The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing Report

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LAST UPDATED July 14, 2004 NEXT SCHEDULED UPDATE July 21, 2004

Chesapeake Bay & Tributaries Fishing Reports

Fishing opportunities abound throughout the Chesapeake Bay from the Susquehanna to the Virginia line. Channel catfish are providing excellent fishing in the upper bay, along with good chumming and trolling for striped bass. White perch are holding on nearly all shoal areas and tidal creeks. The middle bay region is offering excellent striped bass fishing for the chumming fleet with good croaker, spot, flounder fishing and good crabbing possibilities. The lower bay areas are entertaining fishermen with excellent striped bass, croaker and flounder fishing. Bluefish, spot and large sea trout are also making a solid presence in the region.

thumbnail of map of upper bayUpper Bay:

New Feature - Real-time water information for selected points in the Northern Bay

Fortunes on the upper bay continue to improve as more and more fish move into the area. Fishermen are reporting good chumming on most traditional fishing grounds, although captains are reporting that results can be scattered. Boat traffic has been reported to be having a negative impact on fish settling down in the relative shallow fishing locations in the upper bay. It seems that the striped bass are on the move and often captains will cruise areas, probing the depths till they find fish they can set up on. Traditional fishing grounds such as Hickory Thicket, Hodges Bar, the LP Buoy, Man O War Shoals and Tea Kettle Shoals are just a few areas that usually are holding a decent spread of fish. Captains are noting thatsstriped bass caught in upper bay the early morning bite is best on the change of the tide and that razor clams are the bait of choice. Ed Dorsch sent in a report from this past weekends trip. Phil Krauz, Rob Heck and I got out chumming on Sunday, leaving Back River around 5:45 AM. We went over to the southern end of Hodges Bar where we spotted a cluster of charter boats already anchored up and, in a courteous manner, we dropped anchor in their general vicinity. I can't tell you if our chum worked or not, because we did not have the numbers of hits one associates with chumming...maybe 12-15 in the 4 hrs we stayed there...but the keeper/throwback ratio was excellent, so the cut alewife baits we used worked. Rob, who'd never landed a keeper rockfish before, took first honors and it was a nice well-fed 25"one, the largest of his life, to that point. In all, we took 5 ranging from 19" to 25" home for supper and lost 2 real good fights at boat side. All others were released and since we used bleeding bait circle hooks exclusively, only one was deep hooked. By 10:30 with no breeze, it was too hot to continue chumming, so we put out the trolling rods and trolled the northern part of Swan Point channel until around 1PM, where we took another 4-5 fish, all unfortunately under-sized and quickly released. We did have one other hit that stripped off about 20 feet of line, but quickly spit the hook. All in all, it was a good, relatively short day in the Northern Chesapeake.

Fishermen who choose to troll are reporting having success with a better grade of fish. The best trolling action seems to be across the mouths of the major rivers and shoal areas. Storm shads, spoons and surge tube lures fished deep on weights or planners are getting the best results. Anglers are also reporting breaking Family with striped bassfish throughout the region and most are turning out to be small striped bass working on bay anchovies and small menhaden. Savvy anglers are at times finding larger striped bass underneath by vertical jigging with jigs such as Bass Assassin's, grubs, bucktails or metal. Fishermen are also enjoying good evening fishing for striped bass casting plastic jigs such as Bass Assassin's while drifting or live lining small white perch or spot. Jim Thompson took Carla Flemming and her son Ben for just such a trip near the mouth of the Chester River.

Fishermen have been finding small striped bass on the Susquehanna Flats area and those using light tackle; have been enjoying some fun top water action. Channel catfish are spread throughout the upper reaches of the bay and the lower Susquehanna River. Fishermen continue to enjoy this excellent fishing,striped bass with a tough fighting fish. Jim Gronaw sent us a note about some recent fishing on the Susquehanna River. Channel catfishing has been outstanding on the Susquehanna between Lapidum and Deer Creek. Our parties are averaging 40 to 50 fish per trip with most catfish running 3 to 5 lbs. Chicken livers, fished on #4 circle hooks with a ounce sinker, make the most simple, but effective rig for this almost untapped fishery. Don't be surprised if a quality striped bass takes a liver. This fine striped bass almost spooled me, before we could pull anchor and follow it down river and net it after a 15-minute battle.

White perch are being found on nearly all shoal reefs and are providing some top-notch action for fishermen using bottom rigs with bloodworms. Anglers are also reporting that croakers and spot are starting to make an appearance in the lower parts of the region. Recreational crabbers are reporting slow action on the western shore areas of the upper bay and fair to good catches early in the morning with a good tide.


Thumbnail of Mid-Bay Fishing SoptsMid Bay Region:

New Feature - Real-time water information for selected points in the Middle Bay

Fishing for striped bass continues to provide consistently good fishing in most traditional grounds for the chumming fleet. The Gooses is providing good fishing day to day, but captains are reporting the fish are moving around a lot. Typically captains are scanning the depths with electronics and setting up on pods of fish, when and where they are found. Other locations such as the Diamonds, Bloody Point and Eastern Bay are also holding fish for captains who can locate them and hold them with chum. Boat captains report razor clams are the bait of choice in these areas, but menhaden is a very close second. Some captains will hold faithangler with striped bass in the head of a menhaden as the best bait; others state that a fillet or the guts are the best. As all fishermen know, whatever baits or lure you use; confidence is most important, but should not deter one from trying something new, when the action is slow. Trolling is reported to be good along the 30' to 45' contours along the channel with spoons; small bucktails and swimming shad type lures, fished deep. Fishermen who enjoy casting and working jigs, top water lures or flies with light tackle are catching striped bass throughout the region. This type of fishing really turns on in the early morning or late evening hours with a good moving tide.

Croakers and spot have been entertaining fishermen on the chumming grounds, James Island Rock Piles and at the mouth of the Choptank River. croaker caught on a fly rodCroakers are being caught on baits fished on the bottom while chumming for striped bass or by casting small plastic jigs or sinking flies while drifting in shallow water late in the day. Flounder are moving into hard bottom areas through the region and are being welcomed by area fishermen. Mark Morlock sent in a report from this past weekends fishing. I just wanted to drop a line and let you know that I have just returned from a week of vacation at Taylor's Island and have enjoyed some of the most productive flounder fishing that I have experienced in that area in over ten years. I managed to catch my limit of three fish each day that I targeted flounder without one fish under 17.5 inches and managed to catch one fish that weighed in at 6.5 LBS. At 26 inches. White perch are providing good summer time fishing in tidal creeks and docks for light tackle fishermen casting towards structure or bottom fishing with grass shrimp or peeler crabs.

For a memorable and fulfilling experience add the following ingredients together on a summer evening. One excited child with life jacket, one inexpensive children's push button fishing rod that they picked out themselves, a simple single hook bottom rig, grass shrimp, a dock on a tidal creek and some one- on - one- time together. Mix with loving patience and some eager white perch and you have a recipe for a future fishermen and an unforgettable experience. A personal bit of advice would be to squash the barb on the hook so the fish can be flipped quickly back into the water with a J- style dehooker by an adult, so no one will get stuck with a fish spine.

The Choptank fishing bridge is producing good catches of white perch and channel catfish for anglers with some croakers and spot showing up in the evenings. Bloodworms and peelers are working well for the white perch, croakers and spot. Good old night crawlers have been the best bait for channel catfish and fortunately the least expensive. Recreational crabbers are enjoying fair crabbing around the Kent Island creeks and the Wye River area. The crabbing on the Choptank and Tred Avon has been good and below Cooks Point, along Dorchester it has been excellent. Readers who crab know this can change quickly due to the whims of the crabs. The torrents of rain that hit the bay watersheds yesterday will certainly have an impact. The big male crabs were moving up the rivers as the salinities increased, due to the lack of rain. These crabs will follow the deep salt wedge in the river channels. As an example, crabbing recently was excellent in the Choptank up to the mouth of the Tuckahoe. Salt water is heavier than freshwater and the heavier salt water will move far up rivers in the deeper channel with the tide leaving the fresher water on top and in the shallows. It's a good chance the deluge of rain will push the male crabs farther down the creeks and rivers.

Thumbnail of Lower-Bay Fishing SpotsLower Bay:

The chumming fleet continues to focus on the Middle Grounds and the eastern side of the channel in the area of Buoy 72. The striped bass have been a good grade with most fish over 20" in length and eager for a chunk of fresh menhaden. Steve Lavery took a visiting friend from Germany fishing and introduced him to a Chesapeake Bay striped bass while fishing in Cornfield Harbor. There has been an influx of 2 lb to 5 lb angler with striped bassbluefish moving into chum slicks and are providing an added bonus to fishermen who do not get cut off by those sharp teeth. Most boats that are chumming have been finishing early in the day and spending the rest of the day on croakers and flounder. Croakers have been in residence on the Middle Grounds, around Sharps Island Light as well as the Potomac and Patuxent. Fishermen have been drifting using plastic jigs and traditional baits. As one would expect this time of the year the best croaker fishing is at night, about an hour after dark.

Striped bass fishermen who do not wish to chum have been having good results trolling spoons and small bucktails, deep with weighted lines or planners. The channel edges have been reported to be the best place to troll and outside the big jackGas Docks. Fishermen are encountering schools of breaking fish throughout the region and in particular up the lower Potomac to the Route 301 Bridge. These schools are a mix of small striped bass and bluefish with the larger fish usually being found underneath. Large sea trout in the neighborhood of 6 lbs to 10 lbs have been entertaining fishermen in the Sharps Island, Target Ship areas and the Middle Grounds areas. Anglers using Bass Assassin's fished on a good moving tide late in the evening have been catching some real whoppers now and then. Fishermen know that sometimes anything could be out there and Tony Hill from Capital Heights shows us. Tony caught this 45" Jack Crevalle caught on a 12 lb test-spinning outfit while fishing for sea trout. Flounder have also been a hot ticket in the lower bay area and fishermen drifting the channel edges and hard bottom are making some good catches. Many fishermen are reporting this is the best flounder fishing they've seen in the region in many years.

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TANGIER SOUND MAP -
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TANGIER SOUND:   

The boats fishing out of Crisfield and surrounding areas are enjoying some excellent bottom fishing opportunities. The croaker action has slipped into a familiar summer pattern of finding the croakers in deep water during the day and shallower water at night. The day trip boats are focusing their efforts in waters as deep as 40' to 70'. Captains are reporting the croakers are very plentiful, but have been running a little smaller than a month ago. The nighttime bite is being reported as much better thancroaker during the day. Fishermen who bring these croakers up from the deep waters will often notice that the croakers can have a difficult time adjusting to the change in pressure. Often these fish when brought up from deep waters will experience over inflated air bladders and what is called "prolapse" of the intestines from the anus. This can be seen in this picture of a croaker caught in 55 ft of water and reeled to the surface. Studies by the fisheries service in the early 90's showed that given a few moments to adjust, croakers could deflate their air bladders and swim back down in most cases. The deeper the water and the faster they are reeled to the surface all play into the success of this process. It should be noted that small sea trout have a much more difficult time adjusting and often cannot, especially when the air bladder protrudes from the mouth. Research by some scientists have shown that fish such as groupers that are brought up from much deeper depths will have a much more difficult time adjusting. It has been shown that using a hollow needle and carefully puncturing the air bladder can relieve the over inflated air bladder. This is a difficult process to master, since one can imagine what would happen if a vital internal organ was injured. There does come a depth of no return. I vividly remember catching tilefish off New Jersey in about 800 ft of water. The tilefish would fight for the first 100 ft to 200 ft up and be dead weight the rest of the way up. Their eyes would be bulged out and everything else that's supposed to be inside was coming out any orifice, and they would be quite dead.
 


We have added a new link to some very valuable information for Chesapeake Bay Anglers. DNR's "Eyes on the Bay" website has data coming in from remote sensing stations in the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries. It is well worth checking this out. Click on the map below.

Thumbnail of Weather tracking Stations in the Chesapeake Bay

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