Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | August 08, 2012
Most everyone can relate some kind of experience regarding the drought conditions Maryland is experiencing this spring and summer. Some folks are lucky enough to find some relief from passing thunder storms others just forlornly watch those dark clouds and rumblings pass in the distance. Low rainfall conditions have been good for the bay in regards to nutrient and soil runoff but anyone daring to swim in the bay can tell a tale about how many sea nettles are present because of high salinities. Blue crabs are being found far up the tidal rivers and giving folks some good crabbing in areas not normally known for crabs and bluefish and Spanish mackerel have moved up the bay. There are some fun wading opportunities in the upper Potomac due to low water conditions for fishermen looking to fish for channel catfish and smallmouth bass. So it goes that we have no control over weather and must accept what occurs; but we can try and take advantage of unique opportunities that happen at times like this.
The Conowingo Dam water releases are holding to a summer afternoon power generation schedule this week; often the cool burst of water through the turbines will put striped bass, channel catfish and flathead catfish in a feeding mood. Most fishermen have been casting swim shads for the striped bass and using large baits for the big flatheads. In other areas of the upper bay fishermen are finding plenty of white perch and channel catfish to go around in the bay and tidal rivers. Once you travel south to the Rock Hall area the fishing for striped bass picks up. Fishermen are finding schools of sub-legal fish chasing bait; often without the accompaniment of diving birds, bluefish are also becoming a more common partner in crime in the upper bay. This week fishermen have been reporting a much larger grade of striped bass in the 26" to 32" size range roaming from areas above and below the Bay Bridge. Typically these larger fish will be males that decided to stick around. Most fishermen have been enjoying casting to breaking fish or jigging to suspended fish; others are trolling bucktails and spoons and still others are chumming and live lining spot.
In the middle bay region fishermen continue to find good fishing for striped bass around the Bay Bridge piers by live lining spot and jigging. There continues to be a nice population of striped bass holding near the Bay Bridge, Thomas Point, and the Poplar Island area. Most fishermen are achieving the best results by live lining spot on the channel edges but jigging under breaking fish or chumming has also been productive. Bluefish are very much a part of the scene in the middle bay region now and are chewing up plastics and live spot with increasing regularity. Higher salinities due to drought conditions have also brought more croaker into the region and Spanish mackerel are beginning to make their entrance. Venson Smith was fishing with friends at Hackett's Bar when they got into some nice sized croaker.
Photo Courtesy of Venson Smith
Fishing in the lower bay region continues to present a large variety of fishing opportunities. Striped bass fishing tends to be up and down at the Gas Docks lately for fishermen live lining spot on the channel drop off. Striped bass are not as concentrated as they were and bluefish are swarming onto those delectable little spot with typical bluefish ferocity. "Anyone need some extra spot heads"? Often using the left over spot chunks from a bluefish attack can put some of them into the fish box and ultimately the grill or smoker. Just remember to immerse them in plenty of ice to keep them firm for the best quality. Bluefish are spread over the entire lower bay region and there has been a recent influx of larger bluefish in the 5lb range. Spanish mackerel are in the mix now when fish are spotted chasing bait in the lower and middle bay regions. They are mostly after bay anchovies and can be often seen greyhounding through breaking striped bass and bluefish.
Most fishermen that are trolling are using a spread mix of small Drone spoons, bucktails and surgical tube lures. The Middle Grounds has been a productive area to troll for bluefish and Spanish mackerel this week. Chumming is a good option in the lower Potomac and traditional spots such as Buoy 72. The tidal rivers of the lower bay region are holding good numbers of large spot, croaker and white perch. On the eastern side of the bay, speckled trout and flounder are very important contributions to the mix.
Recreational crabbers are reporting lots of crabs on their trotlines and in collapsible crab traps this week; the throwback ratio is high and baits are being chewed up at a rapid rate. The crabs have also moved far up the tidal rivers as they follow the advancing salt wedge due to drought induced low freshwater flows from the upper river areas. Crabs are being found for example in the Choptank River as far north as the town of Denton. Waterfront owners that look forward to being able to catch a few crabs this time of the year in the upper Choptank watershed are also seeing things they normally don't see. The dread of every commercial crab potter in the bay is something they call "hair". Although it looks like some kind of brown sea weed; it is a bushy bryozoan that fouls most anything in salty water and particularly crab pots. Power washing and anti-fouling dips help but it is no easy task to control and experienced crabbers know that a clean crab pot catches more crabs than a fouled one. Ramsey Poston sent in this picture of one of his crab pots with a healthy colony of "hair" in the Tuckahoe River.
Photo Courtesy of Ramsey Poston
Freshwater fishermen in the western region have been enjoying fishing for trout in many of the regions trout waters. Flows are down but the challenge of presenting a fly to rising trout beckons many as the summer progresses. Fishermen at Deep Creek Lake have been slow trolling near the dam face and catching some very respectable trout at about a depth of 25". There are plenty of smallmouth bass in the 14" size range in Deep Creek Lake and the upper Potomac to tickle a fisherman's fancy plus the occasional whopper. Flows are low in the upper Potomac and offers access to areas for wading not normally seen during other times of the year. The water is warm so a slip here or there does not have too dramatic of a result, so enjoy. Locals report that fishing for channel catfish in the upper Potomac could hardly be better.
Summer often means lazy days due to the heat, so largemouth bass and fishermen are often on the same schedule this time of the year. That means fishing early in the morning and late in the evening or even during darkness. Largemouth bass will hunker down for the day during bright sun and heat under thick grass, deeper water or under some old snag or dock. Casting topwater lures early in the morning or late evening such as plastic frogs or poppers near shallow grass is a proven tactic. Small crankbaits and spinnerbaits near the edges of the grass are also a good choice and soft plastics and grub jigs can sometimes get a lazy bass to strike when they are resting.
Reservoirs in the central region such as Liberty, Rocky Gorge and Piney Run have populations of landlocked striped bass that are stocked by the fisheries service as juveniles. These bass grow to some impressive sizes and offer some exciting fishing opportunities for fishermen. Scott O'Neil holds up a whopping landlocked striped bass from Piney Run and proves you do not have to travel to the Atlantic Ocean or Chesapeake Bay to catch a big striped bass.
Photo Courtesy of Scott O'Neil
Ocean City is all a buzz this week as the White Marlin Tournament is underway. The big focus this week will be of course on offshore fishing but there are plenty of exciting fishing opportunities closer to shore. Surf fishing has become an early morning and late evening endeavor due to the hot weather and warm water temperatures. A mix of kingfish, spot, croakers, small bluefish and flounder await fishermen. Those wishing a little more pull have a variety of inshore sharks and sting rays to choose from.
Flounder fishing around the inlet and back bay areas has been very good when wind and rain conditions are favorable. Clear water is a needed for good flounder fishing. Many fishermen are now live lining spot and using large Gulp baits to search for larger flounder; often with good results. A mix of trigger fish and sheepshead are being caught around the jetties and Route 50 Bridge; bluefish and a few keeper striped bass are being caught at night.
Beyond the inlet the boats headed to the wreck sites are finding sea bass and flounder for their fishermen. Farther offshore there is still a chunk bite for yellowfin tuna at locations such as the Lumpy Bottom, Jackspot and Hot Dog. The canyons have been yielding double digit releases of white marlin, blue marlin and a mix of yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin. Deep drop fishermen are catching blueline tilefish, golden tilefish and other assorted deep water species on the canyon edges.
"Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect." Norman Maclean