Fishing Report Find diving gulls and you’ll find rockfish

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Maryland has of course been hit with some really cold and windy weather this week, driving water temperatures down and keeping most boats and fishermen off the open waters of the ocean, bay and large freshwater impoundments.

The wind is dropping out and warmer air temperatures are predicted for the weekend so make sure to get out and help yourself to the excellent fishing that can be found in many areas of the state.

Striped bass are being found in a variety of locations such as channel edges, shoals and prominent points. The fish are either suspended off the bottom or in a favorite scene of breaking water with diving sea gulls leading the way.

Jigging is a favorite method when fish can be spotted in concentrations and trolling with a mix of bucktails and swim shads in tandem or behind umbrella rigs with plenty of weight to get them deep when fish seem scattered.

Live lining eels at areas where bottom structure and currents provide an inviting place for larger striped bass has also been very productive. Locations around the Baltimore Harbor area and the Bay Bridge piers and rock piles are always favorite places to fish live eels.

Breaking fish can be spotted at anytime in the bay and most often where strong tidal currents are sweeping schools of bait along. The presence of diving sea gulls is always a dead giveaway but resting birds and slicks can often indicate striped bass suspended off the bottom.

This is when a good depth finder is a very valuable asset. Jigging with metal, bucktails or soft plastic jigs is the way to get down to the fish.

The striped bass action continues down into and throughout the middle bay region this week and with diminishing winds those hardy enough to brave the cold temperatures will find striped bass along major channel edges in the bay and tidal rivers.

There is still bait in the form of small menhaden moving out of most of the region’s tidal rivers. In the lower Choptank River there are also young of the year river herring and hickory shad exiting the river as well. Water temperatures are dipping into the 40s in most areas.

When birds and slicks lead the way to suspended fish holding off the bottom, (again, jigging with bucktails, soft plastic jigs and metal are the preferred method to reach the action) a good depth finder will certainly help confirm the fish are there.

Trolling a mix of bucktails and swim shads deep is the best way to cover water when the fish are scattered. There have been few reports of large fall migrant striped bass in the last week but one never knows if and when those reports will become more numerous.

The time of the month is right so it might pay to put a few large parachutes or bucktails out in your trolling spread. There are also fish in the 30-inch class that are mixed in with the smaller fish and these will light up anyone’s day on light tackle.

White perch can be found holding over deep oyster shell bottom in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and often are coming up on metal jigs when fishing for striped bass. They can be targeted when they can be spotted on a depth finder; a metal jig with a smaller jig or fly on a dropper loop tied in above is a good way to catch them.

Putting a small piece of bloodworm in the dropper fly can improve the odds. Shoreline fishing for white perch and channel catfish can be good at times in some of the deeper channel areas when a good tide is running. The Kent Narrows and the deep end of the Bill Burton Fishing Pier are two places often worth checking out.

Trolling has been a good option in the region and if the large fall migrants show up, the Smith Point area will be one of the first places they are caught. Mixing in some large parachutes in bucktails is a smart move this time of the year.

The Ocean City area water temperatures are now in the 50s and surf fishing has been mostly centered on small bluefish a lot of skates and dogfish with the hope of a striped bass or two. At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area tautog fishing has been good but the throwback ratio can be high. Pieces of green crab and sand fleas have been the baits of choice.

Striped bass are also being caught at the inlet at night, mostly on live eels.

Offshore the fishing for sea bass has been excellent on the wreck and reef sites lately. Limit catches are often the norm.

Large bluefish have been living up to their reputation at times by biting off sea bass being hauled to the surface. Bluefish, triggerfish and a few flounder tend to fill out the mix.

More than a few boats have been out trolling near the inshore shoal areas off the beaches looking for fall migrant striped bass moving south along the Maryland coast.

There has not been much to report lately but this could change at any time.

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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