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): Surprise catches of the week included a couple, solid puppy drum in the upper Severn River. Photo taken 10/9 by yours truly.
It’s been a gorgeous, if sometimes breezy, week across middle Chesapeake waters, and consistently cool with autumn temperatures that excite anglers and our quarry. On my past several outings (Friday and Monday mornings), the surface water temps dipped down to 70F, then 66F in the Severn River. All of this, coupled with mostly mild weather that offered excellent cloud cover, has created a very good bite for several species.
Charter captains, guides, and rec anglers are reporting the larger striped bass catches at the Bay Bridge pilings, Eastern Bay, Bloody Point/Poplar Island, and the mouths of the most western shore rivers. Further upriver, schoolies in the 17–24” range are roaming deeper channels and edges in search of the peanut bunker spilling out of creeks and making way downriver. It’s an excellent time of year to hit the water as early or late in the day as possible to try all manner of topwater plugs along sandbars and dropoffs, then shift gears to vertical jigging under birds.
Right now, the blitzes I’ve been seeing firsthand (and heard from others) have been scattered, quick to rise, quick to dive, and a bit tough to chase down. By the time you motor within casting range, the fish have gone under. So, what to do? Relax and catch a drift around and into the sitting gulls (your telltale sign fish are near). Like you, they’re waiting for the next blitz but chances are, there’s actually fish—even a few large ones—hugging bottom or swimming mid-column right under the birds and your boat. Try vertical jigging with 1oz heads and 5–7” plastics. Bounce the bottom, snap jig, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Also try jigging around structure that breaks current and creates eddies with adjacent feeding zones. I gave this prescription a shot on Friday morning at the U.S. Route 50 bridge pilings, dropping lead down to 40–50’ depths on the east side of the span and jigged up a couple decent fish, about 22” respectively. Fun and a relatively reliable pattern. Others had similar success at the Bay Bridge pilings as recently as Tuesday. Live lining spot and allowing them to swim down to bottom toward eager striped bass won the day for one angler renowned for the technique.
Lighter jigging around shallow shoreline structure, like docks and riprap, with 1/2oz bucktails (perhaps tipped with a twister grub, pork strip, or not at all!) is likely to produce rogue stripers cruising in search of a meal. Work a line of docks and you’re bound to get a few hits.
This is my favorite time of year to work the docks for larger river stripers and sometimes I dedicate my entire outing doing so. Pitching bucktails around and under docks and casting jerkbaits or paddletails across flats/open water between piers is active, light tackle fishing at its best. On both recent outings, I spent a solid hour working a particular, favored spot and pulled a few striped bass, and the surprise catches of the week, puppy drum! Not just one, but two redfish from the same area confirms—firsthand—the many recent reports of these beautiful specimens being caught as far north as the upper Severn River. This could be an anomaly season for the fish, or a harbinger of a future fishery. Time will tell, but for now, give drum a shot. You’ll find them near structure that’s harboring SAV nearby. White perch have also been in the mix at these locations. And I marked quite a few schools of perch over the oyster beds in the lower Severn. Try Sabiki rigs or sinking a 1/4oz perch pounder spinner down into the marked zone and retrieving it through them.
Pickerel are starting to become active. On Monday morning, I personally had a nice fish (20” at least) chase a white paddletail rigged weedless all the way to the boat before turning away. This was at the Sherwood Forest grassbeds. Pickerel, of course, love natural cover such as grass, laydowns, reeds. Snakehead too. Small chatterbaits, paddletails, flukes, or inline spinners could be effective these next couple weeks for both species. By month’s end, the snakehead bite will have cooled severely off. But pickerel will be entering prime time.
As this week heads into what’s forecasted to be a wet weekend, we’ll have a new moon Friday night into Saturday and average tides. Both days look particularly favorable in the mornings, with an ebb tide, cloud cover, and chilly temps. Good luck!