News Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Just like us humans, fish are seeking relief from the summer heat wherever they can find it, and some fish are more tolerant of high temperatures than others. Many anglers have chosen to curtail fishing for striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay this month and are enjoying other fishing opportunities.
Spanish mackerel, bluefish, white perch, and spot are providing plenty of fun fishing action for bay anglers. There is plenty of fishing action to be had in the Ocean City area, and species such as northern snakeheads, blue catfish, and other freshwater fish are providing plenty of often overlooked opportunities.
Forecast Summary: Aug.7-13
Anglers will again find very warm water, low winds and a chance for an afternoon thunderstorm Wednesday and possibly early next week. The recent general fishing pattern will continue. Anglers should focus on areas with adequate oxygen and the coolest water just above the “Don’t fish below this depth” mark. The waters with the best combination of cool temperatures with adequate oxygenation are located north of the Bay Bridge near Swan Point. The other way to find cooler water is to fish the shallows near-prime daytime areas at first light or after sunset when surface water temperatures can be several degrees cooler.
Bay surface salinities are well below normal for this time of year but improving slightly. In most of Maryland’s shallower Bay waters, anglers will find adequate oxygen for gamefish from the surface down to 20 feet. Exceptions are the Magothy, West and South rivers, which have adequate oxygen only down to 10 feet or less. However, to avoid low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line and the lower Potomac River, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet. At the Gooses Reef area of the main Bay and also on the Potomac River, from Colonial Beach downriver to Tall Timbers, avoid fishing below 15 feet. For oxygen forecasts, see VIMS Depth to 3 mg/l.
For the middle-to-upper bay — from Annapolis north — water temperatures are in the low to middle 80s. Choptank area water temperatures are in the mid-80s. For the lower Potomac River at Lewisetta, surface water temperatures are at the low 80s while water temperatures at Little Falls have risen to the upper 80s. Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms on the mainstem of the bay from Magothy River down to the tip of Kent Island. In addition, an algal bloom is present along the western shore from Chesapeake Beach down to Parkers Creek. On the Potomac River, patchy algal blooms are present from Colonial Beach down to Nomini Bay, Va.
Expect normal flows from most Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. There will be above average tidal currents from Sunday through Tuesday as a result of the upcoming full moon Aug. 15.
For the full weekly fishing conditions summary and more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. You can now get regular updates on Maryland’s waters and the creatures that call them home sent to your inbox with our new Eyes on the Bay newsletter. Sign up online.
Striped Bass Summer Fishing Advisory Forecast:
Red: Air temperatures are forecast at 95 degrees or higher. Anglers are encouraged not to fish for striped bass after 10 a.m. and should target other species of fish.
Yellow: Air temperatures are forecast at 90-94 degrees. Anglers should use extreme care when fishing for striped bass; fish should be kept in the water when caught and released on these days.
Green: Fishing conditions are normal. Proper catch-and-release practices are encouraged.
More information about this awareness campaign can be found on the Striped Bass Fishing Advisory Forecast webpage.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
The Conowingo Dam continues its daily power generation phase, but anglers who get to the dam pool at dawn are finding some striped bass action. Casting spoons, swimshads, and topwater lures are accounting for some early morning striper action. Striped bass fishing is reported to be fair to poor in the lower part of the river and Susquehanna Flats areas.
Striped bass is being found in the upper bay sites that allow the fish to hold in 25 feet of water or less. Sites worth exploring are Swan Point, the Triple Buoys area, the Love Point Rocks, Podickory Point, and the east side of the Bay Bridge. Live-lining spot or white perch is the most popular way to fish and the throwback ratio of sub-legal striped bass has increased in the past month. Most agree that the best fishing success occurs in the early morning hours and tends to slow or shut down as the day’s temperatures increase.
Extreme care must be taken to ensure a reasonable recovery for released fish. It is best by far to release all striped bass while they are still in the water and if a photo is desired, be prepared and do it quickly. Anglers are reminded that they must use circle hooks when live lining. Check our website and video for more information on circle hooks and careful release.
Light-tackle jigging is a great way to fish for striped bass at the above locations or wherever fish can be found suspended near channel edges or shoal areas. Most are using skirted jigs in the ½-ounce to ¾-ounce range, or jig heads with soft plastic bodies in pearl/ chartreuse combinations or white. In the early morning hours, some are having luck casting swimshads, jigs, and crankbaits at shallow structures such as the Love Point, Thomas Point, or Bay Bridge rock piles. Trolling along channel edges has been tough this week due to stained water conditions. Most report little success when trolling a mix of bucktails, hoses and small spoons.
Spot are being found in the shallow areas on the western side of the Bay Bridge, off Sandy Point and the mouth of the Magothy River. White perch can also be found in the same areas and several of the shoals in the upper bay. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the best way to catch them in deeper waters. Casting beetle spins in the tidal rivers and creeks near shoreline structure is a fun way to catch them in the mornings and evenings.
Most of the striped bass action is occurring at the Bay Bridge piers; Hacketts, Thomas and Bloody points; and areas near the Hill at the mouth of Eastern Bay where anglers are live-lining spot. The striped bass is suspended along channel edges in 25 feet of water of less, so a good depth finder is a valuable tool to locate fish. Exploratory probes with a depth finder along likely channel edges and lumps can reveal suspended striped bass.
Spot are readily available at shallower hard bottom areas in the mouth of the Choptank River, behind Hacketts Bar or in front of Chesapeake Beach. Pieces of bloodworm on a two-hook bottom rig will do the trick and in many areas, white perch will be in the mix. Maryland anglers are reminded the bottom rigs may not have more than two hooks attached — common Sabiki rigs that have a half dozen or so hooks attached are not legal here.
Jigging for striped bass has been good along with the areas where live-lining is taking place or wherever fish can be found suspended along channel edges. Trolling is another option and many are trolling to target Spanish mackerel. Most are trolling with a variety of small gold or silver spoons behind #1 planers, with a bucktail or two and a red or green hose in the mix, with the hope of catching striped bass or bluefish.
The tidal creeks and rivers are offering good fishing for white perch and catfish for those fishing from small boats or from shore. In the early morning or evening hours, there is a lot of fun to be had by casting small lures such as beetle spins near shoreline structure. Casting bottom rigs from docks and piers is also a great way to catch white perch, catfish, or possibly a striped bass. Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park on the Choptank River or the Jonas Park pier on the Severn are two of the better places to fish this week for a mix of white perch and catfish from shore.
The region is presenting a pleasing variety of fishing opportunities. Spanish mackerel are readily available in most areas of the lower bay and offer a fun alternative to fishing for striped bass. Trolling small gold or silver spoons behind planers has been one of the more popular ways to catch them. Most of those trolling for a mix of bluefish and striped bass have been pulling bucktails, spoons and red or green hoses. The main shipping channel edges are a good place to explore.
Mixed schools of Spanish mackerel and bluefish often chase schools of bay anchovies near the surface and can be marked by diving seagulls. Casting small jigs or metal lures into this fracas is a fun way to get into the action. Much of this activity is taking place on the eastern side of the bay from the Middle Grounds to the Target Ship, as well as Pocomoke Sound and the Point Lookout area.
Live-lining spot has been the primary way striped bass are being caught this week. The steep channel edge in the lower Potomac River from Piney Point to St. Georges Island and near Point Lookout have been two of the most popular spots to fish. Jigging is also popular at these locations and at the channel edges in the lower Patuxent River. Casting jigs, swimshads, and crankbaits near structures such as Cedar Point Light and shoreline structure have also been accounting for striped bass catches.
Fishing for large spot has been excellent in the Tangier Sound area and the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Most are using pieces of bloodworm on a two-hook bottom rig over hard-bottomed shoal areas. White perch, croaker, and small bluefish will be part of the mix. A few flounder are also being caught along channel edges in the Pocomoke and Tangier Sounds this week on Gulp baits or live minnows.
A few cobia are being spotted by those sight fishing and are being caught by casting live eels or large soft plastic jigs. About half of the cobia being caught have been failing to measure the 40-inch minimum length. A few large red drums are being caught and released in the general area from the Middle Grounds to the Target Ship. They are being caught by trolling large silver spoons or by jigging when schools can be located.
Recreational crabbing has been steadily improving with the best catches occurring in the lower and middle bay. The larger crabs are reportedly being caught in waters 10 feet to 15 feet deep. in waters 10 feet to 15 feet deep, with the shallower areas holding a lot of small crabs. Surface water temperatures are very warm and some of those trot lining are reporting crabs are falling off before they reach the surface. There have been some limited reports of fair to good crabbing in the upper bay. Razor clams continue to be one of the better baits to use but chicken necks will still catch crabs.
Trout fishing in the fly fishing only and catch-and-release management waters offers fun fishing for those seeking a little solitude and the challenge of presenting flies to waiting for trout. In the western region, most anglers are using copies of terrestrial insects, ants, hoppers, beetles and inchworms. Working streamers is also an excellent way to fool some of the larger brown trout.
The upper Gunpowder River will most likely see fluctuations of flow from the dam at Prettyboy due to rain events this week. There are a few hatches of tricos and midges occurring but most are using flies representing terrestrial insects. Inchworms are falling from overhead trees so they have been a popular pattern to use. In areas where spinning gear is allowed, casting small spinners or spoons can fool leftover trout from spring stockings in the put-and-take areas as well as the delayed harvest areas.
Fishing at Deep Creek Lake has settled into a typical summer mode, where many fish are seeking cooler waters deep along grass lines or shade. Drifting along these deep grass lines with minnows is one of the best ways to catch a mix of yellow perch, smallmouth bass, crappie, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass. Largemouth bass can also be found in the shallower coves early in the mornings and late evenings near the grass. Later on in the day, they will be seeking cool shade under thick grass mats in deeper water, sunken wood and under floating docks.
The summertime pattern for largemouth bass is a fairly solid affair now as they tend to feed all night along shallow shorelines that have cover for small baitfish and other prey items. Once the sun is up in the sky, they seek cool shade through the hot daytime hours. The pattern tends to stay the same whether you are fishing a pond, reservoir or tidal river.
In the tidal rivers, largemouth bass is oriented to main river grass beds where they are feeding on each side of darkness and seeking cool shade during the day. Buzzbaits, chatter baits, and frogs are great lures to use in the early morning or late evening hours. Northern snakeheads will be part of the mix when fishing grass. Later on in the day dropping stick worms or other soft plastics down through the grass can entice a lazy bass to pick up a bait. Feeder creeks are another place that largemouth bass get relief from the heat as well as the shade of sunken wood.
Other freshwater species that can offer a lot of fun summertime fishing include bluegills, catfish, northern snakeheads and crappie. Bluegills can offer a lot of fun for our younger anglers and they are widespread in almost every body of water in Maryland. Blue catfish are very abundant in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers and offer a lot of action and excellent eating. Clam snouts or fresh cut bait are good baits to use for them. Channel catfish can be found in most every tidal river of the Chesapeake Bay and offer good fishing fun, especially for shore-bound anglers. Crappie will be holding deep near bridge piers, sunken treetops, and marina docks. Northern snakeheads will be found in grassy areas of the tidal rivers and creeks, the lower Potomac and lower Eastern Shore areas tend to hold the greatest concentrations.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
The White Marlin Open tends to overshadow the fishing scene at Ocean City this week, as 404 boats from every corner of the East Coast descend on Ocean City for more than $6.1 million in prizes. Almost all of the boats fished Monday and Tuesday to take advantage of light winds and calm seas, leaving only one additional day for most of the fleet.
For those who have their toes in the sand along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island, there are plenty of kingfish being caught on pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig. A mix of spot, croaker are also being caught and bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut bait.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, bluefish continue to move into the area on evening high tides and are being caught by casting bucktails or Got-Cha plugs. There are flounder in the area and the largest ones are being caught on white Gulp baits or live spot. A few triggerfish and sheepshead are being caught primarily at the South Jetty on sand fleas.
Due to tournament boat traffic, the East Channel has not been a good place to drift for flounder but Sinepuxent Bay has offered some reprieve and nice catches of flounder. Those using live spot for bait or white Gulp baits on a jig head have been catching the largest flounder. There tends to be a high percentage of throwbacks when using squid or minnows.
Outside the inlet there is some exciting inshore fishing action. Those sight fishing for cobia on some of the inshore shoals are catching large cobia by casting live eels to them. There is also a mix of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and bluefish for those trolling spoons.
Farther offshore, fishing for sea bass has had daily ups and downs and have captains puzzled. On most days everyone has sea bass in their ice chests along with a few flounder or triggerfish. As one would imagine the offshore canyons are being heavily fished this week by the White Marlin Open tournament fleet. Literally hundreds of white marlin have been caught and released, along with blue marlin, dolphin, wahoo, and mixed species of tuna.
“I never lost a little fish, yes, I am free to say. It always was the biggest fish I caught, that got away.”— Eugene Field
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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