Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report
Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD
The new moon arrived and with it, stronger tides cycles. The weather has been frigid in the middle Chesapeake Bay. The winds have howled. Water temps are holding at about 56–57F. And the fishing has been solid.
Anglers continue working birds throughout main Bay, looking to catch stripers feeding on the peanut bunker spilling out of the rivers. The mouths that flush into the Bay are excellent staging areas to target bass. Jigging is the technique most employed, with light tackle setups, heads at about 1oz, and a selection of plastics…5-inches, 7, and up. You’d be hard-pressed to find better color combos than those of white, silver, and chartreuse. “Hot rig” with scent and maybe use a skirted jig for some extra flair. The most trafficked areas continue to be the Bay Bridge and points south, including the Severn, Magothy, Eastern Bay, South, West/Rhode, and Choptank. Try to find depth and contour changes near the channel edges.
A good number of boats are trolling with umbrella and tandem rigs. This is the time of year to potentially hook into 30-plus-inch striped bass. The striper migration down the Atlantic coast continues. Right now, the Jersey beaches are producing stud catches for surf casters. Many of those fish will make their way down, around, and up into the Chesapeake Bay over the next several weeks. Big trolling could become big producing. A bit further south toward the Solomons to Potomac region is a good bet to work your vessel or hire a charter.
Attention is also turning to river fishing for pickerel and yellow perch. The bite for both species is starting to get hot in the Severn River, which serves as a measuring stick for the watershed. In fact, I propose that the yellow perch fishery continues to show incredible improvement year over year. I’ve personally had increasing catches the past two seasons, and if early success this year is any indication, then ’23 into ’24 will be even better. This week alone, the Severn produced multiple 13-inch perch and a bunch of 12s for several anglers, myself included. Those are good size neds for this region. I also visited the way upper Patuxent River specifically to see if the perch would be active, and they are. Marshyhope and Tuckahoe on the Eastern Shore are also producing. Most fish were caught on light setups with inline spinners or small jigs with 2-inch stingers or minnows.
Pickerel are also hitting inlines and soft plastics—the key, thus far, in this early part of the season is to have some flash and keep the lure moving. Look for grassbeds and/or structure like laydowns, docks, etc., especially on a high tide. Both pickerel and perch tend to inhabit the same areas, so if you start hooking into one species, chances are you’ll hook into the other.
The Coastal Conservation Association Maryland Pickerel Championship is underway and continues through February 29th. On the iAngler tourney app, we’re already seeing a number of pickerel entries, with the largest so far, a 26-inch-plus fish. The tournament is open to anglers of all ages and all tidal and non-tidal waters of Maryland are fair game.
Trout and, especially, smallmouth bass are attracting anglers to several feeder rivers, including the Little and Middle Patuxent at Savage, Patapsco near Avalon within the state park, and the Susquehanna River. Fly casting is a fun way to hook into the fish, which tend to run less than 12 inches. The Gunpowder River has also seen action with anglers hoping to hook into trout.
And big, blue catfish are feeding hard. We’re seeing many successful bank anglers in the D.C. vicinity. Boating for blues is hot further down the river. And the Jug Bay area of the Patuxent is loaded with them, with folks either fishing from the pier or launching at Jackson’s Landing or Selbey’s Landing. Good luck!
Angler’s Sport Center Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD
The Angler’s Sport Center fishing report is compiled and written by Anglers Team Member, A.J. Lewis.
Upper and Middle Bay
As the second half of the fall season takes hold, there has been a noticeable decrease in striped bass activity in the upper Bay. The Susquehanna River, specifically, has experienced a decline in striped bass fishing activity. On a positive note, there has been an uptick in blue catfish biting in the same area, providing anglers with an alternative and potentially more fruitful fishing experience. During the fall, as striped bass disperse while pursuing migrating baitfish, anglers employ specialized techniques to enhance their chances of success. Trolling with umbrella rigs—strategically and heavily weighted—along channel edges is a popular method during this season. This approach capitalizes on the scattered distribution of striped bass in pursuit of migrating prey. Additionally, another favored technique involves jigging with soft plastics near channel edges where striped bass strategically position themselves to ambush migrating menhaden. This nuanced understanding of fall striped bass patterns allows anglers to tailor their strategies for a more targeted and effective fishing experience.
As autumn progresses, white perch are exhibiting a shift towards deeper waters across the upper and middle Bay areas. Anglers, attuned to this seasonal change, are adjusting their tactics accordingly. The transition involves a switch from using small spinners around shallow water structures, to employing bottom rigs. These bottom rigs, whether tipped with live or artificial bait, have proven effective in catching white perch in their new deeper habitats, specifically around channel edges. A highly recommended choice among anglers is the Chesapeake Sabiki Rig, particularly when paired with enticing bloodworms. This strategic adaptation to the fall patterns of white perch enhances the angler’s chances of a successful and rewarding fishing experience.
While the water temperatures continue to drop, pickerel are more actively seeking out and feeding on prey. One of the most effective strategies for targeting these dynamic predators is to focus on shallow water structures, from submerged weeds and grasses to docks and downed timber. Inline spinners and 3 to 4-inch plastics have proven to be highly successful in enticing pickerel bites. These powerful fish are renowned for putting up an exhilarating fight in often shallow or skinny water, making them excellent opportunities for anglers looking to enjoy some exciting fishing experiences during the fall and winter months. Engaging with pickerel not only provides a thrilling challenge but also ensures an enjoyable pursuit for fishing enthusiasts seeking action during the colder seasons.
The lower Potomac River maintains its status as a favored fishing spot for striped bass enthusiasts. At present, striped bass are strategically positioning themselves around channel edges and the mouths of rivers, actively ambushing migrating baitfish on their journey towards warmer waters. Anglers keen on targeting these elusive fish are employing a variety of effective techniques, with trolling and jigging proving particularly successful. For an added advantage, keep a watchful eye for flocks of birds diving into the water, as this behavior often signifies the presence of baitfish. Striped bass are likely to be close behind, ready to capitalize on the abundance of prey. Staying vigilant for these visual cues enhances your ability to locate and engage with the striped bass population in the lower Bay area, ensuring a rewarding and successful fishing experience!
Anglers are now observing a decline in white perch activity within the shallow lower Bay tidal rivers. As the water temperature cools, white perch are transitioning from the shallower rivers and migrating towards deeper and warmer waters for their staging phase. To effectively target them during this period, anglers are turning to bottom rigs, with the Chesapeake Sabiki rig being a key, complemented by live or artificial bait. For optimal results, various effective baits can be utilized, including grass shrimp, razor clams, bloodworms, and lugworms. These bait options enhance the attractiveness of the rig, increasing the likelihood of a successful catch. By adapting to the changing behavior of white perch and employing the right tactics and bait, anglers can maximize their chances of a rewarding fishing experience in the lower Bay during this transitional period!
The cooling water temperatures in the lower bay area have triggered an uptick in blue catfish activity. Specifically, locations like the Patuxent, Potomac, and Wicomico rivers are experiencing heightened blue catfish activity. These invasive yet formidable fish not only provide an exciting challenge for anglers due to their vigorous fight but also present ample opportunities to stock your freezer with their delicious meat! An appealing aspect for anglers is the absence of a creel limit, allowing them to keep as many blue catfish as they desire. This flexibility adds to the allure of targeting this species. Anglers are successfully landing blue catfish using a variety of baits, with cut soft crab and peeler crab emerging as favored choices. This combination of favorable conditions, abundance, and the thrill of the catch makes blue catfish a well sought-after target for anglers looking to make the most of the cooling temperatures in the lower Bay area.
The Angler’s Sport Center fishing report is compiled and written by Anglers Team Member, A.J. Lewis.
The lack of rain this month is having a detrimental effect on many of the reservoirs in the western and central regions, and water levels are very low. In some reservoirs boat ramps are unusable. In those cases, good fishing can be found from shore or a kayak. Many streams and rivers are running low and clear, so stealth, light lines, and long casts are helpful. Leaves floating on the surface of streams and rivers can also offer pesky interference. Fishing for coldwater species such as smallmouth bass and walleye offers excellent fishing opportunities. The upper Potomac River is seeing water temperatures between 45 to 50 degrees this week.
There is plenty of fun trout fishing this week in the catch-and-release, delayed harvest, and fly-fishing-only waters. In the put and take waters, trout have spread out so covering a lot of water by casting small spinners and spoons is a good bet and offers a fun challenge.
Cooler waters are causing many freshwater fish to feed aggressively and move freely throughout the water column. Largemouth bass are roaming through a variety of habitats but the waters between the shallower areas and the deepest are good places to target largemouth bass. They will often be holding close to any kind of structure as they wait to ambush baitfish and crayfish migrating from areas of declining grass beds to deeper cover.
Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, soft-plastic paddletails and craw jigs are all good choices for lures. When targeting sunken wood, fallen treetops and similar structure, wacky rigged worms can be a great lure choice if worked slowly.
Northern snakeheads are finding the waters a bit chilly this week and their activity is slowing down. Casting white paddletails near shoreline brush and sunken wood is still a good option. Fishing large minnows under a bobber is a great way to entice them to grab an easy meal. Sunny afternoons are a great time to fish the shallower areas exposed to the sun that helps warm the water.
Crappie are schooling up near structure in deeper waters this month. Marina docks, bridge piers, and deep sunken wood are all good places to look for them. Casting small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber and allowing it to rest is a great way to target them in the fall.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf casters are still catching kingfish this week along with a mix of blowfish, flounder, and a few bluefish. Those fishing larger baits are catching dogfish, skates, and striped bass. There are a lot of large striped bass north of us in New Jersey, which hopefully begin to filter south along Maryland beaches.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, anglers are catching striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs and paddletails. Drifting cut bait is another option. Sheepshead are being caught along the jetty rocks, bulkheads, and bridge piers on sand fleas, while tautog are being caught on pieces of green crab.
The channels leading to the inlet are the place to fish for flounder as they use these pathways to the inlet for their fall migration offshore. The throwback ratio is reported to be high. Virginia researchers are surveying flounder anglers about their fishing habits and opinions. You can participate through the Virginia Tech website.
Anglers are enjoying some fun catch-and-release action for striped bass this week in the Ocean City Inlet and near the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges. Most of the striped bass are under the 28-inch minimum but they offer plenty of fun fishing. Casting paddletails and soft plastic jigs are the favored lures.
Anglers heading out to the offshore wreck and reef site continue to enjoy excellent fishing for black sea bass this week. Limit catches of fat sea bass are common along the rails this week. Anglers are also catching a few scup and flounder on the same trips. Anglers fishing in the canyons are targeting swordfish and both golden and blueline tilefish.