Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | October 12, 2011

As fishermen see the second full week of October coming to a close many can see most fisheries are in a transition and often this is to the benefit of fishermen. Freshwater and saltwater species are feeling the urge to feed heavily and build up fat reserves as water temperatures drop. This could be for a long journey south to warmer waters for migratory fish or for resident fish the fat stores to hunker down for the winter. When it comes to migratory fish of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean as fish tend to be on the move it can mean varied action from day to day or the "you should have been here yesterday" syndrome. Speckled trout, bluefish and striped bass are good examples in the Chesapeake right now and offshore species such a white marlin, yellowfin tuna and dolphin are another that comes to mind this week.

Diehard fishermen have to be flexible to conditions and one thing that always defines them is that they never give up. This attitude can range from beating the water to death with cast after cast, switching up tactics and gear or simply switching to another type of fishing all together. Brendan Hoffman of Seaford Delaware and his group of fishing buddies bring us just that kind of story this week. They planned an offshore trip to the Baltimore Canyon on Sunday to fish for white marlin, yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Basically they found themselves at the Baltimore Canyon with no takers, a lot of spent fuel and a flat of butterfish. They decided to try something different; in this case some deep bottom fishing. They scrounged for any kind of weight they could find short of wrenches in the tool box and rigged up some butterfish and sent them 200' to the bottom. What occurred next is a perfect example of what to do when you are served lemons; "make lemonade"! Brendan Hoffman (the guy on the right) holds up a 17lb. 7oz. blueline tilefish which is the new Maryland state record. Congratulations to Brendan for catching a magnificent fish.

Photo Courtesy of Brendan Hoffman

Presently water temperatures in the upper bay region near the mouth of the Susquehanna are holding around 61-degrees. Fishermen in general are having a difficult time finding good fishing in the upper bay for striped bass this week. Most fishermen are reporting sparse catches even at the Bay Bridge piers and the Sewer Pipe just above the bridge. Cloudy water and low salinity conditions are what most fishermen are talking about. A few bright spots are the good fishing for white perch and limited success with striped bass in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and of course channel catfish.

Middle bay region fishermen are experiencing better water conditions this week and good fishing for a mix of striped bass, small bluefish and speckled trout in most traditional areas. The striped bass and bluefish can be found breaking water out in the bay chasing schools of bay anchovies and menhaden and can often be located by diving birds or slicks on the surface of the water. This is a good time of the year to have a depth finder to help locate fish suspended off the bottom and light tackle reels loaded with braid for working metal jigs close to the bottom. The sensitivity of braid and its lack of resistance to current flow make it a winner for fishermen jigging. Trolling is a good option and most fishermen are trolling spoons, bucktails and surge tube lures due to the presence of bluefish. The striped bass action at the False Channel seems to have slowed down for those chumming with razor clams; fish are still being caught and the action may pick up from time to time but as water temperatures drop into the mid-sixties, fish are moving around more.

Fishing the shallow waters of the bay and tidal rivers continues to be a wonderful way to fish in the mornings and evenings this week near prominent points and structure such as rocks. Topwater lures continue to be a favorite but soft plastics such as Gulp mullets and swim shad type lures are catching their share. Speckled trout continue to be a real bonus fish for anglers with about a 3 to 1 throwback ratio in most areas. Some anglers are targeting the speckled trout by fishing soft crab baits in creek channels and cuts but most are being caught on soft plastics and topwater lures. A trick from waters far to the south that might be worth trying for speckled trout is to fish a soft plastic jig about 2' behind a popping float or popper. Speckled trout are known to be attracted to surface commotion and usually nail the trailing jig when they see it. This striped bass fell for a Zara Spook cast into the shallow waters surrounding Poplar Island.

Photo Courtesy of Rich Watts

White perch are on the move and have left the shallow waters of the tidal rivers and are schooling up in deeper waters of the tidal rivers. Now is a good time to target them with bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or jigs with a dropper fly before they head out into the even deeper waters near the bay.

Lower bay region fishermen are seeing good water conditions and some exciting fishing opportunities for a mix of striped bass and bluefish out in the bay. The lower bay region has the largest bluefish; many going 5lbs or better in many areas. The larger bluefish are spread out from the lower Middle Grounds up to Cove Point and are putting the hurt to schools of menhaden in the region. Trolling spoons and surge tube lures has been a popular way to catch them along with striped bass. Light tackle enthusiasts are enjoying casting metal into schools of breaking fish or jigging underneath the surface action.

Perhaps some of the most exciting fishing occurring in the lower bay region is the shallow water action around prominent points through out the region and the marsh areas on the eastern shore. Light tackle fishermen are enjoying continued action with a mix of striped bass, speckled trout and bluefish. Most are casting surface lures such as poppers and also soft plastic swim baits and bucktails. There are a lot of smaller speckled trout in the region but there are enough larger ones to keep things very exciting. The areas from Hooper's Island south, the mouth of the Honga River and around Deal Island have been particularly good. Jay Fleming sent in this beautiful underwater picture of a couple of speckled trout for us.

Photo Courtesy of Jay Fleming

Recreational crabbers are reporting diminished returns on their crabbing outings in the upper bay region. Catches are reported to be very good in the Kent Island area and the major tidal rivers of the middle and lower bay regions. Crabbers report a lot of small crabs and sooks eating up baits but are being rewarded with large heavy crabs often over 7" in size.

Freshwater fishermen are enjoying the generous fall stocking of trout in most of the state's put and take trout waters. A combination of cool weather, good water conditions and generous stockings are making for some wonderful trout fishing experiences. Be sure to check the trout fishing site for the latest stocking information; the list is updated as the biologist complete their stockings. Justin Brittingham got to go trout fishing with his dad on the recently stocked Patapsco River near Daniels and caught this nice 21-1/2" rainbow trout.

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Brittingham

Fishermen will be keeping an eye towards the weather for the next couple of days and time will tell how water conditions will be in the western region of the state. Water temperatures are in the low sixties at Deep Creek Lake and fishermen report the walleye action is picking up. Grass beds are diminishing in the lake as well as in other areas such as the upper Potomac so smallmouth bass will be on the watch for small baitfish and crawfish on the move for deeper cover such as rocks and sunken wood. Any kind of crankbait or tube that resembles a crawfish is a good bet this week.

Largemouth bass are in a very active feeding mode in all areas of the state including tidal waters and freshwater impoundments. Cooler water temperatures are causing the fish to move freely through all water depths and grass beds is the pattern to target as the fish hold to the last remaining beds of grass. This is where the food is and as the grass beds retreat bait will be making a mad dash for deeper cover. Frogs over the grass and chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and small crankbaits near the edges are a very good strategy this time of the year. Paul Dudek holds up a bruiser of a largemouth he caught recently at Piney Run Reservoir.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Dudek

Fishermen at Ocean City are reporting large numbers of hungry snapper bluefish in the surf and snapping is what these little guys appear to be doing as they gobble up pieces of finger mullet on bottom rigs. Most fishermen are reporting that they are getting 3 or four baits out of one finger mullet. A few kingfish are still being caught in the surf and those casting out large baits are catching a mix of inshore sharks and a few striped bass.

In and around the inlet/ Route 50 Bridge area fishermen are reporting very good fishing for tautog from the bulkhead at 2nd to 4th Street out to the jetties. Pieces of green crab are becoming more popular than sand fleas now for bait but those fishing sand fleas at the south jetty have been catching some large sheepshead. Flounder are moving towards the inlet on their migration offshore and the channels leading to the inlet have been the place to be. There are still a large number of throwbacks but larger baits such as Gulp lures and fillet strips of snapper bluefish will entice the larger flounder.

Fishermen out at the wreck sites enjoyed the last few days of the sea bass season with good catches; often approaching limits. The season will be closed from October 12th to November 1st. Until the time it reopens fishermen will be fishing for tautog; which has greatly improved with cooler water temperatures. Farther offshore fishermen are reporting fair to good catches of dolphin, yellowfin tuna and white marlin in the Spencer Canyon south to the Baltimore Canyon.

Fishing consists of a series of misadventures interspersed by occasional moments of glory. -Howard Marshall, Reflections of a River


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.