Anglers all over Maryland whether they fish freshwater or saltwater, are watching their favorite fisheries transition to a summer mode of activity as temperatures heat up. Soon the Largemouth Bass bite will end earlier in the morning hours and begin later in the evenings. Striped Bass will be developing summer patterns of suspending in deeper waters along channel edges and a mix of summer migrants such as croaker, Spot, Bluefish, Red Drum and Speckled Trout begin to fill Maryland’s bay waters. Ocean anglers will begin to focus on flounder, Black Sea Bass and offshore species.
Anglers in the middle region are seeing a variety of fisheries developing as water temperatures reach the 70°F mark. A few large post-spawn Striped Bass are still being caught along the western edge of the shipping channel from Parkers Creek north to Thomas Point and Bloody Point as well as other steep channel edges. Chumming success is starting to be seen at locations such as Hackett’s Bar; jigging around the Bay Bridge Piers and wherever Striped Bass are encountered working on bait. Spot have moved into many of the regions tidal rivers and anglers are now catching enough to give live lining a try at favorite locations. Darren Zagalsky got to go fishing with his dad in the middle bay region and holds up a nice Striped Bass that he caught and released while trolling.
Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time of the year when recreational anglers start looking for Black Drum at Stone Rock and the James Island Flats and they did find them this past weekend; the action will traditionally continue for another week or so. Dropping a whole or half soft crab down to drum detected on a depth finder is usually the way the game is played with stout tackle and plenty of muscle.
Croaker are also moving into the middle bay region this week, mostly on the eastern side of the bay and the mouths of the major tidal rivers have been a great place to catch them. Additional Croaker catches were reported in front of Hooper’s Island and the mouths of the Honga and Nanticoke Rivers using bottom rigs baited with peeler crab, bloodworms or shrimp. White Perch are also filling in at the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and creeks and Anglers are picking them up while bottom fishing or casting lures around shoreline structure.
Striped Bass have moved into the shallower areas along the bay shores providing some fun light tackle fishing. Water temperatures are around 70°F so Striped Bass feel very comfortable moving into a variety of locations. Topwater lures are a favorite due to the excitement of a surface strike but soft plastics and Rapala type swimming plugs are also effective.
The lower bay is seeing several different fisheries developing this week as water temperatures continue to warm. There are still large post-spawn Striped Bass being caught along the western edge of the shipping channel out in front of Cove Point and across the bay at Buoys 72 and 72A. The action will continue to slow as time progresses but it only takes one of these big fish to spark up any fishermen’s day. Medium sized bucktails are a part of everyone’s trolling spread for fish under 28″. Anglers are encountering breaking fish or marking suspended fish more and more as bait schools move into the region with warmer water temperatures. There have also been a few reports of bluefish in the region and surely their numbers will increase next month.
The shallow flats and deeper guts along the Eastern Shore marshes are quickly becoming a great place to cast for Striped Bass, Speckled Trout and Red Drum as water temperatures warm. Those stalking fish with light tackle are enjoying the action by casting topwater and soft plastic lures as well as drifting peeler and soft crab baits in the swift current guts and channels.
Recreational crabbers in the middle and lower bay regions reported fair to good catches of crabs in the tidal rivers and creeks on the eastern side of the bay. This is often a common occurrence in the beginning of the crabbing season. Reports from the western side of the bay and the tidal rivers above Dorchester County were sparse at best.
Post-spawn Largemouth Bass in many of the state’s lakes, ponds and tidal rivers are beginning to transition from loafing outside of the spawning areas to looking for food. Anglers are targeting them in the deeper areas outside of the shallower spawning areas around structure such as sunken wood and rocks with spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Grass is another good place to target post-spawn Largemouth Bass with soft plastics and topwater lures.
The Ocean City inlet water temperatures finally hit the 60°F mark and warmer temperatures in the shallower bay areas. The exciting news for surf casters this past weekend was the arrival of the large Striped Bass that are passing along the beaches on their way north to New England. Surf anglers using large menhaden baits will be enjoying good fishing for the next couple of weeks. Smaller baits such as bloodworms, shrimp and squid are catching a mix of small bluefish, croakers, Spot, Northern Blowfish and Kingfish in the surf.
At the inlet anglers continue to find good fishing for Tautog and flounder and now are experiencing good fishing for Striped Bass in the early morning and late evening hours. Swim shads, bucktails and live eels tend to be favorite baits for Striped Bass fishing. Flounder are being caught on live minnows, squid strips and Gulp baits; Tautog on pieces of Green Crab or sand fleas. Flounder are also being caught in the bay channels leading to the inlet.
Outside the inlet trolling is occurring along some of the slough areas or drifting live eels for the large Striped Bass that are passing through the region. The boats headed out to the reef and wreck sites are catching Sea Bass and a mix of Ling and small Atlantic Cod. Offshore fishermen were very pleased to find good fishing for a mix of Bigeye, Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna this past weekend in the canyons from the Poorman’s to the Washington Canyon when they found 68°F water along the 500 fathom line. A mix of Thresher, Mako and Blue Sharks were found beyond the 30 fathom line.
Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. Keith is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the Eastern Shore.