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.
Cool, spring nights and warm days with spits of rain here and there have brought surface water temperatures throughout the middle Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to about 70 degrees. A bit less in the main stem of the Bay. This has helped to create an interesting bite for striped bass, among other species. We’re also approaching a new moon on Friday. Anglers regionwide are quite varied in their reports.
Some success has been noted from the Key Bridge to the mouth of the Patapsco River. Finding schoolies pushing menhaden around ledges/drop-offs has yielded fish up to 30”. Jigging 5–7” paddletails or BKD-style lures has been effective. Closer to the Bay Bridge, an angler renowned for live-lining spot said it was challenging finding the small baitfish, but once he did, was able to catch stripers in the mid-20s.
Boats are still trolling tandem and umbrella rigs between the bridge and Poplar Island with mild success. But with trophy season having effectively ended on 5/16 and the slot limit adjusting to 19—31” in the main stem, we expect to see an uptick in light-tackle techniques to target striped bass. The South and Severn Rivers, and Eastern Bay, are open to catch-and-release fishing and provide a range of habitat, points, and underwater structure to try your hand at jigging or casting lures. Kayak anglers are reporting hit-or-miss on the shallow water, light-tackle trolling bite. As more schooling stripers push in and fill the rivers, this bite (including sunrise/sunset topwater!) should improve as we inch closer to summer.
We’re also hearing of the season’s first cownose ray bycatches. They are beginning to move into shallower tributaries for their spawn and are likely to be encountered. If you hook into one unintentionally, it’s best to either attempt to pull the hook free or cut off your line as close as possible to the ray.
White perch are an excellent option to turn to if the striper bite proves confounding. Have an extra rod or two, and plenty of perch-happy lures at the ready, as the species is becoming increasingly abundant throughout all tributaries. Try fishing around deep-water docks, over grass beds, or the deeper oyster bottoms. Small spinners, Kastmasters, or micropaddletails are effective, as are bloodworms or grasshrimp on a small #6 hook. You might even get a surprise jumbo perch when fishing for striped bass, like we did this past Tuesday morning. Sometimes, these aggressive eaters will hit lures nearly half their size.
Though the Choptank and Nanticoke rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore remain closed to striped bass fishing through the end of the month, fishing for other species has been consistent. The Tuckahoe arm has yielded quality largemouth bass, northern snakehead, crappie, and both yellow and white perch. Ditto for the Marshyhope branch of the Nanticoke River. Try near Federalsburg, where big bluegill are also abundant.
Further south, between Solomons and Point Lookout, anglers are reporting puppy drum on the western side of the Bay and a few bull reds on the eastern side. Spotted sea trout are also in the mix when fishing the 4–8’ depths near shoreline. Plastics on 1/8oz up to 3/8oz jigheads have been key. Dab a bit of scent (Pro-Cure!) on your lure for extra confidence. Good luck!