Spanish mackerel are making their move

Photo by Chris Korin
Mia Korin found this cobia near the Target Ship by casting a live eel.

ANNAPOLIS — Spanish mackerel have moved solidly into the middle bay and anglers can expect to find them along the edges of the shipping channel almost up to the Bay Bridge. The bulk of the action is from the mouth of the Severn River and Poplar Island south. The channel edge near Buoy 83 south to the CP Buoy has been a productive area to troll, as is the shipping channel edge in front of Chesapeake Beach and Breezy Point.

Anglers have been trolling #1 Drone and Clark spoons in gold behind #1 and #2 planers or heavy inline weights at about 7 knots or so. The channel edges are among the best places to explore, and steering a course to the edges of breaking fish and diving seagulls should never be overlooked. Please don’t ever troll through breaking fish, especially when others are casting into them — always go around.
The breaking fish in the region are generally made up of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and at times 2-year old striped bass chasing bay anchovies. Casting across the breaking fish, allowing your metal jig to sink to a comfortable depth, and then speed reeling is a proven way to catch Spanish mackerel. Make sure you have plenty of jigs since you may get cut off due to all those teeth flashing through the water.

The abundance of speckled trout in the shallower shoreline areas has been a real treat to those who love their light-tackle shallow water action. What could be more fun than casting soft plastics, topwater lures with spinning tackle, or Clousers with a fly rod?
White perch can be found in many of the same locations as the speckled trout. Sometimes you may come across a small puppy drum in the 12-inch to 14-inch range, which is under the minimum slot limit size of 18 inches. Casting beetle spins with spinning gear or small Clousers near shoreline structure is great fun on a summer evening or morning. Simply fishing off a dock or pier is another popular way to fish for white perch, and no casting is involved — the perch are usually tight to the dock piers. Grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig make the perfect setup.
Catfish offer plenty of action in the tidal rivers. Channel catfish can be found in all of the region’s tidal rivers and fishing with fresh cut bait, clam snouts, or chicken liver is an easy way to catch them. Blue catfish are being caught in the Nanticoke River above Sharptown and in the Choptank River above the Dover Bridge. Blue catfish prefer fresh cut bait, gizzard shad, or white perch.

Recreational crabbers are enjoying some of the best crabs of the season and it will get better as September approaches. The crabs have ventured up the tidal rivers and into the upper bay in greater numbers. Most crabbers in the upper bay region are able to catch a half- bushel or more per outing. In the middle and lower bay, catches of a bushel per outing are common.

Razor clams remain the bait of choice whether trotlining or crabbing with collapsible traps. Some of the best crab catches are coming from deep water in the tidal rivers. The shallower areas have a lot of small crabs which will chew up baits and sooks are beginning to be on the move. There will be a major shed coming up in a few weeks, and catches of large crabs will be something to look forward to in September.
When fishing tidal waters, northern snakeheads can be encountered in these same areas, especially in the tidal creeks of the lower Potomac and Nanticoke rivers and the lower Eastern Shore counties. When targeting northern snakeheads, a white paddle tail rigged weedless can be deadly.
when worked close to the surface and worked through grass or near fallen branches and brush.

Ocean and Coastal Bays
Fishing for kingfish in the early morning surf has been very good this week, although most report the action tends to fall off by late morning. Pieces of bloodworm have been the most popular bait. A mix of spot and croakers are also part of the mix when fishing with bloodworms. Those fishing with finger mullet or cut mullet are catching bluefish, and flounder can be caught on squid strips.
At the inlet, bluefish are being caught by casting a variety of jigs or drifting cut bait. The evening tides tend to offer some of the best fishing opportunities. Flounder are being caught by drifting traditional baits of squid and minnows or by working Gulp baits close to the bottom.

Fishing for flounder in the channels and their edges in the Back Bay areas continues to be good, in part due to good water clarity. Traditional baits of squid and minnows work well and those looking for the largest flounder are working white or pink Gulp baits or live lining small spot or mullet.
The author is a Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.