The middle of October is upon us and there are wonderful fishing opportunities throughout Maryland. The fall trout stocking program is underway and Chesapeake Bay anglers are enjoying good fishing for a variety of species.
New state records were set recently for two southern species, a barracuda and a pompano dolphinfish, which decided to wander north. This infrequently happens towards the end of summer when southern species catch a ride on the northbound Gulfstream and wind up a lot farther north of their normal range. Scientists and anglers alike are observing some changes in fish species’ range as water temperatures are generally getting warmer.
Forecast Summary: October 18 – October 24:
The upcoming week should provide moderate temperatures with windy conditions through the weekend, but lessening winds for the beginning of next week. Bay surface water temperatures will continue to cool to the mid to low 60s. Salinity is finally 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 recent new moon on October 14. 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.
Water temperatures in the upper Bay and the tidal rivers that feed into it are taking a nosedive this week. Most tidal rivers are now registering close to the 60-degree mark and the Bay waters are in the mid-60s. Striped bass are now very comfortable to move freely throughout all areas of the upper Bay.
Anglers are catching striped bass in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River by casting a mix of paddletails, jerkbaits, and twitchbaits in the pool itself and in the boulder fields below.
The striped bass action picks up again at the mouth of the Susquehanna River along the channel edges of the Flats past Spesutie Island. Anglers are casting soft plastic jigs, paddletails, Rattle-Trap type lures, and twitchbaits. Juvenile menhaden are beginning to move out of the region’s tidal rivers and striped bass are feasting on them and building up body stores. The striped bass are filling out, gaining color, and looking a lot better than the thin, washed-out condition they were in during the late summer. They can be found suspended along steep channel edges in the Bay and at the mouths of the tidal rivers waiting for small menhaden to be swept along by swift currents. Jigging with soft plastic jigs or metal jigs is a fall angler’s delight.
The mouth of the Patapsco River and the Fort Carroll area continue to be good places to look for striped bass this week. A few anglers are still using spot for live-lining, but most are jigging or trolling along the channel edges. The piers of the Key Bridge are also a good place for live-lining spot or eels, or for jigging. There continues to be striped bass action on the east side of Pooles Island, where it is popular to use eels for live-lining.
The area around the Love Point rocks, the mouth of the Chester River, and the sewer pipe just north of the Bay Bridge are also good places for live-lining spot and eels and for jigging. Trolling is an option that is very popular in the fall. It requires stout tackle, umbrella rigs, and heavy inline weights to get down to where the striped bass are holding. Braided line is very helpful and umbrella rigs can be rigged with sassy shads or spoons for teasers. Bucktails dressed with sassy shads or twistertails and Drone spoons make fine trailers.
Blue catfish are on the prowl for anything that looks like food — we cannot say enough about their abundance. The lower Susquehanna and the Chester River hold large populations of blue catfish and they can be found in good numbers in most of the region’s tidal rivers right now. Fresh-cut bait is popular but there are plenty of alternatives.
White perch are still holding near shoreline structure and can be caught by casting Beetle-Spins, Roadrunners and small spinnerbaits during the morning and evening hours. Deeper structure in the form of old piers, bridge piers, channel areas in the tidal rivers, and shoal areas out in the Bay are good places to look during the day. Bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, small minnows, or pieces of bloodworm are a good choice. When fishing deep, dropper rigs with either a sinker and two small flies or soft plastic jigs are good, as is a heavier jig and one dropper fly.
Water temperatures in the middle Bay have declined to 65 degrees and the tidal rivers are running close to 60 degrees. This sets the stage for juvenile menhaden to exit the tidal rivers and move out into the Bay for their migration to the south. This is a very exciting time for fish and anglers. The striped bass begin to fill out and regain those beautiful colors that make them stand out. Anglers are ready for the most exciting fishing of the season that provides the spectacle of diving gulls and breaking fish.
There continues to be activity at the east side of the Bay Bridge as boats line up to the piers for live-lining and chumming. Anglers are drifting baits towards the pier bases or casting soft plastic jigs, usually during the morning when a strong tide is running.
Striped bass are moving freely throughout the middle Bay and can be found holding along some of the steeper channel edges at the mouths of the tidal rivers, and in the shipping channel. Trolling umbrella rigs along these channel edges is a popular method to fish for striped bass in the fall, requiring stout tackle and heavy inline weights to get down to where the fish are suspended. Sassy shads and spoons are popular additions to umbrella rigs as teasers and trailers.
Jigging is perhaps one of the more fun ways to fish for striped bass with light tackle. A fast taper rod, braided line, and soft plastic or metal jigs weighing one ounce or more are helpful when jigging in deeper waters. Thomas Point is always an attraction for jigging as is anywhere concentrations of striped bass can be marked on depth finders. The mouths of the tidal rivers will be very popular locations to jig as schools of bait are swept out by strong ebbing tides.
Striped bass can be found along the shorelines of the Bay and lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers where they and puppy drum provide plenty of fun shallow water action. Shorelines with submerged breakwaters and prominent points are good places to cast a mix of paddletails, poppers, jerkbaits, and twitchbaits. The rocks along Poplar Island, and various breakwaters and rip rap in the Severn, West, and Choptank rivers and Eastern Bay are just a few of the places to check.
White perch can still be found along shorelines during the morning and evening this week. Casting Beetle-Spins, Roadrunners and small jigs is a fun way to fish for them. White perch will begin to move into the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers in the next couple of weeks as water temperatures decline. Fishing one or two hook bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, peeler crab or pieces of bloodworm works well. Dropper rigs with small flies or soft plastic jigs are also a good choice.
Anglers are enjoying a variety of fishing activities this week, but fishing for striped bass by live-lining, trolling, casting, or jigging proves to be the most popular.
Trolling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights is what is needed to get down to the deep channel edges where striped bass are holding. Some anglers are also having luck pulling drone spoons behind planers and are also mixing up their trolling spreads with surgical tube lures. Striped bass are the main target, but hefty bluefish can also be part of the trolling mix. The channel edges of the lower Potomac from Cobb Island south to Piney Point are reported to be good places to troll this week. There is also good action near the Route 301 Bridge and Smith Point.
Jigging is perhaps one of the most fun and exciting ways to fish for striped bass in the fall as they congregate to feed on baitfish moving out of the tidal rivers. The action can be spotted by diving gulls as striped bass push baitfish up to the surface. A careful approach is vital to not drive the fish down and curtail the action. Coming in on the upwind side, cutting the motor, and drifting into casting range can be rewarded with striped bass swirling close to the boat. Casting soft plastic or metal jigs into the breaking fish or allowing jigs to sink to depths where the presence of fish is revealed by depth finders will provide anglers with plenty of action. The steeper channel edges of the lower Potomac River, the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers and the edges of the shipping channel are excellent places to look for the action.
Casting various topwater lures, paddletails, and jerkbaits along the shores of the Tangier Sound and the lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers is another fun and productive way to fish for striped bass, puppy drum, speckled trout, and bluefish this week. Drifting along shorelines in a small boat or a kayak is a relaxing and fun way to fish.
There are still sheepshead to be found near the Target Ship this week to be caught on peeler crab baits, they will not stick around much longer, so give it a try this week if you can. Bluefish in the range of 4-6 pounds are being found near the Target Ship and the Middle Grounds, and can show up most anywhere where anglers are trolling or jigging.
There are still some large red drum that are being caught by anglers who are jigging or trolling. A mix of spot, sea trout, small croaker, and kingfish are still being caught at the mouth of the Patuxent River but the number of spot is diminishing quickly. Flounder are showing up here and there and the shoals near channel edges in Pocomoke and Tangier sounds hold the greatest numbers.
White perch can be found in the tidal creeks and rivers this week. Casting Beetle-spins and Roadrunners near shoreline structure is a fun way to catch them. They can also be found in deeper waters when fishing with bait. Fishing for blue catfish remains excellent in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers this week.
Recreational crabbers are still out there, but they are going deep to be successful. Most report they are crabbing in 12 feet or more of water, and that sooks are abundant. Crabbers say they are catching up to a half-bushel per outing and the crabs are often large and heavy, so the rewards are great.
The fall trout stocking program continues with generous stockings in many of the state’s put-and-take waters. Several Prince George’s County lakes were stocked this week and for trout anglers on the Eastern Shore, the Tuckahoe Creek below Crouse Mill Dam was stocked. Waters in Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Calvert, and Charles counties were also recently stocked. The stockings will continue throughout October and anglers are advised to check the trout stocking website for the latest news, or subscribe to the email subscription list.
The upper Potomac River continues to offer excellent fishing for smallmouth bass. Grass beds are diminishing, and crayfish are on the move to deeper haunts for the winter, so smallmouth bass are taking advantage of the bounty. Root beer tubes are hard to beat for lure choices, and the deeper boulder areas, current breaks, and submerged ledges are good places to work.
Deep Creek Lake offers good fishing for a variety of cold-water species. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are active near shoreline structure and as grass beds retreat and floating docks are pulled, existing structure are good places to target. Northern pike can be found at the mouths of the major coves and yellow perch along deep grass edges. Walleye will be venturing close to steep rocky shorelines during the evening.
Fishing for largemouth bass is excellent in the small ponds, large reservoirs, and tidal waters of the state. Cooler water temperatures have largemouth bass on the prowl for crayfish and baitfish retreating from shallow to deeper waters as grass beds decline. Casting spinnerbaits, various soft plastics, jerkbaits, and crankbaits in the slightly deeper waters outside the shallows is a great way to intercept largemouth bass.
A fun opportunity for anglers is the upcoming blue catfish tournament, “Madness on the Marsheyhope,” being held Nov. 4 at Federalsburg Marina and Recreation Area; check out the Coastal Conservation Association website for more information.
Northern snakeheads are losing their preferred shallow cover as grass beds decline. Anglers targeting the existing grass, sunken brush, and sunken wood will find northern snakeheads holding. As more snakeheads are forced out into more open waters, fishing with large minnows under a popping cork or dead sticking a minnow under a bobber while casting to shoreline structure can reap benefits.
Crappie are schooling up in deeper waters near bridge piers, deep structure, and marina docks. Fishing small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber is an excellent way to catch them. The marina docks and piers along the tidal Potomac River near Fort Washington and the Spoils on the northeast side of the Wilson Bridge approach are very popular locations to catch a mess of crappie.
Surf anglers have been dealing with turbulent surf lately, but conditions are improving. Those fishing smaller baits are catching kingfish, flounder, and bluefish. Larger baits of cut mullet or menhaden fished in the evenings are accounting for a few large red drum and an assortment of stingrays and inshore sharks.
At the Ocean City Inlet, anglers are catching sheepshead at the jetties and Route 50 Bridge piers and a few nice tautog are being caught on sand fleas. Striped bass and bluefish are being caught by casting soft plastic jigs or drifting fresh cut bait. Flounder are moving through the inlet and providing good fishing opportunities. The channels leading towards the inlet are also excellent places to target flounder this week. The largest flounder are being caught with live peanut bunker, spot, and finger mullet.
Fishing for black sea bass at the offshore wreck and reef sites is excellent this week, with some captains reporting boat limit catches. Anglers are also catching a mix of triggerfish and flounder at the fishing sites. Farther offshore at the canyons, anglers who are trolling are enjoying good fishing for yellowfin tuna, white marlin, and wahoo. Casting to lobster buoys and floating debris is providing nice catches of small dolphin. Deep drop anglers enjoyed a good week of swordfish catches and those opportunities should continue.
“A day fishing is never a waste. The old-timers know that cooperation by the fish is the icing, but there’s plenty that can stick with the cake, trying out a new rod or reel or waders, or watching, always with the feeling of seeing a miracle – feeding fish making little diamonds on the surface of the stream.” – Gene Hill
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
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