The Conowingo Dam continues to be releasing water for power generation mid to late day and the cool water has done a lot to increase fishing opportunities there. The cool water tends to stir the striped bass that are holding in the dam pool area into feeding and increased activity. Live lining small eels or casting a variety of swimming type plugs, crankbaits or swim shads can entice a striped bass into striking.
Near the mouth of the Susquehanna and the nearby Elk River there are plenty of channel catfish to be found in the deeper channel areas as well as white perch and even some yellow perch. At Hart Miller Island drifting peeler crab, cut spot or menhaden baits in the deep current near channel edges can produce some action from the striped bass holding there.
The shoal areas near Baltimore Harbor such as Man O War and the 7’ and 9’ Knolls are holding white perch that can be caught on bait or by jigging. Trolling for striped bass and small bluefish along channel edges and lumps has been described as a slow pick with a large number of sub-legal striped bass. The chumming fleets have been focusing lately at Swan Point, Love Point and near the Triple Buoys. A large number of the striped bass being caught are under 18” so care should be taken to prevent deep hooking and fish mortalities. Small bluefish are now part of the mix in the upper bay with most of them being in the 12” to 15” size range. Bob Majchrzak sent in this short report and a picture of his daughter Lauryn Majchrzak with her first striped bass. My daughter Lauryn Majchrzak and I were fishing Podickery Point Saturday evening when she finally caught her first Rockfish (24 Inch). Fishing was really slow; we caught a few spot and a lot of little blues.
The Bay Bridge piers continue to be a good spot to look for some striped bass jigging action when the current is running. Fishermen regularly do well jigging at the bases of the piers or rock piles and some have taken up sending live spot down with good success.
Middle Bay Region
Fishing for striped bass in the middle bay region has certainly taken a turn in another direction when it comes to live lining spot. There are plenty of spot to be found in the lower sections of the tidal rivers but many of them are more of the human eating size variety rather than live lining size. They certainly are tasty and it is easy especially for kids to get into swinging them over the rail and filling a cooler. Cleaning a mess of spot brings about the reality of a small return for a lot of effort. Most fishermen simply cut the heads off and fry or bake. Although it is a lot of work the small boneless fillets make for some fine and simple eating when dredged in flour, egg batter and panko bread crumbs. One small note, is to be sure to let them set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so they batter sticks and they come out crispy also make sure the oil is between 350-400 degrees. This method of course works well with croakers, white perch, flounder or any other fish fillet you wish to fry.
Live lining spot in the middle bay region has taken on a new dimension with the arrival of the bluefish. These buggers are swarming up behind fleets of boats intent on dropping live spot down to waiting striped bass holding close to the bottom. Needless to say the spot don’t seem to be able to get out of sight before they are attacked and reduced to nothing in several bites. Lucky fishermen will hook a greedy bluefish coming up for the last bite; which is usually the head section with the hook. Some fishermen are of course annoyed with this thwarting of their striped bass plans but others will add “when you are given lemons, make lemonade” or in this case fresh bluefish fillets or smoked bluefish. Most of the bluefish being caught are just under two pounds and make for some fine eating if handled properly. A cooler with salt water and ice will turn them hard and firm and they should stay that way until you fillet them or prepare them otherwise. Be forewarned though if you let them turn soft you find you’ll be working with mush. Filleted, skinned and then broiled or grilled makes for some fine eating. Try sprinkling some Lawry’s seasoned salt on them and cooking them just till they are done and not any farther and add a dab of butter before eating.
One of the most favored options is to have a cool fish smoker, brine with salt and brown sugar for 24-hours and smoke over hickory at a low temperature for 6-10-hours depending on thickness of the fish. Some like to add a bit of teriyaki sauce or other flavorings so feel empowered to experiment; spreads can also be made if you like. You’ll make a lot of friends fast passing these out and it makes good use of a resource so don’t cry the blues; rejoice in their bounty.
Those fishermen who are toting plenty of live spot and are sticking it out with the bluefish are catching some nice striped bass along the western side of the shipping channel mostly around the Gas Docks to the Power Plant, the southwest edge of the Gooses, the Clay Banks, the Hill and other structured edges where fish can be seen on depth finders holding tight. Others are choosing to troll medium bucktails, surge tubes and spoons either with inline weights or planers. Most have been able to do well and once and a while are catching a few Spanish mackerel as well. So far the catches of Spanish have been spotty but everyone has been seeing them grey hounding through breaking fish throughout the region.
Jigging under and casting to breaking fish is a common option this week as the action seems to be erupting most anywhere. A large percentage of the action is bluefish but the striped bass are mixing it up and most often can be found deeper underneath the surface mayhem.
Those that can get up and on the water before dawn have been finding striped bass cooperating in the shallow edges of the bay shores and lower tidal rivers. Casting surface poppers offers some exciting fun especially now that the striped bass are sharing the shallows with roaming bluefish. The evenings can also provide the same action but usually things don’t really pickup till almost sunset. It can pay big dividends to drift a peeler crab bait on a dead stick while drifting and casting to the shorelines with plugs. There are some really large croakers that are also moving into the shallows to feed at these times and they can be a real bonus. Farther up the tidal rivers fishermen are finding a mix of small bluefish, spot, and small to medium croakers and white perch.
Most fishermen intent on catching the largest croakers are setting up on hard-bottomed shoal edges toward dusk and fishing peeler crab, shrimp or squid on a bottom rig, small bucktails or grub jig heads. Some of the croakers being caught near the mouth of Eastern Bay, Sharps Island Flats and channel edges in the lower Choptank are truly impressive. During the day fishing deep in the channels or locations such as Eastern Bay and the Airplane Wreck one can usually find medium sized croakers and that occasional jumbo sized one. More and more flounder are being caught as an incidental catch by croaker fishermen and those that are actually targeting them on good hard bottom near the channels are finding some of the finest flounder fishing most have seen in a while. So far this has been a very good year for flounder fishermen in the middle bay region.
Recreational crabbers are enjoying good crabbing in most locations this week. Heavy rains in some creeks have pushed crabs deeper and down towards the mouths of the creeks. There is a full moon this week so there will be some heavy crabs getting ready to shed; crabbers are also reporting a lot of small crabs on their baits.
Lower Bay/Tangier Sound Region:
Hot, hazy and sometimes windy with a few thunderstorms passing through best describes the weather in the lower bay region and fantastic would be a good term to use to describe the fishing opportunities. Lower bay fishermen have a lot to pick from when it comes to fishing this week.
Striped bass are always on the minds of fishermen and there are plenty of striped bass out there; they’ve just been moving around due to possible water conditions and the movement of bait. Many fishermen have been finding that loading up the live well with spot and heading out to the shipping channel edge in front of the Gas Docks is not the sure thing it was a couple of weeks ago. The striped bass are moving around and some days they are there and others they are not and it may take some exploring to find them. At times out in front of the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant or Parkers Creek have been good and sometimes the fish just not there. Fish know what they want in water quality and will move accordingly so be flexible. Many fishermen are finding breaking fish and can catch all the bluefish one would want in short order and are finding striped bass underneath. Metal jigs are a good choice and leave the dropper flies and shiny snap swivels in the tackle box to avoid being cut off by snapping bluefish.
Bluefish are dominating the fishing scene right now and fishermen need to change the way they fish if they wish to avoid them or enjoy the change and make good use of them by eating them fresh or by loading up a smoker with a batch. Live lining spot is a tough game right now but trolling and jigging offer less frustrating possibilities. Trolling surge tubes, spoons and bucktails will offer a mix of bluefish, striped bass and Spanish mackerel and plenty of entertainment. Many fishermen are now using planers and inline weights to get lures down a bit. Better yet gather up some kids to introduce to fishing and try chunking or chumming for bluefish. The voraciousness of the bluefish and nonstop action is bound to thrill any youngster. Spot make great baits for chunking and it doesn’t seem to take much to draw a horde of hungry bluefish to the back of a boat anchored in a good current over bottom structure such as a steep edge this week. Kids love action and they’ll get plenty of it if your fishing for bluefish. Some of the real hot spots for bluefish include the western shipping channel edge, the mouth of the Potomac, Tangier Sound and the largest bluefish have been coming from the Middle Grounds/ Target Ship area. An added bonus for fishermen trolling has also been the incidental catches of large red drum that must be released of course but are still quite a thrill to catch.
Bottom fishing for croaker has settled into catching medium sized croakers and a mix of spot, flounder and bluefish during the days; usually in the deeper areas now that bay water temperatures are well above 80-degrees. At dusk boats continue to anchor up on the shoal areas adjacent to the deep channels for the large croakers that move into those areas such as behind Buoys 72 and 72A at dusk. The tidal rivers are holding a lot of medium sized croakers, spot and white perch on both sides of the bay. The fishing for puppy drum and speckled trout has also been a bonus to fishermen in that area. Eddie Swatiek holds up a nice 22” puppy drum he caught in Tangier Sound recently that falls within the slot limit of 17” to 27” making it a keeper.
Perhaps some of the brightest and most exciting action for many fishermen lately has been the excellent flounder fishing in the lower bay and Tangier Sound areas. At times certain areas such as out in front of the Patuxent, Cornfield Harbor and the channel edges in Tangier Sound seem to be paved with them. Twenty inch flounder and above are the normal course for fishermen that are targeting them. Chris Meyer holds up two flounder that he and his dad caught recently in Tangier Sound.
Recreational crabbers are reporting good crabbing in the regions tidal creeks and rivers. They are reporting baits are getting chewed up by a lot of hungry undersized crabs but note that one more shed will put them over the 5-1/4 mark.
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