Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | December 10, 2014



Although we are still a week and a half from the official start of winter; no one has to be reminded that it is cold out there. For fishermen the wind and rain have been two of the peskiest problems to deal with. Water temperatures are in the 40F range in most freshwater and marine water areas so an accidental plunge into the water can be a life threatening experience very quickly, so be careful out there.

Lately it has become more difficult to find striped bass in the lower Susquehanna and Elk River area as water temperatures dip to the 40F mark. Striped bass are moving to deeper waters to find some relief and their metabolism is slowing down so they might not even bite when a jig is right in front of their face. There has been some action reported in some of the deeper channel areas at the 50' mark.

The Fisheries Service Artificial Reef Program (MARI) and McLean Contracting deployed approximately 1,000 tons of 2’ to 5’ granite boulders at the Love Point Fish Haven last week, which is located 1.8 miles NNE of Love Point. Program coordinator Erik Zlokovitz reported that they did their best to build up a 3’ to 7’ reef profile over a ¾ acre area in the southeast corner of the fish haven site where the bottom was firmer. This should be a great spot to check out next year since all Maryland fishermen also know their beloved striped bass as “rockfish” due to their propensity for structure such as rocks or in this case boulders.


Photos courtesy of Erik Zlokovitz

Trolling deep with a mix of bucktails, parachutes and swim shads in the upper bay has been described as a 'slow pick" by the few boats that are braving cold weather and dodging brisk winds. Deep channel edges of 40' to 60' have been the target zone so plenty of weight is needed. The shipping channel edges near the Bay Bridge have been holding striped bass and they can be spotted on depth finders. Getting them to bite can be another story; at times a switch in tide is all that is needed to make the difference. Striped bass under 30" in size are close to the point where they are not interested in feeding due to cold water temperatures. Their metabolism slows down and it is difficult for them to digest their food since they are cold blooded. It is not uncommon this time of the year when fish can be spotted stacked up in about 55' of water to accidently snag more than a few when jigging for them. Brian Ziotorzynski managed to entice these two nice striped bass to hit while trolling parachutes and bucktails deep last week.


Photo Courtesy of Brian Ziotorzynski

Striped bass fishing in the middle and lower bay regions has been on hold a bit for the last five days due to stiff winds and rough water conditions; hopefully that will change soon. The boats that do go out will be trolling deep with a mixed spread of large parachutes and bucktails along with medium sized lures. This is also a very good time of the year to have plenty of hull under you for safety and comfort and a heated cabin is pretty hard to beat. The Fisheries Service maintains a web site with a map of licensed charterboats and fishing guides while the Maryland Charterboat Association also maintains a website with charterboat fleets, boats and captains listed by region at www.marylandcharterboats.com/

A few large fall migrant striped bass continue to be caught in all regions of the bay but they are few and far between. They are out there though and it only takes one to spark up anyone's day. A call today to Smith Point Virginia mirrored the same type of action and they reported that their charterboats have been heading south to the mouth of the Rappahannock.

Weather permitting some fishermen will find striped bass suspended along channel edges in the middle and lower bay regions often in 50' of water or better. The fish have left the tidal rivers for the most part except perhaps the lower part of the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. There were reports of breaking fish in Tangier Sound and around the Point Lookout/ Smith Point area before the weather set in. It will be any fishermen's reward if they are lucky enough to spot such action. As most know the Maryland season goes out next Monday the 15th; Virginia's striped bass season ends December 31st. Paul Musser managed to get out last week for some trolling in the Point Lookout area and it only took this one nice large striped bass to make the trip worthwhile.


Photo Courtesy of Paul Musser

Cold temperatures in western Maryland are causing ice to form on Deep Creek Lake and other area impoundments and those looking forward to ice fishing are watching with great intent as ice forms in coves and main lake areas. Fisheries biologists surveyed walleye recruitment prospects in the lake recently and found that the 2014 walleye year class reproduction was "moderate".

There is still plenty of good trout fishing in many of the trout management waters this week, just don't forget to dress warm and bring fingerless gloves. Fisheries biologists recently stocked 2,000 brown trout fingerlings as part of the Muddy Creek Restoration efforts and also deposited 12 tons of lime to alleviate acidic conditions during spring run-off events. Muddy Creek is a tributary of the Youghiogheny River.

The upper Potomac water levels have improved but with that, have also come stained water conditions and lots of pesky lure fouling leaves swirling in the river currents. Walleyes tend to be the main target this time of the year. Recent walleye surveys have revealed that the contribution of hatchery stocked fingerings to the walleye young of the year in the upper Potomac was 38% in 2014 and 57% in 2013 suggesting significant contribution to the overall year class strength. Fisheries biologists will continue brood fish collection and stocking of hatchery reared walleye fingerlings in 2015.

Largemouth Bass are now firmly entrenched into their winter mode of behavior and are sulking in deeper waters often near some kind of structure. They will be spending the next 3 months or so living on their fat reserves but can be enticed to pick up a small bait close to the bottom at times. Small soft plastic jigs or blade lures are a good choice when worked close to the bottom and very slowly. Often a pick up will feel like a snag at first as the lure just comes to a stop. Chain pickerel are another story this time of the year, they love the cold water and remain very active. Casting a variety of small lures in open ponds, lakes or the upper reaches of tidal rivers and creeks can offer some fun fishing.

Channel catfish can offer a lot of fun fishing this week and are still active in the colder waters. The lower Susquehanna and nearby tidal rivers all hold excellent populations of channel catfish as does tidal rivers farther south such as the Chester, Choptank, Nanticoke and Patuxent rivers. Most any kind of fresh cut bait, nightcrawlers or chicken liver make good baits. On the tidal Potomac when it comes to catfish; the blue catfish can be found in great numbers from the Wilson Bridge area south to the confluence with the Wicomico River. Some warm clothes, fresh baits and sturdy fishing gear is all that is needed. If fishing from a small boat this time of the year a suitable PFD can be a real life saver in the cold river waters if one happens to fall in. Bill Boteler and two of his fishing buddies headed out recently on the tidal Potomac to catch a mess of blue catfish in short order. Check out his angler's log of December 8th.


Photo Courtesy of Bill Boteler

Anticipation has been running high for weeks now along the Ocean City beaches and near shore waters for the arrival of migrating striped bass. Many have already arrived at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay but finally surf casters and boats within 3-miles of shore began catching fish last week. Surf casters are using traditional bottom rigs baited with menhaden with the head being the most durable under the onslaught of dogfish and skates. Casting plugs can be very effective and active fun since there is a certain amount of pleasure of casting into the surf. Striped bass are being caught in the Ocean City Inlet by those drifting live eels at night and casting a variety of lures. Boats have been trolling large parachutes and Stretch crankbaits along the shoal areas, jigging over concentrations of fish or drifting live eels.

Farther offshore sea bass fishing remains excellent on many of the wreck and reef sites. Many are jigging with metal besides using traditional baits. Large bluefish can frequent some of the sites and are up to their old habits of chomping sea bass being reeled to the surface. Revenge and fodder for the smoker can be had by having another outfit rigged with a hook and wire trace; just send the head back down and collect payment due.

Fishermen wishing to register their award certificate size striped bass, sea bass or bluefish at AKE Marine will notice that they are closed till the new owners decide operations. There are several locations in the Ocean City area to register your fish and qualify for next year's awards and certificates. Here is a list of award centers for the Ocean City area.

"One thing you will learn", the old man said, talking at me "is that you must never be lazy in front of anybody. Loafing is fine, but energetic people get mad at you if you take it easy in front of them. That's why fishing was invented, really. It takes you away from the view of industrious people. Lazy men make the best fishermen and they usually amount to something in the end, because they have time enough to unclutter their brains and get down to real flat basics". - Robert Ruark, The Old Man And The Boy.

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.