle bay region are about 45° and the salinity continues to be very high at 19 parts per thousand.

There is still good fishing for medium-sized striped bass in the lower Potomac River and shipping channel edges in the bay. Large soft plastic jigs tend to be the best option for these striped bass that are measuring in the high 20" category to the low 30's. Perhaps some of the most exciting news to break this week in the lower bay region is the arrival of large fall migrant striped bass. Smith Point, the Point Lookout area, the channel edge from Buoy 70 up past the HS Buoy are good places to troll for these large fish. The Hooper Island Straits and Tangier Sound should not be overlooked either. Tandem-rigged large parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads will be in order. Adam Smith holds up a nice striped bass he caught while jigging near the mouth of the Potomac River.

Photos courtesy of Travis Long
There is still good white perch fishing in the deep holes of the Patuxent and Nanticoke Rivers. Often the perch are holding in 50' of water over hard bottom. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm would be the best option or sinker rigs with dropper flies tipped with pieces of bloodworm. There has also been some good yellow perch action in the middle to upper reaches of the major tidal rivers in the region. The Patuxent, Nanticoke, Wicomico and Pocomoke all have healthy yellow perch populations. Small jigs and minnows worked close to the bottom in the shallower channels tends to be the best tactic.

Freshwater fishing in the western region of Maryland has been good for a variety of coldwater species this week. Yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, chain pickerel and of course trout tend to like these colder water temperatures. There is some exciting news for trout fishermen on the North Branch of the Potomac. Fisheries biologists recently stocked about 9,000 cutthroat trout fingerlings at several locations in hope that they will provide some fun fishing opportunities in the future.

Fishing for yellow perch at Deep Creek Lake has been good in the deeper waters of the lake, smallmouth bass and walleye are active at relatively shallower depths. Northern pike and chain pickerel can be found at the mouths of coves and near structure such as sunken wood. Recent surveys on Deep Creek Lake revealed an abundant walleye population with many in the 15" to 18" size range. There is also a strong showing of 2015 and 2016 year class walleye fingerlings. Walleye and smallmouth bass are active in the upper Potomac this week and water levels are more acceptable to fishing. The findings of recent surveys on the upper Potomac showed smallmouth bass populations slightly below average. The upper Potomac River receives supplemental stockings of walleye fingerlings every year by fisheries biologists and recent surveys showed that these fingerling make up about 50% of the total walleye fingerlings found so these stockings are important to a healthy walleye fishery.

Largemouth bass tend to hunker down in deeper waters now so fishing slow and close to the bottom structure with small lures is important. Strikes will be subtle at times and those that are patient and tend to tease the bass will do best. Fishing for chain pickerel can provide a lot of action, especially in the upper reaches of Maryland's tidal rivers as well as ponds and lakes. They tend to hold near shoreline structure such as fallen treetops and most of these will be what are referred to as "hammer handles"; chain pickerel less than 18". The big ones can often be found near deeper structure.

Crappie can be found holding near deep structure such as bridge piers, marina docks or fallen treetops and sunken wood. Small jigs or minnows under a slip bobber is a good tactic. Channel catfish are active in most of the tidal rivers and blue catfish are very abundant in the tidal Potomac River like this one being brought to the boat.

Photo courtesy of Jim Gronaw
Ocean City area fishermen are still patiently waiting for a good slug of large fall migrant striped bass to flood the Ocean City area. So far it has not happened although a few large fish are being caught now and then on the near shore shoal areas at the inlet and off the beaches. There are still a lot of fish off New Jersey so just maybe colder water temperatures will push them south and along our beaches. Water temperatures here are about 47° and are reported to be close to 40° off New Jersey.

Sea bass fishing has been excellent at the offshore wreck and reef sites and limit catches are common with some fairly large ones spicing things up a bit. There are also a few flounder being caught by those who fish for them around the sea bass fishing sites.

At the inlet a few striped bass are being caught by those casting bucktails and swim shads. Some are also drifting live eels or cut bait with good success. Many of the striped bass are undersized but some nice ones are being caught also. Those fishing in the surf are mostly using bottom rigs with cut bait and some striped bass are being caught. Hope is in the air that more of the large fall migrants will swing close to the beaches any day.


1 comment:

  1. I admire the regular updates with fresh content on your site. It keeps me engaged and eager for more. https://www.edmontonfurnacecare.com/