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): Choose your own adventure. January offers excellent opportunities to hook into a variety of species in open Chesapeake Bay waters and throughout its many rivers and creeks, often during the same trip if you plan accordingly. Photo by yours truly.
The middle Chesapeake Bay continues to experience one of the best runs of large migrating striped bass it’s seen in nearly a decade. This catch and release fishery has produced PB catches for many anglers and provided full bookings for captains. The best action has occurred on the eastern side of the shipping channel. Most boats run to at least Channel Buoy 86 just north of Bloody Point to start picking up the action, which continues down the Bay toward the Potomac River’s mouth. There have been a few western-side channel reports too, mostly in the Chesapeake Beach vicinity and south. Look for contours of gradual depth change from 35’ to 65’; catch a drift, and jig deep along the bottom. Bouncing 2oz jigheads with 5–10” plastics or large/heavy spoons, rain minnows, and the like, have produced. Pay attention to your sonar and radar. The stripers will cluster to feed on bunker and sometimes you can find big gulls feeding above, signaling where the fish are. It was an amazing December, a fantastic first week of January, and we hope the bite continues well into this new year. (And because of this, most tackle shops have sold out of their heavier lures!)
Anglers are also reporting a very good resident striped bass bite occurring along the deep channel edges from the Patapsco River’s mouth down to the Bay Bridge and beyond. Getting on these fat fish in the 18–28” range is quite similar in terms of approach, tackle, and technique. Perhaps downsize your offering a touch (think 5–7” for plastics).
Because the region’s weather heading into the weekend will be below freezing (with a chance of snow), we may see some ice start to form around boat launches and creeks. Next week, temps rise a touch, even possibly hitting 50F by Tuesday, and there’s a new moon occurring Thursday. This may get sluggish fish moving a bit. And cloudy/rainy weather is predicted most days.
Winds will fluctuate severely day-to-day (8 knots one day, 30+ the next), so many anglers may turn to the more protected rivers and creeks for the pickerel and yellow perch bite, which is predictably good this time of year. Light gear and a variety of lures—from small chatterbaits, inline spinners, paddletails on 1/8 to 1/4oz jigs, jerkbaits, and small square bill cranks, among many others—will catch both species. Think smaller for the perch, larger for the pickerel. Look for both species around dying grassbeds and structure, especially late in the day along southern facing shorelines.
Blue catfish are a popular winter fishery and we’ve seen good reports coming from the Bush River, just north of Baltimore. Catching a slight drift or anchoring, and then employing bottom holding rigs in open water near the mouth was key. Fresh bait preferred. Apply this technique to almost any river’s lower channel/mouth in the mid-Bay (the deepest water you can find) and you may catch blue cats. Good luck!