Chesapeake Bay Watershed Angling Summary
Welcome to Reel Chesapeake’s Weekly Fishing Report, our interpretation of what’s biting and where throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to share updates and photographs of your recent catches for potential inclusion in next week’s column.
Though hickory and American shad have been on the move since the early part of this month, exactly when and where the fish head to their spawning grounds occurs at different times and locations through the first week or so of May. The Upper Mattawoman (off the Potomac River) was hot last week with hickory shad. On our Friday morning visit to the Upper Patuxent, however, shad were a no-show. But by Monday, American shad had arrived. The larger of the two shad species dominated the scene at Queen Anne Bridge, a popular fishing stop along the Patuxent River watershed. They’ve continued northward into further reaches and this bite could last into this coming week. Shad darts in white and chartreuse on tandem rigs scored hits on our visit. Be sure to bring plenty of tackle, as bottom structure in many shad-run tribs eat up your offerings as much as the fish. Learn more about the anadromous hickory and American shad and where to fish for them here.
Topwater has been the name of the game for two cohabitants of many tidal fisheries—largemouth bass and northern snakehead. Both are hitting frog and mice imitators in several vibrant colors (pink, white, yellow, orange). From the Northeast River at the tip-top of the Bay down to Virginia’s Rappahannock River, reports of snakehead catches have exploded this week. Seemingly every river system has them (and good size fish, with some topping 30” and 10lbs.), but your best bets remain tributaries in the Route 40 corridor northeast of Baltimore and Eastern Shore’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, south of Cambridge. You’ll also find frisky largemouth bass mixed in, some exceeding the 5lb. mark. Of course, classic artificials such as ribbon tail worms, split-tail flukes, and paddletails rigged Texas-style or on weedless swim-hooks are excellent options to cast into the emerging lily pads, vegetation, and chunky cover.
Many anglers are also catching bucketfuls of panfish in the cleaner, fresher waters of offshoot rivers and creeks. Crappie and bluegills are staging around cover and eager to nibble small offerings, such as stingers on a jig, Gulp minnows, and tiny spinners. Tuckahoe Creek off the Choptank River and Marshyhope Creek off the Nanticoke River are delivering right now. Both white and yellow perch may be in the mix.
If you aren’t eating these panfish, you could try your hand at using them as bait for larger fish, especially catfish. Multiple species of cats have been reported this week. Blue, white, channel, and flathead catfish have been caught from the deeper waters of creek and river mouths. The Patapsco and Magothy rivers have been particularly active. Fresh chunk bait on bottom rigs is the ticket. And today, Maryland Public Television debuts the airing of “Eatin’ Blue Catfish: Chesapeake Style” at 8 p.m. Great opportunity to learn culinary tips for preparing the invasive species.
Trout anglers wading many of Maryland and Virginia’s stocked rivers and creeks have been enjoying the cooler weather this week and some of the first fly hatches of the spring season. Both states are actively stocking trout (rainbow, golden, and brown). Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, for example, has stocked 7,500 fish since Monday, in watersheds from Howard County to the furthest, western reaches of the state. A dry/dropper rig is a great option to hook into these fish.
And though blue crabbing season officially opened on April 1st, we’re still not hearing of many being caught. It’s still very early in the season. One tried-n-true Severn River trotliner came up empty this week. But another on the Eastern Shore reported a half-bushel of light crabs in a half-day’s work. The crabs are only beginning to move from their overwinter mudholes. As water temps climb, so too will the crabs into the Bay’s tributaries.
And remember, Maryland’s trophy striped bass seasons opens in less than two weeks, on May 1st. Since you can’t fish for them yet, now is prime time to get your gear, lures, tackle, and boat prepared!