Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report- March 21, 2024

Tautog fishing has been good out of Ocean City, meanwhile in the Bay tributaries, hickory shad, blue catfish and smallmouth bass are putting on the feed bag.

Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report

Anthony Bjelke from Long Island caught this jumbo 16-pound tautog while fishing aboard Sea Mee Sportfishing Charters. (IG @anthonybjelke_fishing/@seameesportfishing)

Out of West Ocean City, Captain Monty Hawkins of Morning Star Fishing Charters reported a painfully slow pick of tautog on Friday of last week in glass calm conditions. In fact, he noted that they caught more tautog the day prior between 4 anglers than they did on Friday with a full rail of anglers. According to the skipper, most of the fish caught were shorts while only a handful of keepers (none of which were double-digit) made it to the dinner table. The pool winner was an 18.5 incher.

Over the weekend though, the Morning Star saw better fishing under cloudier skies in cooler temps, with the current running more north/south than the easterly current they experienced a few days prior. Anglers aboard had steady action for most of the morning with fish in the high-teen range, but later in the day, a 21.5-inch tog claimed the pool.

The quality of the tautog bite recently has been dictated by the conditions for anglers aboard the Morning Star. (Photo courtesy Capt. Monty Hawkins)

Anglers Sport Center Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD 

The Anglers Sport Center fishing report is written by Anglers Team Member & OTW Columnist, Alex Gallardo-Perez. 

We had some great weather followed by some wind this past week. It looks like the white perch run might be winding down in some of the creeks and rivers on the lower eastern shore. The upper Bay still holds a good amount of white perch running up the headwaters to spawn. The upper Chester River, Sassafras River and Patuxent River are still seen a strong amount of white perch. Grass shrimp, once again, was the ticket to get them to bite, when rigged under a bobber with a shad dart or on small bottom rigs.

The white perch bite may be dying off, but hickory shad are running the rivers of the Eastern Shore. (IG @mid_atlanticadventures)

Striped bass fishing slowed down some this week for anglers chasing them in the open waters of the Chesapeake as they make their way to the rivers to begin their annual spawn. Most of the rivers are closed to targeting striped bass, so make sure to look at the DNR map so you know were you’re legally allowed to target them.

Blue catfish have showed up in good numbers this past week right at the mouth of the Magothy River anywhere from 15 to 30 feet of water. Anglers fishing from the beach at Sandy Point State Park have been getting some good numbers of blue catfish up to 30 pounds. Using a bottom rig or fish finder rig on the bottom with some fresh cut bunker chunks is the best way to get them to bite.

Blue catfish aren’t the only catfish that are active this time of year. Alex Perez caught this channel cat from the kayak earlier this week. (IG @mid_atlanticadventures)

The Angler’s Sport Center fishing report is written by Anglers Team Member & OTW Columnist, Alex Gallardo-Perez. 

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

Welcome to the first spring report, seeing as the equinox came this past Tuesday into Wednesday. With it…a front that dropped temperatures to freezing and whipped up near-gale force winds. Go figure. After a gorgeous, mostly sunny weekend, the past several days have been very gusty and cold, which has made the bite difficult for several species. This classic March weather will continue its fluctuations into the weekend and the week ahead with sunny days and wet ones, windy and…well, windy, it seems. Temps will inch up and hold in the mid-50Fs though, so that should keep multiple fisheries moving along, as they run to spawn.

In the open water of the middle Chesapeake the charter fleet continues to angle for trophy stripers ahead of the fishery’s April 1st closure. There’s a week and change left to catch the fish of a lifetime as cow stripers continue to push up the bay and into the spawning rivers (which are currently off-limits to striper fishing). You can fish for these stripers in the bay’s main stem and captains reported a tougher bite this week, mostly due to difficulty holding position in the winds, which made lure presentation and maintaining the strike zone a challenge. The preferred lure has been 1.5- to 2-ounce jigheads with large 7- to 10-inch plastics. Nonetheless, the word—from the likes of Capt. Jamie Clough, among others—was that fish were holding to bait balls in deep water along channel edges and transition points. You’d be lucky to find five fish on a ball of bait—more likely to find just one or two. But those fish have been large and healthy, up to 50-inchers—thus, worth the time and effort to locate them in open water. Popular locations include open water ahead of the mouths of major rivers such as the Potomac, Patuxent, Patapsco, and Choptank.

White perch have been very active as they continue pushing into spawning tributaries. On the heels of a couple good reports, I ventured to the salt ponds on the south side of the South River and enjoyed an excellent day of perch jerkin’ with fish up to 11-inches. They hit a variety of lures including a tandem rig with a small hair jig and a nungesser spoon, as well as a 1/16-ounce stumpjumper. A little silver flash dancing in the water seemed to get the strikes. Other reports came in from the upper Patuxent, upper Tuckahoe, and what’s become one of the more favored spots on the Eastern Shore, Red Bridges at Greensboro (note, when fishing above the Rt. 313 bridge, DNR regs state you need a non-tidal license—even though that’s still tidal-influenced water.)

Many of the tidal/brackish salt ponds of the region will hold white perch during spring. This is one of several caught at one such pond during a Saturday spend in southern Anne Arundel County. (IG @reelchesapeake)

Shad runs are also getting a lot of attention from shore bound anglers and those willing to kayak sometimes sketchy waters (watch the wind forecasts). The report from Fletcher’s Cove on the Potomac is that the run of hickory shad is starting quite nicely with daily catches reported. The boathouse opens this weekend at Fletcher’s, signaling the official start of shad season. There, you’ll be able to talk shop with staff who’ll outfit you with the preferred lures of the week. Best to bring a mixed bag of darts and spoons in various weights and colors, as the shad could be holding shallow or deep and will hit “who knows what color” at any given time. Testing various lures, retrieves, etc. should eventually put you on fish, which are usually at the line between current and slack water.

This morning (Thursday), I also made my way to a particular Prince George’s County spot along the Patuxent to test those waters. Target was white perch, of which I found none (last night’s 32F temp likely cooled any chance of a bite), but I did hook into a very nice sized hickory shad with a 1/16-ounce stump jumper tipped with a silver stinger. The frisky fella shook off the hook just before netting, so no picture. Darn. It’s still early by my estimation for hickory, or Americans, in this stretch of water, so I was not surprised to not find any more of them despite my repeated casts along a 1/4-mile stretch of water.

Blue catfish are becoming a target du jour, especially with the impending striper moratorium through May 15th. Mixed reports all over the region, but mostly good. Both bank fishermen and boaters have been landing fish in the 10- to 15-pound range, plus a few hogs upwards of 30. Various bottom rigs and the freshest chunk bait are preferred—use 2- to 3-ounces of lead to hold the bottom. The lower, deeper sections of most tributaries are best to target, especially so in the Choptank, Patuxent, and Potomac.

Freshwater (and brackish) species including largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and northern snakehead will hopefully start biting with more frequency in the week(s) ahead. But the past several days yielded fewer reports than the week before—likely due to the very cold weather that blasted us. Jerkbaits or small square-bill cranks are a good pick if you aim for the largemouth this week; chatter-style or inline spinner lures for snakehead; and weedless paddletails worked slowly for both. Crappie and bluegill should be hugging laydowns that reach into 5-plus feet of water. Stingers, micropaddles, beetlespins, and even tiny rat-l-traps can get bites. The small lakes, millponds, and reservoirs that dot the region are go-tos. We saw the water was back up at Triadelphia, which bodes well for anglers in the Central Maryland region.

Chain pickerel will continue hitting lures with abandon, so long as you can find them. They’ll be holding at the docks/piers/cover closest to transitions between deep water and shallow. Remember, it’s illegal to harvest tidal chain pickerel right now—catch and release is fine. Best tribs to try for them: Magothy, Severn, South, Tuckahoe, and way upper Choptank.

Common carp are also on the radar of diehards who love the fighting spirit of these large fish. They’ll start spawning as May nears, but are feeding hard now. Catching them on the fly is becoming a challenge more and more anglers are willing to try. Sinking fly or worm presentations may be best at the moment until trees and shrubs begin flowering at which point, mulberry-like flies on top might be worth a try. Another option is old-fashioned bottom fishing with doughballs or canned corn. You’ll want to “feed” the area you’re fishing to attract the fish. Waters to try include the Patapsco west of Baltimore, western branch of the Patuxent, and the headwaters of Severn, Bush, Middle, and Gunpowder. Carp fishing can become an addicting sport as you discover techniques, recipes, and nuances of attracting the species. Good luck!

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


Maryland DNR Fishing Report

Maryland DNR Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Freshwater

The lowest spring flows in recent history the past year required unprecedented operations at both Albert Powell and Cushwa, Bittner says. “Staff has worked feverishly over the past few months with spring flows finally rebounding and getting the trout to the size needed for stocking. Trout have been going onto the trucks averaging a half pound to 3/4 pound apiece, with a larger percentage of golden trout being added this year increasing the chance for anglers who enjoy catching them or maybe landing one for the first time. Two-year-old trout have been the largest we have had in recent years with many of them almost a pound and a half a piece currently being loaded on stocking trucks. Well over 300 trophy trout ranging in size from 3-6 pounds each with some upwards to 10 pounds will be modestly loaded and sent out to favorite watering holes across the state.”

Fisheries biologist Josh Hennesy took time out from stocking trout this week to give us a quick update on the upper Potomac River. “The river has been fishing well for smallmouth. With the elevated flows, shoreline eddies have been best. Prior to this cold front, water temps were in the 50s and crankbaits or spinnerbaits have been working great. Walleye should be actively spawning, or just finishing up. Typically, their bite turns back on post spawn when they become more aggressive to replace expended energy and resources from spawning. Muskies will be next to spawn. They are probably moving into spawning areas at this time.” Hennesy asks anglers to enter their muskie catches on the DNR voluntary angler survey to help keep track.

Fishing for largemouth bass is presenting many wonderful opportunities this week as water temperatures continue to warm, and the bass are actively feeding through the day. A variety of lures can be used, ranging from crankbaits and craw jigs in deeper waters to spinnerbaits, soft plastics, and jerkbaits in shallower waters.

Northern snakeheads are beginning to awaken and become more active on sunny afternoons; fishing large minnows under a bobber is a proven tactic during this time of the year but casting paddletails near shoreline structure during the afternoon sun on the sunny sides of creeks is also working for anglers.

March and April provide some of the best crappie fishing of the year and anglers are finding large crappie holding close to sunken structure in the form of fallen treetops, sunken wood, and marina docks. Small minnows and marabou jigs under a slip bobber are popular ways to fish for them.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

The cold weather will knock coastal bay water temperatures back a bit this week, but it will not be long before we hear of the first flounder caught in the back bay waters of Ocean City. In the meantime, anglers are enjoying good fishing for tautog in and around the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area.

Surf fishing has been quiet this week, except for the occasional clearnose skate, but anglers are anticipating black drum showing up soon. When the black drum arrive, sand fleas will be a favored bait. Inside the inlet, anglers are enjoying some fun catch-and-release fishing for striped bass, which are coming up short of the 28-inch minimum. Casting soft plastic jigs is the most popular way to fish for them.

The anglers hitching a ride on the charter and party boats heading to the offshore wreck and reef sites are enjoying good fishing for tautog this week. Some of the tautog being caught are quite large and limit catches of four fish are common.

Maryland DNR Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *