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 email@example.com to share updates and photographs of your recent catches for potential inclusion in next week’s column.
Mild and mostly sunny weather has dominated the Chesapeake Bay region, making for a prime week of fishing. Multiple species are active, and anglers have been thick on the water and along the banks for them. The weekend saw several catch-photo-release tournaments, which are becoming more commonplace as the angling community ramps up conservation efforts, especially for the Bay’s prized striped bass.
The pre-eminent Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day Rockfish Tournament, based in Annapolis, was held May 6th (technically a few days after opening day). For 20 years, this tournament has inspired others as an ethical catch-and-release event. Fifty-nine registered boats chased trophy sized stripers throughout the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay, mostly by trolling tandem rigs or larger umbrellas, with shad bodies. This is an effective way to cover water and hook into fish. First place winner/angler/captain Andrew Wendell caught a 44.5” striper. Second place was a 40.5” specimen caught by 12-year-old Dylan Cinque, and the third place team, PYY Fishing, delivered a 39” entry. Congrats to all!
Meanwhile, light tackle anglers are reporting a very active schoolie bite throughout several of the Western Shore tributaries (South River!), the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant warm-water discharge, and Eastern-side islands. The lower half of rivers and even the shallower water around points in the Bay have been hot with 20-fish mornings not uncommon. Most schoolies are reported in the 17–24” range, with a few inching upwards of 30. Marking and jigging 6” plastics or trolling hard baits has been key. The sunrise topwater bite will likely pick up in just a couple weeks as the water continues to warm.
The chance to hook into a 40-plus” class of fish in the middle-Chesapeake is dwindling though, as the post-spawn migration continues southward, out the Bay’s mouth, and up the East coast. Coastal surf anglers have almost entirely switched gears from black drum, to focus on striped bass right now, and many are showing off their prized catches at Assateague, Ocean City, and the Delaware beaches. Fish finder and high-low rigs baited with sandfleas, bunker, and Fishbites are simple and continue to catch big fish.
High Octane Custom Baits hosted its 3rd Annual Snakehead Slam Team Tournament, also May 6th, which saw anglers throughout the watershed paired together and catching numerous, large fish. Several anglers broke their personal best catches, with fish in the 13-pound range. If you’re on the hunt for a “pb” snakehead, waters to target include: the Mattawoman, Pomonkey, and Anacostia arms off the Potomac; the Patapsco, Middle, and Gunpowder rivers near Baltimore; and, of course, the entire Blackwater region on the Eastern Shore. One angler reported a nice-sized snakehead (mid-20s) caught in the Severn River, proving that these fish are fully distributed in just about every tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. We caught ours this week in the Little Patuxent arm of the namesake river. Try topwater frogs. And slow your presentation down significantly if you’re not getting strikes.
The first red drum are now being caught in the southern portion of Maryland’s Bay, just above the MD/VA border. Shallow water 4–8’ around the Eastern-side islands (Honga/Bloodsworth/Smith vicinity) is where fish are pressing bait to feed. These grounds also offer the possibility of hooking into spotted seatrout. Swimming 4–6” inch paddletails on 1/4 to 3/8oz jigheads can catch both (plus, stripers).
And we’re still watching the shad run. We personally enjoyed another nice outing on the Patuxent River this past week catching a few Americans, but with more hickory shad mixed in. White perch were also thick and were caught 4 to 1 versus shad. Again, we encourage anglers to try the shad bite before the run fades away as we inch closer to Memorial Day. The North East, Susquehanna, Gunpowder, Potomac, Patuxent, and Choptank rivers all have active runs of varying degree right now. Good luck!