Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | June 03, 2015



We often consider our fishing buddies to be a special type of friend, usually because we often spend the best of times together in a type of brotherhood. Good fishing friends are a special lot and many of us have weeded through fishing partners over the years that didn't quite match up perfectly. Sometimes it is attitude, maybe ethics, being on the same page together and being able to read each other or just someone who loves to have a good fun time no matter what is going on. When you do find those special fishing buddies in your life, relish them and enjoy every minute of fishing together whether you catch fish or not. We all know nothing lasts forever and when we lose a fishing buddy who we've shared so much with; we are only left with the memories of fish and good times together and those memories are eternal. Hawaiian home boy charter captain and fun loving fishing buddy, Randy Llanes will be missed by all who knew or ever fished with him.

The Conowingo Dam has been on a late afternoon power generation schedule for a while now but recently the am water releases from the dam have been very low making for relatively calm waters in the dam pool and lower Susquehanna River. It has been a wonderful time to cast surface lures and crankbaits for striped bass and to fish swim shads deep for large flathead catfish. White perch are still being caught in the river on small jigs and the perch are beginning to fan out into upper bay areas near Havre de Grace to Turkey Point. This opens up a fun summer fishery of casting to shoreline structure with lures such as ¼ ounce spinners or small jigs or even fishing bait. This same area is also an open game now for striped bass fishing and some very nice fish can be found along the shorelines during the morning and evening hours. Casting surface poppers is always the most fun way to fish for striped bass in shallow waters but soft plastics and crankbaits can be good choices, especially near drop-offs. As always there are plenty of channel catfish in the region to entertain those fishing close to the bottom. Dylan Nickoles holds up a big flathead catfish he caught at the Conowingo Dam pool.


Photo Courtesy of Dylan Nickoles

A little farther down the bay in the areas near Rock Hall chumming has become very popular lately. Traditional locations such as Swan Point and Love Point have been offering good fishing. Often the larger striped bass are caught early in the morning and close to the bottom far back in the chum slick. These large fish tend to sit back and pick up pieces of bait and chum as they fall to the bottom. This type of fishing does come with some inheritable responsibilities due to the number of throwbacks encountered. There are a large number of 2011 year class striped bass in the region that are unfortunately just below the 20" minimum mandated by the ASMC to reach the 25% catch reduction by Maryland fishermen. Please consider and learn how to use circle hooks and if using J style hooks keep a tight line to set the hook as early as possible and do not use the bait runner feature on spinning reels. Allowing slack line or giving fish time to swallow a bait will often result in deep hooking of fish which increases mortality. Anyone chumming and using cut bait should also have dehooking devices on hand and know how to use them. Additionally, I wrote a catch & release article previously with helpful information on handling fish. It is hoped we will have a strong year class in the 2015 young of the year but at the moment most of our future fishing for striped bass relies on the 2011 year class, please help to protect it.

Trolling continues to be a viable option in the upper bay region along channel edges. Most boats are trolling with medium sized bucktails and swim shads either in tandem or behind umbrella rigs with inline weights. At the Bay Bridge striped bass can be caught by trolling or jigging near the bridge piers and some are also chunking up current of the bridge piers and catching striped bass.

In the middle bay region the channel edge at the Hill which is at the mouth of Eastern Bay has been very popular. At times it would seem a person could hardly find a place to anchor up. If you arrive late it can be hard to find a place to anchor up without receiving stink eye or worse from someone who is already invested in a chum slick. If you are trolling don't even go near the fleet; it just a simple matter of common courtesy. Often one can find a channel edge to chum or troll north of the fleet inside of Bloody Point or over at Thomas Point, Hackett's or south near Buoy 83 and the Clay Banks. Those who are trolling are using a mixed spread of bucktails and swim shads in tandem or behind umbrella rigs with a few large bucktails or parachutes just in case a large striped bass is encountered. The western side of the shipping channel has been a good place to troll as well as the edges near the Diamonds and False Channel on the eastern side of the bay. Clare Siebert was trolling the western edge of the shipping channel with her brother when she caught this fine looking 40" striped bass recently to prove it is still worthwhile to put some large lures in a trolling spread.


Photo Courtesy of Clare Siebert

Spot have arrived in the lower bay and as their number increase they will move up into the middle bay region. Once this occurs most everyone will be switching to live lining and leave the chum ladle at the dock. Spot are being caught in the lower Choptank this week and no doubt they are showing up at other tidal rivers in the region. Croakers have arrived and are being caught in the lower Choptank up to Cambridge. Most often the best bait to catch spot are bloodworms and croaker can be caught on peeler crab, shrimp or small strip baits from spot. As can be expected the best croaker fishing is occurring at dusk when the croakers move from the deeper channel areas onto adjacent shoal areas to feed. Finding a croaker over 10" has been tough so far this season but there seems to be plenty of them.

The shallow water fishery for striped bass and white perch is in full swing and the month of June presents one of the better times to fish the shallows before high water temperatures turn this fishery into a pre- sunrise and post- sunset affair. Popper or similar type surface lures are the favorite for striped bass due to the entertainment factor and fouling grass below the surface. Spinners, small jigs and Clouser type flies are a good choice for white perch. White perch and kids just naturally go together; they are plentiful and take baits such as bloodworms readily. Young Ashton reeled this one in all by himself but let his uncle do the handling part as he looks at those dorsal spines.


Photo Courtesy of Matthew Page

The lower bay region has a lot of fishing opportunities this week as striped bass fishing picks up the pace and the first bluefish begin arriving. Striped bass are being found from the shallows along tidal river and bay shorelines to the deeper channel edges in the rivers and bay. Trolling a mix of bucktails and swim shads has been popular and the swim shads will soon be replaced with spoons as bluefish become more common in the region. The steep edges of the shipping channel continue to be a good place to target as are the channel edges in the lower Potomac off St. George's Island and Piney Point. A few boats are chumming at the mouth of the Potomac, at the Rock Piles north of Point Lookout and the Buoy 72 area. Some enterprising anglers are beginning to explore traditional sites such as Cove Point to live line spot. There is plenty of good light tackle fishing at places like Cedar Point for striped bass and jigging is beginning to come into its own when striped bass can be found suspended under bait.

Croaker fishing has been very good in the lower Patuxent River and lower Potomac River this week. The fishing pier under the Route 4 Bridge in Solomons is a good place for shore bound anglers to get in on the action. The wharf at Bushwood and the ferry pier at Colton Point are great places to fish in the lower Potomac. In the lower Potomac blue catfish are also a major part of the catch and provide good eating. A recent spawning study by Fisheries Service biologists revealed that between 10% and 15% of a spawning blue catfish's weight is eggs.

On the eastern side of the bay the first speckled trout are being caught along the marsh cuts and creek mouths by casting Gulp mullet baits or drifting soft crab or peeler crab baits. The Tangier and Pocomoke Sound areas are holding plenty of croaker now along with white perch and spot. There has also been some catch and release Red Drum action going on just north of the Target Ship. At times the schools of large red drum can be spotted by mud slicks as they root along the bottom and casting soft plastic jigs is the ticket for some fun action with these big fish. Trolling large spoons is another tactic that will help cover a lot of water when the fish are spread out.

Recreational crabbing continues to slowly proceed; water temperatures are warming up and as crabs molt, more and more crabs will become legal size. The lower Eastern Shore continues to provide the best crabbing opportunities. Recreational crabbing is reported to be very slow in the middle bay region tidal creeks and rivers on the western shore.

A recent survey of fish populations in Deep Creek Lake by Fisheries Service crews found some encouraging news concerning largemouth bass populations in the lake. The survey showed improvement in the numbers of largemouth bass encountered while electro-fishing. The largemouth bass within Deep Creek Lake are now finished spawning and are beginning to hold near deeper grass at the mouths of the shallower coves and also holding under or near floating docks. Smallmouth bass are also holding near floating docks and rocky areas.

The upper Potomac River is providing plenty of smallmouth bass action this week; most of the smallmouth bass are in the 12" size range but there are larger bass to be found near current breaks, ledges and large rock areas. Flathead catfish are being more commonly caught behind some of the dams and recent electro-fishing surveys in the C&O Canal by Fisheries Service crews revealed at least one northern snakehead which opens up the probability that they can or have already accessed the upper Potomac. Richard Norris wears his lucky fishing hat and holds up a really nice smallmouth bass he caught and released on the upper Potomac recently.


Photo Courtesy of Richard Norris

Trout fishing in the western region of Maryland remains very good this week and anglers who fish the catch and release areas are enjoying some wonderful action and quality fishing. The scheduled stocking of trout for the 2015 spring season has finished in the central region as water temperatures increase. There is still plenty of quality fishing to be had for those who seek out some quiet time on waters like the upper Gunpowder. In the future catch and release anglers may have something to look forward to in the Patapsco River. The fish restoration and enhancement program of the Fisheries Service has stocked over 1 million hickory shad fry in the Patapsco in an effort to restore spawning hickory shad populations there.

Largemouth bass are providing fishing opportunities across the Maryland landscape in the smallest ponds to the largest reservoirs and tidal waters. The largemouth bass are spreading out from the spawning areas looking for food near grass and submerged structure. Small baitfish and crawfish are the number one items on the menu but as most know; frogs, small snakes, mice and even baby ducks will do for a meal. Surface lures provide the most fun strikes in the mornings and evenings and soft plastic fished in the grass when the sun is higher in the sky are usually the best options this time of the year.

The Ocean City area continues to host a large bluefish presence this week and most everyone is enjoying the action in the surf and inlet. The thing with large bluefish is though that after a while they can tend to wear out their welcome as they chomp up precious baits meant for striped bass or expensive trolling lures or shark baits or even sea bass being reeled to the surface offshore. As most veteran anglers know the small ones are great if iced immediately and the larger ones are good smoked or okay if smothered in mayonnaise, Italian salad dressing, marinara sauce or other favorite concoctions. Bluefish are of course noted for their total abandonment when attacking a fishermen's tackle and really give a good fight. They are being caught in the surf on menhaden baits or finger mullet and in the inlet on Got Cha lures, metal and anything else that looks good to eat to them.

There have been some impressive large striped bass being caught in the surf recently and the annual spring run is not over. Kingfish and small black drum are being caught in the surf and there are also some inshore sharks to offer some heavy duty catch and release action.

The winds have died down and clearer water conditions inside the inlet and coastal bays are doing much to improve the flounder fishing this week. Tautog are being caught around the Route 50 Bridge area.

Outside the inlet and farther offshore sea bass fishing has been fair to good with a mix of cod, tautog and flounder rounding things out. Kenneth Westerfeld's Maryland State Record 28 lb,, 13 oz. tautog has recently been recognized by the IGFA as the all tackle world record; congratulations to Ken. As a note after meeting Ken and verifying the catch in Ocean City; I did not wash the fish smell from my hands till I got home. I kept smelling the fragrance of that mighty fish all the way back to the Oxford Fisheries Lab.


Photo Photo by Kane Bounds

There has been good fishing for a variety of sharks along some of the 30 Fathom spots by those chumming and watching balloons bob in a chum slick. A mix of blue sharks, mako, dusky and thresher sharks have been caught and at least one swordfish. Out at the canyons small to medium sized yellowfin tuna are being caught along with a mix of dolphin, bigeye tuna, white marlin and blue marlin.

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." - Jacques Yves Cousteau

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.