Maryland Weekly Fishing Report Overview | May 11, 2011

There are a lot of opportunities developing for fishermen this week as the warmth of spring bathes the lands and waters of Maryland. This is a great time to get out with family and friends to enjoy the many different types of fishing possibilities in Maryland. Everything from the tiny pond down the street to the open waters of the Atlantic hold all kinds of promise for fishermen of all ages; bluegills to tautog it is all here for us to enjoy. Perhaps one of the most traditional treats in Maryland is steamed crabs and this year promises to be a very good year for one of our favorite treats from the bay. Recreational crabbers have already been enjoying good crabbing and of course the final product of hot steamed crabs. These two heavy crabs held up by Vinny look very appetizing.

Photo Courtesy Rich Watts

Fishermen who are looking for large spring striped bass are watching the door begin to close on their trophy fish aspirations. Boats as far south as Solomons are venturing into Virginia waters trying to head off the fish. There will still be large fish caught in the middle bay at locations such as Bloody Point Light and fish will be picked here and there along the shipping channel edges. The steep channel edge from Breezy Point to Cove Point will get a lot of action this weekend and for a good reason; it is a freeway for striped bass headed south. The fish that participated in the big spawn on April 9th are already moving past the Ocean City beaches on their way north. Surf fishermen have been enjoying excellent fishing opportunities all along the beaches this past week. As one door begins to close on striped bass another is opening. Fishermen are now starting to see more striped bass under the 28" mark hitting their trolling spreads. Starting May 16th , fishermen will be allowed to keep two striped bass between 18" and 28" or one under 28" and one over. This will be the beginning of the traditional striped bass fishery that sustains fishermen through the summer and fall months.

Fishermen have been reporting all week that they've seen their trolling success for large striped bass becoming more of a slow pick but they still are catching fish. One thing a lot of fishermen are talking about is the abundance of marks they are seeing on their depth finders. As water temperatures reach the mid-sixties they could be most anything. There are a lot of school sized striped bass in the region, schools of large menhaden, croakers and black drum are due soon.

Fishing for croakers has really taken off this week as water temperatures become more to their liking. The croakers have been holding in the deeper channel areas and moving into the adjacent shallows at dusk to feed. The channel edges at the 25' to 30' mark have been a good place to start fishing and bottom rigs baited with shrimp, clams, bloodworms or peeler crab are very effective. Fishing piers and prominent points can be great places to fish for croakers for shore bound fishermen. Some traditionally good locations include the Point Lookout pier and the pier under the Route 4 Bridge on the Patuxent. Jigging with small to medium soft plastics can also work well; especially for the larger croaker; flavored plastics such as Gulp baits can offer even more enticement. The mouth of the Honga River, the shoals behind Buoy 72 and channel edges in Tangier Sound and the mouth of the Choptank River are all good places to fish from a boat. The areas around crab pots can often be a good place to fish since the pots are often baited with razor clams and that tends to attract croakers. Rich Watts was fishing near the mouth of Eastern Bay and reported that the large croakers he was catching on soft plastic jigs were stuffed with razor clams. Rich holds up a nice early season croaker for the camera.

Photo Courtesy Rich Watts

White perch have now moved into their more traditional late spring to early fall haunts in the lower regions of the bays tidal rivers and creeks. They can provide some excellent fishing opportunities for bait fishermen and for those who wish to cast lures. Grass shrimp, bloodworms and small minnows can be good bait choices when fishing bottom rigs near structure such as docks, sunken wood or oyster bars. Casting lures such as Road Runners, Rooster-Tail spinners or a collection of other favorites can offer some fun action and some tasty treats.

The magic word for today is Crabs, the blue crab variety. Warm water temperatures have caused the crabs that have spent the winter sleeping in the bottom of the bay to get up and try and find something to eat. Recreational crabbers are reporting hit and miss action from the Baltimore Harbor area south to Virginia waters. Some of the best catches have been coming from 15' or so of water on a good tide. Everyone will admit that there are lot's of small crabs chewing up their baits but catches of heavy 5-1/2"+ crabs ranging from 3 or 4 to full bushels are being reported per outing. Some of the better catches have been coming from tidal areas on the eastern shore below Kent Island. The locust trees are blooming and that is a signal that the first shed of the year will begin to occur in most areas so crabbing may drop off for a bit; but there will be a whole new batch of legal-sized crabs coming up the pike. The picture of this particular bushel came from the Kent Island area earlier this week.

Photo Courtesy Rich Watts

Fishermen in the western region of the state are now seeing water temperatures at Deep Creek Lake holding around 55-degrees. The smallmouth bass are reported to be spawning and largemouth bass are holding in transition areas outside of the shallower coves. Tubes and crankbaits have been good choices for smallmouth bass and walleyes; fishermen are also catching a mix of large bluegills, northern pike and chain pickerel.

Trout fishing opportunities continue to be very good in most trout management waters. Trout are still being stocked in some of the Put and Take waters and stream flows have been good. Fishing for largemouth bass in the many ponds, lakes and tidal rivers of the state is good. In the western region the largemouth bass are still in the pre-spawn mode in the coldest waters. Throughout much of the Central, southern and eastern regions the largemouth bass are either still actively spawning or are moving out of the shallows. The post-spawn mode of largemouth bass activity can offer good fishing for fishermen near grass beds, sunken wood and edges where the bass are searching for food.

Crappie can be found now in relatively shallow water, bluegills are holding on the edges of the shallower areas and chain pickerel are smacking lures in just about every piece of water in the state. Chain pickerel are widely distributed from the largest lakes such as Deep Creek Lake to the smaller lakes in the eastern region such as Smithville Lake. They can offer a lot of fun to fishermen young and old. Now is a good time to go fishing for channel catfish, water temperatures are still cool and the catfish are very active. Try to get out and explore the many different types of freshwater opportunities close to where you live; they all hold a variety of fishing options. Carly Krivda got to go fishing with her dad close to home and sure is happy with this nice rainbow trout she caught.

Photo Courtesy Rich Krivda

Fishermen in the Ocean City area are enjoying some very exciting fishing this week. The spring migration of large striped bass is now being seen along the beaches of Assateague Island and Ocean City. Fishermen are using stout surf fishing gear and baiting up with fresh menhaden. There are dogfish and ever present skates in the mix and fishermen tend to find themselves going through a lot of bait. The head of the menhaden tends to hold up best through the onslaught of nibblers. A few black drum and small bluefish are also being caught by those who target them.

In the back bay areas, flounder are being caught from the inlet south to the airport and north to the Route 90 Bridge. Squid and bull minnows have been favorite baits and a falling tide tends to offer the best results. A high ratio of throwbacks is part of the game but some big flounder are being caught; especially on larger baits. Tautog are being caught in and around the inlet by fishermen using pieces of green crab or frozen sand fleas. The night crew has been catching some impressive striped bass in the Route 50 Bridge, inlet area by casting swim shads and crankbaits. Drifting live eels can also be an excellent choice for bait this time of the year for big striped bass.

The boats venturing out to the wreck sites have been treating their patrons to some excellent fishing for large tautog. They are also encountering some sea bass which unfortunately must be released since the season is closed. Perhaps the nicest bonus for rail fishermen are the cod fish that are being caught at times. The boat captains report it is not always a sure thing but quite often some fine cod are being taken home.

Ain't nothing like a boat to teach a man the worth of quiet contemplation. -Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy


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.