Maryland Fishing Report

March 29, 2017

Spring conditions throughout Maryland are presenting wonderful fishing opportunities as water temperatures steadily warm up and all manner of fish become more active. Except for some low flow conditions in a few areas, the opening day of the traditional trout season was a big success with beautiful weather and plenty of trout. Parents and children all had a wonderful time sharing in a meaningful experience together. Many children caught their first fish ever or their first trout and for many whether it was their first trout or one of many over the years it was all good fun. Jessica Richard is all smiles with her first trout landed on the second day of trout season on the Little Gunpowder while fishing with her dad.

Photo by Dave Richard

Reports from the lower Susquehanna River this week tell of stained water conditions and water temperatures around 40°. Farther south and in shallow waters out on the flats water temperatures can be as high as 46° on sunny days. A forecast of rain later on this week and continued snow melt in the Susquehanna watershed will probably keep water temperatures depressed for the remainder of the week. Crankbaits and jerkbaits with rattles inside might be one of the better choices for casting under stained water conditions; swimbaits are another good choice when catch and release fishing for striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats catch and release fishery. Since this is a catch and release fishery, mashing down the barbs on hooks or filing them down will go a long way in quickly releasing fish.

White perch are still providing plenty of entertainment in the upper bay tidal rivers and creeks. Water temperatures are in the upper 40's in most areas and white perch fishing continues to be good. Post-spawn white perch are becoming a more common catch this week mixing in with the pre-spawn perch. Shad darts, small jigs and bait such as minnows and worms have been popular choices. Crappie are often being found in the same areas as the white perch and can add a substantial portion to the catch. Channel catfish are very common in the upper bay tidal rivers and can be caught on worms or cut bait. John Horgan holds up a nice channel catfish he caught in Bush Creek while fishing with cut bait.

Photo courtesy John Horgan

Water temperatures in the middle and lower bay regions are holding around 46° this week. Windy conditions have kept most off the more open waters of the bay recently but calmer conditions will most likely bring out a few catch and release fishermen this coming weekend. Most will be jigging in order to enjoy the best part of catch and release fishing rather than trolling. Whichever type of tackle you use, be sure you use heavy enough tackle followed by a quick release.

Those who will be out trolling all manner of parachutes, bucktails and umbrella rigs will no doubt run into lion's mane jellyfish during this year's Spring Trophy Striped bass season. The lion's mane jellyfish begin their life cycle in the bay in late fall and develop into adults over the winter. They have an orange-brown center, short tentacles and are about 6" in diameter this time of the year. They begin their exit down the bay around now, and usually by May they are gone from our portion of the bay. Clearing fouled lines is a chore and often it is a busy cockpit that tends to have the best success when it comes to trolling.

Fishing for white perch continues to offer bountiful fishing opportunities in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers in the middle and lower bay regions. Water temperatures are in the mid 50's in most areas and although the white perch continue to spawn; this may be the last week of major spawning activity. Recent catches have been a mix of post- spawn and pre-spawn white perch. In many cases finding a spot with a deep hole can lead to the best catches of decent size white perch. Small jigs and shad darts are a favorite and minnows and worms on work well also.

Hickory shad are starting to show up in the upper reaches of tidal rivers such as the Choptank River and can offer some fun catch and release fishing opportunities. The area of Red Bridges between Greensboro and Goldsboro is always a great place to fish for both white perch and hickory shad. Shad darts tend to be one of the better choices when fishing for hickory shad.

Crappie fishing has been very good recently in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers throughout the state and also ponds and reservoirs. The crappie tend to be holding near sunken brush or similar structure such as marina docks and fallen tree tops. Slowly working small jigs or minnows under a slip bobber around some of this type of deep structure is a proven way to catch crappie and where there is one there is usually more. Jay Yesker shows what is possible when working a small jig under a float near structure for crappie. Jay was fishing at an Eastern Shore lake recently.

Photo by Jay Yesker

Channel catfish are very active and can be found in most of the tidal rivers feeding into the bay. Cut bait is a great way to catch them and catching a few small white perch on worms is a very good fresh cut bait to use. In the tidal Potomac River blue catfish are very active and provide plenty of action for those who fish for them.

After Saturday's traditional opener of closure 1 and 2 trout management waters, Maryland's trout fishing season is in full swing this week. Stocking crews on out working overtime to keep the flow of trout coming in the many put and take areas. There has been some adjustments due to low flow conditions in some waterways such as the lower Gunpowder River and other areas saw trout moving from stocking locations to find suitable water depths to their liking. All in all it was a beautiful day for the opener with balmy weather and plenty of smiling kids and happy parents. Trout fishermen can obtain notice of current stocking on the day they occur by checking the trout stocking website or by receiving notice on the Fisheries subscription service. The stockings are usually posted by mid-afternoon of the day they are completed. Brothers Matthew and Ryan Bishop got to go trout fishing with dad at Fishing Creek and judging by the smiles had a great time together.

Photo courtesy Sherry Bishop

The upper Potomac River is a little high this week but in good shape for fishing. Rain fall later on this week may cause water levels to increase further so it pays to keep an eye on weather conditions. At present fishing for smallmouth bass has been good and tubes tend to be the lure of choice. Walleye fishing has also been good.

Fishing for largemouth bass has been very good in the ponds, reservoirs and tidal waters of Maryland this week and will tend to be extremely good as the bass respond to warmer water temperatures and actively feed. Water temperatures are generally in the mid 50's in most areas and largemouth bass are holding in transition areas leading up to the shallower spawning areas. They tend to be holding near sunken wood and some of the emerging grass beds. Spinnerbaits are a great lure to use when trying to cover territory and when targeting sunken wood, soft plastics are hard to beat. Travis Franklin sent in this picture of a Lake Allen largemouth bass he caught recently.

Photo courtesy of Travis Franklin

The coastal waters in the Ocean City area are slowly beginning to warm up. At present nearshore water temperatures are about 43°. It will not be too long before tautog begin to move into the inlet area and provide some shoreline fishing opportunities. In the meantime there has been some catch and release action for striped bass in the back bay areas near the Route 90 Bridge. Most of the striped bass being caught are under 28" in length but do provide some fun fishing opportunities. Swimbaits and bucktails tend to be the best choices when fished near the bottom.

Offshore fishing is focused mostly on tautog fishing near the wreck and reef sites. The charter and head boats are reporting fair to good catches on most days.

"There is no substitute for fishing sense and if a man doesn't have it, verily, he may cast like an angel and still use his creel largely to transport sandwiches and beer." - Robert Traver
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Keith Lockwood

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.