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.
Recreational boats and anglers have exponentially increased in the Chesapeake Bay region, as Memorial Day came and went—and with it the unofficial start to summer. It’s like a fly hatch—we’re everywhere now. Mostly stable weather for the past several days, with air temperatures sitting mild between 50 and 70 degrees and just one passing rain system on Sunday overnight into Monday, has kept the water hovering around the 67—70F mark with mild turbidity. The fishing has been pretty good overall.
There’s a bit of a paradox occurring, however. These mid-Spring nights continue dipping to the low 50s (even high-40s a couple nights), which is less-than-ideal for the sunrise topwater bite (for a variety of species). Topwater should be increasingly turned on as we inch to June. (June 1st, by the way, marks the opening of the 19–31” striped bass slot throughout Maryland’s entire portion of the Chesapeake Bay and all tributaries.) Nevertheless, anglers that have hit the water at the magic hour, by boat or by bank, are creating some success by being persistent. That other magic hour, sunset, may be a better bet for topwater action until the region sees warmer weather move in.
Striped bass continue to be the main play in the Bay. The best reports come from charters in southern waters. They are fishing the Tangier Sound grass flats and connecting on stripers, speckled trout, red drum, and, as of this week, bluefish. Lighter jigheads (1/4 to 1/2oz) with paddletails get the strikes in the shallow water. As the day wears on and fish move deeper, heavier jigs up to 2oz may be needed. We’re hopeful that these fish, particularly specks, puppy drum, and blues, continue heading northward.
In the middle Bay, schooling stripers can be found hovering around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge pilings, channel edges, and some of the more popular bars/reefs including Hackett’s, Tolly Point, Gum Thickets, Bloody Point, and, especially, Poplar Island. Charters leaving Annapolis will often head to the riprap shoreline of Poplar Island for the shallow water bite (even trying for them by stripping a Deceiver or Clouser fly).
Fish are also pushing up the tributaries in search of bait, roaming sandbars, points, and around any grass in the rivers during morning and evening hours. They move to drop-offs or around deeper docks come high sun. We found a few fish in the 15–20” class enjoying dock shade before deciding to hit our 1/8oz jighead tipped with a small, 2” micropaddletail. Sometimes downsizing your offering will get the strikes when larger baits are ignored. The bonus is that you’ll likely entice strikes from willing white perch, even yellows, in the same spots. White perch fishing is particularly good right now throughout most rivers, and especially in the South, Severn, and Magothy. Tip a small hook or dropshot with grass shrimp, and you’ll have no problem catching perch holding on the bottom.
Northern snakehead are also a hot topic as many anglers have similar reports–fish are beginning to pair up for their spawn. From Blackwater to the Potomac, this can make getting a strike challenging, but anglers willing to sight-fish a spot repeatedly have had success. The bite will improve as spawning concludes, and fish go into protective-mode of their fry. Largemouth bass, meanwhile, are offering anglers all the post-spawn action they can handle. The Tuckahoe and Marshyhope creeks on the Eastern Shore hold plenty of bass, as do the large reservoirs on the Western Shore. Nearly all farm/mill ponds and small lakes throughout the watershed have frisky bass willing to hit small crankbaits, spinners, and chatters. The trick will be working lures through choked-out vegetation.
Lastly, the Bay’s most popular species, the beloved blue crab, is starting to run in the mid-Bay tributaries. We saw, first-hand, a consistent week of 6–7” crabs caught in the Severn River. Successful reports have also come from the Patuxent and Tred Avon rivers, indicating their first push of the season into the tribs. Good luck!