Fall’s cooler weather is driving many of our freshwater and marine fisheries into increased activity. The fall trout stocking program is underway, providing fun put-and-take trout fishing.
Forecast Summary: October 11 – October 17:
The upcoming week should provide moderate temperatures that cool as the week progresses, with windy and rainy conditions on the weekend. This should result in Bay surface water temperatures continuing to cool from the current conditions in the upper 60s. Bay rivers are running cooler and hovering around 60 degrees so the warmest waters will be found in the main Bay. Salinity remains above 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 October 14 new moon. 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.
Change can be seen everywhere this week in the weather, water temperatures, and fishing. The Conowingo Dam pool continues to entertain anglers who are casting topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails for striped bass. The action in the lower Susquehanna River below the dam pool is providing fun fishing for striped bass and smallmouth bass by wading or fishing from small boats.
Water temperatures continue to drop rapidly in the tidal rivers, which are now seeing surface temperatures in the middle to low 60s. Juvenile menhaden are beginning their exodus from the tidal rivers and striped bass will be found at the mouths of the rivers near steep channel edges to intercept them. Cooler bay water temperatures are making it more comfortable for striped bass to be moving to various locations in the upper Bay.
Striped bass can still be found near the Key Bridge, the mouth of the Patapsco River, and Pooles Island, but the concentration of fish there is diminishing as they feel comfortable to move throughout the upper Bay. The Love Point rocks provide an excellent location for live-lining or jigging with soft plastics. Anglers are also seeing breaking fish that are working on schools of small menhaden near the mouth of several of the region’s tidal rivers. Many of these fish are smaller, so to find larger striped bass holding close to the bottom, allow jigs to fall below the breaking fish.
Anglers who wish to continue with live-lining spot can find bait inside Baltimore Harbor at Curtis Creek, the mouth of the Magothy River, and the west side of the Bay Bridge. Anglers report seeing more white perch mixed in with the spot. Fishing for white perch in the tidal rivers and creeks is good this week. Casting small lures along shorelines or fishing grass shrimp, peeler crab, or pieces of bloodworm on bottom rigs is working well.
Now that striped bass are freely moving throughout the upper Bay, trolling has become a popular way to fish. Trolling umbrella rigs with sassy shads or spoons as teasers with trailers of a swimshad or small spoon are a popular fall tactic when pulled behind heavy inline weights. The striped bass tend to be suspended close to the bottom of channel edges.
In the middle Bay, the striped bass action begins at the Bay Bridge. Charter and private boats have been at the east side of the bridge during the morning at the 30-foot drop-off and at the sewer pipe for live-lining and chumming. Everyone seems to clear out by mid-morning.
The Choptank River at Cambridge is registering water temperatures at about 65 degrees. This is cold enough for baitfish to begin to exit the Choptank and other tidal rivers within the middle Bay. Juvenile menhaden, or peanut bunker as they are often called, will be the primary focus as they migrate out into the Bay and are swept along by strong ebbing tides. Diving gulls can often lead the way to breaking fish as striped bass push the menhaden to the surface.
Jigging with soft plastics and metal jigs is a fun and exciting way to fish for the striped bass and depth finders will often reveal schools holding deep. Try a fast-action rod loaded with your favorite braid and a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader rigged with a Duolock snap rounding out the terminal end. Soft plastic jigs and paddletails in color patterns of chartreuse, yellow, and sparkle are popular, and adding a chartreuse and yellow skirt can help offer a larger profile. Most jigs will need to be about ⅝-ounce to an ounce depending on current, depth and wind drift. Metal jigs are also popular in the form of Stingsilvers, Crippled Herrings, or similar type lures.
Trolling is a popular way to fish for striped bass in the fall and umbrella rigs pulled behind heavy inline weights are the most popular method to get down to the depths along the main channel edges. Trailers can be bucktails dressed with a sassy shad or twistertail or swimshad. Drone spoons can be pulled behind No. 1 planers and surgical tubes can also be part of a trolling spread. There may be a few bluefish as part of the mix but they will most likely be gone after this coming weekend’s stormy weather.
Trolling in the shallower channel edges in the lower sections of the tidal rivers is also productive. Usually the drop-off edges of 15 feet to 25 feet are targeted with bucktails dressed with a twistertail or diving crankbaits.
Fishing for white perch is good this week and the perch are still holding in their typical summer haunts near docks and oyster reefs in the tidal rivers. Party boats have been anchoring up in the Kent Narrows for the morning bite. This will not last much longer as cooler water temperatures will push white perch into the deeper waters of the channels near the mouths of the tidal rivers in a few weeks.
The shallow water fishery is always a fall treat that precedes the gathering of striped bass in the deeper waters at the mouths of the tidal rivers, where they wait for schools of bait to be swept ebbing tides. Currently the shallow water bite is still active, and anglers are enjoying casting poppers, paddletails, and jerkbaits along the shorelines of the tidal rivers and Bay shores. Anglers are reporting speckled trout and puppy drum are part of the mix this week.
Striped bass are spread throughout the region from the shallower waters near shorelines of the Bay and tidal rivers and in the deeper waters of the main channels. Trolling umbrella rigs has been productive in the lower Potomac River lately from the Route 301 Bridge south along the steep channel edge near St. Clements Island and from St. Georges Island to Piney Point.
Anglers are also trolling the edges of the shipping channel with good results. Many are mixing up their trolling spreads with surgical tubes and Drone spoons behind planers, looking for the bluefish that are still in the region. The smaller bluefish seem to have headed south for the most part and larger 4–5-pound chunky blues can still be found in the deeper waters, whether one is trolling or jigging.
Jigging near the inlets at the Hoopers Island cuts is a fun way to cast and jig for striped bass this week, Anglers are anchoring up or drifting and jigging in a “walking the dog” type fashion with very good results. Cedar point is a good place to cast and jig this week and anywhere marks can be spotted on a depth finder and prove to be striped bass is exciting fun. Speckled trout and puppy drum are also part of the mix.
The shallow water fishery is excellent this week in the tidal rivers, creeks, and sounds. Casting popping corks with paddletails beneath, Zara Spooks, and assorted other lures is providing an assortment of fish action this week. Speckled trout, puppy drum, bluefish and striped bass are all part of the mix.
Large sheepshead are still being caught near deep structure like rock breakwaters and the Target Ship; peeler crab is the preferred bait. Flounder are being caught by those who target them at Point Lookout and Pocomoke Sound along hard-bottomed shoal areas next to channel drop-offs. Spot are still being caught in the lower Patuxent River this week but the numbers are beginning to diminish.
Recreational crabbers are still managing to catch enough crabs to make an outing worthwhile, with catches of about a half-bushel per outing. The crabs are heavy, and the best success is occurring in deeper waters of 12 feet or more.
The awaited fall trout stocking program is underway. The trout stockings are posted the day they occur and can be found at the trout stocking website and anglers can also sign up for the email subscription service where they will be notified by email of recent stockings.
The upper Potomac River is still running low this week and even though it can be hard on boats, this is a wonderful time to wade out into the shallower parts of the river and cast for smallmouth bass. The waters have cooled a bit so smallmouth bass are a lot more active than a few weeks ago. The grass beds are diminishing so crayfish are on the move and looking for new places to hide making them vulnerable to feeding smallmouth bass. It is hard to find a lure better than root beer-colored tubes that mimic crayfish – the financial loss of getting snagged is not too bad when losing a lure in the rocks, and they’re working really well.
Fishing for largemouth bass is very good this week in many different waters that they inhabit, from the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay to reservoirs and ponds that dot the Maryland landscape. Water temperatures have cooled enough that largemouth bass are very comfortable roaming various environments and feeding aggressively.
Grass beds that provided summer cover for baitfish and crayfish are diminishing, causing baitfish and crayfish to find a new home for the upcoming winter months. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, topwater lures, grubs and waacky rigged stick worms are all good choices to mimic a variety of baitfish. Soft craw baits, craw jigs, and crankbaits that look like crayfish are all good choices to key in on the bite. Largemouth bass will be patrolling the outside edges of existing grass beds, structure in the form of fallen treetops and sunken wood, and wherever feeder creeks spill into larger bodies of water.
Northern snakeheads are on the prowl and can be found on the edges of declining grass beds and near shoreline brush that is submerged. Chatterbaits and paddletails in white are very good lure choices. Dead sticking a large minnow under a bobber in more open waters while casting can often prove to be a bonus. Large minnows can also be worked under a popping cork near the edges of existing grass beds and sunken brush or treetops.
Fishing for blue catfish is excellent this week in many of the Bay’s tidal rivers. The lower Susquehanna and the Chester rivers are holding large populations of blue catfish. The Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers all hold good to large populations of blue catfish. The blue catfish are beginning to move upriver and now that blue crabs are leaving the rivers, detecting bites from blue catfish is a lot easier. Fresh cut bait from menhaden, gizzard shad, white perch, or bluegills all make excellent baits that stay on the hook through plenty of chewing.
Surf anglers are enjoying some good fishing for kingfish. Bloodworms or an artificial bloodworm-scented bait should work well. Flounder are being targeted by using squid or casting Gulp baits into the surf. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut spot.
At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area, sheepshead are being caught close to jetty rocks and bridge piers on sand fleas. Flounder are moving through the inlet so casting Gulp baits tipped with squid is a great way to target them. Striped bass and bluefish are being caught on soft plastic jigs.
The channels leading towards the inlet are one of the better places to fish for flounder in the next few weeks. As bay waters cool and the amount of daylight present each day declines, flounder are beginning to head to their offshore wintering grounds.
Many of the inshore and offshore wreck and reef sites as well as lumps are good places to fish for flounder. Now that black sea bass is open again ,catches of sea bass and triggerfish are very good this week.
The boats heading out to the canyons are finding white marlin and better numbers of yellowfin tuna this week. Many of these fish are moving south from more northern waters and give Ocean City based anglers a good chance of connecting with them if good weather holds. Deep drop anglers are also doing well catching blueline tilefish.
“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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