Fishermen have been reporting a very welcomed revival of the striped bass fishery in the Susquehanna Catch & Release area in the past week. Fishermen are reporting good catches of fish in the 24” to 32” size range in the shallower waters and along the channels. Topwater lures, Storm shads and Bass Assassin’s have been the more popular baits being used. Boat traffic was reported to be a problem over the weekend that tended to scatter fish; but those fishermen that waited till the evening or early morning hours to fish generally did better. The water temperatures in the area are hovering around 60’s due to cold runoff and is also cloudy due to the same runoff. There are plenty of white perch to be caught in the lower Susquehanna and small tandem jigs such as shad darts with plastic tails have been working well. There are also lots of channel catfish in the area and fishing for them continues to be excellent.
Fishermen are seeing some white perch action and a few striped bass around Hart-Miller Island and fishing for channel catfish is good in that area. The channel areas around the island on a strong tide seem to offer the best fishing. Inside the Patapsco River fishermen are reporting some luck with catching striped bass in the 17” to 24” size range by casting plastic jigs such as Bass Assassins and BKD’s around channel edges and old piers and pilings. White perch are also being caught in the same areas on small tandem rigged jigs or bottom rigs baited with bloodworms.
Trolling along channel edges and lumps has been producing a pick of school-sized striped bass for boats trolling umbrella rigs with small to medium sized bucktails or Storm lures. Fishermen are covering the depths by using planers or inline weights and fishing some lines closer to the surface. More and more fishermen are beginning to chum in the upper bay; particularly from Baltimore Light to Sandy Point Light. Success has been varied but everyone agrees that a good tide is essential. As the school-sized striped bass start to congregate along channel edges and lumps fishermen are also finding some success with jigging. The NOAA Buoy at the mouth of the Patapsco is currently showing a water temperature of around 68-degrees.
Mid Bay Region:
Most fishermen in the middle bay region who are looking for striped bass are trolling and success has been good for the most part. Some fishermen are describing the day time action as a slow pick but they are putting fish in the box. Most fishermen are trolling umbrella rigs and tandem rigged bucktails or swimming shads. A number of fishermen found that the tails of these soft rubber delights were disappearing and the culprit turned out to be bluefish. The bluefish are solidly established in the lower bay region and are quickly moving into the middle bay. Fishermen will have to decide whether to pay the price or switch to tougher presentations such as surge tube lures, spoons or bucktails with pork rind on them. A number of fishermen have begun to chum at locations such as the Gum Thickets, near what is often referred to as the Hill, NNW of Poplar Island, the Clay Banks, False Channel area and the Summer Gooses. Some locations and times worked for fishermen and they brought home fish, others read fish but could not get them to respond to chum. The water temperatures are still in the mid sixty degree range so striped bass will tend to be spread out; fishermen also reporting having some success with jigging; when and where they could locate concentrations of marks on their depth finders.
Last week the Striped bass Fish Health group was tagging striped bass in Herring Bay and also did some necropsy work on a number of fish in the 18” to 30” size range later in the laboratory. Being a fisherman I could not help but look to see what might be in their stomachs and found that two out of three striped bass had white perch in the 6” to 7” size range in their stomachs. The others had menhaden and none had any May worms that could be readily distinguished in their stomachs. Also of note was the fact that nearly all the bass where males. As most have witnessed this has been a relatively wet and cool spring, water temperatures and salinities are depressed so it seems to have had an effect on a number of things. The croakers are hung up in the lower bay waters, striped bass are spread out, the crabs tend to not be in the upper tidal creeks, the horseshoe crabs and May worms did not do their thing as much as would be expected on the last full moon in May as is usually the case.
Bottom fishing prospects for the last few days have been generally limited to white perch with a few nice croakers tossed in. The white perch have moved into the lower sections of the tidal rivers and into many bay regions such as Eastern Bay and Hackett’s Bar. They are being caught by fishermen using bloodworms on bottom rigs usually in about 15” to 20” of water for the most part. Small jigs with plastic tails such as tubes, beetle spins are good things to employ on light spinning tackle in the lower rivers; especially around old piers and docks. Grass shrimp are another hot item to use in these areas; either tipped on a small jig or on a bottom rig.
Black Drum will begin to show up at locations such as Stone Rock and Sharps Island Flats and there is a good chance a number of them have been caught already. This kind of information is only leaked out to the tightest of fishing circles due to the nature of combat fishing when a school is located and a number of boats are jockeying for position. A ½ of a soft crab held to a 10/0 circle hook; often with a rubber band and a simple sinker bottom rig or free moving egg sinker is the rig of choice. Stiff tackle and a good depth finder are other essential components to this fishery. The boat captain cruises slowly till the large marks of a black drum are found and the baits are quickly dropped on top of the fish. At the mouth of the Chesapeake and the Delaware Bays fishermen usually set up on an evening falling tide in gullies or channels that the fish use and a big old glob of surf clam does the trick. One waits for the black drum to come to them and if you’re quiet you can not only hear them growling as they approach but you can feel them if you’re in your bare feet. The growling is caused by two large grinding plates in the back of their throat and the air bladder acts as a bass drum. If you happen to keep a drum for eating look for these plates; they make a nice trophy and conversational piece as does a few of the scales. Most fishermen will find worms in the section of meat from the anus aft but the part above the ribs is good and the fillet is best cut as steaks or cutlets. Anyone who spent their youth in the sixties catching and eating northern blowfish will recognize the taste and texture similarities.
Lower Bay/Tangier Sound Region:
Fishermen in the lower bay region are seeing expanding fishing opportunities throughout the region. Most of the larger striped bass over 36” are gone and fishermen are settling into a fishery dominated by striped bass in the 17” to 32” size range. Fishermen report encountering large schools of striped bass in the 17” to 22” size range in the lower Potomac chasing bait on top. They have been jigging under the surface fish with metal jigs and finding larger fish deeper. Bluefish have moved into the entire region with a vengeance so they will be a big part of the fishing scene now. Many fishermen are still trolling for their striped bass and continue to use umbrella rigs followed by a bucktail or simply trolling tandem or single rigs of bucktails or spoons. Fishermen will be using umbrella rigs now festooned with metal blades or spinners instead of sassy shads, others will hope for divine intervention to save their sassy shads but most know better and put them up until the bluefish leave in late fall. A number of fishermen reported that they switched to medium sized surge tubes and spoons; often on planers and enjoyed the abundance of bluefish from 2lbs to 4lbs. Small fresh bluefish fillets are hard to beat on the grill or broiler and smoked bluefish is a real summer time treat.
Striped bass are being encountered from the Gas Docks south to Point Lookout on the western side of the shipping channel and from Hooper’s Island Light south to Buoy 68. Most fishermen are trolling, a few are jigging when they can find concentrations of fish and others have begun to chum. Buoy 72 and the Maryland side of the shipping channel in the mouth of the Potomac have been a few locations that were mentioned as providing decent chumming opportunities over this past weekend.
Light tackle jigging action can be encountered most anywhere in the region; usually near channel edges and drop-offs where the current is moving. Points on the western side of the bay such as Cedar Point, Point No Point and Cove Point are famous for this type of action and on the eastern side of the bay Buoy 72 and the Hooper Island Straits are often good places to look for this kind of action. Many fishermen are beginning to look at spots such as the lower cut at Hooper’s Island and the many cuts and channels from Hooper’s Island south to South Marsh. Fishermen are finding good numbers of school-sized striped bass with a number of speckled trout and bluefish mixed in.
Bottom fishing for croakers continues to be very good in the lower Potomac near the mouth of the Wicomico River, Point Lookout, Buoy 72 and the Middle Grounds; especially in the evenings. Fishermen are reporting some croaker action at the mouth of the Patuxent and over by the mouth of the Honga River. The boats fishing the Tangier Sound area report improving catches of croaker on the daytime trips with a mix of white perch, bluefish and flounder.