Top-water lures are ‘catching’ attention

For many of us adults time tends to just slip away and here we are just past the July Fourth weekend.

For kids, time seems to drag ever so slowly through the summer until they are looking at going back to school in the face. Kids and summer just naturally go together and being around the water is something we are very fortunate to have here in Maryland. Sunfish, white perch and catfish and kids are just made for each other and a great way to let them enjoy some fun fishing with mom or dad.

The upper bay region has been offering some very good striped bass fishing this week despite the weather. Thunderstorms and runoff from the region’s tidal rivers has stained the water and it is likely to continue through the weekend based on what the weatherman tells us. There has been some light tackle jigging action in the channels around the Susquehanna Flats and those leading to the Elk and Susquehanna Rivers. Shallow water topwater action in the early morning and late evening hours near shoreline structure offers some fun light tackle action around Pooles Island and Baltimore Harbor for striped bass and white perch. Also there are plenty of channel catfish ready for action in the tidal rivers and Susquehanna Flats area channels for those wishing to bottom fish. White perch are being caught along deep structure in the tidal rivers and on some of the reefs and knolls out in the bay.

At the traditional striped bass fishing locations from Rock Hall to the Bay Bridge chumming has been very good. Locations such as Swan Point, Triple Buoys, Love Point, Sandy Point Light, Podickory Point, The Dumping Grounds and around the bridge piers have been great places to set up a chum slick. A good tide is necessary and early morning and evenings tend to offer some of the best fishing. It is always a good idea to let a fillet of menhaden with a circle hook drift to the back of the slick and rest on the bottom for a chance at a really large striped bass.

Trolling has been a good option in the upper bay and can often lead to a larger grade of fish. Bucktails, spoons and red surgical tube lures are common lures in a trolling spread and channel edges are one of the best places to troll. Inline weights are being used on most lures when trolled in tandem or behind umbrella rigs but planers can be used on single spoons.

The Bay Bridge piers have been a real draw for anyone fishing for striped bass lately. The fish are suspended near the bases of the piers and also near the rock piles. Boats have been trolling through the bridge piers, jigging and also setting up current of the piers and either chumming or chunking.

Below the Bay Bridge in the middle bay region the Hill which is located just west of Poplar Island has been very popular with boats chumming for striped bass. Most are locating fish on a depth finder and are anchoring up and setting up a chum slick. The outside edge of Hacketts Bar, off the Gum Thickets, Thomas Point, and steep channel edges at the mouth of Eastern Bay have also been good places to chum. Some of the boats coming up from the lower bay are bringing live spot with them and live lining now. Most of the spot tend to be a little large but it is the best to be found so far this season.

Trolling a mix of lures behind umbrella rigs or in tandem and single has also been a very productive way to catch some of the larger striped bass in the region. The west side of the shipping channel from Thomas Point south to below Chesapeake Beach has been a great place to troll as well as below Buoy 83 down to the mouth of the Choptank on the east side of the bay. Small bluefish are beginning to show up in the middle bay region so swim shads and sassy shad dressings on bucktails are starting to take a beating.

Shallow water fishing for a mix of striped bass and white perch has been good this week despite stained water in some areas due to heavy rains. As water temperatures hit 80° or better in these shallow areas the early morning hours, which are tough since sunrise is about 5:40 am or late evening, offer the best fishing. Casting topwater lures is the best bet for striped bass due to grass in most shallow areas but swim shads and crankbaits can be very effective near deeper structure. Small spinners, jigs and spinnerbaits are good lures to use for white perch. The rocks around Poplar Island have been a good place to fish for both striped bass and white perch lately and there are good numbers of white perch in the Kent Narrows area.

Croaker fishing in the middle bay region has not been easy and it takes some effort to get on them. The best fishing is occurring at dusk along channel edges leading from deep water. There are some spot and white perch mixed in also. One place that has had some daytime action is the Airplane Wreck in the lower Choptank; the deeper edges of Stone Rock and the lower edges of the channel in the Choptank have been good for croaker in the evenings.

The lower bay region is seeing a lot of changes this week and all for the better. The bluefish have arrived in mass and are now chasing schools of bait in the region and invading chum slicks. Most of the bluefish are in the 12-inch to 14-inch-size range, which make for the best eating if iced immediately. Striped bass are being caught by casting to breaking fish, jigging over suspended fish or trolling. Trolling has been the most productive option along channel edges in the bay and especially in the lower Potomac River near St. Georges Island.

Perhaps the most exciting news in the lower bay region is the abundance of spot and croaker. The spot are in the 9-inch to 11-inch-size range and some of the croakers are up to 14 inches in size. The Patuxent River seems to have the greatest concentration of spot followed by Tangier Sound. The croakers are also thick in the Patuxent River as well as the lower Potomac and Tangier Sound area. Bloodworms are the best bait for catching spot and peeler crab is the number one bait for catching croakers. Blue catfish are a major portion of the bottom fishing mix in the lower Potomac and offer some substantial volume to the day’s catch as well as fine eating. Large white perch are being reported in the lower Potomac and Patuxent on some of the oyster bottom reefs in about 25 feet of water.

Recreational crabbing is generally getting better as more legal sized crabs move into the fishery. Recreational crabbers are now reporting a half bushel or better in the tidal rivers in the lower part of the upper bay such as the Magothy and Chester Rivers down through the middle bay region and lower bay region. The catches in the middle and lower bay regions tend to be closer to a bushel for most per outing.

Water temperatures in the Ocean City area are in the mid-70s this week and summer migrant species are filling in open spots for fishing. A mix of kingfish, croakers and small bluefish are being caught in the surf on bloodworm, squid and finger mullet baits. Inshore sharks, skates and stingrays are being caught on large menhaden baits with the occasional striped bass.

At the inlet bluefish are being caught on Got-Cha lures on a flood tide and sheepshead and tautog are being caught around the jetty rocks. Flounder fishing has had an upswing this week in the inlet and channels leading to it. The East Channel has been a favorite lately and it is hard to beat a white Gulp mullet for catching the larger flounder.

The boats headed out to the wreck and reef sites looking for sea bass are reporting fair to good catches of sea bass with the better sea bass fishing coming from the deeper and farther offshore sites. Flounder are now making up an important part of the catch around the wreck and reef sites.

Yellowfin tuna and dolphin have moved into many of the 30 Fathom area traditional fishing locations. The Hot Dog, Ham Bone and sausages (the meat products) have all been good places to troll ballyhoo baits. Some of the yellowfin tuna are undersized and have to be released. Bluefin tuna should come into play very soon in these same areas. Farther offshore at the canyons a mix of yellowfin tuna, dolphin and white and blue marlin releases are being reported.

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