Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | November 22, 2011

Leaves are falling and the Maryland landscape is beginning to take on the muted colors or winter and the waters of the state begin to settle into an often uninviting state of very cold water. There is a quick reminder when one sticks their hand in the water or goes over there boots that it is not summer anymore. Being out on the open waters of a lake, the bay or the ocean in a boat can have some deadly consequences if something goes wrong. Hypothermia is the number one killer of sportsman in the outdoors so be careful out there and pick your days. Always remember there will be another day to go fishing and think about having plenty of free board on your stern and hull underneath of you.

Despite cooling temperatures fishermen are finding days where the wind is calmed and good fishing prevails this month throughout Maryland. Three generations of Wagner's got to go fishing out on the bay recently and Grandfather George Sr. proudly stands behind his even prouder grandson, 9-year old Nick Wagner with his 26" striped bass.

Photo Courtesy of George Wagner, Jr

Upper bay fishermen have been finding striped bass holding deep and close to the bottom in several of the regions tidal rivers. Moving slowly along and watching depth finders for suspended fish has been a good tactic this week where fish are holding in slightly warmer water below the thermocline. Jigging with metal or soft plastics or trolling close to the bottom will get lures to where the fish are.

Fishermen have been reporting some success with chumming at locations such as the Love Point channel edge and the Podickory Point edge. Menhaden or razor clams for chum and drifting baits close to the bottom are accounting for some striped bass and a lot of channel catfish. There is not much reported to be going on at the Bay Bridge piers; fishermen keep looking but mostly report small striped bass and large white perch at the rock piles in about 25' of water.

In the middle region of the bay fishermen are still finding striped bass on top but now the fish tend to be spread out and fishermen will find sea gulls picking and swirls from fish occurring here and there. Often the best tactic when finding this kind of action is to shut off the engine and drift with the fish. Fish will begin to come up near the boat and often will be seen chasing small groups of bait right under the boat. Casting poppers or jigging will both be good methods to fish. Mary Mahoney slipped out late Sunday afternoon with her husband for short fishing trip and found good numbers of striped bass at the mouth of the Tred Avon River.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Mahoney

The seething masses of bay anchovies have left for the most part and now fishermen are seeing bait in the form of young of the year river herring and perhaps hickory shad migrating from the tidal rivers in small groups. Menhaden are still around also and range in size from juvenile size to adults and tend to be at the mouths of the tidal rivers and out in the deeper channels of the bay.

Fishermen are out in force trolling the depths of the shipping channel and similar channels such as the False Channel. Large parachutes, swim shads and bucktails dressed with sassy shads trolled deep have been catching some large fall migrant striped bass this week. Fishermen report marking fish at depths of 60' to 70' in some places and most everywhere fishermen report marking fish holding close to the bottom.

The major focus on fishing in the lower bay region has been the large fall migrant striped bass that have moved into the region. Most fishermen are trolling large lures down deep such as parachutes and bucktails dressed with sassy shads or swim shads trolled in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. A few fishermen are also reporting good success with spoons and diving plugs. Most everyone is also dragging some smaller offerings for striped bass under 28" in size due to the fact that there are plenty of them in the region. This happy group of fishermen hold up their prizes caught near the Middle grounds on a Crisfield based charter boat.

Photo Courtesy of Don Bell

Fishermen are always intently watching their depth finders this time of the year and most report finding the fish holding close to the bottom. Drifting over suspended fish and jigging is always a fun way to fish and especially exciting when the fish are in the neighborhood of 40lbs of so. Some enterprising fishermen have been marking big fish in the shipping channel and jigging with 2oz jigs on braid and catching some whoppers. In the mouths of the tidal rivers and other areas fishermen are also jigging on the traditional sized striped bass that are up to about 26".

Chumming has been a viable option for fishermen this week for school sized striped bass but fishermen do mention chum slicks being crowded with fish less than 18" in size. Traditional locations such as the Middle Grounds, Buoy 72 and the mouth of the Potomac have been the places to try chumming. Fishermen are also reporting good success with catching white perch in the lower sections of the regions major tidal rivers. The perch are holding deep and can be caught on bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or with jigs.

Freshwater fishermen in the western region of the state are enjoying good trout fishing in most management waters and put and take areas. Floating leaves tend to be a problem for fishermen but it is all part of fishing this time of the year. Fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye in Deep Creek Lake and the upper Potomac River continues to be good this week. Small crankbaits, tubes and jigs are all good choices for baits. Rocky edges and points are good places to look for smallmouth bass in Deep Creek Lake; walleye tend to be holding along steep edges. In the upper Potomac eddies, deep channels and large boulder areas are good places to fish.

Largemouth bass are holding close to channel edges, drop-offs and any kind of deep structure such as sunken wood, rocks and bridge piers. Small crankbaits, grubs, jigs and blade lures are all good choices for deep holding bass. As grass beds diminish and waters become more open and water temperatures drop opportunities for schooling crappie increase. They can be often found holding near deep structure such as bridge piers and channel edges. Chain pickerel also offer good fishing now in lakes, ponds and tidal waters. Spinners, spoons and most other kinds of swimming lures will do the trick for these toothy fish. Mike Kenney sent in this picture of a 27" chain pickerel he caught on a jointed Rapala in Smithville Lake on the eastern shore.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Kenney

Ocean City fishermen have been spending a good bit of time trying to intercept some of the large striped bass moving through Maryland waters on their way south. Most are describing the fishing as a slow pick in the surf; but it only takes one of these fish to make any fisherman very happy. Surf temperatures are around 55-degrees now, dogfish and skates are part of the fishing equation off the beaches and fresh menhaden baits are what are on the menu.

Tautog fishing has been very good in and around the inlet jetties, bridge piers and bulkheads. Pieces of green crab or frozen sand fleas are the baits of choice on an ebbing tide. At night fishermen are catching striped bass in the inlet on swim shads and live eels.

Outside of the inlet fishermen have been trolling for migrating striped bass on the shoal areas such as Fenwick and the Gull Shoals with scant success so far this week. There have been reports of large schools of striped bass far offshore beyond the EEZ boundary line; hopefully as more fish move south from up north fishermen will have greater opportunities inside. Tautog fishing on the wrecks and reefs close to shore has been very good and the boats heading out to the sites farther offshore are catching sea bass. Captains are reporting limits of sea bass are not uncommon and most fishermen are walking off the boats with double digit catches.

The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes; their written language is too difficult for human minds, and their spoken language mostly too faint for the ears. - John Muir


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.