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. The leading photograph (above): Pre-Ophelia fishing on Friday morning (9/22) in the Severn River yielded plenty of low-20s striped bass caught on topwater.
It’s no mystery that Tropical Storm Ophelia shattered this past weekend’s dreams of angling for big autumn fish taken in big water. The middle Chesapeake Bay was lucky though, having avoided the worst of the storm’s path with it veering toward the Atlantic coast by early Sunday. Alas, the winds blew high, waves and surge met expectations, and just about everybody kept off the water regardless. This week has been “the calm after the storm,” for the most part—still patchy winds reaching the upper teens/twenties, so small craft advisories have been in effect most days.
All this said, the weather windows for the next couple days provide opportunities to fish in the rivers and bay, and the weekend through early next week looks very good. The water temperature has continued to dip…to 76F, 75, then 74. Additionally, we’re reaching a full moon on Friday, so the tides will be running strong. Combine this with a hanging cloud cover approaching 100 percent Thursday through Friday and I’d say if striped bass (and all manner of species) are what you’re after, now is the time to strike.
The topwater game was excellent last Friday (9/22) just before the storm blew through. I caught several 21s on a white Stillwater Smack It, Jr. and a floating Daiwa Salt Pro. Birds and blitzes were relatively easy to locate, giving away schools of low-to-mid 20” fish. And if you found them, then you were sitting on top of fish that could be jigged up on a drift. There’s not necessarily a need to run ‘n gun from blitz to blitz, tempting as it may be. Big fish will sit low in the water column. Try 3/4 to 2oz jigheads loaded with 7” BKDs or paddletails and bounce the bottom. If you’re reading down- or side-imaging, sometimes you’ll see the fish sitting in the middle of the water column, in which case lighten your jighead between a 1/2 to 1oz. Try locating fish at the major shoals, reefs, points, and structure (Bay Bridge, Sewer Pipe) in the main Bay.
Our success was primarily in the middle Severn River (no surprise there), but other anglers were pulling good size schoolies from the Patapsco (Harbor to mouth), lower South River, Thomas Point, and Poplar Island. The back side of the island was also where puppy drum routinely were caught just before the storm. We’re looking forward to reports from these next few days.
With this storm cooling the region down, which it will continue to do this coming week, white perch are likely to start exiting the shallow creeks and stage in deeper environs. But don’t give up on them yet. Fall perching is still quite active over deep structure, oyster beds, and even deep docks along the main stems of rivers. Bonus: yellow perch will start to be in the mix more, as the season progresses and, dare I say, pickerel (?) if you’re fishing rivers with healthy populations (Severn, Magothy, Choptank). Try twitching small Rapala countdown minnows, tiny dropshots, micropaddles, or baited bottom rigs.
The bass and snakehead bite could be a smidge tougher in the popular watersheds. Anglers are already chatting about the topwater bite cooling off and switching to plastics (jerkshads, etc.). Spinnerbaits and inlines might be a good option, too, right now, as the water has been stained from the heavy rains, especially in the rivers’ upper portions and headwaters where the species thrive. I tried throwing frogs over dying pads at a Patuxent offshoot, early Tuesday morning, with no success. Switching to Tex-posed Yum Dingers didn’t get any bites either. I’ll chalk up the finicky fish to Ophelia post-storm blues (it’s never the angler, right?). If you have better success than I, let me know. Good luck!