Maryland Fishing Report – April 24

Zach Bennett caught this northern snakehead in the Patapsco River. Photo courtesy of Zach Bennett

Zach Bennett caught this northern snakehead in the Patapsco River. Photo courtesy of Zach Bennett

The weather forecast for the next week promises mild and sunny conditions, perfect for venturing into the outdoors for fishing with family and friends. Trout continue to be stocked each week in the put-and-take trout waters, and a wide variety of fish are active, including the northern snakehead.

Forecast Summary: April 24 – April 30:

Stable, moderate weather this week will make for great fishing conditions to enjoy the variety of fish currently swimming in Maryland’s waters. Main Chesapeake Bay surface temperatures are holding in the high 50s. River temperatures have also risen to the upper 50s and low 60s, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures even warmer. Such low salinity areas will be prime areas to look for hickory and American shad as they move upriver to spawn. Keep an eye out for large gamefish ambushing the shad as they move upriver. 

Expect above average flows for the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers but average flows for most of the other Maryland rivers and streams. Expect poor but improving water clarity for the Maryland portion of the Bay down to the Bay Bridge as well as the Potomac River down to the 301 Bridge. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps. There will be above average tidal currents through Tuesday as a result of the full moon on April 24.

For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area, continue to check out Click Before You Cast.

Upper Chesapeake Bay

Flows at the Conowingo Dam have moderated this week, but waters remained stained. Anglers are seeing the hickory shad runs peaking this week in the lower Susquehanna and Octoraro Creek. Anglers are also catching hickory shad at the mouth of Deer Creek. A few American shad are being caught close to the Conowingo Dam pool. Anglers are urged to bring a variety of colors in their shad dart inventory as well as small gold and silver spoons. Sun conditions and water clarity can have a large effect on color preferences that will attract the attention of hickory and American shad.

Decreased flows at the Conowingo Dam have attracted anglers looking to fish for flathead catfish in the turbine wash. Most are casting heavy jig heads with soft plastics and a strip of gizzard shad for the largest success. Flathead catfish can also be found just below the dam pool and as one moves down the river a transition occurs where blue catfish begin to dominate the catches. 

Blue catfish with a mix of large channel catfish can be found from the lower Susquehanna River south through the entire upper bay region to the Bay Bridge. Most of the blue catfish being caught are large and they tend to be spread out along channel edges. Many anglers are heading out in boats with family and friends and enjoying plenty of fun fishing during the striped bass closure. Shore anglers can access various public and private piers and docks along the shores of the upper bay region and its tidal rivers. Sandy Point State Park is a great place to fish for blue catfish for those with light to medium surf fishing tackle at the point locally known as the “rips” or from the jetty near the Bay Bridge. 

Cut bait is a popular bait of choice but chicken liver and chicken breast meat scented with various scents including WD-40 are working well. The Maryland DNR website provides a wealth of information on blue catfish, including how to fish for them and how to prepare them for the dinner table. 

Fishing for white perch is good this week in many of the tidal rivers and creeks of the upper bay, usually several miles below the spawning reaches. Fishing with small spinnerbaits and Roadrunner type lures is a great option. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm are also popular for deeper waters.

Middle Bay

Photo of several fish on the back of a truck

Tailgating with some white perch, photo by Keith Lockwood

Anglers in the middle Bay are finding blue catfish along the channels in the bay this week due to the low salinity values due to spring runoff of freshwater. Locations near the Bay Bridge, Hacketts Point, the Brick House Bar area, down to Tilghman Island and the mouth of the Choptank River. Most of the blue catfish being caught are large, usually from 15 pounds up to 30 pounds or more. Cut bait of menhaden is a popular choice for bait but many anglers are having good success with chicken liver and chicken breast meat cut into chunks and soaked in various scents. 

The Choptank River has one of the largest blue catfish populations in the middle bay region and offers anglers good fishing in a more sheltered setting than fishing out on the open waters of the bay. One can fish from boats as small as a kayak or from the shores. The sections of the river from Denton to the town of Cambridge offer some of the best fishing along the channel edges this week.

Fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers of the middle bay region is good this week in several of the region’s tidal rivers. Anglers are having fun casting a variety of small spinnerbaits and jigs in the narrower sections of the rivers. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig is also an excellent way to fish for them in deeper waters. The Choptank River has recently been a good place to fish with grass shrimp on a bottom rig for white perch. One unfortunate consequence of fishing with small baits are 14-inch blue catfish that keep gobbling up the small baits.

Lower Bay

Photo of fish on a hook

White perch, photo by Eric Packard.

Anglers in the Bay are focusing on catching blue catfish throughout the region and enjoying the catch-and-release fishery for hickory and American shad in the Potomac this week. Fishing for blue catfish has hit high gear as water temperatures warm and the catfish are becoming more active. The hickory shad spawning runs in the Potomac in the District of Columbia waters is peaking this week and American shad will linger a bit longer. Colorful shad darts and small gold and silver spoons are popular lures for those using spinning gear and fly-fishing tackle. 

The tidal Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge downriver to as far as the mouth of the river is providing plenty of blue catfish action. The Patuxent River from Jug Bay south to Benedict is an excellent place to fish, and the Nanticoke River near Sharptown is the place to be on the Eastern Shore. It should be noted that the Wicomico and Pocomoke rivers are also holding expanding populations of blue catfish.

Anglers can find good shoreline fishing locations at many of these areas, it will just take some exploring for newcomers. Others are out in their boats and even kayaks in the more protected waters and enjoying good fishing. Most anglers are using cut bait with circle hooks with or without a small inline float and a fish finder sliding sinker rig. Using a bait caster type spinning reel or putting a conventional reel on free spool and the clicker helps a circle hook do its job. Cut gizzard shad, menhaden, or white perch are popular baits as are chicken liver and scented chicken breast. 

Anglers are finding white perch in the tidal rivers several miles below the spawning reaches as they head towards the mouth of the tidal rivers and nearby bay waters. In shallower water casting a variety of small spinnerbaits and jigs is a great way to target them with light spinning tackle. In deeper waters a simple bottom rig baited with grass shrimp, or pieces of bloodworm can work wonders when targeting white perch moving down the rivers.

Freshwater Fishing

Put-and-take trout anglers continue to enjoy the continued generous stocking of trout in many of the trout management waters. Trout waters in the central, southern, and eastern regions with marginal summer water conditions will continue to be stocked through a good part of May, so anglers are urged to make time to get the family out to local community ponds that are being stocked. Several ponds and creeks in Montgomery and Baltimore counties were stocked recently. To see the latest stockings see the Maryland DNR trout stocking website

The Susquehanna and Potomac rivers have been experiencing high flows and plagued with stained waters for several weeks now. There is no forecast of rain for the next week so hopefully water flows and water quality will improve. Fisheries biologist Josh Henesy sent us a report from the upper Potomac late last week: “Water levels are high, but color is fishable and ideal for smallmouth – which should be the most sought-after fish right now.  The bass seem to be moving into spawning areas but based on our collections, are still several weeks away from spawning. Water temps are in the upper 50s to 60 degrees, and with this level, color, and time of year, spinnerbaits would be my number one choice!”

Photo courtesy of Gina Maxwell

Angler Gina Maxwell caught a 34-inch Northern Snakehead in Galloway Creek on Apr 16,Photo courtesy of Gina Maxwell

Fishing for largemouth bass is very good this week in both tidal and nontidal waters. Largemouth bass are in a pre-spawn mode of activity. In the southern, central, and eastern regions, male largemouth bass are preparing spawning beds and females are holding in slightly deeper waters and feeding aggressively. Casting spinnerbaits and plastic worms are two excellent lures to use. Emerging grass beds and sunken wood are two excellent places to target. 

Northern snakeheads are becoming active and especially the larger ones. They can be found near any kind of structure or emerging grass beds, fallen branches and brush submerged in the water along shorelines are excellent places to target. Casting white paddletails, chatterbaits with large creature soft plastics as trailers and frogs are very popular lures. Dead sticking a large minnow under a bobber is always a great tactic while casting lures, just be sure to keep an eye on that bobber. On sunny afternoons sun exposed waters are a good location to look for northern snakeheads looking for a little warmth. 

The middle to upper sections of the tributary rivers in the upper bay are providing some exciting northern snakehead opportunities. The middle and Bush rivers are particularly good. The tributaries to the Potomac, the lower Dorchester County backwaters and tidal waters throughout the Chesapeake all have a number of northern snakeheads present.

Chain pickerel are providing plenty of fun and exciting fishing and can be found in the upper sections of most all tidal rivers, and nontidal ponds and reservoirs. The thick grass beds of the summer months are forming but there is still plenty of open water to find chain pickerel lurking near sunken wood and similar structures. Spinners, spoons, paddletails and jerkbaits are all good lures to use but consider removing the treble hooks and replacing them with single inline hooks. Chain pickerel have a habit of engulfing baits and often get hooked in the gills which is usually fatal.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Black drum are starting to show up in the surf and surf casters are soaking baits of sand fleas and clams, hoping to tie into one. These are usually black drum in the 15-pound to 40-pound size range and generally make for good eating. A few striped bass are being caught in the surf, but it will be another week or two before the Chesapeake Bay spawners pass by on their trip to New England waters. In the meantime, clearnose skates and dogfish are keeping anglers busy.

Fishing for tautog along the Ocean City Inlet jetties and the Route 50 Bridge and bulkheads has been very good this week. Anglers are catching plenty of tautog measuring over the 16-inch minimum. The daily limit is four fish and catching 3 or 4 legal-sized tautog is not uncommon. Sand fleas and pieces of crab are the most popular baits.

Striped bass are entertaining anglers casting soft plastic jigs and paddletails in the inlet, the Route 50 and 90 bridges. Most come up a little shy of the 28-inch minimum but offer plenty of fun catch and release action and now and then a legal-sized striped bass is caught. There are even a few large bluefish to be found inside the Ocean City Inlet and despite cold water and churned up bay waters a few flounder have been caught in the Thorofare Channel. Tautog continue to be the main attraction at the offshore wreck and reef sites this week. Anglers are catching a mix of medium to large tautog on pieces of crab.

“The woods are made for the hunters of dreams, the brooks for the fishers of songs.” – Sam Foss

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

Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.

This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.” 

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