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Herb Floyd took a break from fishing for striped bass and enjoyed some great chain pickerel action. Photo courtesy of Herb Floyd
The Thanksgiving holiday gives us all a chance to reflect on all the things we are grateful to have. Family and friends always top the list, and for many of us they are followed by the opportunities we have to enjoy the outdoors.
Forecast Summary: November 22 – November 28:
The upcoming week should provide cool temperatures all week with windy conditions on Wednesday and Thursday. Surface water temperatures have dropped to the low 50s in the upper Chesapeake Bay, to the high 50s close to the Virginia state line. With Bay rivers running in the low 50s and high 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 all week as a result of the upcoming 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.
Upper Chesapeake Bay
Anglers fishing in the lower Susquehanna River are focusing on blue catfish this week. They are extremely numerous and provide plenty of fun fishing and great table fare. Fresh menhaden, gizzard shad, white perch, and bluegills are popular baits, but items like chicken liver and scented baits also work well. Currently the water temperature in the lower Susquehanna is about 52 degrees and as they drop further, the blue catfish will begin to go deep. There is a deep hole just below the railroad bridge where blue catfish tend to congregate during the colder weather, providing a great place to fish for them.
Brian Barton caught this trophy smallmouth bass on the lower Susquehanna River. Photo courtesy of Brian Barton
Smallmouth bass and walleye are active in the lower Susquehanna due to colder water temperatures and are providing some exciting fishing for anglers. The lower Susquehanna is noted for large smallmouth bass. Casting soft plastic jigs and small crankbaits are popular lures to use.
Anglers are also fishing for striped bass in the Conowingo Dam pool and the lower Susquehanna River. Casting paddletails and soft plastic jigs are two of the most popular lures. Most of the striped bass being caught are falling below the 19-inch minimum but now and then anglers are catching keeper-sized fish.
Striped bass anglers in the upper Bay are focused on fish suspended close to the bottom edges of channels at the mouths of the tidal rivers and out in the Bay. The mouth of the Patapsco River, the Chester River, and Love Point are good places for light-tackle anglers to jig with soft plastic and metal jigs, for fish that can be located with depth finders in about 30 feet of water.
Trolling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights along the deep edges of the major channels is one of the most popular ways to catch striped bass this week. The fish are going deep, looking for slightly warmer waters, so they are being found in the deepest channels. Trolling is a good way to cover a lot of water when the fish are spread out and a depth finder helps spot fish.
White perch have moved into the deeper channel areas near the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers and out in the Bay’s channels. The white perch tend to like hard bottom areas to hunker down for the winter months. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworm or dropper rigs with small flies and jigs are the best ways to target them.
Water temperatures in the middle Bay are holding at about 55 degrees this week and the tidal rivers are recording water temperatures at the 50-degree mark. Young of the year menhaden have been pouring out of the major tidal rivers for more than a month now and presently juvenile hickory shad are heading out to the Bay and eventually to the ocean, where they will stay until they become spawning adults.
Striped bass have been feeding heavily on the menhaden – they have good color and have filled out beautifully to hold them through the winter months. Once water temperatures drop into the mid to low 40s the striped bass will stop feeding and hunker down in the deepest channels, seeking slightly warmer waters for the winter.
Gulls gather over the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Keith Lockwood
Finding striped bass willing to take a soft plastic or metal jig or even an umbrella rig is becoming increasingly difficult with colder water temperatures. The channels at the mouths of the tidal rivers remain good places to look. If everything aligns on a falling tide and striped bass are pushing bait to the surface marked by diving gulls, it can be an experience that is hard to forget. A more common event may be witnessing seagulls sitting on the water or maybe a slick, but mostly they are found as marks on a depth recorder revealing suspended fish below. The mouth of the Choptank River and Eastern Bay have been two of the more consistent locations to jig for striped bass. Anglers also report catching small black sea bass when jigging near artificial reefs.
Since the striped bass tend to be holding deep and have spread out along the deepest edges of the channels in the Bay and major tidal rivers, trolling umbrella rigs is popular. Heavy inline weights are needed to get umbrella rigs or tandem rigged bucktails down to where the fish are holding. The channel edge from above Bloody Point south past Buoy 83, Sharps Island Light, and the False Channel down to the CP Buoy has been an excellent place to look for striped bass holding deep. On the western side of the Bay, the deep channel edges past Thomas Point to Breezy Point are worth checking.
White perch can now be found holding in some of the deeper areas in the middle Bay. The mouth of Eastern Bay and off Matapeake are two reliable locations to check, the lower Choptank River is another. The white perch will often be holding over solid bottom, often in the form of oyster reefs. Bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms or dropper rigs are two good choices to target them.
The lower Potomac River is getting a lot of attention from anglers fishing for striped bass. Most anglers are trolling a mix of tandem rigged bucktails and Storm shad type lures or umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights along the deepest and steepest channel edges. The channel edges near Colton’s Point and from St. Georges Island to Piney Point are producing good catches of striped bass this week.
The lower Patuxent River and the mouth of the Patuxent from Cedar Point to Cove Point channel edges are good places to jig or troll for striped bass. The cuts between Hoopers Island provide a great location to cast jigs on an ebbing tide. The channel edges from Buoy 72 south to Buoy 76 also continues to be a good area to look for striped bass holding deep.
Fishing for white perch is good this week at the mouths of the Patuxent River, the Nanticoke River, and the Wicomico near Tangier Sound. Most anglers are using bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms with good luck.
Fishing for blue catfish in the tidal Potomac, Patuxent, Nanticoke, and Wicomico rivers is as good as it has ever been. The small to medium sized blue catfish tend to be holding along the edges of the main channels and the larger blue catfish in the deeper channel waters. Fresh cut bait works well but those targeting the largest blue catfish often catch them with live bait.
Anglers at Deep Creek Lake and nearby impoundments in the western region are enjoying good fishing for coldwater species. Walleye fishing at Deep Creek Lake is good in the evenings along steep rocky shores, casting diving jerkbaits or crankbaits is a good tactic.
Walleye can also be found in the upper Potomac River and the waters are cold enough now that they are active. Soft plastic jigs and swimbaits as well as live minnows are a great way to target them. The waters around Dam Four offer the best walleye fishing opportunities on the upper Potomac.
Fishing for smallmouth bass is very good this month in the upper Potomac, Deep Creek Lake in the western region and Prettyboy and Liberty reservoirs in the central region. Tubes, soft plastic craw jigs and crankbaits are all good choices for baits. Northern pike are waiting for anglers in Deep Creek Lake as well as yellow perch and crappie.
Largemouth bass are very active and can be found in a variety of water depths this week. The afternoon sun can warm up shallower waters and largemouth bass will take advantage of it while looking for a snack. Medium-depth waters are good places where largemouth bass are roaming and looking for baitfish and crayfish. Sunken wood or similar structure located in deeper waters is a great place for a largemouth bass to hold.
Cold weather and seasonally reduced grass cover means an opportunity to fish for chain pickerel. It is a fun fish to pursue, often in quiet places in the upper regions of tidal rivers, ponds, or reservoirs. Chain pickerel will look for cover to lay in ambush, often in the form of shoreline sunken wood. Usually the medium-sized chain pickerel will be found along the shorelines and the real lunkers out in deeper waters and holding tight to some kind of structure. Chain pickerel strike lures with abandon and often suck the lures into their gill arches which is usually fatal. Anglers who love their chain pickerel will remove treble hooks from lures and replace them with inline single hooks. Paddletails are a great lure to use for this reason. Chain pickerel also love spinners and spoons of the red and white Daredevil variety.
FishMaryland Master Angler Jason Paugh holds a trophy-sized largemouth bass. Photo courtesy of Jason Paugh
Fall is a great time to fish for crappie; they can be found schooled up near deep structure like marina docks, bridge piers, and sunken wood. Slowly working these areas with a slip bobber rigged with a small minnow or marabou jig is a great way to catch them.
Congratulations to Jason Paugh of Garrett County, who officially became the fourth Master Angler awarded under the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ FishMaryland program this month. The highest award in the program recognizes the skill and determination required to catch ten trophy-size fish species in Maryland that all meet the minimum award sizes. Paugh caught ten freshwater species, almost all of them at Deep Creek Lake using artificial lures. FishMaryland showcases the array of freshwater and saltwater species available in Maryland; learn more about the award program and how to submit catches on the DNR FishMaryland webpage.
Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Surf anglers are picking away at what may be the last of the kingfish, blowfish, and flounder this week. Reports are that there are plenty of dogfish and clearnose skates to keep anglers busy, as they patiently await a southern migration of large coastal striped bass to pass along the beaches of Maryland. No one wants to hear, “You should have been here yesterday!”!
Anglers at the inlet are experiencing no shortage of striped bass this week and are having a ball catching and releasing striped bass. Every once and a while a nice striped bass measuring over 28 inches allows an angler to take a fish home for dinner. Casting soft plastic jigs near the jetty rocks and the Route 50 Bridge is the best way to enjoy this fun fishery. In the back bay waters the Route 90 and Verrazano bridges are also offering plenty of catch-and-release striped bass fishing.
Flounder are still being caught in the channels leading towards the inlet as they head out to offshore waters. The throwback ratio is very high but there are legal size fish being caught. This fishery will not last long, it is time for the flounder to leave.
Fishing for black sea bass continues to be excellent this week at the offshore wreck and reef sites, as limit catches are very common. Anglers also report a few triggerfish, flounder and bluefish being caught in the mix. Those heading out to the canyons are in search of swordfish, as well as golden and blueline tilefish.
“Fishing keeps men boys longer than any other pursuit.” – Zane Grey
Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.
This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”