Sailing out of West Ocean City, Captain Monty Hawkins of Morning Star Fishingreported some solid tautog fishing on Thursday of this week after giving anglers only one day’s notice. A handful of eager toggers jumped at the chance to get out due to a nice forecast and a low, long-period swell. Turns out the swell was a bit bigger than anticipated, but it didn’t seem to impact the great fishing they experienced right off the jump. Two anglers, Payton and Jack, who are crew members on the Big Mohawk out of Belmar, NJ, helped drop cinderblocks over Uncle Murphy’s Reef before they got to wetting lines. The action was best during the first couple of drops, and Payton ended up with the catch of the day—a 21-inch male. The skipper plans to get back out there on Monday the 12th if conditions look good, so give them a call at 443-235-5577 to make your reservation.
Mild weather, cold but mostly sunny, has helped improve water conditions throughout the middle Chesapeake watershed. We’re seeing average to above average water flows and clear water in the feeder creeks and headwaters of rivers, which is providing rich oxygenated water into multiple systems and, ultimately, the Bay.
Fishing for hulking, migratory striped bass has settled into the more typical late-winter challenge of finding a needle in a haystack, as reports are few and far between within the expanse that is the Chesapeake Bay. Fish seem huddled in packs in more southern reaching waters around the Point Lookout vicinity. Charters are putting many miles in to find the fish. Rec anglers tend to probe popular warm water discharges or well-known major points jutting toward the main channel (Bloody Point, Franklin Point, Cedar Point, and the like). Deep water jigging with 1.5- to 2-ounce jigs and larger plastics up to 10 inches long, in depths 35 to 70 feet, is the name of the game.
We’ve seen a few anglers trying shallow water flats and river shoreline, hoping to hook into a feeding hog or resident schoolies, but we haven’t seen much success thus far. If February weather patterns hold as is—with sunnier days outnumbering cloudy—then perhaps, the shallow bite will improve. Try lighter jigs up to 3/4 ounces with smaller bodies (3- to 5-inch plastics). You’ll also likely entice pickerel, which are hitting fairly well right now.
We had success running a small crankbait diving 4 feet, off shallow points with some dead vegetation in the Severn River this week, catching pickerel up to 20 inches in length. Any cover is worth probing in well-known pickerel waters, which includes the Magothy, Choptank/Tuckahoe, and Nanticoke/Marshyhope. If the bite is tough, try bringing along a bucket of live minnows. A lip-hooked minnow on an 1/8-ounce jighead under a bobber can entice the fish to bite.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues stocking a mix of rainbow and golden trout in lakes and rivers throughout the state, with a concentration in Howard, Frederick, Carroll, and Washington counties this week. We took a few more rainbows on the fly (white buggers and egg imitators) in the Savage area of the Little Patuxent this week. Check the Department’s Trout Stocking page for updates.
With some cloudiness predicted this weekend coupled with a new moon and strong afternoon tides, this could be an excellent opportunity to get on the water and try your hand at yellow perch fishing. The fish should be staging to spawn upriver in many tributaries. Try small offerings like spoons, beetlespins, and microplastics worked in deeper holes and river bends.
Lastly, we have seen a few reports trickle in of the year’s first northern snakehead being caught in well-known waters such as the Blackwater Refuge. Chatterbaits and beefy inline spinners appear to be the chosen lures for this season’s first few strikes. We also saw a catch that came on an A-rig. Go figure. Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, the Patuxent River at Jug Bay, and north-Baltimore rivers, such as Bush and Middle, are worth trying. Good luck!
While yellow perch haven’t quite entered their spawning phase, they’re currently abundant near their pre-spawn staging areas, slightly downstream from the headwaters of rivers like the Magothy, Choptank, or around Tuckahoe. Hillsboro is showing promising signs for targeting these beautiful fish. The most favored technique involves floating a bobber with a minnow underneath, as multiple anglers report that they’re not schooled up too well, but the bite is there! The best part about yellow perch fishing is that it can only improve from this point until the spawning begins.
The striped bass action appears to be tapering off a bit in the lower section of the middle Bay area. Anglers are noting the highest success rates when leaving out of areas like Solomons Island, particularly by exploring deep-water drop-offs. When not actively pursuing bait, striped bass tend to linger in deeper, warmer waters, so don’t hesitate to explore those deep drop-offs.
Catfish are still making their presence known, particularly around the channel edges at the beginnings of rivers like the Magothy, Susquehanna, Choptank, or Wicomico. Blue catfish are plentiful in these areas! As anglers venture further up the rivers, there’s a good bite for channel catfish. Catfish serve as an excellent winter alternative when other species may be out of season, migrating, or inactive, such as the white perch or striped bass. The versatility of catfish makes them exciting to target, as they readily bite on a variety of natural and artificial baits.
Much like the middle Bay area, the striped bass action is noticeably slowing down to the south. Early morning hours provide some potential, but the real explosive fishing seems to be happening just before sunset. Shoreline fishing seems sluggish, but tracking birds or focusing on deep drop-offs and channel edges proves to be the optimal strategy for landing trophy-sized striped bass. Deeper waters within tidal rivers, particularly around underwater structures, hold promise for targeting other species like speckled trout or red drum as these fish tend to stage in deeper, warmer waters to escape the cold. Exciting opportunities await in the depths!