Maryland Overview | May 5, 2010

Photo Courtesy Buck Hicks, click to enlarge.

For many of us who find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life it may come as a surprise to you; but welcome to May. Certainly one of the finest months of the year for enjoying the outdoors; there are a lot of opportunities out there ranging surf fishing at Ocean City to trout fishing in the western mountains. For the fisherman with only an hour or so after dinner and work; local ponds are full of hungry bluegills and largemouth bass. Most everyone also can find trout stocked waters near where they live and if one has a little more time there is the Chesapeake Bay and striped bass. Most of the big girls have accomplished their spawning duty by now and fishermen are enjoying a chance to catch a fish of a lifetime in local waters. Striped bass are just about the most popular, widespread and sporting saltwater fish to be found along our coast; a real American icon, born in the USA. Buck Hicks is a retired Baltimore City fireman who seems to be enjoying his well-earned retirement and shows it with his personal best caught near the CP Buoy with old glory flying in the background to boot.

Trolling along the 35í to 55í edges of the shipping channel will be the focus of fishing this week. There was a major spawn in the upper bay this past week and those fish will be heading down the bay. The steeper edges of the shipping channel from the Podickory Point/ Love Point area south to Buoy 70 on the eastern side of the shipping channel off Point Lookout will be the best place to try and intercept these post-spawn fish as they leave the bay. The best action tends to be occurring in the upper part of the water column with lures usually around the 15í to 25í mark below the surface. Fish tend to look up more than down due to the position of their eyes so itís always better to have your lures above them. There was another spawn this past weekend on the Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers; not necessarily a large one but a spawn just the same. Those fish will be heading out into the bay also, so this coming weekend may offer fishermen one of the greatest opportunities to catch a large post-spawn striped bass. Generally speaking based on previous years observations catches will begin to decrease by the third week of May.

The Catch and Release Striped Bass season at the Susquehanna Flats area ended on May 3rd and fishermen reported slow fishing towards the end as fish had spawning on their minds instead of taking lures. The catch and release hickory shad fishery for 2010 is mostly a memory now and fishermen in the area have been targeting the tail end of the American shad run below the Conowingo Dam this week. There are plenty of white perch and channel catfish in the lower Susquehanna, Northeast and Elk Rivers and surrounding channels to be caught.

Water temperatures in the bay are generally holding around 65-degrees this week and fishermen began to report catching the seasonís first bluefish in the southern region of the bay while light tackle jigging for striped bass. Most of the fishermen that are trolling for striped bass are pulling large bucktails, parachutes, spoons and plugs which are much too large for the bluefish that have been showing up. As the striped bass season progresses to the May 16th to May 31st component; fishermen will begin to put out smaller offerings in their trolling spreads and will most likely start to see more bluefish coming over the rail.

Warmer water temperatures are bringing the first of our summer migrant species into the Maryland portion of the bay. Croakers have been reported as far north as the Bay Bridge this week and a few keeper sized flounder have shown up in the Tangier Sound and Point Lookout areas. The best croaker fishing is occurring at the mouth of the Wicomico River on the lower Potomac and off lower Hooper Island, the mouth of the Honga River and Tangier Sound. The croaker fishing will steadily improve over the next couple of weeks along the edges of the channels and shoals. Areas around crab pots are always a good place to start looking and bloodworms, shrimp, squid and Gulp or Fishbites baits are good choices to try. The black locust trees are blooming so the first shed of blue crabs should be occurring; so the first peeler crabs may be available. Speckled trout will be showing up along the marsh area guts and channel areas of Somerset County but donít wait for reports since this fishery is usually very hush hush proposition; so do some exploring on your own. Soft plastic jigs, Clouser flies and natural baits such as peeler crab are good choices to try.

Freshwater fishermen who love their largemouth bass fishing are enjoying plenty of action this week with favorable weather conditions and water conditions as well. The largemouth bass are actively spawning in many areas or holding in a pre-spawn phase in some of the colder waters in the western region. Buzzbaits and chatterbaits are effective in the shallower areas near shoals and shallow grass beds. Soft plastics are the number one lure most bass fishermen are using around sunken wood, spatterdock edges and grass. Tubes and creature baits are very popular choices this time of the year.

Carp can be seen spawning in the shallower waters in many of the states waters and are causing quite a ruckus. Sunfish species are sporting their spawning colors and the males are dressed in their finest to impress the ladies. Casting small grubs or simply a worm and bobber rig is a good way to catch them just outside of the shallow areas where they spawn.

Trout fishing in the Put and Take waters continues to be good this week due to additional stocking of trout in most waters with wonderful weather and flow conditions. The western region tends to beckon many trout fishermen who wish to bath themselves in some of the finest trout fishing to be found anywhere. If you find yourself living several hours from this fine trout fishing; plan a trip for the weekend and enjoy an inexpensive fishing adventure in the mountains of western Maryland.

Coastal fishermen in the Ocean City area have a lot to hoot about this week; especially those who enjoy surf fishing. The catching part of surf fishing has been really something for the past week and into this week for large striped bass. Surf fishermen are enjoying multiple hook ups by using cut menhaden baits off the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island. Skates and dogfish are of course part of the deal this time of the year but large bluefish and black drum might be part of the hand dealt you also.

It is not too often that you hear about a striped bass blitz of large fish in the surf but that is exactly what has been happening a the Ocean City Inlet at night; several times in the past week. Fishermen are catching them by casting bucktails, swim shads and plugs from the jetties and the Oceanic Pier. Flounder are being caught in the back bay areas; often an ebbing tide offers the best catches. The same is true with tautog fishing at the inlet area. Offshore the tautog fishing remains good at the wreck sites; with 4-fish limits common.

''The old man said there is nothing like being alone on the water in a boat of your own to learn the value of peace, quiet and responsibility.''

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 covering such topics as angler induced stress, decompression, the fate of embedded fish hooks, circle hooks and best catch and release practices for fishermen. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of the catch and release studies. Marine mammal stranding, soft clam quality assurance and aquatic resource education at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory helped round out the range of program work. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, scouting, family and life on the eastern shore.

Keith Lockwood
-- Fisheries Biologist