Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 04, 2012

The month of April is upon us and it would seem that temperatures are more within the norm now. Late February and last months warmer than normal temperatures had a profound effect on the traditional white and yellow perch spawns causing them to be earlier than normal. Fishermen have been expressing concerns that the same might also stand true for our spawning striped bass and a big question has been looming out there; like the elephant in the room sort of thing. Will there still be post-spawn striped bass around for the trophy season opener on April 21st? Although there was some spawning activity in late March; it was relatively minor and not at all out of the norm. There is usually a small spawn in late March according to striped bass experts. The water temperatures are certainly warm enough in most spawning reaches for spawning activity to take place but many of the striped bass have not arrived yet or if the females are there the eggs they are carrying are not mature enough to be released.

This past week the Susquehanna catch and release area received an influx of male striped bass so the females will be arriving soon. In other spawning rivers such as the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers which traditionally have an earlier spawn than the upper bay; the big female striped bass are spawning but only sparingly. Most of the spawning population of females are hunkered down waiting for the eggs they carry to mature enough to commence spawning. That traditionally should occur anywhere from this coming weekend to the end of the second week of April. Ramsey Poston was slowly riding around in his boat on the upper Choptank River this past Saturday and sent in these observations. We marked the water temp at 57 to 59 and started to see some evidence of spawning with slick water and some eggs in the tidal current lines. Most fish could be seen on the depth finder hanging near the bottom at 25 to 35 feet.

Maryland DNR's Eyes on the Bay water quality website now has a mobile browser application. View the latest water temperature, salinity, and water quality measurements on your phone, from over 15 real-time tidal stations.

Fishermen at the Susquehanna Flats area who have been putting in their time got a pleasant surprise this week as male striped bass moved into the region in force to provide nonstop action for those armed with soft plastic jigs and spoons. The males of most spawning species are the vanguards of the spawning run so larger female striped bass are anticipated to arrive soon. A few large fish are being reported by fishermen but most fish caught and released are falling in the 16" to 28" size range and are being caught tight to the bottom in water depths less than 15'. The hickory shad catch and release fishery in the Deer Creek area has kicked into gear with fishermen catching mostly male fish this week at the mouth of the creek and out in the Susquehanna River. Fisheries biologists were out on the Susquehanna recently electro-fishing for hickory shad brood stock and reported they found more American shad than hickories which is a very pleasant surprise. The adult American shad will be lifted over the dam in a mechanized fish lift so they may continue up the Susquehanna to spawn.

Fishermen are practicing catch and release fishing for striped bass from prominent points and fishing piers all along the main stem of the bay; chunks of fresh menhaden or bloodworms have been the baits of choice on bottom rigs and circle hooks. A few fishermen have also been out on the bay trolling along the shipping channel edges practicing catch and release also. Water temperatures in the bay are holding around 53-degrees. All fishermen should remember that the spawning tidal rivers are off limits to any kind of catch and release fishing for striped bass until June 1.

Freshwater fishermen who love their put and take trout fishermen were out in force on the traditional opening day and despite crowds most had a good time and caught trout. More than a few trout fishermen were surprised by a large bonus trout that were as large as 8lbs on the end of their lines. The hatchery crews took the initiative to hold these trout and grow them up to exceptional sizes and give a thrill of a lifetime to lucky fishermen. Brent Turner caught this whopping 7lb., 6oz. rainbow trout.

Photo Courtesy of Brent Turner

Fishermen at Deep Creek Lake were happy to see the floating docks go in at the DNR boat ramps last week and many fishermen are enjoying the fishing action out on the lake for a mix of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye and a northern pike now and then. The fishing in the upper Potomac for smallmouth bass and walleye and muskies continues to be very good this week; water levels in the river are fine and of course the weather is gorgeous on most days.

Largemouth bass fishermen are experiencing the best of the best this week as hungry pre-spawn largemouth bass are roaming the edges of emerging grass beds, sunken wood, rocky points and drop-offs for something to eat. Fishermen are finding excellent fishing opportunities in small farm ponds, lakes and tidal waters. A wide variety of lures from topwater lures to spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft plastics and grub jigs are all working well; each in its own particular niche. Bluegills are offering plenty of sport this week and crappie fishing is always popular this time of the year. Last week I had the opportunity to witness a type of crappie fishing I've never experienced before and that was what is termed "spider rigging". Long telescoping fiberglass poles are rigged like cane poles with minnows and placed in rod holders in a pattern off the bow and stern of a boat that is slowly moved through crappie habitat. We were fishing in the area called the Spoils next to interstate 95 at the foot of the Wilson Bridge; a very interesting and often fast action type of fishing at times; while watching all those bobbers.

Photo Courtesy of Keith Lockwood

Ocean City fishermen continue to see tautog fishing inside the inlet improve as water temperatures hover at the 50-degree mark. All the traditional areas such as the south jetty, the 2nd to 4th street bulkhead, the ends of 5th and 6th streets and the Route 50 Bridge are all offering good fishing this week. Frozen sand fleas and pieces of green crabs are the preferred baits and the very beginning of an ebb tide seems to hold favor for many fishermen. Fishermen inside the inlet are also reporting catching and releasing a few flounder. Flounder season opens April 14th with a three flounder per day limit with a minimum of 17" each.

Surf fishermen are catching some big striped bass, a few bluefish and plenty of dogfish and skates in the surf on menhaden baits. Offshore the boats taking fishermen out to the wreck sites are catching tautog and boats headed out to the canyon edges are finding tilefish and assorted deep water species.

Physical combat between men and beasts was, in like manner, an economic fact, now preserved as hunting and fishing. - Aldo Leopold


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.