Spanish mackerel and bluefish still wooing anglers

Water temperatures in the upper bay have dropped 6 degrees or more in the past week and striped bass and other fish are responding to more comfortable water temperatures. This pattern will continue as our bay fisheries begin to move into a fall mode of fishing behavior with cooling air temps and northerly/easterly winds. Striped bass fishing around the Susquehanna Flats area is still mostly a morning and evening affair with topwater lures being the most popular bait choice. The Conowingo Dam has not been on a regular schedule of pm water releases so anyone counting on the surge of cool water in the evenings should check first to avoid disappointment. Flathead and channel catfish are plentiful and active and white perch can be found along the bay shores around deeper structure such as rocks, deep shoals and sunken wood.

Striped bass are beginning to move more freely in the upper bay and for that reason trolling is quickly becoming more popular. Striped bass can be found suspended at Swan Point, Love Point and Podickory Point but other similar locations are periodically holding fish now as bait tends to be swept by these locations during strong current flows. Chumming and live lining are still effective ways to fish and a good depth finder will help locate them. This time of the year it pays to be flexible and check out other locations and be always vigilant for diving birds and breaking fish.

The most popular trolling spreads being used this week are small spoons, surge tube lures and bucktails behind planers and inline weights. There are quite a few small bluefish in the upper bay region and even a few Spanish mackerel are being caught. Umbrella rigs set up with spoons are sometimes a good option and as soon as the bluefish leave, sassy shad umbrella rigs will come out of tackle collections and will used heavily. Light tackle jigging becomes more and more of a fruitful option as a mix of bluefish and striped bass chase bait being swept along by stiff currents. Metal jigs are the most popular at this time and bucktails and soft plastic jigs will soon be additional options.

Drifting live eels is popular at this time of year, in deep channel spots where striped bass like to suspend themselves close to where strong currents flow. This type of fishing can be very effective. There are some traditional locations near Pooles Island, the Key Bridge and Bay Bridge Piers that are good places to fish live eels. Most steep channel edges or deep structure with a good current flow may hold striped bass, so explore these areas with your depth finder.

The middle bay region has a mix of striped bass, bluefish and Spanish mackerel roaming the main part of the bay and working on schools of bay anchovies that are being swept along in tidal currents… These currents usually are the greatest along steep channel edges or where they wrap around prominent points. Casting to breaking fish or jigging underneath is quickly becoming more popular. At times the striped bass in the bay may be undersized but as is usually the case another batch of breaking fish can be composed of larger striped bass. Also larger striped bass can be found deep underneath the surface action.

In Eastern Bay there are a lot of smaller striped bass and this holds true for many of the tidal rivers. Water temperatures have dropped to the mid-70s now and the striped bass are becoming more comfortable in most locations so they will be moving more freely. The shallow water fishery for striped bass should improve as waters become cooler and the fishing will extend more into the morning hours and begin earlier in the evenings. Lately the shorelines of Poplar Island have been providing some fun topwater action and traditional prominent points in the bay and lower areas of the tidal rivers are improving.

Trolling has been a productive method to catch a mix of striped bass, Spanish mackerel and small bluefish in the middle bay region along traditional channel edges. Around Buoy 83, the outside edge of Hackett’s and south to below the power plant on the western shore are good places to look for fish. Small Drone or Clark spoons and surge tube lures have been the standard behind planers and inline weights.

There are still some spot around at places like Hodges, Tolly’s and the mouth of the Choptank, so there is still some live lining action to be had at the Hill. There are still boats making the run from southern region ports to the Hill and they have a better chance of finding spot in their home waters and bringing the live baits with them. The drop in water temperatures has caused what few croaker were in the middle bay region to head south and the spot are beginning to do the same. White perch fishing remains very good in the Eastern Bay area and places like the Kent Narrows offer good white perch fishing for shore bound anglers. Bait such as clams, bloodworms and peeler crab tend to account for the best catches.

The lower bay continues to have the largest bluefish for Maryland bay waters this week along with the best concentrations of Spanish mackerel; there are also some striped bass mixed in at times. Small Clark and Drone spoons along with surge tube lures are the most popular trolling options and most anglers are also placing one or two large spoons in their trolling spread for some large red drum catch and release action. The lower Potomac, the mouth of the Patuxent River, Cedar Point to Cove Point and the Middle Grounds have been excellent places to troll this week. A few cobia are still being found near the Target Ship and buoys in the area, large sassy shads or live bait tend to be the best options when cast to likely looking locations.

Breaking fish are being seen all over the lower bay region and casting to the surface action offers a lot of fun. As is usually the case striped bass can be found at times underneath the surface action, and allowing a jig to sink deep can result in a hookup.

Bottom fishing for a mix of spot, croaker and white perch continues to be the best in the lower Potomac and Patuxent Rivers and to a lesser degree in Tangier Sound. Northern puffers or blowfish have moved into the region and for those familiar with them, they offer a fine addition to the mix. Cut them behind the head but not through the belly skin, turn the meat section inside out, and you have what used to be called “chicken of the sea” or “sea squab” back in the 60’s. Breaded and fried they are delicious.

Recreational crabbing is going to begin to see some changes as water temperatures drop. Already some crabbers are seeing a decline in catches this week and windy conditions do not help much either when it comes to trying to keep crabs holding on to a trot line. Sooks are beating a hasty retreat from the tidal rivers and heading south toward the mouth of the bay. Depending on how much rain we receive from the predicted weekend weather, crabbers may see blue crabs heading down towards the lower sections of tidal rivers and creeks. Jimmies are generally large and heavy this time of the year so don’t miss out on getting some crab meat put away for the winter or having one last crab feast.

The tidal rivers like the Chester above Georgetown and the Choptank above Denton offer good fishing as does most other Eastern Shore tidal rivers. The Pocomoke and Nanticoke have good largemouth bass populations and sunken wood and spatterdock field edges are good places to target, especially on an ebbing tide. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices when working edges and grub jigs and tubes work well around sunken wood. The upper tidal waters of the Blackwater, Little Blackwater, Wicomico and Nanticoke Rivers in Dorchester County are now offering some of the best northern snakehead fishing on the Eastern Shore. Anglers looking for a change of pace, exciting strikes and some fine eating are targeting snakeheads in the general area.

Ocean City area fishing is going through some changes this week as cooler waters begin to affect the fishing from the offshore waters to the back bay areas. The back bay waters are cooling and flounder are holding more in the channels. The predicted northeast winds for this week will also stir up the waters making for cloudy water conditions. Bluefish continue to move in and out of the inlet on the tides and some are over the 10 lb mark this past week. A few striped bass are being caught also but most are falling short of the 28″ minimum. Tautog are starting to move into the inlet area and can be caught on sand fleas or pieces of green crab near bulkheads and jetty rocks. Mullet have been pouring through the inlet and heading south so surf fishing for bluefish should pick up. Unfortunately the surf may be rough due to northeast winds. Kingfish are being caught in the surf along with a few medium sized black drum. The large red drum are anticipated to be moving through the region any time now; hopefully the surf will not be too rough to fish.

Outside the inlet flounder fishing has been excellent on the inshore shoal areas; Fenwick, Little Gull and the Bass Grounds Shoals have been great places to drift for flounder. White Gulp Mullet baits continue to be one of the better choices for the larger flounder. The belly strip from a flounder is also one of the top baits if you can spare some from a legal sized flounder. The boats heading out to the wreck and reef sites are also catching flounder and sea bass. The flounder are usually fairly large and unfortunately the throwback ratio on the sea bass has been about 5 to 1. Maryland’s sea bass season closed September 21st and will not open until October 22. Elvin Philip holds up a pair of nice sea bass he caught before the close of the season.

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