The fishing scene below the Conowingo Dam remains rather static this week as fishermen continue to catch a mix of largemouth and smallmouth bass in the dam pool and the occasional striped bass. In the Pooles Island area striped bass are being encountered by fishermen that are jigging, trolling and chunking. The best action and best grade of fish has been occurring in the early morning and late evening hours. Diving birds have been marking fish activity and fishermen are reporting some schools of fish are in the 14” to 17” size category but others will hold striped bass in the 22” to 27” size range. Moving and exploring different pods of birds and fish can often pay dividends for fishermen in the form of larger fish. There are some bluefish mixed in a times but most of the bluefish action at the moment seems to be south of Pooles Island.
The bluefish action in the upper bay south of Pooles Island has been intense this week as bluefish are feeding on a mix of bay anchovies and small menhaden. The bluefish can range in size from as small as 12” to over 20” and they are bent on chewing on anything fishermen toss their way. Jigging and casting with metal into breaking fish is a good option, casting poppers with single hooks in place provides plenty of visual entertainment and trolling bucktails, spoons and surge tubes is always a good bet. Bluefish are also moving through chum slicks in the Swan Point and Love Point areas as fishermen chum for striped bass. The throwback ratio for the chumming fleets continues to be high for striped bass with some of the better fish coming off the bottom early in the morning. Bluefish certainly are providing plenty of entertainment and good eating if chilled down immediately.
A few fishermen have been having good luck live lining spot near steep channel edges or anywhere they can mark striped bass holding such as the Bay Bridge piers. The spot are coming from some of the shallower areas of the bay and the tidal rivers. Bluefish will undoubtedly chop up a portion of the baits depending on your luck in avoiding them but those that stick with it have been catching some nice striped bass.
A mix of white perch and spot can often be found on many of the lumps and shoals in the upper bay and at times; especially in the early morning or late evening hours striped bass can be found there. No one lump or shoal seems to be consistent and most fishermen are surveying areas with depth finders to find fish. Recreational crabbers are reporting improving catches of crabs as depressed salinities urge more crabs to move into the upper bays tidal creeks and rivers. Some crabbers are using fresh white perch chunks in their collapsible crab traps and feel they are having better luck; other are using razor clams. Whatever baits one uses; a good tide is essential to leave a scent trail to the trotline of trap.
Middle Bay Region
There is a lot of fishing action in the middle bay region this week and bluefish certainly make a large portion of it. They are spread throughout the entire region and an increasing number of larger ones up to 26” in size are showing up as far north as the Bay Bridge. The bluefish are busting into schools of bay anchovies and creating quite a scene accompanied by diving birds and some braver striped bass joining in. The areas around Poplar Island, the mouth of the Choptank, Breezy Point have been providing constant action lately but of course the mayhem can occur most anywhere out in the bay. Casting a variety of metal lures and jigs will get one into the action; just be prepared for regurgitated baitfish coming your way when you swing these voracious bluefish over the side of the boat. Striped bass are often mixing it up with the bluefish; those that are hungry and brave enough will be right in the thick of things but also look for striped bass holding deep underneath the surface action. Spanish mackerel are showing up in increasing numbers lately to the delight of fishermen.
The live lining of spot continues to be in the play book for fishermen but one has to have plenty of bait on hand to deal with hungry bluefish. The channel edges continue to be good places to try your hand at finding some good sized striped bass. Many anglers are switching to 40lb fluorocarbon or monofilament leaders to deal with being cut off by bluefish and they still seem to be able to fool striped bass. Once the action starts behind the boat; if you have some larger spot or dead ones try sending a chunk down to the bottom and striped bass will readily take a piece of fresh spot if they can get to it before a bluefish. The feeding tends to get competitive when the striped bass are mixing it up with bluefish so the striped bass can’t spend much time thinking about whether they want a bait or not; it will be snatched right from under their nose by bluefish. This can work in the fishermen’s favor; so if you run out of live baits trying using fresh chunks with a heavy sinker to get it to the bottom fast.
Trolling is another option for fishermen especially for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Trolling small spoons behind planers and inline weights at a good clip can pay out in Spanish mackerel and of course bluefish. Slowing down a bit and adding bucktails to the spread may get one into some striped bass. Spanish mackerel are showing up throughout the region and often along the shipping channel edges is the best place to find them. Trolling outside of breaking fish and diving birds is another option that often pays off; just be sure to give fishermen that are casting or jigging to the breaking fish plenty of space and never troll through the action.
Fishermen that are trolling have been getting some big surprises lately in the form of very large red drum. It pays to put a couple of large spoons in a trolling spread but not more than the anglers on board. The red drum are traveling in large schools and usually every rod that holds anything that interests them will go down at once. These are big fish often over 45” in size and real brutes. They are protected by law so be careful with them; get them to the boat as quickly as possible and released in good shape.
Bottom fishing for croakers especially large ones continues to be good this week. Most anglers are anchoring up near deep channels in the late evening and waiting for the big croakers to move out of the cool deep waters and up into the shoal areas. The croakers can at times seem to lag along in their evening forays and sometimes the action doesn’t start till almost dark. Bottom rigs baited with peeler crab, squid, shrimp or spot strips will work well. An increasing number of fishermen have been targeting large croaker by using a jig head without the soft plastic body and dressing it with a strip of squid or spot and jigging it along the bottom with good results. Croakers over 20” in size can be caught along the edges of channels at places like the mouth of Eastern Bay, the Mouth of the Choptank and the shipping channel edges.
There are still plenty of eating size spot and white perch to be caught in the tidal rivers such as the Choptank; bloodworms and Fishbites are the preferred baits. Croaker, spot and white perch are all the way up to the Route 50 Bridge on the Choptank River and Eastern Bay off of Claiborne has been another popular place to fish. Flounder are being caught as far north as the Gum Thickets; places like Poplar Island, Cooks Point at the mouth of the Choptank, the Taylor’s Island Flats and James Island Flats are just a few of the more productive areas to fish for flounder. Any hard bottom where a good current flows near a channel is a good place to find flounder. Baits such as a strip of squid, spot or live minnows is a good bet. Kelly Grey holds up a surprise catch that grabbed a peeler crab bait while fishing for croakers in the Choptank River.
Recreational crabbers are finding crabs in generally good supply although some are finding a productive spot to crab hard to find at times. There are a lot of light and small crabs in the mix so check for white bottoms with translucent spots and thin shell under those points so you don’t wind up with steamed crabs with little meat.
Lower Bay/Tangier Sound Region:
Despite the recent sticky temperatures there is plenty of exciting fishing in the lower bay region. The Spanish mackerel have moved into the region in force and anglers are putting some impressive catches together by trolling small spoons behind planers and inline weights. They are trolling at a pretty good clip along the edges of the shipping channel in front of places like Point No Point and Point Lookout. Bluefish are also part of the picture and seem to have little trouble catching up with a spoon that is traveling at 6 or 7 knots. The Spanish are here feeding on bay anchovies and mixing it up with bluefish and striped bass so a fast retrieved Got-Cha plug or spoon will get the attention of the fast moving Spanish mackerel.
Breaking fish are being noted throughout the lower bay and Tangier Sound. In Tangier Sound it is mostly bluefish and on the western side of the bay it is a mix of bluefish, striped bass and Spanish mackerel; bay anchovies seem to be the main target. The best action for fishermen seems to be occurring during the early morning and evening hours; a good tide is important and few things will put an end to the surface festivities faster then boat traffic.
The bay water temperatures are now close to the mid 80-degree mark and striped bass; at least good sized ones are hunkered down in the cooler waters of the deeper areas of the bay. Some fishermen continue to have some success with live lining spot in waters deeper than 30’ but as if often the case; there are also plenty of hungry bluefish waiting to chop up baits. Chumming in the area of the Middle Grounds is producing some striped bass but bluefish tend to dominate a chum slick rather quickly. The bluefish being caught in the Middle Grounds area can exceed 5lbs in size. Bluefish can be caught trolling with spoons and surge tube lures in that area up past the Target Ship. Spanish mackerel can be part of the mix as well as large red drum.
The flounder fishing in the lower bay on the east side has been very good in the Cornfield Harbor and the mouths of St. Jerome’s Creek and the Patuxent River. In the Tangier Sound area most any hard bottom near a channel that gets a good sweeping current is holding flounder. Fishing for croakers has been good on the channel edges around Buoys 72 and 72A at dusk; these croakers tend to be of the larger variety and are coming up from the cool waters of the deep channels to forage on the shoal areas at dark. Small to medium sized croakers are being caught during the day in the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers as well as the deeper areas of Tangier Sound. These areas are also producing a mix of spot, small bluefish and even some sea trout.
Recreational crabbers continue to be able to catch decent catches of crabs; especially in the tidal creeks and rivers on the lower eastern side of the bay. Catches on the western side of the bay seem a little off this week and everyone is reporting a lot of small crabs on their baits and a percentage of light crabs.
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