The lower part of the bay offers many exciting fishing opportunities this week for several species of fish. Spanish mackerel tops the list, but red drum, cobia, blue fish, and bottom species such as yellow perch, spot and croaker also offer plenty of action.
The Spanish mackerel are found on the west side of the bay to the Strait of Tangier and north to the middle of the bay. They tend to congregate along the edges of the shipping channel when hunting schools of bay anchovies and juvenile menhaden. Trolling is certainly popular with the Drone and Clark teaspoons behind the planers at around 7-8 knots along the edges of the canal, but throwing it into breaking fish offers some thrilling action. Moving cautiously against the wind of the broken fish, then throwing jigs into the melee and recovering quickly provides some fun light tackle action.
Big red drum fishing continues to be an exciting catch and release action. Dragging large spoons behind in-line weights is one method. The spotting of the slicks coming from the feeding of the red drum offers the possibility of jigging with large flexible plastics or of depositing a flexible crab bait on the fish. Mud Leads, Target Ship area, Point Lookout, and Middle Grounds are good places to look for the Big Red Drum.
Anglers who search for striped bass using paddle tails and flexible plastic jigs along structural areas of the Tangier Strait coastline, west side of the bay, and the edges of canals in the Lower Potomac River also find red drum this week – some falling into the legal slot size of 18 inches to 27 inches. The morning and evening hours tend to provide the best fishing action. Striped bass are part of the mix, and speckled trout catches have plummeted over the past two weeks.
The boats are anchored at Target Ship and Smith Point this week and are beating down on the cobia. The action tends to be signaled as a slow pickaxe, but it only takes one fish to make a day. Most play around with ground menhaden and send buddies sparingly. Cut menhaden baits are commonly used, or live eels that are allowed to relocate to the depths of the chum sheet. Most have learned from experience to keep a sturdy rigged fishing rod with a large soft plastic jig nearby, in case a cobia shows up near the boat.
A few anglers have managed to drag large tubular lures behind in-line weights for the cobia, and add a large spoon or two in the hope of a catch and release action with a large red drum. When the waters of the bay are slippery, sight casting is a very effective and exciting way to fish for cobia. A flying bridge is extremely useful for spotting cruising fish on the surface, with a live eel or a large flexible plastic jig ready to throw on the fish.
Those who wish to bottom fish for yellow perch and perch know good fishing in the lower Patuxent River, areas around Point Lookout, on Cobb Island on the lower Potomac River and in the Strait of Tangier. . Many places are large enough to provide good nutrition. Yellow perch is abundant and some of the croakers caught respect the minimum size. Most use a mixture of bloodworms and peeler crab bait on the bottom platforms.
Recreational crab continues to grow at a relatively slow rate compared to previous years, but most crabbers can catch half a bushel of good crabs per trip. The larger crabs – often 7 inches or more – are caught in deeper water, often up to 15 feet. Smaller crabs that are 5 to 6 inches are caught in shallower water. The best catches come from the tidal rivers in the middle of the bay. Recent rains appear to have moved the crabs further into the tidal rivers from where they stood a few weeks ago. Knives and chicken necks continue to be the most popular bait.
Due to recent rainfall events, most of the trout management water in the western and central regions is draining well. The cooler shaded waters of the area’s trout waters can be very appealing to any angler looking for relief from the scorching heat. This time of year also presents a fun challenge to trick educated trout with a variety of land flies and nymphs.
The Department of Natural Resources’ trout hatchery program is still busy and last month crews were stocking juvenile trout in the Western region. Approximately 4,500 juvenile rainbow trout were stocked in the Youghiogheny capture and release area.
The hot water hatchery program has been busy stocking juvenile largemouth bass, but has also recently released 265,000 juvenile American Shad in the upper reaches of the Choptank River near Denton and 40,000 in the upper reaches. of Tuckahoe Creek downstream from Hillsboro. In recent years, these areas have provided a wonderful release fishery for hickory shad, and these lows hold promise for the larger American shad as well.
The upper reaches of the Potomac River are stable with typical summer flows, which are generally low and the water is clear. Careful approaches, clear lines, and long casts are required when targeting submerged holes and ledges for smallmouth bass. Small crankbaits, flexible plastic tubes and jigs tend to be preferred baits. Hatchery crews recently stocked 695 smallmouth bass fry in the Upper Potomac near Seneca Landing to support smallmouth bass populations.
Largemouth bass fishing continues to follow the typical summer behavior pattern. September will bring changes to the fishery as the waters begin to cool. This week the tactic is to go out at dawn if you want to fish the shallows with surface lures. Frogs are a great way to cover water without getting stuck, and chatter can also be a good choice. As the largemouth bass retreat into the thick grass in deeper water to cool off shade, dropping wacky rigged stick worms or soft plastic in the grass usually works well. In tidal waters, working the edges of grass mats or spatterdock fields with spinnerbaits and small crankbaits at low tide can work well.
Northern Snakeheads will be part of the mix for anyone fishing the tidal waters of Chesapeake Bay. Some will be caught while fishing for largemouth bass and others by anglers deliberately targeting northern snakeheads. This time of year, the serpent heads stand by the grass waiting to ambush anything that looks good to eat. Loud lures such as chatterbaits and frogs are great baits to use on the grass. On the edges of open water, it’s hard to beat a white paddletail.
A deep structure in the form of sunken wood, bridge piers, or deep grass is a great place to find elongated bars looking for cooler waters and a bit of shade. Small crankbaits and larvae can be good choices for looking for these areas. If the structure can be located, slow working soft plastic fangs or other soft plastic baits may attract a pickup.
This is an excellent time of year to fish for bluegill with light equipment. Throwing small rubber-legged poppers or ants with a light fly rod is a wonderful summer evening activity. Fishing with small jigs or creature bait under a float is another fun way to fish them. For the youngest, it’s hard to beat a mealworm, cricket, or worm under a float.
Due to the summer heat some of the best surf fishing for the common mix of jacks, spot, croaker, and small bluefish takes place during the morning hours. The daytime heat and bright sun are tough on fish and anglers. Bits of bloodworms and fish bites are favorite baits when fishing for trevally and spot. Croaker will take either bloodworms or squid, while the blue fish likes the cut spot.
At the Highway 50 Inlet and Bridge area, there is a lot of fun fishing for striped bass in the morning and evening. Most striped bass caught do not reach the 28 inch minimum, but a few keepers are caught. Casting jigs and bucktails near the South Pier is a popular way to fish. Plaice are caught in the cove with blue fish.
In the back bay areas, plaice are the primary target and are captured in channels leading to Ocean City Inlet. Traditional squid and minnow baits catch their fair share of plaice. There are a lot of undersized plaice that are caught and released. Those targeting larger flounder use live bait or mullet and gulp bait.
Outside the cove, Spanish mackerel are caught near the various shoals, Little Gull has become popular in recent times. Dragging the Drone and Clark spoons behind weights and line planers is the most popular way to target Spanish mackerel. Bluefish can also be part of the mix.
Offshore wreck and reef sites continue to provide excellent black bass fishing. Overall it has been a wonderful bass season for anglers. Plaice are part of the mix, and occasionally small dolphins are caught to anglers’ delight along the rails of Ocean City’s party boats.
A real milestone was recently laid off Ocean City. Maryland saw her third ‘larger’ blue marlin captured and he became our new state record at 1,135 pounds! Any blue marlin over 1000 pounds is a very big deal no matter where in the world it is fished, and it is a fish of a lifetime for any angler.
“Then the fish came to life, with its death in it, and rose high out of the water, showing all its length and breadth, all its power and beauty. He seemed to be suspended in the air above the old man in the boat. Then he fell into the water with a crash that threw spray on the old man and all over the boat. “-
Ernest Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea”
Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.
Click Before You Cast is written by Tom Parham, Director of Ecosystem Assessment at Tidewater.
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