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Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report

By Keith Lockwood of The Maryland DNR
This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Sept. 30th, 2010
Chesapeake Bay fishermen have been watching some of our summer migrant species leave one by one in the last couple of weeks. The Spanish mackerel have left for the most part as have the croaker. There are still some large spot in the lower bay and still plenty of fat bluefish around for this coming weekend. More than a few fishermen have been trying to stock up on spot for live lining and keeping them in floating cages or pens off their docks. A story came across my desk this week of a charter boat captain who had his spot pen raided by a hungry otter. I think otters are always hungry and are proven to be crafty tricksters. At the harbors at Ocracoke and Hatteras, North Carolina in the 1970's they had the mischievous habit of slipping over the transom of center console boats and riffling live wells and fish boxes for lunch while you paid for gas at the dock. So make sure the lid on your spot pen has a locking latch.

The continuing fall of water temperatures in the upper bay are beginning to show some profound changes for fishermen. Bait in the form of menhaden, silversides and bay anchovies are moving out of the tidal rivers and traveling down the bay often unmolested by marauding striped bass and bluefish. Trolling spoons and bucktails have been a very good way to catch striped bass and bluefish recently and light tackle jigging is beginning to become more productive as fish school up under bait or deep structure. The Bay Bridge piers and steep channel edges have been two of the "go to" places for fishermen recently and this pattern will likely continue. The mouths of the region's tidal rivers such as the Patapsco have also been good places to troll or jig for striped bass.

White perch fishing continues to be good near deep structure such as rocks and shoal areas. Jigs with dropper flies or bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp, bloodworms or peeler crab are good choices to use. The rock piles at the Bay Bridge and Fort McHenry or shoal areas such as Belvidere Shoals are good places to start looking for white perch. Most fishermen will agree that one needs to check out several likely locations to find the best concentrations of large perch. Fishing for channel catfish in the tidal rivers and at the head of the bay has been very good.

Fishermen in the middle bay region will be looking forward to better weather conditions this coming week which will allow for better fishing. Large schools of bait in the form of adult and juvenile menhaden are moving through the area and when they meet up with striped bass and bluefish it can be quite a scene. The large menhaden although too large for our resident striped bass hold the promise of luring the large fall migrant striped bass up the bay into Maryland waters in a couple of months.

I had the opportunity to prepare some bluefish for the smoker last weekend and it never ceases to amaze me what glutton's bluefish can be. The blues looked like their belly skin was about to split and their stomachs were so full of chunks of 6" menhaden; it was hard to imagine that they were still interested in eating more. But they did and it of course lead them to the end of a fishing line. A good portion of the bluefish were so fat and thick that they needed to be split to smoke and cure properly.

Fishermen continue to troll bucktails and small spoons behind inline weights and planers with good success; either near channel edges or near schools of bait. As water temperatures continue to cool and striped bass school up vertical jigging will come into its own. Make sure to stock up on your favorite metal jigs and soft plastics, perhaps check the line on your favorite spinning or conventional reels and prepare for some of the finest fishing of the year.

White perch fishing continues to be very good over a wide range of the middle bay region. White perch are roaming the shallower areas, shoreline structure such as old breakwaters and deeper shoal and oyster bars. Jigs with dropper flies, spinner type jigs or bottom rigs baited with bloodworms, grass shrimp or peeler crab are good choices to use to catch them. Don Webster sent in this picture and a report that his friend Tom Green caught and released about 20 small sea trout recently in the Little Choptank on bloodworms.

Lower bay region fishermen were seeing the last of the Spanish mackerel, red drum and croaker last week and the recent cool weather and rain may have tended to close the door behind them. Large spot are still being caught in the Tangier Sound area, the mouth of the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers and of course bluefish are still a big part of the fishing scene in the lower bay region.

Trolling bucktails and small spoons behind inline weights and planers has been an effective method of catching striped bass and bluefish and will continue this weekend as the weather improves. Charter boat captains report miles of bait in the form of adult and juvenile menhaden as well as silversides spread along the edges of the shipping channel and the mouth of the Potomac River. All this bait holds the potential for some hot action when bluefish and striped bass move in; the nice weather forecasted for this weekend may offer the opportunity for fishermen to join in. Vertical jigging and casting to breaking fish is a rite of fall for light tackle fishermen and it is beginning to happen, so get your favorite fast action spinning or conventional rod and reel combo and jigs together and get out there this coming weekend.

Recreational crabbers are reporting some tough times trying to put together a bushel of fat crabs this week. The recent full moon spurred on what may be the last shed of 2010 so there will be some light crabs around for a couple of weeks. The soft crab market is reported to be flooded this week so it must have been a big shed. Most crabbers are reporting 5-1/2" crabs are the largest crabs in their catch so perhaps in about three weeks we'll see those larger fat fall crabs we all love.

Chesapeake bay map


Map courtesy of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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