Fishing Report: Big fish finally moving to deeper waters

Last week’s northeaster brought a lot of rain and chilly conditions to Maryland and distant memories to one who used to live near the ocean.

For those living near the ocean a good northeaster always brings out folks to walk down to the beach and watch the power of the waves and to scour the beaches for what might be cast up from the depths of the ocean onto the beach.

It could be lost surf fishing lures and rigs, a bucket full of surf clams, whelks, some lost artifact or even paper money that floated out of a summer swimmer’s bathing suit pocket. A warm front moved in by the weekend and fishermen were out in force, especially on Sunday enjoying another dose of fishing.

Fishing column 12-11Striped bass fishing in the very upper reaches of the bay is beginning to show real signs that the fish under 30 inches in length are moving to deeper water and their metabolism is slowing down. Water temperatures are close to the 40-degree mark this week so it is no wonder.

The weatherman has not been kind lately but those who have not winterized their boats yet are venturing forth on the nicer days such as this past Sunday. Drifting live eels around piers and structure is still popular as is jigging over suspended fish when they can be found.

Trolling is always popular this time of the year due to the fact of warm and inviting cabins. The major channel edges are the place to troll deep with a mixed spread of bucktails, parachutes and swim shads.

The Bay Bridge channel areas continue to hold schools of striped bass often in about 50′ of water. Water temperatures in the bay are now down to about 44 degrees so the fish in general are becoming sluggish and feeding less. Often a change of tide can turn the trick and being right on the fish can be a game changer. The deeper channel edges in the main part of the bay are the place to look for fish holding close to the bottom

Most striped bass and even white perch have left the tidal rivers looking for deeper water that will be a few degrees warmer. Gizzard shad are also camping out in some of these deeper areas and show up well on depth finders and often frustrating those who just can’t quite understand why these fish on the depth finder won’t bite!

Jigging is the most popular way for those in smaller boats to fish this week on fish holding deep; most are switching to soft plastics now except when white perch are the target. A metal jig with a dropper fly is the ticket for catching the white perch when you can get on them. Be sure to check out Warren Zick’s recent angler’s log about white perch jigging off of Matapeake.

When the wind blows and whitecaps show on the bay shoreline fishermen can still enjoy some fishing if they can find a lee shore to get out of the wind. Nice weather on a weekend will always bring out those willing to soak baits or cast lures.

The lower bay region is seeing plenty of action this week as breaking fish and diving sea gulls are being reported. Jigging is always a favorite when this kind of action can be spotted but as colder temperatures set in the lure of a warm cabin on a larger boat is very inviting so trolling is becoming more popular.

Ocean City area fishing has now settled down to fishing for striped bass and small bluefish in the surf and the inlet. The long awaited arrival of large striped bass moving along the coastal beaches has finally occurred.

Casting a variety of lures or soaking fresh menhaden baits in the surf has been effective for the striped bass. The small bluefish are mostly being caught on finger mullet. Drifting live eels in the inlet at night has been very popular.

Tautog season is now closed till Jan. 1.

Outside the inlet striped bass are being caught at various inshore shoal areas by trolling, jigging and drifting live eels. Farther offshore the excellent sea bass fishing continues with limit catches being very common.

Fishing with bait or jigs has been equally successful. Large bluefish and a few flounder tend to round out the mix.

Keith Lockwood has been writing the Fishing Report since 2003 and has had a long career as a fisheries research biologist since 1973. He is an avid outdoorsman enjoying hunting, fishing, bird dogs, family and life on the Eastern Shore.


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