Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | December 12, 2012

As the 2012 striped bass season approaches the December 15th closure fishermen have been enjoying an upsurge in success for large fall migrant striped bass and fish less than 28" all in deep water and recently in foggy wet conditions. Rich Watts sent in this picture of the kayak fleet this past weekend out at the center span of the Bay Bridge. As one looks at this picture and thinks of the fog, cold water and of course very deep water the mariner's verse of "the sea is so great and my boat so small" definitely comes to mind.

Photo by Rich Watts

Traditionally the weekly fishing reports take a break at the closure of the Chesapeake Bay striped bass season and there will be a pause until the New Year begins. In the meantime get in your last licks of fishing for the 2012 fishing season; there is good striped bass fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and will still be open through December and there are still plenty of freshwater and tidal fishing opportunities. Try to keep your fingers warm and may your boots be warm and not leak.

Fishermen in the upper bay have been enjoying good fishing for striped bass in the lower Susquehanna and at the mouths of the Elk, Sassafras and Chester Rivers as well as the Baltimore Harbor area. Most fishermen are finding the striped bass holding deep along steep channel edges and lumps with depth finders. Jigging with metal or soft plastics is perhaps the most popular method but trolling deep with Rat-L-Traps, umbrella rigs and swim shads can also be effective. There are a lot of striped bass being reported in the 10" to 17" size range but larger fish can be found. At the Bay Bridge fishermen continue to jig in very deep water around the rock piles and bridge piers but are mostly catching striped bass less than 18" as well as white perch and recently small puppy drum. Water temperatures on the bottom are holding around 65-degrees as compared to 47-degrees on the surface. Ted Kolobow holds up a small red drum that should be thinking about heading south instead of hanging out at the Bay Bridge.

Photo by Rich Watts

Middle bay region fishermen are reporting that good concentrations of striped bass larger than 18" are hard to find in many traditional areas. Striped bass are holding deep, often in 50' of water or more along channel edges and holes. Jigging is popular but a lot of fishermen are now trolling deep with a mix of bucktails, swim shads and umbrella rigs. Heavy inline weights are being used and although it is little fun dragging an umbrella rig with inline weights and a striped bass to the stern of the boat, this is often what is needed to put fish in the boat now. Most fishermen are trolling the steep channel edges around Bloody Point and the western shipping channel edge south of Breezy Point with a spread of medium sized lures and the big stuff for the large fall migrant striped bass. The success rate for the larger fish picked up last week and more than a few charter and private boats reported limiting out on big fish. Most of the large striped bass are in the 32" to 36" size range with a few whoppers in the 40" to 50" category.

For the last week the lower bay region fishing community has been a buzz with fish stories of successful trips for large fall migrant striped bass out along the shipping channel edges and similar channels in the Tangier Sound area and the lower Potomac. The success rate for boats out trolling the channel edges increased dramatically early last week and continues this week. Captains are finding good fishing near traditional locations such as Cove Point, Point-No-Point, Buoys 72, 77, the HI Buoy and up the Potomac River near St. Clement's and St. George's Islands. Large parachutes, bucktails and swim shads in tandem or behind umbrella rigs with inline weights to get them down to depths of 50' are being employed. Striped bass less than 28" can be found in most areas and trolling spreads usually have a few medium sized lures to cover all the bases. Dylan Oversmith was fishing with his parents and sister when he caught this nice striped bass near the HS Buoy while trolling.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Oversmith

Fishermen in all regions of the bay have been finding white perch holding deep in the lower sections of the tidal rivers as well as out in the bay. Most fishermen are using 2 hook bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. Often the depths fished can be as deep as 70' which is where the warmer water is and the reason white perch are holding there.

Freshwater fishermen in the western region of the state are enjoying good fishing for a mix of walleyes and smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River and Deep Creek Lake. Trout fishing has been good in the trout management waters with plenty of elbow room for anglers.

Largemouth bass fishermen are finding their fishing tougher as water temperatures drop and largemouth bass slip into their winter mode of behavior of hunkering down in deep water near structure. Deep jigging with grub type jigs or blade lures is usually the standard practice for enticing largemouth to pick up a lure. The pick ups are usually subtle; often the lure just hangs up; nearly everyone agrees that braided line helps in the sensitivity department and line drag in current. Crappie are a big draw this time of the year as they school up near deep structure in reservoirs and lakes or marina docks in tidal waters. Chain pickerel are very active in numerous lakes, ponds and tidal waters throughout the state. Carp, channel catfish can offer good fishing opportunities this time of the year and the comfort of bank fishing. Blue catfish are a big draw in the Fort Washington area of the tidal Potomac and can offer some exciting fishing. Robert Bruce sent in an angler's log and a picture of this big blue catfish.

Photo courtesy of Robert Bruce

Ocean City fishermen have been focusing their attention on the striped bass that are migrating down the coast this week. Surf fishermen are picking away at them with cut menhaden baits and of course dogfish, skates and a few sting rays are also part of the mix. Striped bass are also being caught at the inlet on swim shads and live eels but the best fishing opportunities for striped bass lay outside the inlet and within 3-miles of the beaches. Boats are trolling along the shoal areas with umbrella rigs with large bucktails and parachutes as trailers or Stretch plugs. Fishermen are also drifting live eels close to the bottom with very good success.

"'All the wisdom in the world is centered in the diamondback', the Old Man said. 'Well, even today, as poor as everyone is, with the depression and all, a terrapin stew costs you ten dollars a quart. In a hotel it'll cost you three-fifty a plate if you can get it at all. This means that I couldn't buy it, even if I could eat it. And I can't eat it, because it's too rich, for one thing and another reason is that you have to make it with a decent sherry wine. And if you could buy it the doctors say it would be bad for my blood pressure or something. So between scarcity, poverty, Prohibition and gout, I am not a candidate for any terrapin stew. It shows you the futility of living too long.' " - Robert Ruark, The Old Man and The Boy


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.