Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | November 18, 2015



As we move past the middle of November it is not hard to notice that there are fewer and fewer fellow anglers to be seen whether we are fishing the western region of Maryland or the bay and coastal waters. Colder weather is settling in and fewer boats can be seen out on the bay or places like Deep Creek Lake. There is still plenty of good fishing to be found and for some species; this is one of the best times of the year to pursue them. Make sure to get out for a few more doses of fishing to carry you over on those cold winter days.

Upper bay water temperatures continue to drop lower into the 50's and the fisheries are changing and adjusting to the cooler temperatures. Water clarity has been very good and has been a benefit for all types of fishing. White perch are schooling up on some of the deeper shoal and reef areas in the bay and tidal rivers; yellow perch are more active as are channel catfish. Eldridge Watts holds up a nice upper bay yellow perch for the camera that he caught on a shad dart and bobber combo.


Photo by Rich Watts

Striped bass are at the top of the list and there are good opportunities in the mouths of the tidal rivers and along main channels in the bay. This is the time of the year when a depth finder is perhaps one of your best tools for locating suspended fish. Diving sea gulls and breaking fish are always a welcomed sight for some fun action but being able to read more subtle signs can pay big dividends when trying to put some nice fish in the boat. Birds sitting on the water, slicks and watching a depth finder for tell tale signs can put you onto suspended fish. Steep channel edges and structure near stiff current locations and prominent deep water points are worth checking out also. In the fall jigging is a light tackle favorite when suspended fish can be located; metal jigs, soft plastic jigs will do the job. There is a wide variety of jigs available and everyone has their favorites; Crippled Herrings, Stingsilvers, BKDs, Bass Assassins, paddletails to name a few. All will give you better sensitivity when using braid and a fast action rod.

Trolling is another option that can really pay off when fish are spread thin. Umbrella rigs trolled behind inline weights are hard to beat but trolling swim shads and crankbaits along edges in the tidal rivers is also a good tactic.

In the upper bay the striped bass action starts at the Conowingo Dam pool and fish are spread throughout the region down to the Bay Bridge. The mouths of the tidal rivers have all been good places to check as striped bass tend to station there, intercepting bait coming out of the tidal rivers. The Baltimore Harbor and Key Bridge area has been a great place to fish lately as has the Hart-Miller Island area and the mouth of the Magothy. Drifting live eels near the Key Bridge piers and the rocks near Hart-Miller has been popular. The Middle River was hit with a pretty bad toxic algae fish kill last week but most of the problems tended to be in the mid to upper river areas. The fish kill is being attributed to the release of toxins by dinoflagellate algae as the algae decomposed. The Bay Bridge piers and rock piles have been holding good concentrations of striped bass and white perch. Jigging, drifting live eels have been perhaps the most popular styles of fishing there. The white perch are often holding very deep at the rock piles so a heavy jig and dropper fly is needed to get into position in the stiff currents.

In the middle bay region there are striped bass spread throughout the entire region down to the southern region. At times the action can be spotty, and hours will be spent motoring from one traditional location to another watching a depth finder and scanning the horizon for birds. The Eastern Bay area and the lower Choptank River tend to be fairly reliable and the Severn and West Rivers can also be good. The main channels in the bay are a popular place to troll umbrella rigs to pick away at fish and when a concentration can be found the action can be pretty frantic.

It is hard to speak about in the bay during the fall months without focusing on jigging, especially if you love light tackle and are in a small boat. Metal or soft plastic jigs and fast action rods and reels loaded with braid are the tools of the trade. The water temperatures in the middle bay area are falling and are around 56° today and cooler in the tidal rivers. The water clarity is amazing and it is not uncommon to be able to see 10' to 12' down in most areas. The striped bass are at their fittest, this time of the year; fat, beautifully colored and aggressive. Retired fisheries biologist Steve Early is all smiles as he holds up a beautiful example of a fall striped bass he caught yesterday in the lower Choptank River.


Photo by Matt Mahoney

White perch are schooling up in deep water in the lower sections of the tidal rivers often on oyster reefs. Jigging with a jig and a dropper fly or a sinker with two dropper flies is a good way to catch them as does a bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworms.

The lower bay region offers a lot of fishing opportunities this week for striped bass over a wide area. The eastern side of the bay from Hooper's Island to Pocomoke Sound has been holding good numbers of striped bass. The water clarity is extremely good and fishermen report watching striped bass coming up from the depths to strike surface lures or swim shads. There are still small sea trout being caught in the Tangier Sound area and out to the Middle Grounds. The spurt of bluefish that were present on the Middle Grounds seem to have headed south and the area has settled down to schools of striped bass and sea trout.

On the western side of the bay striped bass fishing has been good in the lower Potomac and at the mouth of the Patuxent River as well as channel edges along the shipping channel. Breaking fish are being encountered in many locations and most of the surface action is small striped bass. Jigging underneath though will often result in a larger class of striped bass being found. There is also the possibility of running into a school of sea trout holding deep such as this one that hit a metal jig.


Photo courtesy of 123 Fishing Rigs

Trolling is a popular way to fish this week for striped bass and umbrella rigs trailing bucktails and swim shads have been an effective way to fish the channel edges in the lower Potomac and out in the bay. In a couple of weeks larger bucktails dressed with sassy shads will be part of most captains trolling spread in the hope that some of the southerly migrating striped bass will take a right hand turn and come up the bay; time will tell.

White perch fishing continues to be very good in the lower Patuxent River and selected spots in the lower Potomac. The perch are holding in about 30' of water on hard bottom such as oyster reefs. Jigging or bottom fishing with bloodworms is the way to put some in the boat. A good depth finder is a great asset when trying to set up on the perch.

There are many freshwater fishing opportunities this week in western Maryland; at Deep Creek Lake the fishing in the upper parts of the lake have been good for a mix of largemouth and smallmouth bass. The entrance to coves is a good place to fish for northern pike and yellow perch can be caught on minnows under a slip bobber or by working small jerkbaits. Walleye are beginning to come close to steep rocky shorelines towards dusk and casting jerkbaits is a good way to fish for them.

The trout management waters are offering good fishing and plenty of room for anglers this week. Many of the catch and release areas are holding excellent numbers of trout to add fun to anyone's fishing experience. The put and take areas also continue to hold trout for those willing to cover some water to look for them. Streamers, nymphs and spinners are all good choices. Jordan Peters caught and released this beautiful rainbow trout on the North Branch of the Potomac near Barnum.


Photo courtesy of Jordan Peters

Fishing for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River has been good this week and the walleye action is starting to pick up as water temperatures drop. There is also good smallmouth bass and walleye action to be had in the lower Susquehanna River. Tubes, jigs and swim shads worked close to the bottom near ledges and rock structure will get you in the zone for smallmouth bass and walleye.

Largemouth bass fishing is a good choice this week as the bass are busy feeding and building up fat stores for the winter. The shallow grass beds are broken up for the most part and the migration of baitfish and crayfish to deeper cover is underway. The largemouth bass can be found in transition areas leading to deeper water where they are picking off prey. Slowly retrieved spinnerbaits close to the bottom and jigs and crankbaits that resemble crayfish will be good choices to fish in these areas.

Chain pickerel are very active when the water gets cold and they can offer a lot of fun fishing near depleting grass beds and lily pad fields. A variety of lures will work and mashing down the barbs on the treble hooks will help with unhooking these toothy critters and will be a little kinder to the pickerel. Chain pickerel are one of those fish like brook trout who crash baits with total abandon and often get hooked fairly hard.

Yellow perch are very active in the tidal rivers and creeks of the Chesapeake and offer some fun fishing and fine eating. Channel catfish are very active and can be found in most tidal rivers and a few reservoirs such as Piney Run. Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac is as good as ever this week and it is not hard to have a lot of fun catching these hard fighting fish and the mild white meat freezes well. Crappie are schooled up near deep cover such as marina piers, bridge piers and sunken brush. This nice "slab sized" crappie was caught in a small tributary to the tidal Potomac.


Photo courtesy of Steve Goldberg

Ocean City area anglers have plenty to keep them entertained this week in regards to fishing. Tautog are solidly settled in around the Route 50 Bridge and inlet area and can be caught on pieces of green crab and sand fleas. Large striped bass and bluefish are making their way into Maryland waters and the tempo will really begin to pick up shortly. The fall migration of large bluefish is underway and they are being caught along the beaches, along shoals and out at the sea bass wrecks and reefs. These are the big fat boys that are chomping their way south through schools of menhaden and any other hapless food source that comes their way. These big bluefish are also known to attack hooked sea bass as they are being reeled up from reefs and wrecks. Earlier this week a 24.8 lb bluefish and pending new Delaware state record was caught off of Delaware at the Del-Jersey-Land Reef site, which includes the sunken hull of the U.S.S. Radford. Maryland, New Jersey, and Delware all participated in the tri-state joint project to sink the Radford about 29 miles east of Fenwick Island, slightly above the Maryland/Delaware state line. Reports from my old fishing buddies off New Jersey have the large striped bass migration solid in their midst. They spoke of large schools of menhaden being hit by bluefish and striped bass and a few bluefin tuna and humpback whales joining in. I have urged them to hurry these fish along south since we do the same for them in the spring. Already a few large striped bass have been caught at the Ocean City Inlet and on Fenwick Shoals and in the surf.

The boats heading out to the reef and wreck sites have been doing very well on sea bass and limit catches are common. A few flounder are being caught and large bluefish can move in and take over the party at times.

"I carry fewer flies each year and less gear. Each year I watch a little more, fish a lttle less. My experience with a fly rod, such as it is, fails to improve much." - Christopher Camuto

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.