The colors of fall are all around, water temperatures are cooler, and it is a wonderful time to go fishing for a variety of freshwater, Bay, and marine fish.
Forecast Summary: November 1 – November 7:
The upcoming week should provide cool but warming temperatures as the week progresses with low winds after Wednesday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have dropped to the low 60s. With rivers running in the mid to low 50s, baitfish will be moving out into to the warmer Bay waters. Salinity is average and there are suitable oxygen conditions down to the bottom in all areas of Maryland’s portion of the Bay.
Expect average flows in Maryland rivers and streams all week. There will be above average tidal currents through Friday as a result of the previous full moon on October 28. Expect average water clarity for most of Maryland’s Bay, rivers, and streams. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps.
As always, the best fishing areas could be further refined by intersecting them with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and large schools of baitfish.
For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the Bay, be sure to check out Eyes on the Bay’s Click Before You Cast.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists are looking to better understand the striped bass recreational fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and are asking for your help. Biologists have set up an online survey site where anglers can enter fishing data from a smartphone or computer. All you need to record is the length of any striped bass you catch and whether you kept or released it. On the department website, search for volunteer angler surveys to find the striped bass survey and others that may interest you. For ease of use, you can also access the surveys through the free AccessDNR app.
Anglers are finding striped bass in a wide variety of areas because cool water temperatures make it comfortable for the fish to move freely. Food is a primary factor in deciding areas that may hold the highest concentrations of striped bass. Young of the year menhaden are now migrating out of the tidal rivers due to water temperatures at the 60-degree mark, so striped bass are staging near the mouths of the tidal rivers and steep channel edges in the Bay to intercept them.
Casting a mix of topwater lures, jerkbaits, paddletails, and a variety of other lures along the shorelines of the Bay and lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers is always a fun way to fish during low light conditions. Shoreline rocks, old pier pilings and piers are all good places to target.
Jigging with soft plastic or metal jigs is a favorite light tackle way to fish for striped bass during the fall but trolling is also an effective and popular way to target them. Most jigs will be in the ¾-ounce size range; braided line is very helpful for sensitivity and a fast taper fishing rod is also helpful. Trolling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights deep along channel edges is a popular way to fish for striped bass right now.
The mouths of the Patapsco, Magothy, and Chester rivers are excellent places to look for striped bass. The Love Point rocks and the sewer pipe above the Bay Bridge are popular places to jig. The outside edge of Swan Point and the main shipping channel edges are good places to troll down deep where fish are suspended close to the bottom.
Fishing for blue and channel catfish could hardly be better. Cooler water temperatures are causing the catfish to be very active and they can be found now in shallower waters. The lower Susquehanna and Chester rivers are excellent places to fish for them, but all the region’s tidal rivers hold populations of channel catfish and blue catfish. Fresh cut gizzard shad, menhaden, and bluegill sunfish are popular baits.
White perch are still holding in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks this week and anglers are having fun fishing for them by casting spinnerbaits or small soft plastic jigs. Fishing with small minnows or grass shrimp under a bobber can also be fun when cast near old pilings or rocks. White perch are also being found in the Bay on various knolls and reefs. Anglers are targeting them with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm, peeler crab or artificially scented baits.
Water temperatures in the middle Bay are holding around 65 degrees and the Choptank River is about 62 degrees. Water temperatures were stable last week due to unseasonably warm weather, but the temperature descent will continue with cooler weather this week. Young of the year menhaden are moving out of the tidal rivers so the mouth of the Choptank, Severn, and West rivers, along with the Eastern Bay, are good locations to look for striped bass holding along main channel edges waiting to intercept baitfish being swept along by ebbing tides.
The channel edges of the False Channel and near the Diamonds at the mouth of the Choptank is a very good place to troll this week. The striped bass are holding close to the bottom so it will take a lot of weight to get an umbrella rig down to where the fish are holding. Once hooked up you will need some arm strength to reel in the fish, inline weight, and umbrella rig.
Those who choose light tackle fishing are enjoying good results by casting a variety of lures in the shallower waters. During low light conditions in the morning and evening, casting poppers, paddletails, twitchbaits. and jerkbaits can offer a lot of fun fishing for striped bass and possibly the last of the puppy drum in our area.
Anglers need to start thinking about catch-and-release options if they have not done so already. Treble hooks are one of those items that work too well at times and can be a problem for anglers and fish alike. Switching treble hooks to single inline hooks can make it easier for everyone involved. You can try your local tackle shop but you may have to go online to get them – the 2/0 seems to work best on most 4-inch to 5-inch lures.
Fall is a traditional time for jigging in the Chesapeake Bay. Striped bass are holding along channel edges at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers this week and this fishery is in full swing. If you’re lucky the striped bass will push the small menhaden to the surface and diving gulls will show the way to some exciting fishing. One should keep an eye out for slicks and a good depth finder is extremely valuable to marking fish holding in the depths. Soft plastic jigs, skirted or not, and metal jigs from ¾-ounce to 1 ounce usually will work well. If the wind is blowing and the depths and currents are great, one may need a little heavier jig. An interesting note this week: some anglers are catching black sea bass when jigging around some of the artificial reef sites.
White perch can still be found in their normal summertime haunts this week but more of them are moving out into the deeper waters of the tidal rivers, and predicted cold weather will give them an extra push. Fishing with grass shrimp, small minnows, or peeler crab around docks and piers in deeper waters is still a good bet, and casting small spinnerbait lures along shoreline structure can still catch white perch. Most likely in another week or so, most white perch fishing will be relegated to fishing with bait or dropper rigs over oyster bars in the deeper waters of the tidal rivers.
The lower Potomac River has been a very popular area to fish for striped bass. The fish are holding along the channel edges from the mouth of the Wicomico River to St. Clements Island State Park and the steep channel edge from Piney Point to St. Georges Island; these are excellent places to troll or jig this week. Trolling will involve pulling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights to get down to the 30-foot edges where many of the striped bass are suspended close to the bottom. Jigging will require soft plastic and metal jigs of 1 ounce or more.
The main shipping channel in the Bay near Cedar Point, Point No Point, and the eastern channel edge from Taylors Island past Buoys 76, 74, and 72B are good places to check for striped bass suspended close to the bottom. A good depth finder will help lead the way to finding fish holding along the channel edges.
If you’re lucky, you might encounter diving gulls indicating striped bass have pushed small menhaden to the surface. In the absence of breaking fish, keeping watch for sitting gulls, slicks and ever vigilant eyes on depth finders may lead you to striped bass holding deep. Soft plastic or metal jigs are a wonderful light tackle way to fish, when concentrations of striped bass can be found. Black sea bass have been showing up on some of the reefs and taking jigs meant for striped bass.
Shallow water anglers are enjoying some fun fishing this week in the Tangier Sound area and the shorelines of the western side of the Bay. Casting a mix of poppers, paddletails and twitchbaits is a productive way to enjoy catching striped bass and the occasional speckled trout or puppy drum.
Shallow water fishing for white perch is still a viable option this week but with the cold weather predicted for the next week they will most likely move to deeper waters. Fishing bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, minnows or pieces of bloodworm will be a good way to target them.
Blue catfish are on the move and feeding aggressively this week in several of the lower Bay’s tidal rivers. The tidal Potomac from the Wilson Bridge south to the Route 301 Bridge and the tidal creeks that feed into it are full of hungry blue catfish. The upper Patuxent and Nanticoke rivers also have large populations of blue catfish. The catfish can be found along the channel edges and generally shallower waters than during the hot summer months. Fresh cut menhaden, gizzard shad, white perch, or bluegill sunfish make fine baits.
Trout anglers continue to enjoy good fishing in many put and take trout management waters this week and some of the catch-and-release designated waters. The trout will spread out as time goes by, so anglers can benefit from exploring areas away from the sites that were stocked this month. Using small lures in the form of spoons, spinners, and flies is a great way to cover a lot of water when looking for that trout that has found a spot to its liking.
Trout stocking is expected to resume around New Year’s. “Pre-season” stocking will be announced and more information can be found on the trout stocking website.
Anglers are enjoying good fishing for a mix of species at Deep Creek Lake this week. Cooler water temperatures have spurred smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, and northern pike to feed more aggressively. Fishing for smallmouth bass on the upper Potomac is also good due to cooler water temperatures.
Largemouth bass are perhaps one of the most popular freshwater fish pursued by anglers and fishing for them this week is providing excellent opportunities. Cooler water temperatures and less hot sun has the largemouth bass out roaming and feeding throughout most of the day. A wide variety of lures can be used but lures that imitate crayfish and small baitfish will top the list. Small crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, craw jigs, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and jerkbaits are all good choices when covering open water or near diminishing grass beds. Wacky rigged stick worms are always a good choice when fishing near structure.
Northern snakeheads are seeing their coveted thick grass beds decline and can now often be found near shoreline brush or treetops that have fallen into the water. Sunny shorelines where the water will be slightly warmer is a good place to target. White paddletails and chatterbaits rigged with soft white plastics are two of the best lures to use. If you’re fishing from a boat and casting to shoreline structure, dead sticking a large minnow under a bobber in open waters can reap rewards.
Surfside anglers are enjoying good fishing for kingfish this week, and anglers using larger baits are catching striped bass and a few large red drum. At the Ocean City Inlet, striped bass are being caught by anglers casting soft plastic jigs, Sheepshead and a few tautog are being caught along the jetties and near the Route 50 Bridge on sand fleas and crab baits. Fishing for flounder has been good in the inlet and the channels leading towards the inlet. Some larger flounder are being caught on liver finger mullet, small menhaden, large silversides, and Gulp baits.
Outside the inlet, fishing for black sea bass has been excellent at many of the reef and wreck sites, with limit catches being common. Farther offshore at the canyons, a mix of dolphin, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, and white marlin are being caught by trolling. Those fishing deep for swordfish are being rewarded with a few notable catches. Deep drop anglers are catching a mix of golden and blueline tilefish.
“The thrill of a fish at the end of a line, that thing that sparks from the deep water to the spinal cord, is a vestige of an archetypal joy that has to do with sustenance material and spirituality.” – Christopher Camuto
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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