Labor Day is here and the fish are biting

Gaaron Bankowski is certainly happy with this Striped Bass he caught while fishing off of Deal Island.

Gaaron Bankowski is certainly happy with this Striped Bass he caught while fishing off of Deal Island.

It only took a few cool nights to start to bring water temperatures down a notch last week and give us all a little clue that summer is beginning to loosen her grasp. We of course still have a way to go but as most have noticed on their calendars, Labor Day Weekend is here.

The Fisheries Service will be setting up a live fish display tank in the DNR Building at the Maryland State Fair, highlighting invasive fish in Maryland.

Fisheries biologists will be there to answer questions and talk fishing, so stop on by and say hello. The Maryland State Fair runs until Sept. 1.

The Bay Bridge area continues to command the attention of a lot of fishermen this week as they jockey into position up current of the bridge piers and either jig, chum, chunk or live line for Striped Bass that are often suspended there.

The Rock Piles just above the bridge on the northeast side have been a good place to live line or chum for Striped Bass recently and the Dolley’s Lump area up to the southwest shallow corner of the bridge has been providing live Spot.

Much of the Striped Bass action in the middle bay region is still focused around the Gum Thickets/ Buoy 86 area, Bloody Point, Eastern Bay and Hill this week but the fish are showing signs of spreading out to other areas such as Thomas Point, Buoy 83 and the Clay Banks.

Live lining Spot continues to be the most popular method of fishing in these areas but trolling and jigging are also very effective. Trolling is centering on pulling small spoons, bucktails and surge tube lures behind inline weights or planers along channel edges for a mix of Bluefish and Striped Bass with the occasional Spanish Mackerel.

There is quite a bit of bait in the middle bay region in the form of Bay Anchovies, small Menhaden and Silversides so breaking fish are a more common sight this week. At times slicks will also reveal action under the surface of the water and a good depth finder will help locate the action.

There are quite a few Bluefish in the region so metal jigs and bucktails will stand up more abuse than soft plastics.

Bottom fishing for a mix of large Spot, croaker and White Perch remains good this week with much of the action taking place at Hackett’s Bar and major tidal rivers such as Eastern Bay, the Choptank, Severn and West River.

The croaker tend to be around 10 inches at best but there is plenty of action. Peeler crabs, shrimp (wild variety), squid and bloodworms are favorite baits on a two hook bottom rig along channel edges.

The shallow water action for a mix of Striped Bass and White Perch is good at dawn and dusk this week on a flood tide. Topwater lures for Striped Bass tend to be a good choice over grass and sunken rock structure where a good current prevails.

The throwback ratio is about 50/50 on the Striped Bass and the larger White Perch can be tough to find at times. Water temperatures have dropped a bit this week so perhaps the larger White Perch will move into the shallows soon.

Lower bay region Striped Bass fishing is showing an improvement this week as fish are being found off the Taylor’s Island area, Cove Point, Cedar Point, the mouth of the Patuxent River and the lower Potomac River.

Live lining Spot along the 30-foot channel edges has been effective but most fishermen tend to be trolling along channel edges for a mix of Striped Bass, Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel. Clark and Drone spoons have been a favorite when trolled behind inline weights or planers. Schools of bait can often be seen in the lower bay region and when they collide with a mix of Striped Bass, Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel it can be pure mayhem.

Trolling along the outside edges of this action or carefully positioning and jigging with metal or bucktails is pure fun. In the lower bay region some of the Bluefish are topping 6 pounds or better.

Large Red Drum are being caught and released when they can be found and often that is in the general area around the Target Ship.

Large spoons are a favorite when trolling and soft plastic or metal jigs are good when the drum can be located by slicks or surface action. Red Drum 36 inches or larger qualify for entry into the Maryland Fishing Challenge and a catch and release award certificate.

Bottom fishing for a mix of large Spot, fair sized croaker, Bluefish and the occasional Speckled Trout has been very good in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and sounds this week.

The Patuxent, Nanticoke and Potomac Rivers have been offering excellent fishing as well as the Tangier/Pocomoke Sound area.

In the lower Potomac medium sized Blue Catfish are abundant and with no creel limit they offer an excellent opportunity to fill the freezer with a supply of good eating to last the winter months. Blue Catfish freeze well and can be cooked in a variety of methods besides the beloved deep frying.

Recreational crabbing continues to improve for those running trot lines or collapsible crab traps. Upper bay catches are usually limited to a couple of dozen crabs at best per outing but success improves below the Bay Bridge.

Most recreational crabbers are able to catch a half bushel to a full bushel of crabs per outing. Some of the more successful crabbers are reporting that the best catches are coming from waters 10- to 15-feet-deep.

Largemouth Bass can be found near shallow grass and structure early in the morning and evening hours with a variety of topwater lures, especially on a high tide. For a low tide, working the edges of grass or spatterdock with spinnerbaits and crankbaits is a good bet. Dropping weedless soft plastics down through thick deepwater grass is always a good option.

These tactics also play out on other tidal rivers such as the Pocomoke and Nanticoke Rivers.

Summer time fishing in the Ocean City area remains steady this week in the surf for a mix of small summer species. A mix of Kingfish, Spot, croaker, small Bluefish, flounder are being caught on small baits.

There seems to have been a recent influx of Sandbar and Black Tip Sharks that have been entertaining those wishing for a little more pull in the evenings. Surf water temperatures are near 75 degrees so the best fishing for the small species has been early in the morning.

At the inlet and Route 50 Bridge area Bluefish are being caught on Got Cha lures at night and a few short Striped Bass on swim shads and live Spot. During the day small Bluefish are being caught along with flounder and croaker.

The back bay channels are holding flounder and a mix of croaker, small Black Sea Bass, Spot and small Bluefish. Squid strips and minnows are a common favorite but larger baits such as Gulp Mullet bait or live Spot will deter most of the smaller flounder and attract the doormat sized flounder.

The boats heading out to the inshore wrecks and reef sites are finding excellent flounder fishing for all onboard and most are catching their limits of flounder with a sprinkling of legal sized Black Sea Bass. Farther offshore in the canyon areas there is a mix of Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna, dolphin, Wahoo as well as Blue and White Marlin.

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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