As we transition to October, summer-type weather has continued to hold on and everyone would agree we could use some rain. Fishing conditions are very good in most areas and the Chesapeake Bay could hardly be better with an abundance of Spanish mackerel, and red drum to please any angler.
Forecast Summary: Oct. 2 – Oct. 8:
The stable conditions we have experienced in the Chesapeake Bay for the past few weeks will begin changing this week. Strong north winds will roll through the region on Thursday and Friday mixing oxygen deeper into the water column followed by several days of cooler day and nighttime temperatures that will accelerate a decline in water temperatures. Bay salinities are largely back to normal, allowing some of the more salt-loving fish to push further north. In general, gamefish will still hold at similar locations and depths as last week until Thursday. After Friday and through the next several days, fish will have lots more cooler, more oxygenated waters to roam.
With water temperatures uniform from surface down to the “Don’t fish below these depth” line, focus on the shallower prime habitat areas during lowlight hours and deeper prime habitat areas during the day. As always, make sure to focus on moving water periods for best results. Smaller fish will continue to be abundant in surface waters.
Current oxygen conditions — which are expected to improve this weekend — are as follows: State line up to Point Lookout, 45 feet; Point No Point up to the Gooses, 25 feet; Little Choptank up to Choptank River, 25 feet; Bloody Point, 25 feet; Bay Bridge, 25 feet; Swan Point, 21 feet; and from Still Pond up to the Susquehanna Flats, adequate oxygen to the bottom. Most tributary and adjacent waters have suitable oxygen to bottom except the Patapsco River, Ragged Point, Eastern Bay and Little Choptank, all at 25 feet; the Magothy River, 11 feet; and South River, 8 feet.
Expect reduced water clarity from algal blooms in the mouths of the Patapsco and Chester rivers. Blooms are also present in the mainstem of the Bay from the Little Choptank south to near Hooper’s Island. On the Potomac River, patchy algal blooms are also present from Colonial Beach down near Ragged Point. To see the latest images from NOAA, check our website for Eyes on the Bay satellite maps.
Bay water temperatures are holding at 75 degrees. Water temperatures at Little Falls are stable at 78 degrees. Expect normal flows from most of Maryland’s rivers and streams this week. There will be above average tidal currents through Thursday as a result of the recent new moon.
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.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
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. While the Bay is expected to cool, remember that most water temperatures are still above 75 degrees, so sub-legal fish need to be released as quickly as possible with minimal handling stress to the fish. Do not hold the fish with a rag or towel, as this will rub off the protective slime layer of the striped bass.
As waters gradually cool, there is a fun early morning and evening topwater striped bass fishing action at the Conowingo Dam pool, the lower Susquehanna River and south along the shores of the bay, and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. Most of the striped bass being encountered are sub-legal but plenty of fun no less.
Jigging with soft plastic jigs where striped bass can be found suspended along channel edges and shoal areas in the bay has been good. Live-lining spot and white perch is also a good way to fish these locations. Hodges Bar, the Pooles Island Lumps, the lower Patapsco River, and the Key Bridge are a few locations worth checking out.
Trolling a mix of small spoons and hoses behind inline weights near these same locations and channel edges is also a popular way to fish. Bucktails dressed with soft plastics are also a good addition to any trolling spread. Striped bass — many of which are undersized — are the most common fish being encountered,along with a few bluefish and Spanish mackerel at times.
White perch have been providing plenty of fishing opportunities in the tidal rivers, Kent Narrows, and some of the Bay’s shoals and knolls. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig is the most popular way to fish for them in deeper waters. In the morning and evening hours, casting small soft plastic jigs or spinnerbaits along shoreline structure is providing fun light-tackle action.
A mix of channel catfish and blue catfish are spread throughout the upper bay region’s tidal rivers and many of the upper bay areas. They can be caught on most types of fresh cut fish baits or items like chicken breast, livers or clam snouts. Flathead catfish can be found in the Conowingo Dam pool and lower Susquehanna River. Carp are also present in the upper bay tidal rivers.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish have been the real drivers in the fishing scene this week. The bluefish have become more numerous and larger, as have the Spanish mackerel. Both are being caught by trolling or casting to breaking fish. A trio of small striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are wreaking havoc on schools of bay anchovies that are being carried along channel edges by strong tidal currents. Some of the best places to find concentrations of fish are the western side of the shipping channel south of Thomas Point, and the eastern side from Buoy 84 south past the False Channel.
Trolling a mix of small spoons behind planers and inline weights at 8 to 10 knots has been one of the ways to target Spanish mackerel along channel edges — any slower and you are inviting small striped bass and bluefish to lunch. If you have a hankering for some smoked bluefish, slower speeds and red or green hoses work well.
Perhaps the most fun way to fish for the Spanish mackerel is to locate some breaking fish — look for diving seagulls. Break out a light spinning rod and a heavy metal spoon or jig, cast into the melee, allow your lure to sink a bit, and then speed-reel. Slower retrieves will allow bluefish and small striped bass to catch up.
Large red drum are being found this week in the middle Bay, often holding close to the bottom under breaking fish. A depth finder will help reveal their presence — they show up like a submarine due to their large air bladders.
Thomas Point has been a focal point for those wishing to live line for striped bass this week (circle hooks are required for live-lining). Spot are still being found in the shallower shoal areas of the Bay and tidal rivers, so live-lining will most likely remain popular until the spot head south.
The shallow water topwater striped bass fishery is providing good fishing this week in areas of the bay and tidal rivers. Casting topwater lures near shoreline structure during the morning and evening hours is a wonderful way to enjoy some exciting light tackle action. Soft plastic jigs and swimshads cast near deep structure is another fun tactic. Channel drop-offs, jetty rocks and piers are all good places to try. A fair percentage of the striped bass are sub-legal but still plenty of fun.
Anglers are reminded that most water temperatures are still above 75 degrees, so sub-legal striped bass need to be released as quickly as possible, and cautious catch-and-release must be practiced.
This area offers a number of exciting fishing options that are not going to last indefinitely, so go fishing now! Spanish mackerel and bluefish are roaming the main part of the Bay in large numbers and cobia and red drum can be found roaming the region.
Spanish mackerel can be found along main channel edges and nearby areas, zipping through schools of bay anchovies that are being harassed by bluefish and small striped bass. Many anglers are trolling a mix of small spoons behind planers and inline weights at 8 to 10 knots along the channel edges or near concentrations of fish. Others are casting metal lures into breaking fish and speed reeling to attract the attention of the Spanish mackerel. The size of the Spanish mackerel is reported to have increased, as have the numbers being encountered.
Trolling with red and green hoses as well as spoons is a good way to catch bluefish. Casting into breaking fish with spoons or metal jigs works well and it you really wish to slay them, chumming at the mouth of the Potomac River will certainly keep you busy.
There have been some opportunities for live-lining near the steep channel edge between Piney Point and St. Georges Island, Point Lookout and Point No Point. Most of the fish being caught tend to be sub-legal, so remember to use the legally required circle hooks to make release easier. Striped bass are also providing plenty of fun fishing for those casting topwater lures or swimshads along shoreline structure during the morning and evening hours.
Cobia are still being found in the region near the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship. Sight fishing tends to be one of the most productive ways to catch them, live eels tend to be the best snack to cast to them once spotted. A few cobia are also being caught by those trolling red and green hoses.
Large red drum are roaming the main part of the Bay, with the areas around the Target Ship being one of the best places to find them. Often they can be found lurking under the surface action of bluefish, striped bass, and Spanish mackerel that are chasing bay anchovies and show up as large blips on depth finders. Jigging with large spoons or soft plastic jigs is one of the most popular ways to catch them. Heavy tackle is a good idea to lessen stress on the fish to enable a quick release.
Angling for spot has not been producing many edible-size fish, but plenty of white perch and blue catfish are available in the tidal rivers. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig for deeper water fishing, or casting small lures along shoreline structure, are fun ways to catch the white perch. The blue catfish are abundant in the Potomac, Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers and can be caught on a variety of fresh-cut baits or clam snouts.
It is hard to imagine recreational crabbing getting better, but not for much longer as temperatures cool through October. Large heavy crabs are fairly common and ideal for picking and putting some crab meat aside for favorite dishes during the winter months. The best crabbing continues to be in the middle and lower bay regions this week. Some of the best success is occurring in 6 feet to 8 feet of water. Sooks and small crabs tend to be abundant and chewing up baits, and most crabbers agree that chicken necks are doing fine on trotlines and collapsible crab traps.
The fall trout stocking program is scheduled to begin soon. As mentioned in previous fishing reports, the stockings are not announced until they occur due to adjustments that are often necessary due to flow conditions in the trout management waters or weather. This October is a classic example — we’ve had a dry spell, and flows in streams and creeks are very low, leaving some areas unsuitable for the numbers of trout anticipated to be stocked. Stocking crews will have to make adjustments that are yet to be determined. The hatcheries cannot hold onto many of these trout through the winter due to crowding and making room for the next generation to be raised for the spring. Put-and-take trout fishermen are asked to be patient and check the trout stocking website for updates.
Water levels are down in the upper Potomac River, and with no rain in the immediate forecast, it most likely will stay that way for the next week. These conditions make for some great wading opportunities when fishing for smallmouth bass. Grass beds are declining, so loose grass can be a problem fouling lines. Making long casts with fluorocarbon line can help fool skinny water smallmouth bass that may be holding near submerged ledges, large boulders, and current breaks.
Life on Deep Creek Lake is beginning to settle down, as there is less boat traffic and floating docks are being pulled each week. Cooler water temperatures mean better fishing for smallmouth bass. Other species such as largemouth, yellow perch, and walleye will start to be more accessible. Casting tubes and small crankbaits near rocky points and sunken wood is a good way to fish both kinds of bass. Drifting along deep grass lines with live minnows often will attract a variety of species. Crappie are schooling up near the bridge piers.
Grass beds and similar shallow water vegetation is beginning to diminish due to shorter daylight periods, and this starts the migration of bait form their shallower haunts towards deeper waters. Look for largemouth bass to be holding in transition areas near drop-offs. Small crankbaits that resemble crayfish, soft plastic grubs, and spinnerbaits are all good lures to retrieve from the shallower areas to the dropoff edges where bass are waiting. Largemouth bass will be holding also to sunken wood in these deeper areas or any kind of structure.
Crappie are schooling up near deep structure. Marina piers, bridge piers, and fallen treetops are good places to look for them. Live minnows or small crappie jigs under a slip bobber are the best way to target them.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Along the Ocean City and Assateague beaches, kingfish are providing plenty of action for those fishing with pieces of bloodworms on bottom rigs. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut bait, and striped bass are also being caught on cut bait. Most of the striped bass are sub-legal in length but still fun to catch.
At the inlet, tautog are beginning to show up and provide some action for those fishing sand fleas or pieces of green crab. Triggerfish are also being caught on sand fleas near the South Jetty. Bluefish are moving in and out of the inlet and the Route 50 Bridge areas and are being caught by casting metal, bucktails, or Got-Cha lures, or by drifting live bait or cut bait. More than a few are using live finger mullet, small menhaden, or spot in the area to catch large flounder, bluefish, and striped bass.
The back bay channels are providing good fishing for flounder to those drifting or slow trolling large baits or traditional squid and minnows. The larger baits such as Gulps and soft plastics or live spot, finger mullet, or small menhaden tend to catch the larger flounder.
Outside the inlet, the fishing for sea bass at the wreck and reef sites has been very good, with multiple limit catches reported each day on most boats this week. A few flounder and triggerfish help round out the catches.
Offshore at the canyons, parties have been limiting out on small dolphin near the lobster pot buoys. Plenty of white marlin are being caught and released and there is a healthy mix of wahoo, yellowfin tuna, longfin albacore, and larger dolphin being caught. Some impressive swordfish are also being caught by those drifting baits in extremely deep water during daylight hours.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” — Aldo Leopold
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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