The weather is getting colder but if you bundle up there is plenty of good fishing to be had throughout Maryland. One example is fishing offshore of Ocean City, where anglers are catching limits of hefty black sea bass.
In response to five years of below average spawning success for striped bass, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is submitting emergency regulations to help bolster the species’ spawning population. This includes extending closure dates during the 2024 season. These changes, if formally approved, will close the May trophy season. While recent research has suggested that environmental factors, such as warm winters and low water flows, are significant factors influencing spawning success, DNR scientists and fishery managers believe it is critical to take additional measures to reduce fishing mortality associated with harvest along with fish that die after being caught and released. We all share the goal of making sure striped bass fishing is available for future generations of Marylanders.
Forecast Summary: November 29 – December 5:
The upcoming week should provide cool temperatures all week with windy conditions on Wednesday. Surface water temperatures have dropped to the upper 40s in the upper Chesapeake Bay, to the low 50s close to the Virginia state line. With rivers running in the low 40s, baitfish have moved out of the rivers to the warmer Bay bottom 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 Sunday as a result of the recent full moon on November 27. 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.
Anglers fishing for striped bass in the Conowingo Dam Pool and the lower Susquehanna River are finding slim pickings. They are catching a few striped bass by casting soft plastic jigs, but a large percentage are undersized. The good news is that they are also catching smallmouth bass and walleye in the boulder-strewn section of the river. Tubes, soft plastic jigs, and small crankbaits are popular lures to use.
In the deeper and lower part of the Susquehanna River and areas surrounding the mouth of the river, fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish is very good. Anglers fishing from shore and from boats are finding easy fishing for large blue catfish. Cut baits, chicken liver, and scented baits are popular.
Farther down the Bay there are still some striped bass holding in about 30 feet of water, in the channels leading from several of the region’s tidal rivers. Anglers jigging and trolling are finding striped bass holding at the mouths of the Patapsco, Magothy, and Chester rivers, but they can be tough to find at times. Water temperatures in the lower sections of the tidal rivers are now below the 50-degree mark and fish are steadily looking for warmer waters in the deeper areas.
White perch have also moved to deeper waters in the tidal rivers and out in the Bay. They will often seek hard bottom areas with good flow and warmer waters at depths of 30 feet or more. Fish them with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs with flies or small jigs tipped with bloodworm.
Water temperatures in the middle Bay are about 52 degrees and steadily falling; the tidal rivers are now seeing water temperatures in the upper 40s. Anglers will begin to see decreased activity in striped bass – usually the smaller fish will be the most affected first, and then fish measuring 24 inches or more will also begin to slow down their feeding activity. Once water temperatures reach the low 40s feeding activity will be at a minimum. Resident striped bass had a good autumn feeding heavily on juvenile menhaden exiting the tidal rivers, so they are well filled out and ready to wait out the winter in the deeper waters of the Bay.
Striped bass can still be found in the channels leading from the major tidal rivers this week, but anglers may find it difficult to get them to take a soft plastic or metal jig. Generally, they can be found in about 30 feet of water holding close to the bottom. If you are lucky, you may encounter striped bass pushing bait to the surface which will be marked by diving gulls. In some areas black sea bass are being encountered by anglers who are jigging, especially near some of the artificial reefs and steep channel edges.
Trolling umbrella rigs pulled behind heavy inline weights has been a good option to get down to the deepest channels where fish are suspended close to the bottom. Most anglers are using sassy shads for teasers on the arms of the umbrella rigs and bucktails dressed with a sassy shad or twister tail for trailers. Chartreuse is a very popular color for this type of fishing. Having plenty of hull under you and a cabin to get out of the wind and cold is a very nice thing this time of the year.
Much like striped bass, white perch have moved to deeper waters in some of the larger tidal creeks, the lower sections of the tidal rivers and out in the Bay. Hard-bottom areas in the tidal rivers and Bay are preferred holding places for white perch and oyster reefs usually fit the bill. Once the fish are located, bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm are hard to beat for catching them. Dropped rigs can also work well.
In the lower Bay some of the best striped bass fishing is occurring in the lower Potomac River. There are several areas where anglers are reporting good success, and they all have one thing in common — steep channel edges. Swan Point, Cobb Point, St. Clements Island, Ragged Point on the Virginia side, and the area from Piney Point to St. Georges Island all provide steep channel edges where anglers are finding striped bass suspended close to the bottom in about 30 feet of water.
Jigging with soft plastic and metal jigs is a fun and productive way to fish for striped bass along the channel edges in the Potomac. Trolling with umbrella rigs and tandem rigged bucktails pulled behind heavy inline weights is another good way to fish. The bucktails used for trailers or rigged in tandem are usually dressed with a sassy shad or twistertail and chartreuse is a favored color.
Anglers in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay are finding striped bass suspended close to the bottom along the edges of the shipping channel and the lower Patuxent River. The mouth of the Patuxent from Cedar Point to Cove Point is also a good edge to check for striped bass holding in about 30 feet of water. The east side of the shipping channel from Buoy 72 south to Buoy 76 is always worth a look, especially for those trolling. Tangier Sound should not be overlooked.
White perch have moved to the deeper channels in the region’s tidal rivers and, in some cases, large tidal creeks. Most anglers are targeting them with bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm. Dropper rigs can also be a good choice.
Anglers in the western region are enjoying good fishing for northern pike, smallmouth bass, and walleye at Deep Creek Lake. The northern pike are being found at the mouths of the main coves in the upper reaches of the reservoir; large spinners and jerkbaits are popular lures to use. Walleyes are being caught in the evenings along steep rocky shores by casting deep running jerkbaits and small crankbaits. Smallmouth bass can be found along the deeper edges of the reservoirs by casting tubes, small crankbaits, and craw jigs.
Fishing for smallmouth bass and walleyes is good in the upper Potomac River this week. Anglers are doing well by casting a mix of root beer-colored tubes, craw jigs, and small crankbaits.
In the tidal Potomac River, anglers are enjoying good fishing success for largemouth bass by fishing moderate depth waters near drop-offs and the deeper waters beyond the drop-offs. A mix of spinnerbaits, craw jigs, small crankbaits and jerkbaits are all good choices for lures. Targeting any kind of structure is an excellent tactic. In the deeper waters, slow retrieves close to the bottom can work well. The above tactics will work for largemouth bass in a variety of situations from the smallest farm ponds to large reservoirs and tidal waters.
Crappie fishing is extremely good this week and anglers should make time to target them. Crappie can be found schooled up and holding tight to deep structure. Marina docks and bridge piers in the tidal Potomac are holding a lot of crappie this time of the year. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber are great for catching them. Deep Creek Lake holds a lot of crappie as do the Baltimore and D.C. city reservoirs in the central region. Smaller bodies of water such as the lake at Wye Mills on the Eastern Shore and St. Marys Lake in the southern region are just a few examples of great places to fish for crappie.
Cooler water temperatures mean plenty of fun chain pickerel fishing. The thick grass beds where they hid during the summer are gone and the pickerel can be found holding near any kind of submerged structure. Chain pickerel can be found in most ponds, reservoirs and the upper reaches of tidal rivers and creeks. Single hook lures such as paddletails or other lures with the treble hooks replaced with single inline hooks are a better choice to reduce fatal injuries to the chain pickerel when practicing catch and release.
There is hope just around the corner for surf anglers waiting for the migration of large striped bass to pass along Maryland’s shores. Anglers off southern New Jersey are seeing large striped bass in the surf this week so it might not be too long before they come our way. In the meantime, sub-legal striped bass, dogfish, and skates tend to provide most of the action in the surf.
At the Ocean City Inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, fishing for striped bass has been very good but mostly catch-and-release, as fish are coming up short of the 28-inch minimum. Anglers are enjoying good luck by casting soft plastic jigs and paddletails. Anglers are also seeing increasing numbers of tautog around the jetties and bridge piers; pieces of green crab tend to be the most popular bait.
Anglers looking for flounder are still catching some in the channels leading to the inlet. The throwback ratio is high, and the numbers of flounder are thinning out quickly. There continues to be plenty of fun catch and release action for striped bass at the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges this week. Most of the fish are undersized but provide plenty of fun on light tackle for those casting paddletails.
Offshore, anglers are enjoying excellent fishing for black sea bass, limit catches are common and there is also a mix of large flounder, triggerfish, bluefish, and porgies. Farther offshore at the canyons, at least one boat connected with a great catch of yellowfin tuna. Others are deep dropping for golden tilefish, blueline tilefish, and swordfish.
“You can’t say enough about fishing. Though the sport of kings, it’s just what the deadbeat ordered.” – Thomas McGuane
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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