Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 20, 2016



All of Maryland seems to be rejoicing in the warmth that has embraced us for the past week and spring is showing signs of being back on schedule. Weather like this just beckons the soul to get out into nature and shake off any residual memories of winter. Our resident and anadromous species of fish are feeling the same urges and striped bass spawning is once again underway in the spawning rivers, hickory shad are making their spawning runs on the Eastern Shore and soon to be in the lower Susquehanna. Freshwater fish species such as largemouth bass are moving towards spawning and all other freshwater species activities are spurred on by the warming water temperatures. Trophy striped bass season opened on Saturday, April 16th, with many boats targeting these fish on a beautiful warm day. Jacob Marshall caught this 40 inch striped bass on opening day.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Jacob Marshall
Striped bass photo courtesy of Jacob Marshall

Water flows through the Conowingo Dam continue to be rather minimal this week and water clarity conditions in the lower Susquehanna River and Susquehanna Flats area has been very good. Water temperatures are beginning to creep up and presently are holding around 50°. The big question for many is when the hickory shad run at Deer Creek will begin in earnest. Many travel considerable distances to partake in this exciting annual catch and release hickory shad fishery. The hickory shad are in the river as are alewife herring and a few hickory shad have even been caught near the mouth of Deer Creek and there were a couple of pulse type spawning runs in Octararo Creek late last week. Charlie Robbins gave the mouth of Deer Creek a try on Sunday evening and although catching was sparse he managed to catch his first hickory shad for 2016. Catch and release fishing for hickory shad has been very good in the tidal Potomac River just below the Chain Bridge for the last week and the good fishing continues this week. Richard P. Gunion sent in this picture of a beautiful hickory shad caught near the Chain Bridge.

Hickory shad photo courtesy of Richard P. Gunion
Hickory shad photo courtesy of Richard P. Gunion

On the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake there has been very good hickory shad fishing on the upper Tuckahoe, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers for the past week. Marshyhope Creek is a tributary to the Nanticoke and there was some heavy action there this past weekend. Mike Thomas got an invite to go fishing on Sunday and caught and released dozens of feisty hickory shad on a beautiful sunny day.

Hickory shad photo courtesy of Mike Thomas
Hickory shad photo courtesy of Mike Thomas

At the Conowingo Dam pool flathead catfish can be caught on heavy sassy shad lures tipped with a piece of fresh cut bait and American shad can also provide some catch and release fun. A little farther down the river there is good fishing for channel catfish and smaller flathead catfish. White perch tend to be rather sparse in the lower Susquehanna River this week; hickory shad survey crews reported seeing few white perch while electrofishing yesterday.

The catch and release fishery for striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats area is in full swing with good water quality, light winds and water temperatures in the low 50's. Soft plastic jigs, paddle-tail swimbaits and silver spoons have been favorite lures to catch and release some of the large striped bass in the area. Fishermen are reminded to be ready ahead of time for a quick and efficient release. Cameras should be at ready, fish supported horizontally and care should be taken not to rough up the slim layer on the fish.

The opening weekend of the trophy striped bass season tended to be a bit slow in the upper bay from the Bay Bridge to the Brewerton Channel. A few fish were caught early in the mornings along the channel edge near Sandy Point and the eastern channel edge just above the Bay Bridge. White parachutes and large bucktails were the choice for many due to sunny skies and relatively clear water. Tandem rigs were run off of planer boards and umbrella rigs on flat lines. A few boats tried chumming off the steep edges of Love Point and Sandy Point and a few fish were caught. These nice 40 inch fish were caught just south of Sandy Point, near the Severn River mouth, by Jacob Marshall and his fishing partner.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Jacob Marshall
Striped bass photo courtesy of Jacob Marshall

Land based anglers tried their luck at the tidal rip at the tip of Sandy Point and the fishing piers at Matapeake and Romancoke. Most fished with bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or fresh cut menhaden and a few were successful with catching fish over the 35" minimum but most reported catching undersized fish. Another good shore spot is the small county park and beach at Thomas Point, but access is limited to permit holders during spring and summer season. Frank Saumell caught his first spring rockfish on April 19 near Thomas Point, fishing in a boat.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Tony Cullum
Striped bass photo courtesy of Tony Cullum

The Boatyard 15th annual opening day catch and release tournament was a great success with a big party at the base of operations in Eastport. A total of 705 anglers fished on 150 boats, and 60 fish were "measured-in" (photographed, measured, documented, and released), with 28 fish over 40 inches and 19 fish over 30 inches. Paul Mellin released the biggest fish which was just under 47 inches. The two youth winners were Will Muscatello (age 13) and Robert Smack (age 6) with two fish over 40 inches. Most of these tournament boats fished the middle bay, south of the Bay Bridge. In the middle bay region the weather could hardly have been more perfect for those lazily trolling up and down the edges of the shipping channel and traditional locations such as Bloody Point and the western edge of the shipping channel below Chesapeake Beach. Fish were caught but generally speaking most described a day's worth of trolling as a slow pick. Everyone knows that the best is yet to come in the next couple of weeks so there is a lot of anticipation in the air. As could be expected the best bite occurred in the early morning hours and tended to slack off as the day wore on. Large schools of adult menhaden could be seen on depth finders and every once in a while one would manage to get snagged on a lure. Clearing lines of winter jellyfish kept crews busy and once in a while the scream of a fishing reel's drag caught everyone's attention on board. More than a few fish were carefully returned to the water that were less than the 35" minimum or one's that were legal but returned by choice. Most everyone seems to be happy with the 35" minimum this year which made measuring fish a lot easier. Rachel Lynn sure was happy with this whopper that she caught near Bloody Point.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Rachel Lynn
Striped bass photo courtesy of Rachel Lynn

As could be expected the warm weather that has been hovering over Maryland is driving water temperatures up. The Choptank River began to experience strong spawning by striped bass over the weekend and the action continues into this week. Many of these large female striped bass will be exiting the river as soon as this coming weekend so giving the False Channel a try would be a good choice.

Boats were out in force this past weekend and could be seen working the steep channel edges of the shipping channel. The boats that were out early caught the first part of the flood tide and this tended to provide some of the best action of the day. Just about every charter boat had at least one legal fish aboard by noon time and more than a few reported multiple catches. The largest reported at Solomon's busiest Maryland Fishing Challenge award center was a whopping 50-1/2" in length! Striped bass catches or releases of fish 40" and larger earn anglers an award certificate from the Fisheries Service. Details of procedures and locations of award centers can be found on the Maryland Fishing Challenge web site

The western side of the shipping channel above Cove Point to Point No Point provided some of the best catches so far this week. A few fish were caught near the HS Buoy but generally the reports from the eastern side of the bay were not good; catch reports from the lower Potomac were also sparse. The striped bass are actively spawning this week on the upper Patuxent, Nanticoke and tidal Potomac and some of the female striped bass can be expected to be moving down the rivers into the bay by the weekend.

Most likely due to good water clarity and sunny days parachutes and bucktails in white have been a favorite choice for trolling but there will always be a few chartreuse lures in anyone's trolling spread since they are proven fish catchers. Large spoons are a favorite also but scare off many due to the fact that they can really make a mess when lines get crossed. There are schools of large menhaden being pushed along the steep channel edges where currents are the swiftest and they will be the target of any large striped bass looking to satisfy a hungry appetite. Every once in a while a large menhaden is being snagged as lures troll through these schools of forage fish along channel edges. Winter jellyfish and grass have been fouling lines, so checking lines frequently is a good idea.

Freshwater trout fishing remains very popular this week as balmy weather and recent generous stocking of trout encourage anglers to get out and enjoy themselves. The put and take areas are of course always very popular for those who enjoy taking some fish home for dinner. There are other choices for trout anglers that offer a lot of catch and release action. There are trout management waters where only artificial lures can be used and others set aside strictly for fly fishing.

Brown trout photo by Joe Evans
Brown trout photo by Joe Evans

The warmer weather has brought water temperatures up in most areas and fishing of all types is once again in gear and at normal mid-spring activity levels. In the far western corner of the state Deep Creek Lake is posting water temperatures in the mid-50's spurring on all kinds of activity. Smallmouth bass are holding in shallower waters near rocky points and rocky shorelines. Tubes, swimbaits, jigs and crankbaits are all good choices to catch smallmouth bass this week. Largemouth bass tend to be holding in slightly deeper water at the mouths of coves and shallow flats where they will be spawning next month. Senko type plastics, spinnerbaits and shallow crankbaits are good choices to work near sunken cover such as wood, rocks and grass. Yellow perch can be found along deep grass edges and northern pike as well as chain pickerel are in the grassy coves.

The upper Potomac continues to be running low and clear this week and water temperatures have risen due to bright sun and warm weather. The smallmouth bass are once again active and can be caught on tubes and jigs near current breaks, underwater ledges and large submerged rocks.

Fishing for largemouth bass has taken a welcomed turn to more productive fishing this week as water temperatures rose to conditions more to the liking of pre-spawn bass. The males will be back up on shallow spawning areas and one can cover a lot of water with spinnerbaits or shallow crankbaits for these active bass. The females will most likely be holding near slightly deeper cover; suspended jerkbaits, swimbaits are good lures to use and for thicker cover such as grass flippin jigs and Senko type baits are a good choices. Northern snakeheads will also be found in the shallower areas in the creeks of the tidal Potomac and backwaters of Dorchester County.

Crappie are active again now that water temperatures are back up and can be found schooling up near deep water bridge and dock piers, fallen tree tops and sunken wood. Small jigs, tubes or minnows under a slip bobber are a good way to catch them. Bluegills are very active this time of the year and are also in a pre-spawn mode of behavior like the largemouth bass. Channel catfish can be caught in most of the tidal rivers and creeks feeding into the Chesapeake and they are very active this week.

There are plenty of blue catfish to go around in the tidal Potomac and because they are spreading so rapidly in territory and number we urge fishermen to catch them. The small ones make for the best eating but the larger ones also need to be weeded out, since they reproduce so prolifically. These large blue cats eat fish that are valuable to fishermen and to the ecosystem. Jay Fleming was fishing in the tidal Potomac near the Chain Bridge recently and caught this big blue catfish. Later examination revealed two adult hickory shad and a white perch in its stomach.

Blue catfish photo courtesy of Jay FlemingBlue catfish photo courtesy of Jay Fleming

The Ocean City area is seeing water temperatures slowly creep above the 50° mark this week and fishing is improving with that increase. Surf casters are catching more and more large bluefish along with a few striped bass and black drum. Most of the striped bass are under the minimum size of 28" but they do provide some fun. Cut menhaden baits are the most popular and the head holds up the best under the onslaught of spiny dogfish and clear-nosed skates.

In and around the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area tautog are being caught along the jetties, bulkheads and bridge piers on pieces of crab and sand fleas. The best fishing has been occurring during the beginning of the ebb tide and the slack period before the beginning of the flood tide. The first confirmed flounder report came out of the back bay area last weekend so one might speculate that the 2016 flounder season is underway. Tautog fishing is good out at the offshore wreck and reef sites with good catches on the head boats and often limit catches on charter boats.

"How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook." - Aldo Leopold

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.