Maryland Overview | May 12, 2010

Photo Courtesy Bud Cratty, click to enlarge.

Fishermen are beginning to see some significant changes in fishing opportunities as we pass through the middle of May. There is still some striped bass spawning activity occurring in the upper bay near the Elk River and Susquehanna Flats area but the spawning action in the middle and lower bay tidal rivers is about over. Fishermen who are trolling the shipping channel for post-spawn striped bass are reporting a slow pick in most areas. The steeper edges continue to offer some of the best opportunities for finding fish. Fishermen have been reporting snags this week out in the shipping channel and it appears to be long trotlines of crab pots. Fishermen need to keep a lookout for buoys with flags atop and do the best you can to find the accompanying buoy/flag that marks the other end of the trotline of crab pots. Mitchell Cratty was out fishing with his dad recently when he caught this nice 42” striped bass near Buoy 91 just below the Bay Bridge.

This coming Sunday, May 16th fishermen that are fishing in the main stem of the bay south of the Hart-Miller/ Tolchester Line will begin to add striped bass 18” to 28” in size to their catch. Placing smaller bucktails, swim shads and spoons in trolling spreads is a sure fire way to add these smaller fish to the fish box. Bluefish will also become part of the mix as they become more common.

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.

White perch are now holding in the lower sections of the bay’s tidal rivers and they can be caught by casting spinners, small jigs, beetle spins or by using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or bloodworms. Piers and docks near deep water and prominent points are great places to fish from shore. Croakers are steadily moving into the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake as water temperatures begin to approach the mid-60 degree mark. The mouth of the Wicomico River at Bushwood, traditionally is the best early season location to catch a mess of croakers. Fishermen are also finding them in the shallows of Point Lookout off the fishing pier there during the evening hours. Pocomoke and Tangier Sounds are filling up with croakers also and they are also being reported at the mouth of the Honga River this week. The nice weather of the past week has brought recreational crabbers out to try their luck with collapsible crab traps and trotlines. Most reported meager catches of less than a dozen good crabs per outing.

Freshwater fishermen that are looking for largemouth bass are finding that most of them are either spawning in the shallows in the central, southern and eastern regions and in a pre-spawn mode in the far western region. Fishermen who are probing the shallows are finding buzzbaits and chatterbaits a good way to locate them. Spinnerbaits and soft plastics are good choices along edges of grass, spatterdock, sunken wood and shallow to deeper water transitions. Crappie and sunfish are spawning in the shallows of lakes and tidal rivers this week as water temperatures in many areas reach the mid 70-degree mark.

Western region fisheries biologist sent us this report from the upper Potomac River.

The upper Potomac is in currently in great shape, but is expected to rise later this week from the predicted rainfall. Rapidly changing, crazy weather has resulted in tough fishing. Anglers are still having some good days though, catching smallmouth, walleye, and catfish. Look for smallmouth around boulders, ledges, and emerging grass beds in or near current. Crankbaits that dig deep enough to bang off of the rocks have been effective. Grubs and tubes are always a high percentage option and catch just about every fish species in the river. Generally, working these lures slowly and on the bottom is best for larger fish. Walleye are scattered over a variety of habitats, but can be found behind mid-river ledges, on shallow flats, and rocky shoreline areas, especially at dusk. Minnow imitating crankbaits are probably the best choice for walleye right now.

Trout fishermen are enjoying good fishing in many of the Put and take stocking areas this week as fisheries crews continue stocking trout. Water flows continue to be good in most streams and rivers with water temperatures holding in acceptable levels.

Photo Courtesy Matthew Kowalski, click to enlarge.

Fishermen in the Ocean City area continue to enjoy good fishing along the beaches for large striped bass and a mix of skates, dogfish, bluefish, and flounder. Large cut baits of fresh menhaden have been a favorite choice for surf fishermen. Some nice flounder are being caught in the back bay areas; tautog and striped bass are entertaining fishermen at the inlet and small bluefish are beginning to move inside the inlet. The boats heading out to the wreck sites are finding good catches of tautog for their patrons and everyone is looking forward to the opening of the sea bass season on May 22nd.

So far the Spring Trophy Striped Bass Season this year has been a good one based on the number of entries for the Maryland Fishing Challenge. Every fishermen who entered a striped bass over 40” in size will be entered in the drawing for prizes on September 11th at Sandy Point State Park. Trout fishermen did well also due to the large number of rainbow trout over 20” that were stocked in Put and Take waters. There will be a lot of good fishing for a large variety of fish species in the up coming months; be sure to check the minimum sizes for different species and where the nearest citation center is to you so you can enter your catch (Fishing Challenge Web Page). Conner Davies was fishing recently with his dad and brother off Swan Point when he caught this beautiful 42” striped bass which qualifies him for the Fishing Challenge drawing for prizes by entering his catch at a citation center.

''Surely the longer a man fishes the wealthier he becomes in experience, in reminiscence, in love of nature, if he goes out with the harvest of a quiet eye, free from the plague of himself.''

-- Zane Grey


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.

Keith Lockwood
-- Fisheries Biologist