Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | March 25, 2015



It has been quite a struggle back and forth in the last month between spring and winter and the last vestiges of winter are not quite ready to loosen their grip on the Maryland Landscape. Warmer temperatures have prevailed to a greater degree in the last two weeks and this past Tuesday for example the middle region of the Choptank River was showing 50ºF water temperatures. The yellow perch began spawning in the upper reaches of most rivers about a little more than a week ago when water temperatures hit 48ºF. Some of the best fishing occurred last week in the Eastern Shore Rivers but yellow perch are still spawning in many areas this week. Jay Fleming sent us a beautiful picture he took on Sunday in the upper Magothy River of spawning yellow perch.


Photo by Jay Fleming

Yellow perch fishermen are urged to sign up for the yellow perch volunteer angler survey; the information is very useful to fish managers and there will be a drawing for prizes from Bass Pro Shops and Costa sun glasses. A fact that is painfully clear to many angler is that you must fish on the perch's schedule and not your own. Perhaps one of the most common "How's the fishing" answers one receives from a fellow streamside fisherman is "you should have been here yesterday". There is a consolation though for those who can only fish on the weekends and that is the fact that yellow perch can be caught after spawning occurs as they head back down the upper regions of the rivers. Casting small jigs or shad darts tipped with grass shrimp, garden worms or a small minnow are a fun way to catch them while waiting for the white perch runs to begin. One note on minnows; when fishing with a shad dart of similar jig you do not have to put the whole minnow on. Often a piece is enough to temp yellow perch to strike. Another method is to fish a bottom rig with the same baits; worms will get you more action but minnows usually will account for larger yellow perch. When fishing in this manner, a good chair, some snacks and in this case a fish retrieving dog named Izzy all help for some fun and relaxing fishing.


Photo by Keith Lockwood

The white perch are not far behind in their spawning endeavors and tend to be in the middle regions of most tidal rivers at the moment. With a little luck they may begin to show up in the upper reaches of the spawning rivers and creeks by the weekend. Grass shrimp, bloodworms or minnows are popular baits to use. If the run is on at your location try to find a place where you can cast out with a shad dart tipped with a piece of your favorite bait. Cast on an angle upstream and keeping a tight line twitch the shad dart in a "walk the dog" method and you should do well. The vanguard of this spawning run is usually the small male white perch followed later on by larger perch, which are most often females. Fishermen should also keep their eye out for hickory shad in watersheds such as the Susquehanna, Potomac, Patuxent and Choptank to name a few. These feisty fish will readily take a shad dart, small jig or small spoon and are strictly catch and release.

The ice has finally cleared from the bay and a few hearty souls are fishing the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge this week with soft plastic and metal jigs for a chance to catch and release a large striped bass on light tackle. Fishermen are urged not to go too light and to get the fish to the boat and released as quickly as possible since these fish hold the future of our fishery.

This is a big weekend coming up for anyone interested in trout fishing; the traditional opening day of Maryland's trout season. Anglers of all ages will be out in force trying their luck at favorite trout management waters. There are plenty of good fishing areas spread around the state; some in areas not noted for trout fishing and the more traditional trout waters of the central and western regions of the state. Trout stocking crews have had an extremely difficult time this year with the cold February and March weather; snow and ice conditions really put crews to the test and they worked very hard to keep trout fishermen from being disappointed. Several of our regional biologists and our trout rearing guru Marshall Brown offered a few insights.

Central Regional biologist Mark Staley offered these encouraging words. At 5:30 am on Saturday, March 28th, Maryland trout anglers will find trout in every put and take area across the state. Fisheries Service staff has struggled with record cold temperatures, ice, and snow this stocking season. Our stocking schedules have been changed, rescheduled, and postponed more in 2015 than any spring I can remember. In spite of all the winter weather, we have ensured that every area that opens on Saturday will have its allotment of trout.

Water levels in nearly all streams in MD are above normal and the water temperatures are colder than most normal years. We just achieved "ice out" on some of our central Maryland ponds and impoundments last week. Plan on a cold start to Saturday morning, current forecast is for freezing air temperatures until at least 10 am (you can count on the guides on your rod freezing up in the early morning). Dress warm, take plenty of snacks for the kids, and enjoy the day.

Remember that after Saturday's opening day, all put and take areas in Maryland will remain open to fishing for 2015. Trout will be stocked in the put and take areas until mid-late May and you can fish for them as soon as we stock them.

Regional biologist John Mullican offered these few insights and a nice picture of some free swimming trout. Crews have been busy this week stocking area streams and ponds in preparation for Saturday's opening day of trout season. It has been cold in the Catoctin Mountains and remnants of earlier snowfalls are still present on shady slopes. Streams are running full and clear and should be in great shape for the weekend. Area lakes and ponds still have some ice cover, but are beginning to open up giving fishermen a shot at cruising trout.


Photo by John Mullican

Western Regional biologist Alan Klotz offered these few words. Trout anglers can expect a chilly opening day in Western Maryland, as Old Man Winter is reluctantly releasing his grip to springtime. The good news is that the snow-pack has melted, and streams should have about normal flows for Saturday's opener. The trout stocking crews have been busy, and all streams should have plenty of trout waiting to be caught.

Mary Groves is the regional biologist for the southern region and she offered some good advice for trout fishermen. Most of our trout fishing spots have already been stocked with pre-season trout. That occurred in the last couple weeks. Stocking was delayed due to ice on the holding ponds. A new spot that has been stocked with put and take trout in 2015 is Governors Bridge Pond in Bowie, Maryland. It was formerly an Izaak Walton League pond but is now operated by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and it open to the public. Governors Bridge Pond has a 2 fish/person limit. Folks have already been out enjoying the slightly warmer weather and catching trout. Severn Run is the only closed trout stocking stream but it will be stocked and ready to go come opening day.

Eastern regional biologist Brett Coakley offered these words concerning trout fishing at Elk Creek. We stocked Big Elk Creek this week in preparation for opening day. The stream was running clear and at a perfect flow for fishing. That could change depending on what the Wednesday-Thursday storm does. Either way, the banks and parking lots will be muddy from all the late winter precipitation so plan accordingly.

Finally the guy who is responsible for all trout production in the Maryland Coldwater hatcheries, Marshall Brown finishes off with a few words and a picture of a nice trout from the Albert Powell Hatchery. With Maryland's opening day of trout season only days away, rest assured that all locations will be stocked for fishing. Our Coldwater crews have had another outstanding growing season due to their commitment to provide you with a memorable fishing experience. Expect to catch fish that are beautiful in size and color and keep a tight line in case you land one of our trophy fish. Good luck and enjoy your day.


Photo by Keith Lockwood

There are plenty of other freshwater fishing opportunities in Maryland besides trout this week. Chain pickerel continue to be very active and largemouth bass are beginning to stir. Largemouth bass can be found along the deeper parts of transition zones such as channel edges and often near some kind of structure. Soft plastic jigs worked slow right on the bottom are a good choice or a slow rolled spinner bait on the bottom may entice a pick up. The smallmouth bass and walleye fishing action is picking up on the upper Potomac and the ice is retreating at Deep Creek Lake. At present the edges of the main lake are open and several coves are opening up.

Blue catfish offer some action on the tidal Potomac River and channel catfish can be found in most of the tidal rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay. Crappie and bluegill fishing has been very good in many of the ponds, lakes and the upper sections of many tidal rivers. The fish are holding deep near structure such as brush piles, fallen tree tops or bridge piers. A few popular spots are the bridge piers over Loch Raven Reservoir at Dulaney Valley Road, the Nicodemus Road Bridge over Liberty Reservoir and small ponds and lakes throughout Maryland. A small jig or minnow fished about 3' to 5' or so under a slip bobber is a great way to catch crappie this time of the year. Angelina Watts holds up a nice slab sized crappie she caught at Wye Mills Lake before releasing it back into the water.


Photo by Rich Watts

Fishing in the Ocean City area centers mostly on long trips out to some of the more distant wreck sites due to cold water conditions inshore. Captains report catches are fair to good on most trips.

"There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home. " - Roderick Haig-Brown

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Over the course of his career he has studied estuarine fishery populations, ocean species, and over a decade long study of bioaccumulation of chemicals in aquatic species in New Jersey. Upon moving to Oxford on the eastern shore of Maryland; research endeavors focused on a variety of catch and release studies as well as other fisheries related research at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. Education and outreach to the fishing public has always been an important component to the mission of these studies. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the eastern shore of Maryland.