Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | March 07, 2013

Spring is in the air, we are less than two weeks away from the first day of spring and although it has been a relatively cold winter with lots of precipitation most of us have dodged the big snow storms that have hit our neighbors to the west and north of us. All of the rain may prove to be a good thing for spawning anadromous fish this spring; time will tell.

Yellow perch fishermen have been a nervous lot lately not unlike an expectant father whose wife has passed her due date. Cold water temperatures have been holding back the yellow perch spawn in many of the Chesapeake's tidal rivers as the fish lie low in the deeper channels bathing in slightly warmer water. The males who are the vanguards of the spawning runs are being caught in most areas and occasionally fishermen are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to cash in on a pulse of larger female yellow perch. There were good reports from the Sassafras River last week from yellow perch fishermen and some hot and cold reports from the Choptank and Tuckahoe Rivers. Warmer weather is due the end of this week and into the weekend so the fishing should pick up in most areas. The only tough thing that fishermen will have to deal with is the flooding waters due to the recent heavy rains. All in all this weekend will most likely offer the best opportunity to cash in on this year's yellow perch spawning runs. Last weekend the annual Yellow Perch Appreciation Day event was held at the town of Northeast and anglers were out in force to enjoy a cold and windy day and fishing together. Cody Kyle got to go fishing with his dad a Northeast Park and was proud to hold up a nice stringer of yellow perch he caught during the fishing tournament there.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Kyle

Paul Piavis is the fisheries service's resident fish biologist and Paul reported large numbers of small 2011 year class yellow perch in waters deeper than 40' during their winter trawl survey work in the upper bay so fishermen have a lot to look forward to in coming years. He also reported fairly strong catches of yellow perch over 10" in their fyke net surveys in the upper Choptank in late February along with a very good grade of white perch in the nets a little farther down the river. He also reported large numbers of crappie, white catfish and unfortunately blue catfish in the 12' to 16' size range which could spell big problems on the Choptank in coming years. Blue catfish reproduce like crazy and any catfish that grows to 100lbs in size can eat pretty much anything they want including smaller fish, freshwater mussels and blue crabs. Blue catfish have also been documented on the Nanticoke River as well.

Fishermen have been entertaining themselves in the past couple of weeks fishing for a mix of chain pickerel, crappie, channel catfish, and largemouth bass in the ponds, lakes and rivers in the central, southern and eastern regions of the state. As water temperatures warm the fishing will only get better as fish that have been relatively inactive during the winter begin to become more active.

Fisheries service stocking crews have been busy stocking trout in the pre-season stocking areas for fishermen to enjoy. These stockings offer fishermen a chance to shake the cobwebs off their fishing tackle and have some fun with family and friends. Some of the areas are small ponds set aside for young fishermen and offer a special opportunity for families to introduce children to fishing in a comfortable setting. Three year old Ryan Bishop is all smiles with his first fish ever; a beautiful rainbow trout that he caught at Fountain Rock Pond near Walkersville, Frederick County.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Bishop

Fishermen out in the western region are digging out of a foot of snow they received in many areas but these are fishermen that tend to be used to it. Ice fishermen have had a very good season so far this year due to cold temperatures and Deep Creek Lake is one of the most popular places to go to try your hand at "hard water" fishing. Fishermen have been catching some nice yellow perch and a mix of walleye and northern pike. Fishing for trout in many of the trout management areas has been good and of course depending on air temperatures snow melt will cause flow levels to increase. Western region fisheries biologist Alan Klotz reports that fishermen should check the trout stocking website to view which areas have been stocked and are open to fishing. Alan also mentioned that winter stoneflies are still hatching in good numbers in the Delayed Harvest Trout Fishing Areas, so fly fishermen can find some early season dry fly action. The following link will take readers to the trout fishing website which shows stocking schedules, closures and trout management maps.

Fisheries biologist John Mullican reports to us that walleye fishing in the upper Potomac River has been good lately and as water temperatures slowly warm, smallmouth bass fishing is getting better each week. John also mentioned they were recently out collecting walleye brood stock for hatchery spawning and saw some really nice smallmouth bass and walleye in their survey work. John noted that they saw water temperatures around 38-degrees and mentioned that temperatures in the 40's are best for smallmouth bass and when water levels are high and cloudy. John offered safety advice to anglers to always check on river conditions in the upper Potomac because of rain and snow melt and remember life jackets must be worn at all times.

Chesapeake Bay fishermen are seeing the 2013 spawning season striped bass populations slowly moving up the bay. Already fishermen have been catching and releasing striped bass in the bay along channel edges and the warm water discharge at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. As early as mid-February male striped bass were observed in the spawning reaches of the Choptank River patiently waiting for the females that are working their way into the area right now.

White perch are steadily moving up the tidal rivers and are holding in some of the deeper areas as they prepare to make a dash for the headwaters when water conditions are right. Fishermen have been catching some large female white perch on bottom rigs baited with pieces of blood worms in most all of the tidal rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. They are also catching channel catfish and white catfish on fresh cut bait; often from small male white perch. Often the freshest bait is the best bait when it comes to channel catfish. Fisheries biologist Paul Piavis reports that channel catfish populations are at very high levels in the upper bay and Choptank River so fishermen should think about taking advantage of this good fishing. It is a simple kind of fishing which can be a lot of fun and offer some strong pulling and excellent eating. Try cutting up the fillets into pieces for large fish or whole fillets for smaller catfish and do a whisked egg dip and chipotle flavored panko crumbs (let sit in frig for a couple of hours) and don't forget the hush puppies.

Fishermen heading out of Ocean City have been traveling out to the wreck sites in search of sea bass and tautog when weather conditions permit. This is a tough time of the year to be on the ocean in any kind of boat under 50' so most are going out on head boats that offer a warm cabin to get out of the cold. Green Crabs and white leggers are the most common baits being used for tautog and the sea bass are being caught on clams or by jigging.

"Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person." - Fred Bear


Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.