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): A healthy pickerel that hit a 3” paddletail on an 1/8oz jighead worked near submerged vegetation on 10/27. As the water temperature decreases, the pickerel bite increases. Photo by yours truly.
What a difference a few days make! Heading into last weekend, we experienced sunshine and temperatures that approached 70…80 degrees. Then a cold front blew across the region with high winds and we’re waking up to temps in the low-30s. How does this affect the fishing? Depends who you ask and what you’re fishing for.
Generally, the front offered excellent fishing for many species just ahead of it and will hopefully offer great fall fishing after. The fish could take a few days to settle into these decreasing temperatures. The swing on the water has seen surface temperatures go from mid-60s to near-60 and should keep dropping with the cold nights we expect for the week ahead.
The tide cycles are mild this week as we approach the last quarter of the moon, with the largest swings occurring overnight. And the solunar forecast is generally average—the best major times for at least the next 8–10 days actually occur this weekend during morning hours, so consider this variable when planning your outings.
Striped bass fishing has remained consistently good in the middle Chesapeake Bay with many anglers still focused on chasing birds near the larger river mouths of the Patapsco, Chester, Choptank, South, and West/Rhode. Eastern Bay is still a go-to area in this regard with good action between Bloody Point and Poplar Island. The downside—these popular spots have the most boat traffic, so you may want to hang back from the crowds and search for schooling bass along channel edges, reefs, and wrecks. Now is a good time to set up a few trolling outfits (umbrella and tandem rigs) and ply a target region while keeping an eye on the sonar for big schools. Perhaps have a few jigging spots picked out ahead of time and troll from spot to spot, then reel in your spreads before jigging the area with your light tackle.
Right now, the peanut bunker continue moving down the rivers and into the main Bay, so the lower river sections and mouths are seeing good striper action. I jigged the Route 50 bridge across the Severn River a couple mornings this past week. I connected with what was likely my largest striper of the season before it broke me off. That one stung but proved to me that the bigger fish are sitting low-river waiting to intercept bait.
Upriver, there are still some schoolies in the teens and low-20” inch range hitting a variety of lures. My go-to is a light 1/2oz banana head bucktail worked under and around deep water docks, especially when the sun reaches a few fingers above the horizon. I found a nice pod of them around one of my Severn spots this week, with fish up to 22”.
The cold weather has activated the pickerel bite and anglers are increasingly targeting the species. Target large fields/patches of SAV, especially any adjacent to creek mouths. The grass congregates minnows and this is where pickerel love to hang out. In the Severn River, most of my pickerel follows came along the weedline. I connected with a couple fish, had a couple more come unbuttoned at the boat, and some turned away. They are active now. I like throwing a variety of small lures this time of year—Rapala countdown minnows, micropaddletails, inline spinners—before upsizing to larger jerkbaits when the water temp dips below 55. In the month ahead, the yellow perch bite will also improve and the two species will offer excellent side-by-side action.
There’s also angler focus on blue catfish, with the species feeding hard right now. The reports I’ve seen are coming from the upper/middle Patuxent River and the Potomac River in the D.C. vicinity. The mouths of the Choptank and Patapsco rivers remain viable options too. Of note, the eastern portion of Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena (Patapsco River) is closed for maintenance through spring 2024, so the popular riprap shoreline from which many anglers fish for blues is currently off limits. The fishing pier on the western side of the park is still open. No matter where you go, fresh, cut bait on bottom rigs casted near dropoffs and holes could get you on the fish. Good luck!