Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | June 01, 2016



Memorial Day Weekend is come and gone and we are now entering the month of June. This is great news for anyone fishing for striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal rivers since now all waters are open to the standard striped bass regulations we are all familiar with (Bag limit is 2 fish, minimum size is 20 inches, only one of which can be equal to or greater than 28 inches). Out of a three day weekend we at least had two good days of weather and what better way to celebrate than to take a veteran fishing. In this case Travis Long took his dad (Ed Long, a Vietnam Vet) and family for a fun day of jigging striped bass on the Chesapeake together.

Photo courtesy of Travis Long
Photo courtesy of Travis Long

Today Susquehanna River and adjoining area fishermen are rejoicing that the catch and release restrictions are now lifted and striped bass regulations follow the basic size and creel limits for the rest of the bay. Fortunately the striped bass are sticking around in the edges near the flats and in the lower Susquehanna so fishing has been very good. Casting topwater lures in the early morning and evening hours along grass edges and shoreline structure offers a lot of fun and excitement. Jigging along channel edges or near the Conowingo Dam pool or channel edges in the river is also a productive way to catch striped bass. There are also a lot of white perch in the area providing plenty of fishing fun along with flathead and channel catfish.

Any casual boater on the upper bay could not help but notice a fleet of boats anchored up at Love Point and also over at Swan Point this past weekend. Chumming for striped bass has started in earnest and success has been pretty good on the ebb tide. Reports reveal a high percentage of sub-legal fish which is normal for the upper bay fishery but the 2011 year class is coming on strong and most are catching their two fish limit in short order. Some prefer to troll for their striped bass and trolling a mixed spread of umbrella rigs, tandem rigs behind planers or inline weights will get lures down to where the fish are holding along channel edges. Medium sized bucktails, Storm swim shad type plastic baits and spoons are good choices for trolling. Jigging is very productive when concentrations of fish can be found suspended near structure. Live lining eels is also another good way to catch striped bass near structure such as bridge piers and submerged rocks and channel edges.

There are plenty of white perch to be caught in the upper bay region this week and most of the tidal rivers have excellent populations. This is a wonderful opportunity to take kids or older folk for a leisure day of bottom fishing with small jigs or bottom rigs tipped with pieces of bloodworm. Channel catfish and striped bass can also be part of the mix.

The middle bay region offers a lot of great fishing opportunities this week as water temperature finally pass the 70° mark for the first time this year. Striped bass are very active in a wide variety of habitats and locations so there is something for everyone. All of the tidal rivers are now open to striped bass fishing. Eastern Bay and the middle regions of tidal rivers such as the Choptank are offering striped bass fishing for those fishing shoreline structure or steep channel edges. Nora Long is all smiles with this beautiful striped bass she caught while fishing with her family.

Photo courtesy of Travis Long
Photo courtesy of Travis Long

Shallow water fishing for striped bass is a light tackle dream when it comes to fishing topwater lures on spinning tackle or skipping bugs, streamers and Clousers on a fly rod. Shoreline structure such as old rip rap, prominent points and old piers are great places to target in the early morning or evening hours. The cow-nosed rays are here in force and are stirring up the shallow waters and often pushing striped bass to new areas.

Out in the main part of the bay chumming at the Bay Bridge, Hacketts, Gum Thickets, the Hill, Thomas Point and the Clay Banks is becoming popular. Catches have been good especially on an ebbing tide. Trolling along channel edges has also been popular and success has been very good. Inline weights and planers will get umbrella rigs and tandem rigged bucktails and Storm type swim baits down to the fish. The channel edges outside the chumming fleet locations and the western edge of the shipping channel have been good places to troll. Ballast stone piles are also a very good place to troll by if you can find them. Jigging with soft plastics along channel edges where fish can be found suspended is a fun way to catch some nice striped bass.

White perch fishing has is very good this week in the tidal rivers of the middle bay region and offer a lot of fun fishing opportunities. Fishing off of docks and piers with lures or simple bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, bloodworms, peeler crab or small minnows is the ticket to this fun show. Now that the perch are moving into their summer haunts and can be caught along shoreline structure in the mornings and evenings on light tackle with small beetle spin lures, spinners or jigs.

Photo courtesy of Rich Watts
Photo courtesy of Rich Watts

There has been some black drum action on the Sharps Island and James Island Flats this week. This is a very specialized fishery but rewarding if you want to slug it out with one of the largest fish to be caught anywhere in the Chesapeake Bay. It takes a good depth finder and a watchful eye to locate the drum and one has to be quick with a simple bottom rig with a soft crab bait tied onto a big hook with rubber bands and a fair sized sinker. Dropping a soft crab bait to the bottom of the Chesapeake is like sliding a chocolate cake out in front of a bunch of hungry teenagers so it can't be left down there for long. Everything from toadfish to cow-nosed rays will make short order of such a delectable offering.

The lower bay region offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities this week as warming water temperatures encourage some of our summer migrants to move into the region. Croakers are at the top of the list and they are being caught this week in a variety of locations. The lower Patuxent River and Cedar Point area has been good; the Wicomico River, Cobb Island and over on the eastern side of the bay croakers are being caught in Tangier Sound. White perch can also be counted on to be part of the catch in many of these locations. A few bluefish have been caught in the region recently and speckled trout are becoming more common on the eastern marsh shoreline areas. Large red drum will soon be caught and released near the Target Ship and spot are due to show up in the region's tidal rivers.

Striped bass are being caught along shoreline structure near prominent points and creek and river channel edges on topwater lures in the early morning or evening hours as well as suspended jerkbaits and soft plastic jigs. Trolling has been popular along channel edges in the lower Potomac River and near Cove Point, Point Lookout and Hooper's Island. A mix of umbrella rigs, spoons, bucktails and Storm type swim shads have been popular behind inline weights and planers.

Recreational crabbing has been good in many of the middle and lower bay tidal rivers and continues this week. In some areas, female and small crabs tend to be chewing up baits and now cow-nosed rays are joining the buffet as uninvited guests. This can really be a pain when using razor clams in bait bags on a trot line; they tend to crunch them up and destroy the plastic bait bags. Despite the locust trees being a little behind on blooming; crabs are starting to shed in the lower bay area and there are plenty of peelers available for bait this week. Blue crabs often don't make it through their third winter of hibernation, especially if we have a really cold winter. But when they do they can develop into real whoppers! Angelina Watts got to go out trot lining with her dad for some Memorial Day crabs on a middle bay region tidal river and holds up two whoppers they caught.

Photo courtesy of Rich Watts
Photo courtesy of Rich Watts

Water temperatures at Deep Creek Lake are slowly climbing and are now in the mid 60's in the shallower coves where largemouth bass are active, along with chain pickerel, bluegills and northern pike. Smallmouth bass fishing has been very good near floating docks and rocky bottom points. Most of the smallmouth bass are in the 14" size class; tubes and jerkbaits tend to be the best baits to use. Nearby lakes such as Piney Reservoir and Broadford Lake offer excellent fishing opportunities also and Jessica Klotz got to do a little fly fishing for bluegills with her dad recently and is all smiles with this hefty bluegill she caught.

Photo courtesy of Alan Klotz
Photo courtesy of Alan Klotz

The upper Potomac River is still running high and anyone thinking about fishing on the river should use caution. Water temperatures are around 66° and waters are stained. Tubes and craws worked along current edges and breaks are a good tactic. There are other waters in the state that are less shall we say "adventurous" than the upper Potomac in spring time. Liberty and Prettyboy Reservoirs hold some excellent smallmouth bass fishing as does the lower Susquehanna River. Dave Zeigler holds up a beautiful trophy smallmouth bass he caught in Prettyboy Reservoir recently.

Photo courtesy of Dave Zeigler
Photo courtesy of Dave Zeigler

Although trout fishing is beginning to wind down in the southern and eastern regions of the state due to warming water temperatures; there are still good opportunities in the central region and wonderful fishing in the western region. Many of the western region trout management waters are so managed to ensure excellent fishing opportunities for catch and release, fly fishing only or limited take.

Largemouth bass fishing is good this week as most bass are now in a post-spawn phase of activity and feeding aggressively to build up body stores after the arduous process of spawning. They have moved off the shallows for the most part and targeting grass and sunken wood can be a very productive tactic. Jigs, small crankbaits, stick worms worked close to structure will often get them to bite. Anglers may find stained water in some tidal waters and lakes due to runoff but most areas tend to be clear or improving.

Many have heard by now through press releases and social media about our new state record northern snakehead that was hauled in by a bow fisherman in the tidal Potomac River. Dutch, as he likes to be called, is an ardent night time bow fisherman who loves to hunt northern snakeheads and blue catfish and he is very good at it. Dutch Emory was out bow fishing with his longtime buddy Franklin Shotwell (appropriate name for an archer) when he spotted a big snakehead in the lights. Dutch's aim was true and after a fairly intense struggle the fish was boated and they had their prize. A preliminary weight told them they really had something and therefore demanded a certified weight. The certified weight was 18.42 lbs and upon inspection by a fisheries biologist the new state record was declared. Maryland groups bow fishing and hook and line methods of capture together for invasive species state records for northern snakeheads, blue catfish and flathead catfish. As a side note if Dutch or someone else had caught this snakehead by hook and line, it very well could have been declared a new world record. Northern snakeheads are growing to huge sizes as evidenced by Dutch's fish and they are spreading rapidly throughout the Chesapeake Bay river systems so there are or will be shortly even larger snakeheads out there for some future angler to possible break the current world record northern snakehead record of 17 lbs, 12 oz caught in May of 2014 in a Virginia tributary to the Potomac River.

Photo courtesy of Dutch Baldwin, holding state record northern snakehead
Photo courtesy of Dutch Baldwin

Water temperatures in the Ocean City area will most likely reach the 70° mark this coming weekend and those warmer water temperatures are bringing in more varieties of fish. In the surf large striped bass are still being caught along with bluefish of various sizes, black drum and kingfish. Fresh menhaden or sand flea baits have been working well for the striped bass and black drum, finger mullet tends to be the better bait for bluefish. Bloodworms tend to be the preferred bait for the kingfish.

In and around the inlet tautog are being caught near the South Jetty and bulkheads or bridge piers inside the inlet on sand fleas and pieces of crab. Bluefish are moving through the inlet; spec rigs and Got-Cha plugs have been the best way to catch them. Striped bass are also in and around the inlet; they are being caught on swim shads, bucktails and live eels.

Flounder fishing is improving as more of them move through the inlet and into the back bays. Water clarity has been fairly good and warmer water temperatures on a falling tide help fishing success.

Outside the inlet bluefish and a few large striped bass are being caught by those trolling near the shoal areas and large bluefish are also being found farther offshore. Sea bass fishing has been very good and limit catches are common.

Photo courtesy of  Richard P. Gunion
Photo courtesy of Richard P. Gunion

This past weekend the offshore canyon fishery took a major leap forward with excellent catches coming from the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon. Large numbers of yellowfin tuna were caught along with some bigeye tuna. At least one blue marlin was released, several white marlin and one sailfish by the Ocean City fleet. A few nice size mako sharks were also brought to the docks along with good catches of dolphin.

"Every day I see the head of the largest trout I ever hooked, but did not land." - Theodore Gordon

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.