Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | May 16, 2012

As the seasons roll along our fisheries in Maryland are also constantly changing and as we reach the half way point in May some of our more traditional fisheries are beginning to take shape. Although trophy striped bass will still be caught this month; in most areas of the bay it has become a slow pick for fishermen trolling large parachutes and bucktails. The good news is that today May 16th fishermen can now keep striped bass under 28" in length and venture into the lower portions of most tidal rivers. Fishermen in the Ocean City area are now seeing our migrating Chesapeake Bay post spawn striped bass passing along the beaches and surf fishermen are enjoying some very exciting fishing. This time of the year is perhaps one of the finest times of the year to just venture down to one of the many ponds or lakes that dot the Maryland landscape and enjoy a few hours fishing with kids. It is pretty hard to beat watching a bobber with a worm or minnow dangling under it sit upon the water and the anticipation in a young angler's eye. Of course muddy sneakers and pants as well as tossing sticks or rocks in the water and catching frogs are all part of the experience. So don't miss out even if your young angler only has the patience for an hours worth of fishing; enjoy the rites of spring before the summer season sets in.

Fishermen in the Susquehanna Flats area will begin to be able to keep one striped bass per day that measures 18" to 28" in length starting May 16th. The areas open include the flats the Northeast River and the lower Susquehanna up to a line drawn between the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp and Point of Rocks and Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. The area is also holding a lot of white perch this week and fishermen at the Fisherman's Park fishing area near the dam have been catching channel and flathead catfish.

Fishing for large trophy sized striped bass continues to be a slow pick for fishermen trolling the channels in hopes finishing out the season with one more large fish. The large striped bass are scattered over a wide area with the lower Potomac offering better chances for the past week. The size drops to 18" today May 16th and the lower sections of most tidal rivers opens to fishing for striped bass. Many fishermen will be including smaller lure presentations in their trolling spreads to put some medium sized fish in the box. More than a few fishermen have been chumming and chunking with good success at traditional edges and it offers a quieter alternative to trolling. Cow-nosed rays are moving into the region and will certainly cause some consternation with those fishermen chumming and undoubtedly a few will be accidentally snagged while trolling. The question of May worm spawning swarms continues to bounce around the docks and although there was some activity on the last full moon; there may well be another spawn on the next full moon in early June. Alex Mahoney is very happy with this 37" striped bass he caught.

Photo Courtesy of Alex Mahoney

Shore based and boat fishermen have been enjoying good white perch fishing in tidal rivers and creeks throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. White perch can be caught around piers, oyster bars and channels on a variety of lures such as jigs and shad darts; often tipped with a piece of bloodworm or by fishing conventional bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or grass shrimp. Fishermen are also starting to catch more croakers this week mostly in deeper waters during the day but shallow at night. The mouth of the Wicomico River near Bushwood is a traditional early season croaker hot spot and fishermen are catching croakers and white perch there this week. Fishermen are reporting that 4lb to 6lb blue catfish are also in the lower Potomac in large numbers and are now part of the bottom fishing scene there.

Speckled trout have been offering some exciting fishing for fishermen in the lower bay region and particularly in the Tangier/Pocomoke Sound area. Their presence began to appear when fishermen were fishing soft crab baits for striped bass back when the trophy season first started. Now fishermen are targeting them with peeler and soft crab baits or casting swim shads for them. The 4" Gulp pearl or white mullet seems to be one of the most popular lures being used; either under a popping cork or jigged along the bottom.

Recreational crabbers are reporting this week very good catches of crabs south of the Choptank River and mostly on the eastern side of the bay. The catches are reported to be just legal sized crabs but heavy and a lot of throwbacks which are eating up baits. North of the Choptank crabbers are catching a couple of dozen legal crabs per outing and above the Bay Bridge things are very quiet. Recreational crabbers in the back bay areas of Ocean City are reporting a lot of sponge crabs and fair crabbing for male crabs in the tidal creeks and a lot of small crabs.

Freshwater fishermen have a lot of fishing options this week and among them are fishing for walleyes in Deep Creek Lake where fishing has been good. Walleyes can be found near grass beds in about 10' of water and drifting a minnow near by is a great way to catch them. Crappie and bluegills are spawning as are largemouth bass in the shallower coves. Recent rains have bolstered water levels in trout waters of the western and central regions so trout fishing will be good this week. Dwayne Remillard holds up a 24" rainbow trout he caught in the north branch of the Potomac recently and entered in the Maryland Fishing Challenge for an award certificate.

Photo Courtesy of Dwayne Remillard

Largemouth bass are still spawning in many areas but many of the bass are now being found off the beds and holding near grass. Targeting grass is a major focus for bass fishermen now with stickbaits, soft plastic craws and topwater lures such as frogs, chatterbaits and buzzbaits over the grass. Casting spinnerbaits and crankbaits along the outside edges of grass beds and spatterdock fields is also a good bet; especially on a falling tide in the tidal rivers. Anyone thinking about fishing the tidal Potomac later on this week is forewarned about the FLW and BFL bass tournaments at National Harbor this week; it might be a little crowded out there.

Fishermen continue to catch more and more snakeheads in the tidal Potomac and its tributaries and as everyone knows they are getting larger. Well it seems that a fishermen fishing in the D.C. area may have one large enough to break the world record of 17lbs, 4oz set in 2004 in Japan. Time will tell; but the way these fish are growing it may very well happen sooner than later. Here is a recent picture of James Mason with a 15lb snakehead he caught near Alexandria on a swim shad.

Photo Courtesy of James Mason

Fishermen are enjoying the peace and quiet of fishing the many lakes and ponds that dot the Maryland landscape for a variety of fish. Largemouth bass is of course at the top of the list but species such as bluegills, crappie, chain pickerel and channel catfish go a long way for entertaining fishermen. A small boat with an electric motor or a canoe is a real plus for accessing fish holding cover but most of the time these out of the way spots are fished from the shoreline. Fishermen at the Ocean City area are enjoying an excellent run of large striped bass along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague. The fishing started in earnest last week and will only get better as the main body of northerly migrating striped bass pass by the beaches. Water temperatures are around 59-degrees in the surf and fishermen are using clams, sand fleas and cut menhaden baits on bottom rigs with stout tackle. Dogfish and skates continue to be pesky bait stealers and now sandbar and sand tiger sharks have showed up and offering some extra tussle. Michael Thron holds up a whopping 45" striped bass he caught in the Assateague surf.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Thron

In and around the Ocean City Inlet fishermen are catching small to medium sized bluefish on Got-Cha lures and striped bass on swim shads and bucktails at night. Fishing for tautog is beginning to slow down a bit inside of the Route 50 Bridge but remains very good at the South Jetty. Sand fleas and pieces of green crab remain favorite baits. There are plenty of flounder inside of the inlet and back bays; wind and water clarity as always will determine how good the fishing will be.

Party boat captains and fishermen will be very happy Saturday May 19th when the sea bass season opens inside of 3-miles. Tautog fishing remains good this week so it will be nice when fishermen can double up on tautog and sea bass. The Feds are still struggling to get their paper work done for opening up the sea bass season outside of 3-miles and it is hoped that sometime between the 19th and the 22nd of May they'll file the proper papers. Offshore fishermen brought in the season's first yellowfin tuna from the west wall of the Baltimore Canyon this week and mako sharks are being caught from the 100-fathom line out to the canyons.

"I still don't know why I fish or why other men fish, except that we like it and it makes us think and feel." Roderick l. Haig-Brown 1946


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.