A $25,000 Striped Bass is out there waiting

 

Your fishing report author is once again back on Maryland soil and last night I took the opportunity to go cruising out in the middle bay region to get a sense of what is going on out there.

The first thing that hit me was, “yep it is August in Maryland” the heat and humidity has returned and the distant shorelines were enveloped in haze.

The bay was slick, doublers stirred the surface, cow-nosed rays seemed to be everywhere and the sight of breaking fish can’t help but stir a bit of promise. Bait was plentiful, ospreys were working on schools of menhaden and even brown pelicans were getting into the fray. It’s good to be back home again.


Fisheries biologists and members of the Maryland Youth Fishing Club were out on July 31st catching and tagging Striped Bass for the August round of the Diamond Jim contest.This last round of Diamond Jim may have a payout of $25,000 and this Striped Bass about to be released by our young angler could be that fish, good luck to all.

The Bay Bridge continues to hold fish and a few passes while watching a depth finder will often reveal Striped Bass suspended at a particular depth nears the bridge piers. Drifting live Spot, chunking with cut up Spot, chumming or jigging are all good ways to fish. There are also Spot and White Perch to be found at the shallower ends of the pier.

The Striped Bass situation has become a bit of an enigma for many fishermen in the past couple of weeks and those that are savvy enough to dig down deep into their bag of tricks are coping with the recent changes. As most remember for a couple of months the scenario was to catch your Spot, look for the fleet on the horizon at the Hill and send down your Spot to waiting Striped Bass, it was easy pickings.

A lot has changed and the fleet had moved farther into Eastern Bay and now seems to have scattered to the four winds in the general area from Hackett’s Bar to the Gum Thickets to Wades Point in Eastern Bay and to Thomas Point. Basically there can be fish found at most any channel edge within this area.

Some of the more experienced are looking deep into their play books to switch up on the Striped Bass and are finding a few tricks that are making the difference in successful fishing.

Chumming with ground menhaden or using razor clams when fish are spotted on a depth finder can be very effective when fish seem to be uninterested. Chunking those large Spot and allowing baits to sit on the bottom has also been another effective trick.

More Bluefish are moving into the lower bay region this week and two definite size structures are being noted. Along the shorelines and tidal rivers small Bluefish are being caught. At bay locations such as the Middle Grounds and Cedar Point larger Bluefish around 18 inches to 21 inches are being caught. Most are trolling red hoses and spoons behind inline weights and planners but chumming is also very effective.

There are also Striped Bass in the mix with about a 3 to 1 throwback ratio. Spanish Mackerel started showing up this week so small spoons are an integral part of every trolling spread now.

There is some exciting catch and release fishing going on for large Red Drum in the general area of the Middle Grounds up past the Target Ship.

Trolling with large spoons has been popular but some fishermen are having good success by spotting slicks and rough water on some of the area shoals and sight casting with spoons and soft plastics.

Bottom fishing for a mix of Croaker, Spot, Bluefish and the occasional Speckled Trout or slot sized Red Drum can also be part of the mix in the lower bay region.

Some of the better areas to fish are Tangier and Pocomoke Sound on the east and the lower Patuxent and Potomac Rivers on the west side of the bay. Besides good catches of Croakers in the lower Potomac River up by the mouth of the Wicomico River, medium sized Blue Catfish are also very abundant.

Recreational crabbers are beginning to experience better catches of legal sized crabs in the middle and lower bay regions this week as more and more crabs molt and progressively reach legal size. There continues to large numbers of small crabs chewing up baits and doublers are a more common sight swimming along close to the surface.

Tidal rivers such as the Pocomoke offer good fishing for Largemouth Bass and targeting the outside edges of Spatterdock or grass at low tide with lures such as spinnerbaits or small shallow running crankbaits is a good bet. At an early morning high tide casting back into the cover close to shore with topwater lures is the way to go.

Along the Atlantic beaches the best fishing for a summer mix of Croaker, Spot, Kingfish, small Bluefish and flounder is occurring early in the morning or in the evenings as surf water temperatures hit 76 and the hot sun is a blazing.

In the evenings some are bringing out the heavy tackle to practice catch and release fishing for a mix of inshore shark species and sting rays.

In and around the inlet a mix of flounder, Tautog, triggerfish, Sheepshead and small Bluefish are providing entertainment during the day. At night, larger Bluefish are being caught and a few Striped Bass. In the back bay areas flounder fishing has been good with the typical throwback ratio. Using live Spot or large Gulp baits give a higher chance of catching a doormat sized flounder.

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.

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