Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report- February 2, 2024

Tautog fishing over the reefs is decent when conditions allow, DNR continues to stock trout, and trophy stripers are taken on jigs in the Bay.

Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report

An important message from Maryland DNR regarding changes to recreational striped bass seasons in the Chesapeake Bay:

“The Department is considering modifying the recreational and charter boat spring (trophy) season and early summer/fall season for striped bass, modifying the “no targeting” period for striped bass to include those times and locations, extending the summer closure through August 7, and closing the commercial hook-and-line season for striped bass during the summer closure. The modifications to the spring and early summer/fall seasons and the associated “no targeting” provisions have previously been requested as an emergency regulation but the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR) has not yet taken action on that request.”

Comments can be submitted using the link to the form below and must be submitted by February 6.

» Submit Your Comments for Proposed Changes to Striped Bass Here!

Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD

The Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report is written and compiled by writer and media professional, James Houck. Find fishing reports and more at reelchesapeake.com.

Mostly dry conditions across the region for the past week have greatly improved the water clarity in the tributaries and the main Chesapeake Bay. Though a spit of rain here and there has dropped, by and large the weather has cooperated for anglers and for the fish they’re trying to catch.

We’re into the last quarter of the moon phase and, heading into next week, the strongest tide cycles will occur during daylight, so take your pick of fishing the outgoing or incoming water and associated currents. Heading into this weekend, the region will get some of the cold front and high pressure that’s approaching from the Great Lakes region, but the forecast looks promising. We’ll have some gusts of wind push through Friday evening into Saturday, and by Sunday low pressure returns along with little to no wind heading into week two of February (and a Happy Groundhog Day to you, too, sir!).

I’m not going to sugarcoat it—the fishing sucked last week. The water was like chocolate milk throughout the Bay and tribs, and there was lots of debris pushing through the watersheds. The fish were turned off; it was a tough bite. Some guys—mostly charters—grinded it out. This week, the water settled and conditions greatly improved. Everyone seems happier.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources resumed preseason trout stocking with heavy concentrations of rainbows distributed in portions of the Little Patuxent River at Savage, Centennial Lake, Governor’s Bridge Ponds, Tuckahoe Creek on the Shore, and a few locations in and around Baltimore. And the fishing was excellent for them. I personally spent a couple mornings along the Little Pax fly casting stone nymphs and woolly buggers with some success (black worked better in shaded areas, white in sun drenched).

Rainbow trout caught on the fly from the Little Patuxent at Savage, Maryland, on February 1st. This fish hit a white woolly bugger. (IG @reelchesapeake)

Other anglers on site were spincasting tiny inline spinners or baited hooks and pulling up even more fish. Water flow was moderate and manageable with bends and holes holding the fish. The trout were fresh and feisty, and present an excellent opportunity to cure cabin fever. Check the Department’s Trout Stocking webpage for updates and locations.

Stocked rainbow trout were chewing on both flies and inline spinners on Thursday. (IG @reelchesapeake)

Jigging for large, migratory striped bass remains as popular as ever. The reports coming from the middle to southern Chesapeake are nothing short of spectacular…if and when the fish are found. It takes a lot of effort and gas to search for the 40- to 50-inch hulks that are hugging the bottom. The eastern side of the shipping channel is where many reports originate. From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge south toward Bloody Point is a nice gradient of contours in the 25 to 75-foot range, which present a large swath worth searching for stripers. On a sunny and warmer than usual day (like this past Thursday), you may find fish moving into even shallower water less than 20 feet to feed, especially later in the day after the water has warmed a couple degrees. Charter guides are generally departing from Kent Island/Eastern Bay, Annapolis/Sandy Point, Chesapeake Beach, Solomons, or Point Lookout. Warm water discharges—Calvert Cliffs, especially—draw in fish and are also worth drifting in and around.

The other big Bay fish that more and more anglers are catching on to (yes, literally and figuratively) is the blue catfish. And with the more settled weather conditions, we heard of several reports coming from the lower Susquehanna River. Anglers bottom fished with raw chicken breast, crushing heavyweight fish up to 40-pounds, and large numbers of 15–20-pounders. A go-to rig is the Santee Cooper using rattle floats; large circle hooks, 7/0 to 10/0 preferred. The fish are in the deepest water you can find and in most every river, along with channel cats, but especially in the Bush, Magothy, Choptank, Patuxent, and Potomac watersheds. Try closer to the mouths of the rivers this time of year.

The yellow perch bite seemed to pick up this past week with a few good reports coming from Eastern Shore tribs, including the Tuckahoe and Marshyhope. The fish are reportedly staged in the deeper holes ahead of their spawning waters, so jigging small offerings (stingers, nungessers, shad darts, and live minnows) in the deepest creek and river water you can find (outside edge of bends for example) should get you some fish. No word yet on perch showing up in popular holes such as Beachwood Park in the Magothy or Red Bridges of the Choptank.

This weekend, I’m planning to target chain pickerel in the Severn River. It’s been a spell and with the water clarity near normal and good weather forecasted, I suspect more anglers will do the same. There’s one month left in the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland’s annual Pickerel Championship. Now’s prime time to catch the largest specimens off docks, structure, and from the dead grass beds. Try 3–5” jerkbaits, slow rolling large spinnerbaits, size 3 or 4 inline spinners, or flukes on weedless jigheads around cover. Start with perch or firetiger colors to mimic the neds they target this time of year. Good luck!

View the full Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report, written and compiled by writer and media professional James Houck, at reelchesapeake.com.

From West Ocean City, Captain Monty Hawkins of Morning Star Fishing saw some good tautog fishing this past week. On Saturday the 27th the action started out strong with plenty of quality keepers being released, and a few going on ice. They continued to see a steady pick of nice tog at almost every spot until the current dialed up a few notches over their final piece of structure. The captain called is quits after 20 minutes without a bite in order to get in before sundown due to the amount of fog they’d battled near the inlet.  Paul from Newark, Delaware took the pool with a big male that was released to spawn and fight another day.

Paul from Delaware with Saturday’s pool winning tog on Morning Star Fishing prior to release. (Photo by Captain Monty Hawkins)

The Morning Star made it out again on Tuesday the 30th and they battled shifting winds and choppy seas for most of the day. Still, the fishing was not half bad for the conditions they were dealt, and boat regular, Frank, had the hot hand, releasing a few nice keepers. They’re looking to get out again ASAP when conditions allow, so call (443)235-5577 to book your reservation. 12 anglers books a tautog trip. And it is worth noting that the skipper adheres to his long-standing boat rule: 3 keeper tautog at 16 inches, and only one can be female. This encourages releases of keeper size male and female tautog—which are slow-growing fish—to help maintain populations for years to come.

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