Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | May 06, 2015



The signs of spring are everywhere this week with a surge of 80° plus weather and many things are shifting into high gear as if to catch up with the calendar. It seems like every plant and tree is pollinating this week and every surface is covered with pollen including car windshields, boats and allergy sufferer's eyes and nasal passages. Many species of fish are in spawning high gear this week and much of the striped bass spawning looks like it might have peaked this past weekend. Frogs are croaking, birds are singing and I even heard my first whippoorwill of the season recently. Male ospreys can be seen sitting near nests while mates incubate eggs and I happened to notice this past weekend one male wood duck either swimming back and forth near a nest site or walking along the water's edge much like any expectant father waiting for the notice of birth. Nature is in full gear all around us; please get out and enjoy it with family and friends.

Warmer spring time weather and decreased flows from the Conowingo Dam have done much to spur the spawning activities of hickory shad, American shad, river herring, white perch and striped bass in the Susquehanna/Elk River complex. The water releases from the dam were barely anything on this past Sunday and Tuesday. Hickory shad catch and release fishing at Deer Creek has been about as good as it gets. Our fish passage fisheries biologist Jim Thompson shot this short underwater video of hickory shad and blueback herring which is a delight to view, just click on the link and sit back and relax.

This past weekend white perch fishing in the lower Susquehanna River began to pick up with some nice sized white perch being caught in about 20' of water on a variety of jigs. There have also been some American shad being caught and released in the Susquehanna up close to the dam recently. John Brown poses for a quick picture of an American Shad he caught near the dam before releasing it back into the river.


Photo Courtesy of John Brown

Anyone who was out for the last of the Susquehanna Flats catch and release fishing for striped bass this past weekend were treated to witnessing some large scale spawning activity by the striped bass. Anglers reported that the waters at the mouth of the Elk River, the Susquehanna Flats area and the mouth of the Susquehanna erupted on Sunday with striped bass splashing everywhere. To the uninitiated it is an amazing sight to see as large cow striped bass come up to the surface and male striped bass aggressively butt into the cow striped bass's belly to release the eggs inside for external fertilization. Fishing for striped bass near the Susquehanna Flats ended on May 3 and will be closed until May 16th.

It was a beautiful weekend to be out on the bay trolling for striped bass and boats came out of ports east and west to converge on steep channel edges where the best opportunities usually exist for convincing a large striped bass to chow down on lures that represent menhaden or river herring. Bait has been showing up on depth finders at about 20' below the surface in most areas as they are being swept along the steeper channel edges. The larger striped bass have the power to be able to swim freely in these swift currents and take advantage of the fact that smaller fish such as menhaden have a tougher time. Much like migrating birds waiting for a good tail wind the larger striped bass heading to or leaving the spawning grounds will do much the same with tidal currents. One thing that everyone who is trolling along these swift current areas near channel edges is encountering are the winter jellyfish which are also being swept along like leaves in a good wind. Charter boats often troll 24 lines or more when using planer boards have now been backing down to 16 or so, to keep from wearing out the mate who is constantly cleaning lines of jellyfish debris. In the upper bay, the channel edges near Love Point and Sandy Point Light have been popular places to troll this week. Post spawn striped bass from the Susquehanna Flats area should be making their way down the bay this week so prospects are high for good fishing this weekend in the upper bay.

There was a big striped bass spawn on the Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers this past weekend and most likely the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers did also. These large striped bass will be making their way down the tidal rivers and should definitely be in play this coming weekend in the middle and lower bay regions. The False Channel is the gateway to the bay for the Choptank River fish and Tangier Sound and the Hooper's Island Straits for the fish leaving the Nanticoke River. The steep channel edges of Bloody Point down to Buoy 84 have a long track record of producing great catches. A lot of bait in the form of menhaden gets swept along that edge. That steep channel edge picks up again south of the Choptank and proceeds past R76 to the Hooper's Island Light and down past 72. On the western side of the bay basically the shipping channel edge from Chesapeake Beach south to Point No Point is a very good place to troll. The edges at Parker's Creek and Cove Point always receive a lot of attention and for good reason. The sharp edges out in front of Piney Point and Saint Georges Island are the place to be on the lower Potomac. This happy angler was excited to have a quick picture taken of this 39" slot size striped bass before returning it to the bay.


Photo Courtesy of Alan Englebrecht

Water clarity in the bay has been exceptional lately and for that reason many are finding white parachutes and bucktails are working well. Chartreuse will always be the other option and the choice will bounce back and forth based on water clarity and cloud cover. Often when the water is so clear fluorocarbon leaders or lighter than normal mono leaders can up the catch. As most know it can take a pretty good wad of cash to invest in planer boards, trolling outfits and tackle. Some are taking the option of trying chumming to catch their striped bass at traditional locations and this form of fishing will certainly work at this time. The tactics can be a little different from summer fishing since the large fish tend to poke along close to the bottom of a chum slick and really like large fresh baits such as a fillet of menhaden fished way back in the chum slick and close to the bottom. If a concentration of suspended fish can be located jigging with large soft plastic jigs can work well.

The entire results of the blue crab winter dredge survey have been released and it looks favorable for the upcoming season. The basic facts from the survey revealed a 47% increase in female crabs of spawning age and a 35% increase in juvenile crabs.

The Maryland Artificial Reef Program is seeking fishing volunteers to help evaluate the fishing reefs currently placed in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean off of Ocean City. Friday, May 8 is last day for signing up to volunteer for the MARI reef survey. Volunteers can contact Erik Zlokovitz at Erik.Zlokovitz@maryland.gov or 410-260-8324. For more information please view the MARI Volunteer Flyer.

Freshwater fishing continues to present a lot of varied fishing opportunities this week. Warmer weather has been raising water temperatures and several species of fish such as largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish species are beginning to spawn in the central, southern and eastern regions and parts of the western region. As can be expected the far western portion of the western region is a few weeks behind the rest of Maryland in regard to water temperatures.

Trout fishing in the many trout management waters continues to be a big draw as fisheries crews continue to stock 10's of thousands of trout in the past few weeks. There will be continued stocking of trout this week and through May in many of the trout management waters that tend to remain cooler. The trout stocking website will take you to the stocking schedule and updates on completed stockings as well as maps indicating where the trout are stocked.

Deep Creek Lake water temperatures are slowly raising and are in the mid 50° range this week. Largemouth bass are beginning to move into the shallower coves in preparation of spawning. Fishing for a mix of walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass has been good along the rocky shorelines and deep grass for those drifting minnows under a slip bobber. An April walleye survey on Deep Creek Lake by fisheries crews revealed an abundant walleye population with 15" to 18" walleye being the most common size.

The upper Potomac River water levels have returned to good fishing conditions and targeting smallmouth bass and walleye is popular. The fisheries hatchery program recently helped stock 300,000 walleye fry to bolster walleye populations in the upper Potomac due to flood conditions spoiling natural fry survival. Also of note on the walleye front a respectable batch of walleye fry were recently stocked in Rocky Gorge to supplement the walleye fishery there. Rocky Gorge as well as Liberty Reservoir will also receive a stocking of striped bass fry later on this summer to support the freshwater striped bass fishery at those two reservoirs.

In most of the freshwater impoundments and tidal waters of Maryland largemouth bass are actively spawning this week. Males have carved out nests in shallow areas and females are either actively on nests or will be soon. Crappie are beginning to spawn also near relatively shallow structure such as fallen tree tops, sunken wood or grass. Bluegills and other sunfish species are also spawning at this time in shallow coves. Mason Branger is a happy and lucky boy that his dad took him fishing at Triadelphia Reservoir where he caught this nice crappie near sunken wood cover.


Photo Courtesy of Mason Branger

Fishing opportunities in the Ocean City area are beginning to pick up as water temperatures in the ocean and coastal bays begin to warm up. Water temperatures in the surf are about 52° and in the high 50's in the back bay areas. There are still some large bluefish being caught in the surf and also in the back bay areas. The action in the surf is mostly centered on the use of heavy tackle and using bottom rigs baited with cut menhaden or finger mullet baits. Skates apparently are becoming pesky bait stealers. A few short striped bass are being caught along with the occasional black drum.

At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area tautog are becoming more numerous near bulkheads, jetties and bridge piers with some nice keeper's being caught. Flounder are being targeted in the channel edges with an ebb tide pulling warmer water off the flats creating the best action. Bluefish have also been nailing baits meant for flounder recently. Bill Boteler holds up a pair of bluefish he caught near the Route 90 Bridge recently.


Photo Courtesy of Bill Boteler

Tautog fishing has been very good on the near shore wrecks and reef sites with limit catches being common. It will only be a little more than a week before the sea bass season opens on May 15th and there is much anticipation for a good start to the season.

As the fishing season progresses there is the possibility that live (hopefully all encounters are in this category), injured or dead marine mammals such as dolphins may be seen along the beaches or waters inside or outside the Ocean City Inlet. Sea turtles are also of interest to the Maryland's marine mammal stranding group. Anyone finding dead marine mammals or sea turtles should contact Amanda Weschler at Cell 443-758-6607 Office: 410-226-5193 x132 or Email: Amanda.Weschler@maryland.gov. Live or injured marine mammals and turtles should be reported to the National Aquarium at 410-576-3880.

"Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman's job is simple: pick out the best parts." - Charles Waterman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.