Fishing Report: The striped bass are out there waiting

David Roberts is all smiles with this beautiful 45-inch striped bass he caught near Cove Point.

David Roberts is all smiles with this beautiful 45-inch striped bass he caught near Cove Point.

The transition from somewhat fussy April weather to what we all expect to be a balmy May continues to be a back and forth but somewhat steady progression toward milder weather.

Last week’s cold front that gave us chilly night time temperatures did not do good things for the previous week’s striped bass spawn.

The good news is that this year’s spawn has been protracted due to cooler water temperatures and the next wave of striped bass began to spawn yesterday in the Choptank, Nanticoke, Patuxent and Potomac rivers.

Cold nighttime temperatures, cold local runoff and increased water releases from the Conowingo Dam have the Susquehanna River and flats fisheries in a bit of a seesaw pattern lately for hickory shad and striped bass catch and release fishing. Water temperatures took a nose dive last week and stained water tended to prevail in the flats and lower Susquehanna River area.

Striped bass catch and release success tends to be based on water clarity and to a lesser degree, water temperature. It can be frustrating for anglers traveling a distance in hopes of some fun catch and release fishing and about the best one can do is look for warm sunny days and keep watch on dam releases and rain events.

The striped bass catch and release fishery will only get better in the next week as more adult fish move into the region to spawn. Another fishery to look forward to is the arrival of the spawning white perch which as are most spawning runs this year, late. This fishery should begin to develop in the Susquehanna River shortly.

Trolling for striped bass in the upper bay has been good recently as fish move up the bay. There has been a lot of action on the eastern side of the bay recently with the channel edges near Love Point getting a lot of attention.

Jellyfish have been troublesome above and below the Bay Bridge fouling lines and demanding attention to clear lines. Unfortunately the tidal current lines along steep channel edges are where the jellyfish tend to be swept along by the current and are most abundant.

The jellyfish that are being encountered are called winter jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay and they are usually seen from November to May. They usually do not grow any larger than 6 inches in diameter and have a reddish center and are capable of a mild sting. There may be a lot of them this year due to an abundance of zooplankton that has occurred following this past winter’s snow and rain runoff.

Anyone who has fished the mouth of the Chesapeake or along the coast, most likely has seen this same jellyfish in a much larger form, the lion’s mane jellyfish. At times they can grow to be 2 feet in diameter and carry a full load of stinging tentacles that are the bane of surfers, swimmers and gillnetters.

Some of the traditional hot spots below the Bay Bridge continue to produce this year and the channel edge near Bloody Point south to Buoy 83 is no exception. Most are trolling a mixed spread of white and chartreuse bucktails and parachutes dressed with sassy shads.

Thomas Point usually catches the attention of more than a few boats and presents another steep channel edge to check. A few larger fish are moving out of the Choptank and Nanticoke from last week’s spawn and the False Channel is a good place to try for post spawn Choptank fish leaving the river and Tangier Sound for the Nanticoke River post spawn fish.

There have been rumors about the first croaker being caught recently in the Point Lookout area and this area is where the season’s first croakers are seen. This past week there has been good croaker fishing near several of Virginia’s tidal rivers and some of that action will be drifting north as Maryland’s waters warm up.

This week’s warmer weather should do much to improve fishing. The Eastern Shore rivers such as the Pocomoke usually fare much better when it comes to runoff causing stained water. Fishing for largemouth bass has been very good in the upper Pocomoke and Marshyhope branch of the Nanticoke River this spring.

The Ocean City area surf and inlet experienced a good old fashioned bluefish blitz this past week when large spring migrant bluefish followed schools of menhaden close to the Maryland and Delaware beaches.

These large bluefish are often called “runners” and typically are fairly thin with skinny bodies and large heads and are on a mission to gain some body weight by plundering schools of menhaden.

Most surf casters are using cut menhaden or finger mullet on bottom rigs; those fishing at the inlet are using bucktails and Got Cha plugs. They can also be caught by casting or trolling off of the beaches.

Water temperatures along the inshore areas off Ocean City are running around 49 degrees and the tautog are beginning to move into closer inshore wrecks and reef sites. There is also some tautog action going on at the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area. Inside the inlet in the coastal bays there are a few flounder being caught on the ebbing tides.

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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