As October comes to a close, Maryland anglers will find there are plenty of treats and no tricks awaiting them. The fall stocking program has released a very generous amount of trout across Maryland; Chesapeake Bay anglers are enjoying some of the season’s finest light-tackle action, and sea bass fishing off Ocean City has been excellent.
Forecast Summary: Oct. 30 – Nov. 5:
The Bay fishing pattern is changing again. Since the waters have already “turned over” or fully mixed, there is adequate oxygen for fish from the surface to bottom. In addition, continued cool weather has reduced surface water temperatures, and now the warmest waters can be found in the bottom quarter of the water column.
So while Bay fish have lots of places to roam, anglers should focus on the warmer, deeper waters near-prime habitat areas for larger concentrations of baitfish and hungry gamefish. As always, make sure to focus on moving water periods for the best results.
Bay surface salinities are largely back to normal conditions. Surface water temperatures up and down the Bay have continued to drop from last week and are now down to the mid to low the 60s.
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.
Expect a minor reduction in water clarity from algal blooms on the mainstem of the Bay from Tolchester down to the Bay Bridge and on the western shore from the Patuxent down to the mouth of the Potomac River. To see the latest water clarity conditions on NOAA satellite maps, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
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
The Conowingo Dam pool continues to provide plenty of fun striped bass action in the early morning hours for those casting topwater lures close to the power generation outflows. There is a lot of undersized striped bass in the mix but legal-sized fish are being caught and the catch-and-release action is a lot of fun. The dam has been on a fairly large water release schedule, starting during the morning hours.
A mix of channel, flathead, and blue catfish offer plenty of exciting fishing during the day in the Conowingo Dam pool, the lower Susquehanna River, and the channels leading to the Susquehanna, Elk, and Northeast rivers. Fresh cut bait, clam snouts of items such as chicken livers make good baits.
The early morning topwater striped bass fishing action continues downriver along the edges of the Susquehanna Flats and channel edges. The grade of striped bass there tends to be a little larger and once again there are quite a few undersized fish in the mix but all in all, this is some great fishing action. Jigging can offer some extended fishing time along the channel edges.
The lower Patapsco River and the Key Bridge area have been offering some good striped bass fishing this week for those jigging along channel edges or live-lining eels near bridge piers. Soft plastic jigs are the favored jigs, often in chartreuse or pearl combinations, and don’t forget to place skirts on those jig heads — they really add to the action. Casting topwater lures in the early morning or late evening hours is also popular.
Other locations that have been offering good topwater fishing in the early morning and late evening hours include the mouth of the Chester River, Love Point Rocks, and the general area from Podickory Point to the mouth of the Magothy. Jigging with soft plastics under breaking fish is also producing some nice striped bass this week. Most of the breaking fish are small striped bass feeding on bay anchovies, but larger fish can be found underneath and close to the bottom.
White perch are steadily moving into the deeper waters of the region’s tidal creeks and rivers. Fishing with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm is a good way to catch them. Using dropper rigs with small plastic dropper flies can also be a good choice to catch them. They are starting to show up at the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles.
As tidal river waters cool, yellow perch are starting to appear in the tidal rivers and creeks. The best way to catch them is fishing with small minnow close to the bottom or working small beetle spins close to the bottom. Channel catfish are waiting in the tidal rivers for someone to place a piece cut bait in front of them.
Fall jigging action is beginning to gain speed along the edges of the shipping channel and the mouths of the tidal rivers. Skirted soft plastic jigs in chartreuse and pearl combinations are popular, and dipping the tail end in red garlic scent or loading up the body cavity with menhaden paste is a favored enticement. Using large offerings can help deter the smaller striped bass. Most of the bluefish have moved south but soft plastics might get nipped now and then.
Often striped bass can be found suspended near channel edges if you keep a watchful eye on depth finders. Look for breaking fish and diving seagulls, and often enough larger striped bass can be found underneath the smaller striped bass chasing bay anchovies on the surface. Slicks and seagulls taking a rest on the water are a good indication of schools of striped bass holding deep. The slicks are from the oil of bay anchovies that were recently turned into striped bass lunch.
Trolling can be a good option for catching striped bass this week; pulling a mix of spoons, bucktails and red or green hoses are popular. Increasing the size of spoons and bucktails can help minimize catching the abundant smaller striped bass in the region. Umbrella rigs and small spreader bars have been popular and inline weights help get offerings down to where the larger striped bass are holding.
Live-lining activity is beginning to wane as spot become harder to acquire and striped bass tends to be on the move. Spot can still be found in deeper waters over hard bottom. The most productive live-lining for the best grade of striped bass tends to be along channel edges in 35 feet of water; Thomas Point remains popular.
The new moon has provided robust high tides which is good for shallow-water fishing along shorelines with topwater lures. The morning and evening hours offer the best times to fish and high flood or high ebb tides often offer the best fishing opportunities. Eastern Bay along with the Severn, Choptank, West, and Little Choptank rivers are just a few good places to fish along shorelines. In areas that are a little deeper or do not have thick grass, swimshads, jerkbaits, and crankbaits can be a good choice.
White perch offer good fishing in the tidal creeks and rivers, usually in deeper water near structure such as oyster reefs or deep-water piers. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs with small soft plastic jigs are a good bet. Those fishing with small minnows may start to see yellow perch in selected tidal rivers. Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park remains one of the best places to fish for shorebound anglers and is open to the public from 7 a.m. until sunset each day.
Note to anglers: The Talbot County side of the Bill Burton piers will be closed from November 12, 2019, to April 1, 2020. Access to the park will still be permitted from sunrise to sunset. The Dorchester County side of the pier will remain open from 7 a.m. to sunset.
Reports of breaking fish and diving seagulls are widespread. Although most of the surface action is made up of small striped bass and a few bluefish, there can be rewards underneath the surface action. Often enough larger striped bass can be found holding close to the bottom. Jigging with large soft plastic jigs is one of the best ways to target this larger striped bass.
Trolling can be a good alternative near breaking fish or along channel edges where suspended striped bass may be found. Medium-sized bucktails, spoons and red or green hoses have been a few of the most popular choices for lures. The use of umbrella rigs has been popular and most everything is being pulled behind inline weights to get the offerings down to where the larger fish are holding.
The shipping channel edges on both sides of the bay are a good place to explore this week as well as the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers. Striped bass can be found north of the Route 301 Bridge on the Potomac, and the Morgantown Power Plant warm water discharge is always worth a peek.
Live-lining spot can still be a good way to target striped bass this week along steep channel edges when they can be found suspended. The steep edges from St. Georges Island to Piney Point in the lower Potomac River remains one of the best places to give it a try.
Casting topwater lures along shoreline structure such as points, shallow water grass, docks in the lower Patuxent, Potomac and St Marys rivers has been offering some fun fishing action during the morning and evening hours during a high flood and high ebb tides. In deeper areas, crankbaits, swimshads, and jerkbaits can also be very effective. On the eastern side of the Bay there is similar action with striped bass and the added bonus of speckled trout. The Hoopers Island area down to Pocomoke Sound all offers fun fishing with light tackle.
White perch fishing is good in the lower sections of the region’s tidal creeks and rivers. often over living oyster bottom. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp is one of the better ways to catch them. Small jigs and beetle spin type lures can also be a good tactic when worked deep. Yellow perch can be part of the mix as more of them enter the tidal rivers.
Note to anglers: Point Lookout State Park will not be open for night fishing from Nov. 12, 2019, to April 15, 2020. During this time, the fishing pier will be closed. Boaters will still be permitted to use the boat launch after sunset during that time but should contact the park to arrange access.
The 2019 recreational crabbing season is coming to an end as cooler water temperatures prevail. Most crabs are moving into the deeper waters in the lower sections of the tidal rivers, often in 15 feet of water or more. They will continue to move into even deeper waters as they prepare to burrow into a mix of sand and mud for the winter. Those who just have to try and put one more catch or so together are able to this week if one finds the right spot. The experts are evenly split between razor clams or chicken necks for bait.
The fall trout stocking program has been able to release generous numbers of trout in a wide range of waters, now that flows in most areas are in good order. Some waterways such as the upper Gunpowder and Patapsco rivers have been experiencing very high flows due to rain events. Overall the fall stocking program will provide plenty of trout that will last well into November for the put-and-take areas. The catch-and-release and delayed harvest trout management waters will provide fun and exciting fishing opportunities through the winter months. The trout stocking website has an informative feature that maps where the most recent trout have been stocked through a map feature. Be sure to check it out to see your options to enjoy the generous stocking of quality trout our hatcheries have worked so hard to bring you.
Those that are using fly-fishing gear will find working streamers and nymphs as two good choices during the next months. If the light spinning tackle is your choice, casting small spinners or spoons is a great way to cover a lot of water and attract the attention of trout.
The flows in the upper Potomac are in good shape and smallmouth bass fishing is good. Walleye are also becoming more active with the cooling water temperatures. Casting tubes, small crankbaits, and jigs are good choices near current breaks, submerged ledges, and large boulders.
Largemouth bass in the tidal rivers and freshwater impoundments can be found holding to shallow and transition zone cover this week. Sunken wood will be a good place to look for largemouth bass, which is holding to ambush crayfish and small baitfish exiting the shallower areas where grass beds have declined. Small crankbaits and jigs that resemble crayfish and spinnerbaits are good choices to work in the transition zones. In tidal rivers, fallen treetops are excellent places to find largemouth bass holding and good places to check. The drop-off areas outside of declining spatterdock or pickerelweed fields are wonderful places to work spinnerbaits, especially on a falling tide.
Declining grass beds are forcing northern snakeheads out into more open waters in the tidal waters of the Potomac and lower Eastern Shore rivers and creeks. Casting chatterbaits over these open areas is a good bet, as is using popping corks with a trailing large minnow. Chain pickerel are also feeling the loss of grass cover and will be found holding near sunken wood or similar structure along shorelines.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Fishing in the Ocean City area is slowly transitioning as cooler water temperatures and fall weather patterns prevail. Surfcasters are still catching kingfish this week on pieces of bloodworm and small bluefish on finger mullet or cut mullet pieces. At the inlet, bluefish are moving in and out with the tides and striped bass are being caught in the inlet area; although most measure less than 28 inches there is plenty of action. Flounder continue to move through the inlet on their way offshore, and tautog has taken up residence along the jetties and the Route 50 Bridge area.
Cooler water temperatures and shorter daylight hours are urging flounder to head towards the inlet so the channels leading to the inlet are excellent places to fish. The East Channel and the Thorofare have been very popular with those that are fishing for flounder. Slow trolling or drifting with live spot, finger mullet, small menhaden, or large Gulp type soft plastics have been catching the largest flounder. There has also been some striped bass topwater action near the Route 90 Bridge and although most all are sub-legal in size, there is plenty of fun to be had.
The boats venturing out to the wreck and reef sites — inshore and offshore — have been finding good to excellent sea bass fishing. Limit catches are not uncommon. There is also a mix of flounder, triggerfish, and bluefish at times.
The offshore canyon areas are offering slim pickings when it comes to common summer offshore species. S few boats have found warmer water in temperature breaks and scored on some yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Several boats are doing well making the run out to the canyons to target swordfish.
“The rainbow is more beautiful than the pot at the end of it because the rainbow is now and the pot never turns out to be quite what is expected.” –Hugh Prather
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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