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.
Welcome to summer! The longest amount of daylight of the year is upon us but will incrementally “ebb” shorter for the next six months. Now is the time to take full advantage of early mornings and late evenings for all angling endeavors, weather permitting. In the Chesapeake Bay region, a run of spotty, “here and there” storms have blown in wind, rain, random hail, and cooler-than-average air temperatures, making boating difficult. The remainder of this week has wind predictions in the teens, twenties, and even topping 30-knot gusts. By Saturday, the wind should settle down a smidge, allowing smaller craft to work the Bay and its tributaries.
The water has cooled down a degree or three in the middle Bay, so fish are quite active and summer patterns have remained reliable for catching them. It may be a touch more challenging to coax bites over the next several days, however, as the tidal cycle will weaken leading up to the First Quarter moon phase (Monday). We might be using some of that wind to our advantage after all, as it relates to creating current, which feeding fish congregate within.
It’s no mystery that the Patapsco River has been the choice of charter vessels and many rec anglers targeting schooling striped bass. And the middle branch between the Key Bridge and Harbor Tunnel has seen the most action this past week. One angler reported counting about 60 vessels within a 360-degree view of his own boat. So, the fish are there—most being within the new slot of 19” (common) up to 31” (rare). A mix of tactics are producing at all hours: jigging soft plastics, live-lining spot, trolling tandem rigs (spoons or bucktails).
The good news is that reports of abundant schoolies are coming from nearly every mid-Bay river. In our home waters, the Severn River, fish up to 23” are becoming the norm, even north of the Round Bay vicinity indicating a strong push by the fish searching for peanut bunker. We’ve had repeat success drifting along deep docks and pitching soft plastics on 1/4 to 3/8oz jigheads around them—even at high-noon this past Sunday/Father’s Day when the river was a washing machine with the weekend fleet of skiers, jet-skis, and cruisers. (Down-size the lure if you want a stringer of white perch.)
When a high tide coincides with sunrise, the topwater bite can be the hot ticket at rocky shorelines, sandbars, and grassbeds with nearby drop-offs. Stripers roam the shallow water to feed just as the sun rises. Often, if you situate your vessel at the mouth of a feeder creek, you’ll see schools of baitfish exiting at dawn. The striped bass will stage there with you, ready to pounce on fish. Try walking a Coltsniper or Spook if the water is especially calm. If there’s a gentle breeze, try a 3–5” popper like a Stillwater Smack-It Jr. to entice bites. Popping corks, Rapala X-Raps, and any twitching minnow are also effective when the fish are feeding. You can try these topwater/subsurface patterns at sunset also. Popular spots in the main Bay include Thomas Point, Poplar Island, around Eastern Neck, Parson’s Island, Kent Point, Love Point, Sandy Point, and, of course, the Bay Bridge itself.
Anglers are also beginning to report a few bluefish mixed in with the stripers, even north of the Bridge. (You may want to start swapping in Z-man paddletails/plastics, which hold up much better to the toothier bluefish, which are notorious for chomping traditional plastics easily.) The species should continue filing into the Bay well into July. And by then, perhaps Spanish mackerel. How many and how far north changes season to season, but traditionally from Annapolis south is productive. Trolling #1 and 2 planers rigged with 3” gold or silver spoons will be the ticket when the run fires up.
On the crabbing front, the reports are very mixed. Some have had very good runs in the Chester, Wye, Severn, and South rivers. Others have come up empty. It seems the first strong push of the season into the rivers, occurring 3 weeks ago, has settled down. Setting your trotlines or traps as early as possible (1/2 hour before sunrise) helps. Those that wait until late-morning (as we did one outing) have missed the action (we pulled zeros).
With this week’s cooler weather and water, we expect the fish to stay very active into next week. Heck, we even caught a solid 23” pickerel during this cooldown; some proof that the below-average temps have kept fish frisky. Watch the weather and tidal windows to get on the water. If and when you can, go…now. It won’t be long before the summer heat climbs and makes fishing a bit more challenging, if uncomfortable. Good luck!