Mild conditions make fine fishing weather

Submitted photo/Monty Hawkins, DNR
Sea bass are plentiful at the wreck and reefs near Ocean City.

ANNAPOLIS — September and early October are noted for the beautiful and mild sunny days that grace us, so make sure to take advantage of them and enjoy the Maryland outdoors with family and friends.

Middle Bay
Much of the focus is toward striped bass and their shift into a fall pattern of behavior. Trolling a mix of spoons, tandem-rigged bucktails, and swimshads as well as umbrella rigs is popular along channel edges and near breaking fish. Most will be using inline weights to get lures down to where the fish are holding.
Jigging over suspended striped bass will be popular with light tackle anglers. Depth finders will be very important for locating suspended fish, and binoculars can be very helpful to spot distant diving seagulls. Surface slicks can also be a good indicator of feeding action under the surface of the water. Skirted plastic jigs can offer a larger profile to fish when jigging, and braided line helps with sensitivity. Jigging may even reward you with a speckled sea trout.

Most of the Spanish mackerel have left the middle bay, but a few stragglers will be encountered by those trolling small Drone or Clark spoons behind planers near breaking fish or along channel edges. Bluefish are still roaming the region and mixing it up with 2-year old striped bass out in the main portion of the bay. They will also most likely be moving out of the region within the next week.
White perch are on the move in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks, there seems to be small white perch in the traditional summer habitat areas but the large white perch tend to be found in deeper waters over oyster reefs and similar bottom in the lower sections of the tidal rivers. The most effective way to target them in the deeper waters is with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or peeler crab.

Recreational crabbing fortunes in the tidal rivers has unfortunately dropped off in the past week. Everywhere one looks at commercial docks, the shade roofs are coming off workboats, oyster culling boxes are being set up onboard, and hand tongs are being readied for the upcoming oyster season. The colder water temperatures are driving the crabs deeper as they travel down the tidal rivers towards the bay. Trot liners have been reported crabs dropping off lines as they come up, so collapsible crab traps might be a good idea. Baits are attracting sooks and fortunately there are lots of them, which speaks well for the future of our blue crab resources.

Freshwater Fishing
With lack of substantial rain in the western region, trout management waters are experiencing low flows but cooling temperatures. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will begin fall stocking of thousands of brown, golden, and rainbow trout in select creeks, lakes, and rivers across the state starting in early October. Some streams may be running too low to receive a full stocking and some may have unacceptable water levels, so we will post locations on our website after they are stocked. Anglers can sign up to receive stocking updates by email. Our online map of trout management areas around the state can help you explore areas to fish.

Also, join us for our Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar Oct. 15 at noon as Coldwater Program Manager Marshall Brown discusses trout stocking. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.
The tidal rivers of the western region and Eastern Shore offer plenty of good fishing for largemouth bass, and the tidal rivers of the middle and lower Eastern Shore have a lot less angling competition and room to spread out. Northern snakeheads will be in the mix in most tidal waters and they are showing a bit of a slowdown in activity due to cooler water temperatures. Buzzbaits, chatterbaits, and white paddle tails will still be at the top of the list for eliciting some response from a snakehead. Cooler waters and less grass will herald in the use of large minnows under a bobber. Casting lip-hooked minnows near submerged wood is also a winning tactic in cooler waters.

The fall months are a great time to fish for channel catfish in just about any tidal river in Maryland. Pesky, bait-stealing blue crabs have moved far downriver and channel catfish are very active. Blue catfish continue to expand their range in the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal rivers. The Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, Choptank, Chester, and Susquehanna rivers all have substantial numbers of blue catfish. They will be found in lesser numbers in just about all of the tidal rivers in Maryland. Fresh cut bait, clam snouts, and nightcrawlers all make good baits.

Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers are catching good numbers of kingfish this week along with spot, croaker on bloodworms and flounder on squid. Those fishing with finger mullet are catching some bluefish. Many have the big surf rods out this week in hopes of some catch and release action with large red drum that usually migrate along the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island this time of the year. Cut spot, menhaden or mullet make excellent baits on a fish finder rig for large red drum or striped bass.

The fishing for sea bass at the offshore wreck and reef sites has been very good. Limit catches of sea bass are common. A few small dolphin are still being caught along with flounder. Farther offshore at the canyons, boats have finally been able to venture out after days of rough sea conditions. The Washington Canyon is a popular destination where limit catches of small dolphin are being caught. White marlin are being caught and released and a few wahoo are being caught at the Rock Pile.

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