Fall colors are at peak in much of Maryland, and the mild weather has made outdoor recreation like fishing a wonderful experience.
Forecast Summary: November 8 – November 14:
The upcoming week should provide cool temperatures all week with windy conditions through Friday. Chesapeake Bay surface water temperatures have dropped to the upper 50s to low 60s. With rivers running in the mid to low 50s, baitfish will be moving out of the rivers into 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 all week as a result of the upcoming new moon on November 13. 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.
In the lower Susquehanna River and surrounding waters, blue catfish are king this week. Although they are an unwelcome intruder and predator of resident fish species, they are providing a lot of fishing action and picking up the slack for striped bass anglers. Most fresh cut bait of gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, bluegills, or similar fish work well. There are plenty of blue catfish in the region and cooler water temperatures are spurring them into increased activity.
Fishing for striped bass has been slow in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna this week. Anglers are catching a few and a fair percentage are coming up short of 19 inches. Casting soft plastic jigs, lipless crankbaits, and paddletails are popular lures.
The striped bass action begins to pick up near Pooles Island and is better at the mouth of the Patapsco River. The concentrations of striped bass there during the summer months have moved to other waters in the upper Bay, but there are still enough for good fishing. The mouth of the Patapsco along with the Gunpowder, Magothy, and Chester rivers are good staging areas for striped bass intercepting the juvenile menhaden that are moving out of the tidal rivers. Structure can provide staging areas for striped bass also – the Love Point rocks being a good example.
The channel edges on a strong ebbing tide often provide the best fishing opportunities for anglers jigging with soft plastic or metal jigs. Sometimes anglers are lucky enough to witness schools of menhaden being pushed to the surface by striped bass, where they attract the attention of diving gulls. But most often the action will be taking place below the surface, and a good depth finder is a very important tool for locating suspended striped bass.
Trolling is a good option but is not for the faint of heart. Umbrella rigs are the name of the game, and they must get down deep where fish are holding along the deeper channel edges. Unfortunately, it can take a pound or more of inline weight to get that umbrella rig down where it can catch fish, so stout tackle and braided line is essential. The channel areas near the tidal river mouths and the main shipping channel are good places to explore.
Anglers are still finding some white perch in the region’s tidal rivers and creeks by casting Beetle-spins and small spinnerbaits. These anglers report catching a few yellow perch as well. A large portion of the white perch are steadily moving downriver to deeper areas over oyster bottom. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm work best when fishing deep.
With water temperatures in the tidal rivers down to the middle and upper 50s, juvenile menhaden are exiting the tidal rivers and moving down the Bay. This sets the stage for striped bass, which are holding along channel edges at the mouths of the tidal rivers to intercept the menhaden swept along by strong tides.
The mouth of the Choptank River in the vicinity of the False Channel has been an excellent place to find striped bass recently. They are often deep but on a falling tide they can encounter menhaden being swept along. This will drive striped bass to the surface where seagulls will join in the feast. There are few types of fishing that can be more exciting than the scene of diving gulls and breaking fish. Casting a variety of soft plastics or metal jigs into the fray or jigging underneath is the ticket to this show.
Anglers can find similar action in Eastern Bay, the mouths of the Severn and West rivers, and the edges of the shipping channel. Trolling is a good option for those willing to deal with umbrella rigs and heavy inline weights and umbrella rigs, needed to get down to where striped bass are holding along the edges of the shipping channel and places like the False Channel at the mouth of the Choptank.
There is still plenty of light tackle shallow water action for striped bass along select shorelines of the Bay and tidal rivers. Most anglers are doing well by casting a mix of poppers, paddletails and jerkbaits. There were no reports this week of puppy drum or speckled trout, most likely due to water temperatures dropping into the 50s.
White perch are a good option right now – in many areas they have moved into the deeper waters in the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers. They can often be found holding on lumps such as oyster bars and areas like Kent Narrows. Fishing with a bottom rig baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm is a good way to target them.
Fishing for blue catfish can be an alternative fishing adventure this week in the Choptank River. The blue catfish are moving up the river and can be found in the lower sections of the Tuckahoe and the upper Choptank from the Dover Bridge area to above Denton. Most fresh cut fish baits will work well with the oilier fish working best. Fishing with bait is always best, especially juvenile menhaden, although most have now moved downriver. If you’re fishing from a boat, a metal chum pot filled with ground menhaden and set on the bottom of the river is a great way to increase the odds of blue cats nosing closer to your bait.
The lower Potomac River has been a big draw this week for anglers pursuing striped bass – a two fish per day limit and 20-inch minimum is an inviting offer. The main channel edges in the lower river are a good place to look for striped bass holding close to the bottom. The steep channel edge from St. Clements Island State Park south to Piney Point is an excellent place to jig or troll. Most anglers are spotting suspended striped bass on their depth finders and jigging with soft plastic or metal jigs. Anglers who are trolling are using umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights.
In the Bay the edges of the shipping channel near Cedar Point and the mouth of the Patuxent River on the western shore are excellent locations to check. On the east side, check out the steep channel edge from above Buoy 76 south past Buoy 72B. Both are good places to look for striped bass holding along the deep edges. Trolling with umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights is a very popular way to fish this week and to cover plenty of water in the search for striped bass.
Light tackle anglers are enjoying good action when they are fortunate enough to encounter breaking striped bass foraging on schools of juvenile menhaden. Those lucky enough to come upon breaking fish are enjoying exciting fun casting a variety of jigs. At other times striped bass can be detected on depth finders and deep jigging is a great way to target them.
There is still good shallow water fishing for striped bass along the region’s tidal rivers and creeks in the lower Potomac, the Patuxent River, and Tangier Sound. Popular lures to cast are a mix of paddletails, soft plastic jigs, and jerkbaits.
White perch are moving to deeper waters this week and can be found holding over hard-bottom and oyster bars in about 25 feet to 35 feet of water. The best way to catch them is using rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm, or artificial bloodworm baits.
Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac and Patuxent rivers is nonstop as cooler water temperatures have kicked the fishery into high gear. Various fresh cut baits, the oilier the better, are popular.
Although the fall trout stocking program is completed, there are still plenty to be found in the put-and-take waters. Given time they will spread out, for those using spinning gear, switching from Powerbait to small spinners and spoons to help cover plenty of water is a good tactic. For fly fishing, bead head nymphs, wooly buggers, and streamers are great choices.
The pre-season trout stocking program usually begins towards the end of December and hits stride during January and February. The trout stocking website will provide the latest information as the stockings occur.
Water flows and levels have been low these past few months and unfortunately the trend continues this week. Stream flows are down and some bodies of water such as the Cunningham Falls reservoir are experiencing a fraction of their normal levels. The upper Potomac River is no different, and anglers are finding low clear water that can make for challenging smallmouth bass fishing.
Largemouth bass are aggressively feeding during much of the day this week due to cool water temperature and seasonally weakened sun. The shallow grass beds are in their seasonal retreat, and baitfish and crayfish are moving to deeper waters to find cover for the winter months. The largemouth bass are waiting to intercept them when and where they can. Transition waters between those shallower and deeper waters is where a lot of activity can be expected to occur. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits and soft plastic craws are all good choices to target the largemouth bass.
Declining grass beds and cooler waters are also bringing fishing for chain pickerel into focus. They can be found holding near sunken wood and similar structures. The small to medium sized pickerel will often be found along shorelines and the lunkers will be in deeper cover. Lures rigged with inline single hooks are a good idea for this mostly catch-and-release fishery, since chain pickerel will often engulf baits. Paddletails, spinners, spoons, and jerkbaits are all good lure choices. Northern snakeheads are also holding near structure wherever they can find it. Shoreline brush that has fallen in the water, fallen treetops, and sunken wood are good places to look for them.
Anglers are enjoying good fishing for a mix of striped bass and bluefish by casting soft plastic jigs and drifting cut baits in the Ocean City Inlet this week. Sheepshead and tautog are being caught near the jetty rocks and bridge piers on sand fleas and pieces of crab. There is also some catch-and-release striped bass action – the fish are measuring less than 28 inches – at the Route 90 Bridge, for anglers using paddletails and soft plastic jigs.
Flounder are moving out of the back bay waters and through the inlet, heading for their offshore wintering grounds. The channels leading towards the inlet and offshore shoals and lumps are great places to look for them.
The anglers headed out to the offshore wreck and reef sites are experiencing excellent fishing for black sea bass. Limit catches are common around the rails of Ocean City party boats. The boats headed out to the canyons are fishing deep for swordfish and tilefish. Bluefin tuna are due to move through the region in the next couple of weeks and will be providing some exciting fishing opportunities.
“It is not that the sea is unkind. That is a thing that the Islanders know, an unvoiced verity. She is … a creature of moods, sometimes unaccountably savage, inexplicably gentle, at once jealous and secretive and broodingly soft and lavishly good. She is the mother of all life and keeper of death. She has no patience with weaklings nor any mercy on those who are afraid of her.” – Ben Dixon MacNeill, from “The Hatterasman,” 1958
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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