Maryland Fishing Report: Trout stocked, yellow perch on the way

Keith Lockwood
Posted 3/14/21

ANNAPOLIS — Welcome to March! In a couple of weeks spring will be here, and the warmer periods will become longer than the cold stretches. There is plenty of good fishing out there now; the …

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Maryland Fishing Report: Trout stocked, yellow perch on the way

Posted

ANNAPOLIS — Welcome to March! In a couple of weeks spring will be here, and the warmer periods will become longer than the cold stretches. There is plenty of good fishing out there now; the yellow perch runs will start soon and the trout program is stocking generous numbers of fish at a location near you.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is recruiting participants for the shad volunteer angler survey. This brief online survey is smartphone compatible and provides valuable information for the restoration of these prized fish. Anglers are invited to log their shad fishing trips, even if you don’t catch any shad.
Also, please join us on March 11 at noon for a Maryland Fishing Roundtable webinar on the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, known as MARI. Coordinator Mike Malpezzi will discuss Maryland’s artificial reef program and its importance for the angling community. Details for joining the webinar are on the department’s online calendar.

Upper Bay
At the top of the Chesapeake Bay, some of the first yellow perch action is taking place in the lower Susquehanna River. Yellow perch are being found holding in about 40 feet of water below the railroad bridge. This type of fishing depends on calm weather and a bottom rig with several ounces of sinker and a dropper rig baited with minnows.

Anglers in the upper bay tidal rivers may start to see the vanguard of the yellow perch spawning runs by the weekend, if the warming trend continues. The first yellow perch to reach the upper reaches of the tidal rivers will be males that will barely be legal-sized. Male yellow perch tend to top out at 9.5 inches at full size. Live minnows fished close to the bottom will be one of the best baits for yellow perch, which will be sluggish. The minnows can be fished on a simple bottom rig or lip-hooked on a small shad dart and worked slowly close to the bottom. Beetle spins and small jigs can also be effective. Scent is very important so a piece of minnow on a small jig or shad dart works well.
There are many yellow perch spawning areas in the upper bay. North East Community Park in Cecil County offers an accessible and safe place to fish from shore and dock. The upper Bush River near Route 40 and the Magothy River are traditional locations to find yellow perch. The upper Sassafras, Bohemia, and Chester rivers all have good yellow perch fishing. Typically the tidal tributaries on the western shore will warm up earlier than those on the eastern side of the bay.

Middle Bay
Much of the fishing action will be focused around yellow perch in the upper reaches of the region’s tidal rivers for the next two weeks. The average water temperatures in the spawning reaches are about 40 degrees currently. Yellow perch can be expected to spawn at water temperatures ranging from 48 degrees to 54 degrees. At cooler water temperatures the perch tend to sit in the deeper pools waiting for a flood tide to move farther up the rivers and creeks.
The yellow perch spawn looks to be on schedule if normal weather patterns persist. Look for peak spawning to occur around March 10. Yellow perch population levels should be slightly down from the past couple years, but good news for anglers is that the strong 2011 year class is still in the population and should produce jumbo perch, 12 inches and bigger. The 2014 and 2015 year classes were also strong, so those fish would be in the 10-inch size range. Some anglers will find an overabundance of 8-inch yellow perch, from a decent and quick-growing 2018 year class. The 2016 and 2017 year classes were abysmal, and fish of that age should be supplementing the mid-range size classes. Among white perch, populations have held up well but may be down slightly from very high levels. The same strong year classes seen with yellow perch are evident in the white perch population — those from 2011, 2014 and 2015 — but the weaker year classes were just around average, not complete busts. The only particularly weak year class for white perch was 2012.

The upper Choptank River at Martinak State Park, Denton, Greensboro, and Red Bridges are traditional locations for yellow perch. The Hillsboro area on the Tuckahoe is also an excellent place to find yellow perch, the Severn also has some action. Fishing out of a small boat or kayak has many advantages but all of these locations can be effectively fished from shore.
Fishing for a mix of channel, white, and blue catfish can be a fun option in the middle bay’s tidal rivers. Channel and white catfish can be found in every tidal river, and blue catfish can be found in the Choptank River. Fresh cut bait often makes the best bait to use and white perch are becoming increasingly available in the tidal rivers.
Water temperatures in the middle bay are holding around 39 degrees and the weather has not exactly been inviting. Perhaps the only show in town for the middle bay would be the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant warm water discharge. Catch-and-release season is open for striped bass, and pre-spawn striped bass or any fish swimming past that discharge can’t help but bathe in the warm water. Drifting and jigging close to the bottom with soft plastic or butterfly jigs are the most popular way to fish. Crowds can be an issue, especially on the weekends.

Lower Bay
Fishing for yellow perch and blue catfish will be the main focus of anglers in the region for the next couple of weeks. Yellow perch are staging in the deeper sections of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. Photoperiod and water temperatures will determine when they move into the spawning reaches. A few of the traditional locations on the western shore include Allens Fresh at the headwaters of the Wicomico, Mattawoman Creek, and Nanjemoy Creek, all tributaries of the Potomac River. The headwaters of the Patuxent at the Route 4 Bridge, which is called Wayson’s Corner, is another traditional yellow perch location. On the eastern side of the lower bay, the Marshyhope branch of the Nanticoke and the headwaters of the Wicomico and Pocomoke rivers are good places to find yellow perch.

Fishing for blue catfish offers plenty of action and a chance to fill an ice chest full of these good eating catfish. The tidal Potomac, Patuxent, and Nanticoke rivers all offer excellent fishing for blue catfish. Fresh cut baits of gizzard shad or white perch are baits that are hard to beat. Anglers fishing in the Patuxent River should be aware the Department of Natural Resources is running an ongoing tagging study of blue catfish. If you catch one of these fish, please do not remove the tag — note the tag number, call the phone number on the tag, and release the fish back into the water.
Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.