Rockfish are everywhere in the Chesapeake


More than a few folks that enjoy swimming this summer in the Chesapeake Bay have noticed that the summer scourge of the Chesapeake, the stinging Sea Nettle seem to be absent. Salinities are depressed due to rainfall and mid-bay salinities right now are 6.6 PPT for example. The NOAA forecast for the possibility of Sea Nettle encounters in the mid-bay area is only 4.7 percent and 37 percent at Point Lookout.

Round two of the Diamond Jim component of the Maryland Fishing Challenge is under way and there have been several recent tag returns from the Hill area off of Poplar Island. The winning Diamond Jim Striped Bass for July is worth a cool $20,000, so good luck to everyone dunking Spot at the Hill and fishing in other locations around the bay. Mark Anders who is a member of the Maryland Youth Fishing Club got to catch and release this Diamond Jim Striped Bass that was tagged by a fisheries biologist on June 26th for the July round of Diamond Jim.

The best Striped Bass action in the upper bay continues to focus around chumming at Love Point, the Triple Buoys and Podickory Point. There are also other locations worth checking with depth finders for fish such as the mouth of the Chester River, Swan Point and the area called the Muds. Chumming has been very successful when a good tide is running and the 2011 year class Striped Bass that are unfortunately just short of 18 inches are dominating chum slicks.

Often larger Striped Bass can be caught in the early morning hours by allowing the freshest baits possible to fall to the bottom in the back of the chum slick. The larger fish do not like the summer heat and often hold close to the bottom and tend to be less energetic.

The Bay Bridge has been an excellent place to live line Spot lately and some beautiful Striped Bass are being caught near the bases of the bridge piers. Jigging in the early morning and late evening hours has also been productive around the Bay Bridge Piers, rock piles and farther out from the bridge wherever breaking or suspended fish can be found. The 35′ outside edge of Hackett’s Bar continues to be a good place to live line Spot and to chum for Striped Bass.

Bluefish have arrived in the middle bay region and their numbers will surely increase over the next couple of weeks causing live Spot baits to come up as just the head and bit behind the hook or if Bluefish are hooked to have mono leaders cut off. Others will see them as a welcomed addition to their catch and look forward to placing them on the grill or in a smoker.

Trolling remains a good option for a mix of Striped Bass and Bluefish in the middle bay region and the western side of the shipping channel in about 23 feet of water out in front of Chesapeake Beach tends to be one of the better places to fish. Most are now trolling with spoons and bucktails in tandem or behind umbrella rigs. Jigging is a good option when fish can be found holding near structure or under bait. The surface action is often Striped Bass just a bit short of 18 inches, but often larger fish can be found underneath by jigging.

Shallow water fishing for Striped Bass in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and also bay shorelines remains good in the early morning and late evening hours. A flood tide is important and often the morning action is over as soon as the sun breaks the horizon.

Shallow water fishing for Striped Bass and a mix of Bluefish, Red Drum and Speckled Sea Trout continues to provide fun fishing along the eastern shore marshes and creeks as well as prominent points on the western side of the bay. It is mostly a very early morning and late evening type of fishing with topwater lures or soft plastics such as Gulp Mullet baits. Drifting peeler crab baits is also a popular way to catch the Red Drum and Speckled Trout.

Recreational crabbing has not been an easy endeavor for most crabbers in the middle and lower bay regions. Most are reporting that it is tough to come up with a half-bushel for an outing when using trotlines or collapsible traps. Upper bay crabbers find it hard to come up with a dozen crabs per outing. Some of the better crabbing has been reported to be in around 6 feet to 10 feet of water.

Coastal bay crabbers are not doing much better and report a lot of females and small crabs chewing up baits.

Ocean City area fishing has been providing a lot of fun time for vacationers as the summer season settles in with warmer water temperatures. A mix of Kingfish, croaker and small Bluefish are being caught in the surf this week on small baits and inshore sharks and sting rays on larger baits. Flounder fishing has been good in the channels converging at the inlet and those in the back bay areas along with a mix of croaker and small Black Sea Bass.

Outside of the inlet there are spadefish and triggerfish being caught on some of the near shore shoal areas and wrecks. Black Sea bass and a sprinkling of Tautog, ling and flounder are being found on the wreck and reef sites a little farther offshore.

At the canyon regions there is a mix of Wahoo, Dolphin and a few Yellowfin Tuna being caught. Bigeye Tuna continue to be caught mostly in the Washington Canyon area and White and Blue Marlin releases are becoming more common.

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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