Just as the weather has changed dramatically in the past five days; water temperatures are rising rapidly and with that temperature rise fishing for striped bass in the Susquehanna Flats area is most likely going to change also. Striped bass are going to be looking for cooler water as the shallows warm up so early morning and late evening fishing will probably still pay some dividends for fishermen casting topwater lures. The daytime heat has been brutal on fishermen and many are now fishing during the cooler hours. White perch fishing continues to be good in the lower river and fishing with small jigs seems to be the way to go. There are certainly plenty of large channel catfish to go around for those who enjoy catching them.
The NOAA Buoy at the mouth of the Patapsco River is currently showing a water temperature of 80-degrees. Warmer water temperatures should cause striped bass to begin to hold close to deep structure in the coming weeks. Fishermen trolling close to the bottom or even bottom bouncing seem to be having the best results lately. Umbrella rigs trolled deep with swimming shads as the trailer are very popular or small bucktails dressed with a sassy shad or similar soft plastic. A lot of boats are still trolling in the upper bay areas along channel edges and deep structure but an increasing number are turning to chumming. Popular locations such as Love Point, the Muds, Dumping Grounds and the Podickory Point/Baltimore Light area are getting most of the attention from the boats chumming this week. Fishermen report good fishing as long as there is a good tide. The best action has been coming from baits that are right down on the bottom; the range of size in the striped bass being caught is reported to be just under 18” to a few really nice fish over 30”. Donna Kaler was fishing with husband at Podickory Point when she hooked this big white perch in the chum slick.
Fishermen are now free to fish the shallow areas in the lower sections of the tidal rivers for striped bass and this usually takes place in the early morning or late evening hours for the best chance of success. Fishermen will be looking for shallow structure such as old breakwaters or hard-bottomed flats near deep water and will choose light tackle in the form of spinning gear, bait casters or a fly rod as the tool for the job. Jigging along channels and rips or casting soft plastic jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits or topwater lures in the shallower areas will be the method employed. The David Sutherland Jr. and Sr. team apparently used a kayak to get into position for this type of fishing near the mouth of the Chester River.
Recreational crabbers did not have much to report in regard to catches of blue crabs in the upper bays tidal rivers this past weekend. A number of crabbers tried some early morning forays until the heat drove them off the water and most came up empty. It’s still early for good crabbing in the upper bay; especially since we’ve had so much rain this spring. One place that will often be the first to produce will be the area where the C&D Canal enters the Elk River. Quite often the saltier water flowing from the lower Delaware River brings a bounty of crabs with it.
White perch fishing will remain good in most areas of the upper bay; such as tidal rivers and creeks and will often provide plenty of action for fishermen whether they are fishing from a boat of from shore piers and docks.
Mid Bay Region:
Fishermen in the middle bay region looking for striped bass action are finding themselves in a bit of a transition stage as the fish begin to adjust to warmer water temperatures. A number of fishermen are still trolling for their fish and catching them to a degree but many are now beginning to look to chumming and jigging to catch their fish out in the open waters of the bay. It would also be remiss to not mention that fishermen are anxiously waiting for the spot to arrive in the tidal rivers so they can use them for live lining.
Striped bass are beginning to relate to deep structure as the surface waters of the bay begin to push over the 80-degree mark. Perhaps one of the largest deep water structures in the middle Chesapeake Bay region is the twin spans of the Bay Bridge. Fishermen can be seen on most any day positioning themselves near bridge piers so they can cast bucktails or other lures such as swimming shads near the bases of the piers in search of striped bass holding there. Fishermen have been doing well there enjoying a rather simple kind of fishing with light tackle. Art King holds up a nice one he caught on a 2-ounce bucktail.
Fishermen are beginning to chum at locations that are of course producing results; currently some of those locations include Hackett’s bar, the area just north of the Hill above Poplar Island and the Clay Banks. A number of captains who still remember the days of the Summer Gooses and the Diamonds have been giving the spots a try but have been coming up empty and therefore moving on. It is somewhat amazing how such a productive location could fall flat on its face in one season. A scuba diver who went down to retrieve an anchor related a few years that the area was knee deep in soft mud. Back in the early nineties the Hill was the chumming hot spot of the middle bay region; on a good day the spot looked like a city, there were so many boats anchored up.
Trolling is still a very viable option for fishermen and continues to be productive. The action can be spotty and can happen all at once when a concentration of fish is encountered and several lines go down at once. Most fishermen are finding deeper lines are doing better and that it’s pretty hard to beat an umbrella rig that is trailing a swimming shad lure such as a Storm. The bluefish have been holding back their forays into the middle bay region to some extent so fishermen are still taking chances with their soft plastics. Trolling around Poplar Island, Buoy 82 have been a good locations lately and many captains have secret numbers stashed away of sweet rock piles out in front of the Choptank River approaches that usually hold fish. Jim Gonzales was trolling south of the Bay Bridge with his father when he caught this nice fish.
Light tackle fishing in some of the shallower areas within the tidal rivers and the bay itself has been productive. Fishermen are catching striped bass along the rocks bordering Poplar Island and old breakwaters within the rivers and rips that can be found at places like Thomas Point and the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant. Early morning and late evening hours will find fishermen plying the shallow waters and casting topwater lures, jerkbaits or soft plastics often with good results.
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to once again examine the stomachs of a number of legal sized striped bass being necropsied for fish health studies and was surprised to see that nearly all had empty stomachs. They were all in good health and all except one were males. I was once again looking for evidence of May worms but found none; all the fish came from the Herrington Harbor area.
Black Drum continue to be caught at Stone Rock and the Sharps Island Flats and even up around Poplar Island and Eastern Bay. It is certainly nothing one can count on and there were a number of disgruntled reports this week from interviewed captains who came up empty for their clients. Croakers have moved into the middle bay region now with some amount of certainty but a number of fishermen are reporting that the bulk of them are relatively small only measuring in the 7” to 9” size category. One group reported catching flounder on the Taylor Island Flats while drifting for croaker, they reported that they caught several nice sized ones in the 18” to 20” size range and continued to catch and release a few more after they each kept their Chesapeake Bay limit of one.
Recreational crabbers report fair to good catches of blue crabs from the Miles River and Severn Rivers south with the tidal creeks of Dorchester County accounting for the best crabbing; where a full bushel in a morning’s outing was common this past weekend. Crabbers also reported that the crabs they are catching are full and showing signs of an impending shed approaching. Tradition has it that the first big shed of the year occurs when the black locust trees bloom. There are plenty of white perch to go around in the tidal rivers and creeks and at a number of locations in the bay. Fishermen looking for croaker and spot are reporting white perch hitting their baits in a number of bay locations.
Fishermen are reporting catching spot at Hackett’s bar and the mouth of the Choptank so live liners will be seeing the bait they and striped bass prefer with more regularity now. It will be interesting to see if the False Channel fishery repeats itself this year.
Lower Bay/Tangier Sound Region:
The NOAA Buoy at the mouth of the Potomac River is showing an average water temperature of 80-degrees; this represents a dramatic change from the recent cooler water temperatures. Striped bass are schooling up in deeper waters often near some kind of structure such as a channel edge, rip or bottom structure as in rock piles and contours. Chumming is reported to be good to excellent in areas such as the lower Potomac River near Buoy 7, the Southwest Middle grounds and Buoy 72A. Bluefish continue to be part of the mix in the chum slicks and a welcomed part of the catch.
Trolling is still a good method to catch striped bass in the lower bay and the area in front of the Gas Docks south to Point Lookout has been a productive area for fishermen lately. Umbrella rigs with sassy shads and swimming shads as a trailer have been the most productive but unfortunately bluefish can really do a lot of damage so fishermen have been switching to spinner blades on the umbrella arms and bucktails as the trailing lure when bluefish become too numerous.
Light tackle fishing for striped bass can be good at times most anywhere in the region breaking fish can be found. Fishermen are also finding striped bass holding near tidal rips at prominent points such as Cedar Point or cuts like the slot under the last bridge on Hooper’s Island. Casting soft plastics and jigging them close to the bottom as the current moves the lure is an excellent way to hook up on striped bass. Spot are quickly becoming available so fishermen will be live lining in many of these same areas; especially along hard edges.
Casting a variety of lures along much of the lower bay and Tangier Sound area shorelines often in relatively shallow water has also been productive lately. This is most often an early morning or evening proposition as the fish cruise the shallows while feeding. A variety of topwater of swimming type lures are good choices and cuts that are adjacent to these shallows are good places to fish natural baits such as peeler crab.
Croaker fishing continues to be good to excellent in the lower bay, lower Potomac River and Tangier/Pocomoke Sound areas. The mouth of the Honga River and Patuxent are also good places to catch croakers and now spot are being caught in these same areas. Warmer water temperatures will have croakers holding to deeper waters in the channels during the day and moving up in shallower adjacent shoal areas towards evening such as the shoals behind Buoys 72 and 72A. The boats fishing the Tangier Sound/Pocomoke Sound area report good fishing for croakers in the channel areas during the day with a mix of spot and small bluefish. Flounder are being caught along channel edges in the Tangier Sound area and Cornfield Harbor, Point Lookout and the mouth of the Patuxent on the western shore. Recreational crabbers report good crabbing in most tidal rivers and creeks with the best crabbing on the eastern side of the bay.
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