Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | April 27, 2016



The last full week of April presents some wonderful fishing opportunities in Maryland. Water temperatures are nearly ideal for most freshwater fish. Trout are happy with good water flows and cool water temperatures. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are either actively spawning or getting ready to spawn. This week marks the beginning of the best two weeks of the trophy striped bass season as post-spawn striped bass pour out of the spawning rivers and enter the bay looking for something to eat before exiting the bay.

Water flows through the Conowingo Dam continue to be relatively minimal this week, and as a result water clarity has been very good in the lower river and Susquehanna Flats area. Water temperatures have also risen significantly and are now around 60° on the Susquehanna Flats. Casting silver Tony spoons or soft plastic jigs are two of the favorite lures to use. The striped bass catch and release fishery in the Susquehanna Flats area is in its zenith this week and offers the best opportunity to catch and release a large striped bass.

Warmer water temperatures in the lower Susquehanna River have the hickory shad thinking about making their annual spawning run into Deer Creek. If warmer weather prevails, that run may happen by the weekend. In the meantime, there has been good catch and release fishing for hickory shad at the mouth of Deer Creek.

Hickory shad photo courtesy of Richard P. Gunion

In the upper bay region there has been a lot of trolling activity around the channel edges near Love Point and the shipping channel edges just north of the Bay Bridge. Trolling tandem bucktails or parachutes dressed with sassy shads off planer boards or long flat lines has been the standard. A few light tackle anglers have also been jigging near the Bay Bridge piers for larger striped bass that tend to hang up there. Chumming on steep channel edges near Love Point and Sandy Point Light are another alternative for those who don't desire to troll. This beautiful striped bass came from the Love Point area recently.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Grant Barnes
Striped bass photo courtesy of Grant Barnes

Below the Bay Bridge in the middle bay region the action for large striped bass has been very good along the shipping channel edges. Many of the traditional steep channel edges are living up to their reputation this week. On the east side, the edges near Bloody Point Light, the Gas Buoy, False Channel and the CP Buoy have all been producing excellent trolling results. On the west side of the bay, Thomas Point, out in front of Chesapeake Beach and the western edge of the shipping channel south have all been good places to troll. Strands of sea lettuce have been fouling lines in the middle bay region recently and it seems to be more prevalent on the western side of the bay. Sea lettuce is one of the most common forms of seaweed in the middle and lower bay; its scientific name is Ulva lactuca. It can often be seen attached to dock pilings and rocks and for some strange reason it is floating loose on the swift currents along the shipping channel edges.

Bucktail lure and sea lettuce, photo by Rich Watts
Bucktail lure and sea lettuce, photo by Rich Watts

Surface water temperatures in the middle region of the bay are creeping past the 60° mark this week and they will continue to climb if this warming weather pattern stays in place. The rivers are also seeing warmer water temperatures and much of the striped bass spawning is past the peak of the spawn except for the Susquehanna Flats area. This is good news for those wishing to catch a large post-spawn striped bass and this weekend through the end of the first week of May should offer the best fishing opportunities, as these fish pour out of the spawning rivers into the bay.

Much like some of the areas in the middle bay region, the southern region of the bay is on fire as post spawn striped bass pour out of the Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke Rivers. Traditional hot spots such as the western edge of the shipping channel near Cove Point are the place to be. The lower Potomac shifted into high gear as big fish move along the steep channel edges near St. Georges Island and Piney Point on their way to the bay. On the eastern side of the bay the 76 Buoy, HS Buoy (72B) and Buoy 72 have been excellent places to find big fish. There is a lot of bait in the region in the form of large menhaden and it is being swept along in swift currents along the steep channel edges. Large bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads as well as large spoons are all good choices. This fine beauty was caught just south of Ragged Point on the lower Potomac.

Striped bass photo courtesy of Mike Hammett
Striped bass photo courtesy of Mike Hammett

There have been rumors of the first croakers arriving in the shallows of the lower bay region and it will only be a short time before hook and liners will begin to catch them around Point Lookout. Fishing for blue catfish in the lower Potomac has been excellent, especially around the Wicomico River. Blue catfish are simple to catch on cut bait and a bottom rig and the small to medium sized ones make excellent eating.

Freshwater fishing in Deep Creek Lake has been good for smallmouth bass as they are in a very active pre-spawn phase. Tubes and small crankbaits are excellent choices to use near rocky points and rocky shelves. Largemouth bass are also getting the urge to spawn but are somewhat behind the schedule of the smallmouth bass. Look for largemouth bass holding in deeper water near submerged structure such as sunken wood or deep grass. Jigs, tubes and stick worms are a good bet around deep cover and small crankbaits, spinnerbaits and suspended jerkbaits work well when trying to cover large areas where smallmouth bass and largemouth bass may be staging.

Smallmouth bass photo courtesy of Seth McCauley
Smallmouth bass photo courtesy of Seth McCauley

Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac continues to be good this week around submerged ledges and behind large rock current breaks. Tubes are perhaps the number one lure to use close to the bottom. The smaller bass are active now as water temperatures become warmer.

Trout fishing in the varied trout management waters continues to be good this week. Water temperatures are about perfect and stocking crews are placing some beautiful looking trout in the 2 lb to 3 lb size range in a variety of locations.

In many areas of the state, east of the western region largemouth bass are beginning to move into spawning areas. The males have carved out nests in the shallower areas and the females are now moving into those areas. Northern snakeheads are also preparing to spawn and they can also be found in shallow grass. The tidal Potomac and the adjoining creeks hold a lot of snakeheads and they can also be found in Dorchester and Somerset County backwater areas of the Blackwater, Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers.

Northern snakehead photo courtesy of Rob Goebel
Northern snakehead photo courtesy of Rob Goebel

Ocean City area surf fishing is beginning to change as water temperatures reach the mid 50's. There are still a few large bluefish being caught in the surf but it would seem that the largest portion of them have moved farther up the coast. A few striped bass of legal size are being caught in the surf along with black drum and newly arrived blowfish. Spiny dogfish and skates continue to be common in the surf.

In and around the inlet tautog fishing has improved this week. The south jetty is one of the better places to fish if you're in a boat. Shore bound anglers have been doing well at the north jetty, the Route 50 Bridge piers and the bulkhead between 2nd. and 4th. Streets. The boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites have been doing very well on tautog with limit catches at times.

A few venturous souls have been heading out to the canyons and discovered a couple of temperature breaks of 64° water. A couple of bluefin tuna were brought in and some skipjack tuna were caught along with a few undersized yellowfin.

"Angling is extremely time consuming. That is why in our high-speed world anglers, as a kind of preemptive strike; call themselves bums, addicts and maniacs. We're actually rather quiet people for the most part but our attitude toward time sets us at odds with our society." - Thomas McQuane

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.