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): Casting lipless crankbaits into fleeting (up and down) striper blitzes can connect with fish that dive down after a quick feed. This schoolie was caught the morning of Friday, 9/28, in Round Bay, Severn River. Photo by yours truly.
“Up and down” is how the past several days of angling have played out in the middle Chesapeake Bay region. The weather has been mostly fair, winds stable, temperatures averaging about 70F (both water surface and air), and a full moon that got life moving in the water. Though a brief warm up over the past weekend brought water temps from the 60s up to low-70s, the area is about to go through a significant autumn cooldown with expected overnights dipping into the 40s. This should lower water temp back to its monthly averages and, hopefully, ignite “Rocktober” fishing.
Overall, the fishing was decent in the Bay and its tributaries with many anglers reporting success catching blitzing and schooling stripers on topwater, subsurface, and by jigging at a variety of locations: Thomas Point and the mouth of the West River were active; the Bay Bridge rock piles produced; the Patapsco bridges held fish (night bite was fire); and there were plenty of catches along shorelines in the middle and lower sections of multiple rivers. The sizes leave a bit to be desired, with most fish ranging from mid-teens to only mid-20s. However, most striped bass have been thick (nice girth) and healthy making for good pullage.
There is a lot of life moving throughout the tribs, with large swaths of peanut bunker and minnows beginning to exit the creeks, flushing into the main stems. In the Severn River, I fished five mornings in the past six days and the amount of baitfish is exciting! In the Round Bay vicinity, you’ll see the fields of surface ripples and “popcorning” (bait popping). There are hungry fish all around, but the bite was a bit challenging. I attribute this to the full moon and fish feeding heavily throughout the night. The usual patterns—topwater plugs at dawn along sandbars, jigging on a drift around structure, and dock fishing— were not quite dialed in (for me, at least). Three mornings, I resorted to trolling Xraps and paddletails along a dropoff and that did produce many fish—but just shorts under 20-inches.
When blitzes were encountered, the action was fast and fleeting (up and down!). I had some success casting 1/2oz lipless cranks into the foray and picking off a few fish that had gone below surface as the blitz subsided. And they were a slightly better grade of fish.
Over the past couple days, reports have cited a better evening bite than morning for stripers, especially for topwater action in shallower water around tried-and-true Eastern spots, like Poplar Island, Love Point, Bloody Point, the Little Choptank, and so forth. Live lining spot has also produced, so long as you can start your outing by finding the baitfish, catching them, and moving into a productive area holding bass.
White perch remain a great option and are still very active in the rivers. I saw (and caught a few of) them still holding in their summer spots in the creeks around deep structure. Expect them to continue moving and clustering in deeper water over oyster reefs and hard bottom in the lower sections of rivers. Might be worth trying a tandem rig of small fluttering lures that can reach bottom and be lightly jigged—perhaps a tiny 1/8oz bucktail paired with a Nungesser-style spoon. Or a simple bottom rig with live bait—your choice of worms or tiny cut strips of spot—will do the trick.
Bluefish and Spanish mackerel are all but completely gone from the middle Chesapeake. A few bluefish continue to be picked off, but most of this action is occurring in southern waters from the Potomac’s mouth onward. Similarly, the speckled trout are mostly south, though a few surprise catches (one in the Severn this week!) continue to pop up. And cutlass fish seemed to have moved on, as well. No reports to speak of.
More interestingly, last weekend saw the Tangier Classic fishing tournament play out (rescheduled from the weekend of Tropical Storm Ophelia). And slot red drum were the big draw! Anglers vying for the multi-species title put in plenty of time targeting reds on Day 1 of the two-day tourney and the catches reported were plentiful. Throughout the Tangier region, along shallow shorelines, reds between 18” and 27” were hitting a variety of soft plastics (paddletails!). So if tight lines and muscular pillage are what you’re seeking, head to the Tangier waters and fish stealthily (by kayak or jon boat). The fishing is still quite good there.
On the fresher side of fishing, largemouth bass and northern snakehead are putting on the feed bag before autumn slides into winter. Topwater can be iffy and is best pursued after a slight warm up, which we don’t expect this coming week. Try weedless rigging plastic flukes, shads, and grubs, and fishing them through dying vegetation. Large worms or lizards worked slowly across the bottom can also draw bass.
Lastly, we’re excited at the prospect of trout fishing. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources resumed it’s fall stocking program this week, releasing a mix of rainbows and goldens in western county waters. We expect a shift to central waters in the week ahead. Check DNR’s Trout Stocking page here. There have also been a couple reports of excellent native browns being caught on dry-dropper rigs (most fish hitting the nymph) in the Gunpowder (Perry Hall to Loch Raven) just this week. Good luck!