Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 07, 2015

After all of the weather we've had recently, those getting out on the open waters of Maryland will most likely feel like explorers since everything is changing as all of our fisheries respond to cooler water temperatures. Most fish are becoming very active as they feel the need to feed and prepare for colder temperatures. This is a wonderful time of the year to get out and fish and enjoy the outdoors.

At the very top of the upper bay near the mouth of the Susquehanna River water temperatures are around 66°, and as would be expected the water is stained. The Conowingo Dam is producing am and pm high volume water releases making for some tough fishing in the lower river. Out near the flats there should be some striped bass action around the edges of the flats and shoreline structure in the morning and evening hours. Now that the bay waters have settled down striped bass should be hungry and roaming freely chasing schools of bait so jigging and casting will be popular.

Areas around Baltimore Harbor and traditional channel edges down the bay towards the Bay Bridge will begin to light up this week. It has been a turbulent week and a half and fish and bait are feeling the difference in water temperatures and the fall fishing model is quickly coming into play. Breaking fish have become more common and this is a fun time for light tackle jigging and casting. The striped bass are feeding heavily and are filling out to become the beautifully colored and thick shouldered fish that signify fall fishing on the Chesapeake. Make sure your reels are spooled with braid and you have a good supply of your favorite jigs on hand.

Trolling a mixed spread of spoons, bucktails and surge tube lures behind inline weights or planers is a good option this week and many will start using umbrella rigs. There are still bluefish around in the upper bay so umbrellas rigged with hookless spoons on the spreaders will be the more common presentation until the bluefish are gone.

Fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers and shoal areas in the upper bay has been good this week and many found places to tuck into a lee shore during the recent blow to find plenty of action. Small jigs and bottom rigs baited with peeler crab or bloodworms have been popular baits. Fishing for channel catfish has also been good in the tidal rivers and the upper reaches of the bay. Kristen Wolfe holds up a really nice Patapsco River white perch.

Photo courtesy Kristen Wolfe

The Bay Bridge area has been a good place to fish for a mix of striped bass and bluefish so far this week. The bridge piers are holding striped bass and bluefish are in the area. Jigging near the bridge piers is very popular and drifting a live eel is a great way to catch a nice grade of striped bass. The striped bass and bluefish have also been working over schools of bait and keeping an eye out for diving birds or slicks is a great way to get in on some fun action. There are a lot of small striped bass in the mix but frequently larger fish will be underneath.

In the middle bay region a mix of striped bass and bluefish are chasing bait throughout the region this week. The first to get out this week on the bay and tidal rivers are finding breaking fish over a wide area. Many of the bluefish are in the 18" size range which makes for fine eating. Reports from Eastern Bay tell of large areas of breaking fish made up of sub-legal striped bass in the 14" to 16" size range but larger ones can be found at times. There is also good white perch fishing in the Eastern Bay area for those using bottom rigs baited with clams, peeler crab or bloodworms. The Kent Narrows continues to also be an excellent place to catch white perch this week.

Water temperatures in the middle bay region are approximately 65° and salinities are holding around 17 parts per thousand, which is pretty high considering most areas in the region received 5" or more of rain last week. It would appear that a lot of the rain soaked in quickly due to dry soil conditions at least on the eastern side of the bay since water clarity looks fairly good in many areas.

Those venturing out on the bay this week should look for breaking fish along some of the steeper channel edges where stiff tidal currents are sweeping schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden along. Striped bass tend to be suspended along these edges or in action mode. Diving sea gulls or slicks will point the way. Bluefish are very much part of the action this week but there has not been any reports of Spanish mackerel so far. Most likely they headed south due to cooler water temperatures.

There are a lot of small striped bass working over bait schools in the tidal rivers this week but cooler water temperatures have larger striped bass roaming the shallower areas during the morning and evening hours making for good topwater action. Prominent points and shoreline structure are good places to fish topwater lures or swim shad type baits. This pretty fall season striped bass fell for a topwater lure cast from shore in the lower Tred Avon River.

Photo by Keith Lockwood

The lower bay region finds itself going through a lot of changes this week after as water temperatures drop to the mid 60's. There seem to be bluefish throughout the region in the 18" to 22" size range mixed in with a few striped bass at times. The channel edges and places like the Middle Grounds have been great places to catch the bluefish. Casting to breaking fish is always a lot of fun with topwater lures but trolling is another excellent option. Most are trolling spoons behind inline weights and planers with hope that there still might be a few Spanish mackerel around.

There has been some striped bass jigging action in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers along channel edges. In the morning and evening hours casting topwater lures along shoreline structure such as Cedar Point has been productive.

Fishing for white perch should be good in the tidal river areas this week on oyster reefs and shoals for those using bottom rigs baited with clams, peeler crab or bloodworms. As of today there have not been any conclusive reports of spot still being caught in the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers or in the Tangier Sound area.

Recreational crabbers are seeing crabs responding to cooler water temperatures this week in the tidal rivers. Crabbing is generally reported to be very good with a very nice grade of crabs being caught. A good part of the successful crabbers are finding crabs in deeper waters and also finding them finicky about bait. Most of the more successful crabbers are using razor clams for the best catches. As can be expected the late season crabs are often heavy but many crabbers are noting a fair percentage of large crabs (8" or better) being light. It is hoped that these crabs will fatten up quickly because they are in peril of not surviving through the winter.

Freshwater fishing at Deep Creek Lake is quickly switching to a fall mode of fishing activity as water temperatures begin to dip below the 60° mark. Walleye are being caught on grassy points and along rocky shores towards evening on crankbaits and Rapala type lures. A mix of largemouth bass, chain pickerel and northern pike are being caught along the edges of grass on a variety of lures such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jerkbaits. Yellow perch are also being caught on smaller sized jerkbaits and live minnows and crappie are schooling up near the Glendale and Oakland Bridge piers. Here is a healthy looking walleye caught by Roger Watkins at the base of Potomac River Dam 4.

Photo courtesy Roger Watkins

The fall trout stocking program is underway in many of the put and take areas and other categories of trout management waters. Anglers can check the proposed trout stocking schedule or be notified as the stockings are accomplished by being on the email subscription list. Trout anglers should note that the schedule date refers to "the week of"; stocking crews do not stock trout on Sundays. Anglers anticipating these fall trout stockings should be aware that although every attempt to meet a schedule is made by stocking crews; weather conditions, water temperatures, stream and river levels, and vehicle availability can delay or alter some stockings.

Largemouth bass are feeling the cooling temperature changes and are quickly adapting to a fall mode and are actively feeding to build up winter stores of fat. The bass are actively feeding near shallow grass or any kind of submerged structure looking for baitfish or crawfish. Topwater baits such as smaller buzzbaits have been working well on grass and watch out for explosive strikes from northern snakeheads in many of the bay's tidal rivers and creeks. Spinnerbaits and smaller sized crankbaits are a good choice along edges of grass and spatterdock fields. Crankbaits, tubes, grubs and jigs are good choices near sunken wood and rock.

Smallmouth bass are another species of fish that are responding to cooler water temperatures. River levels on the upper Potomac River are returning to normal levels and good fishing will resume. Smallmouth bass can also be found in the lower Susquehanna River and Prettyboy Reservoir. Justin Johnson holds up a nice Prettyboy smallmouth bass for the camera.

Photo courtesy Justin Johnson

This is the time of year when crappie begin to school up in deeper waters and fishing around marina docks or bridge piers are great places to find them. Small tube jigs or marabou crappie jigs rigged under a bobber are a good choice and of course small minnows can't be over looked by hungry crappie. Many of the tidal rivers have good populations of crappie with the tidal Potomac in the Fort Washington area being one of the best. The bridge piers at Liberty Reservoir on Deer Park Road and the Delaney Valley Road Bridge over Loch Raven are also two excellent places to find crappie and fish. Big carp are also starting to feed with th ecoller weather. Here is Tommy Robinson with a carp that he caught on the Patapsco River.

Photo courtesy Tommy Robinson

The coastal waters around Ocean City have been stirred up for almost two weeks and it has been tough on fishing. Heavy surf has made it near impossible to hold bottom with anything less than a cement block for weight. There has been some action at the inlet with bluefish, tautog and sub-legal sized striped bass. Flounder are feeling the colder water and are lining up in channels to pass through the inlet for offshore waters. The bay waters have been churned up making for less than good fishing conditions but water clarity should improve this week. This may be a stellar time to enjoy some of the best flounder fishing of the year. Anglers should remember large baits usually mean large flounder and it is hard to beat a while Gulp bait.

There should be good flounder fishing on the inshore wreck and reef sites. Boats fishing the canyons were bringing double digit catches of yellowfin tuna to the docks along with a mix of bigeye tuna and white marlin releases before the blow. Hopefully this will continue. Look for longfin albacore to make a showing sometime in the next week or so and bluefin tuna will start to show up along the 30-fathom Line as they head south.

"There comes a time in every man's life when he is either going to go fishing or do something worse." - Havilah Babcock


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.