DNR seeks input on rockfish research

By Keith Lockwood, special to Dorchester Banner
Posted 8/12/23

ANNAPOLIS – Fishing has been good in all parts of the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays, and the many freshwater areas throughout the state.

Maryland Department of …

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DNR seeks input on rockfish research

Posted

ANNAPOLIS – Fishing has been good in all parts of the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays, and the many freshwater areas throughout the state.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ biologists are looking to better understand the striped bass recreational fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and are asking for your help. Biologists have set up an online survey site where anglers can enter fishing data from a smartphone or computer. All you need to record is the length of the striped bass you catch and whether you kept or released them.

On the department website, search for volunteer angler surveys to find the striped bass survey and others that may interest you. For ease of use, you can also access the surveys through the free AccessDNR app.

Middle Bay

Striped bass are being caught on the east side of the Bay Bridge at the 30-foot drop-off. The fish are holding tight to the bridge piers during a good running tide. Drifting with live spot, small white perch, or soft crab baits works well. The best action is during the early morning, and then slacks off as the sun rises in the sky; the late evening also provides good fishing.

Much of the better striped bass fishing in the middle Bay occurs early morning or late evening in the shallower waters along the Bay and tidal river shorelines. The rocks along Poplar Island and Thomas Point are also good places to cast topwater lures or paddletails. Speckled trout, bluefish, and puppy drum are also a welcome addition to the mix being caught.

Bluefish can be found throughout the middle Bay this week; along the edges of the shipping channel and the False Channel area, Spanish mackerel can be mixed in with them. The shipping channel edge from Buoy 83 south past the Sharps Island Light is a very good place to target Spanish mackerel this week. When trolling, a mix of bright-color Drone Spoons or gold Clark spoons behind No. 1 planers at 7-8 knots is the best way to target them. 

Watching for diving gulls can lead to exciting topwater action wherever a mix of bluefish and Spanish mackerel are feeding on schools of bay anchovies. Casting small but heavy metal jigs or Got-Cha lures into the fray and speed-reeling is a fun way to catch Spanish mackerel, and slower retrieves will invite bluefish to strike.

White perch continue to offer plenty of summer fun fishing off docks and piers and on the shorelines of the Bay and tidal rivers. Grass shrimp, pieces of bloodworm, peeler crab, or small minnows are great baits to use on a simple bottom rig when fishing deeper waters close to structure. During the early morning and late evening, casting roadrunners, beetle-spins, and small spinnerbaits near shoreline structure is a fun way to catch white perch on light tackle. Chartreuse and silver Clouser minnows cast on a 5-weight fly rod is another great way to enjoy the action.

Lower Bay

Anglers fishing for striped bass are finding them along the shorelines of the lower Bay and tidal rivers, the shallower waters. This is an early morning or late evening affair for those casting topwater lures, jerkbaits, and paddletails.

Speckled trout, bluefish, and puppy drum are also part of the mix, especially on the Eastern Shore. The main stem of the Potomac River remains closed to striped bass fishing until August 20, but anglers can fish the Maryland tributaries, such as the St. Marys River. Virginia waters do not open to striped bass fishing until October 4. 

Bluefish can be found throughout the lower Bay and can be caught in a variety of ways. Most are being caught by trolling or by casting into breaking fish. Often the bluefish can be found mixed in with Spanish mackerel. If you are lucky, diving gulls can mark the way to breaking fish where bay anchovies are being pushed to the surface.

Crabbing

Recreational crabbing can be a hit-and-miss game but is providing some excellent crabs in many areas. The largest crabs tend to be coming from waters 10 feet to 15 feet deep. Shallow depths of 6 feet or so also have good crabs but many are small.

Freshwater Fishing

To better facilitate fishing for invasive blue and flathead catfish, the Department of Natural Resources has instituted a regulation change regarding cut bait in non-tidal waters. Anglers will now be able to use cut bait of fish, such as bluegill sunfish, with no minimum size restrictions. There is a maximum of two pounds of cut bait allowed in an angler’s possession.

Also, plan ahead for March 2024 as Maryland is introducing a new youth-only trout fishing day ahead of the traditional trout opening day in certain state-managed waters, where anglers under the age of 16 will be able to catch and keep two trout. Look for details on the department website and in future announcements. 

For now, freshwater anglers are enjoying the summertime passion of fishing quiet ponds, reservoirs, and tidal waters this week. Largemouth bass are usually the target for most anglers but a mix of chain pickerel, bluegill sunfish, and crappie can also be found.

Northern snakeheads are in various stages of spawning and protecting fry balls of their young. They can be found in the shallows in thick grass. Casting buzzbaits, chatterbaits, and soft plastic frogs can often annoy them enough to strike. They are not feeding but will protect their young from perceived threats, so it may take more than one cast to get them to strike.

Ocean and Coastal Bays

Surf anglers are catching a mix of kingfish and spot on bloodworms and artificial bloodworm baits. The best fishing is occurring during the early morning. Bluefish can be caught on finger mullet. At night large red drum continue to be caught and released, as are a mix of inshore sharks.

At the Ocean City Inlet, sheepshead are being caught on sand fleas near the jetties and the Route 50 Bridge piers. Bluefish and striped bass are being caught on soft plastic jigs and by drifting cut bait. In the back bay channels flounder fishing has been good during the top of the flood tide and the beginning of ebb.

Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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