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 email@example.com to share updates and photographs of your recent catches for potential inclusion in next week’s column. The leading photograph (above): A settled evening, Thursday 1/11, on Valentine Creek. If and when you have the chance to fish during winter, take it. The scenes alone are often worth the outing.
What a difference a week makes. Though all the chatter in the Chesapeake Bay region has been focused on the most excellent striped bass bite of the past month, there had been little chit-chat about winter storm potential and how such patterns can disrupt the fishery and fishing.
And then…we got walloped pretty hard this week with a monster combo of heavy rain, gale-force winds, and the new moon’s strong tides. This winter storm shut down the region Tuesday into Wednesday, with the windward side of the Bay especially getting slammed. Significant damage was reported along properties, bulkheads, docks, and the shoreline in general. So, it’s been a week for some folks.
The fishing? Before the storm, quite good. The reports and social media feeds of anglers in the mid-Bay continue to showcase the migratory mega-bass bite that dreams are made of. Large fish up to 50-inches continue to be jigged up from depths in the 35- to 70-foot range. Even a few reports of fish from 90 feet (maybe). Boats have been heading to the eastern side of the bay, from Kent Island south to Taylors, and working the depths mentioned, from shallow to deep into the channel. This time of year, expect most of the fish to be sitting near the bottom, if not hugging it. Sonar is an essential tool for locating these fish. Deep water jigging with heavy spoons, diamonds, and big plastics on 2–3-ounce heads has been effective.
Boats have also worked trolling patterns, zig-zagging down the channel sides with heavy tandem rigs and umbrellas. You’ll probably want to use a downrigger to get the rigs as deep as possible. The channel buoys, from 88 to the 70s are good starting points to reference when charting your course.
Will the fishing be good post-storm, heading into the weekend? With another major system pushing into the region Friday evening, it’s likely the answer will remain murky at best. The water is still unsettled, especially in the the rivers and creeks, and plenty of debris has been moving down the main stem of the Bay from the Conowingo/Susquehanna overflow. There’s likely to be more gale-force winds and Coast Guard advisories/warnings Saturday through Sunday.
And the cold…will get colder. Overnight temps next week will remain below freezing. Any fishing will be a grind. Low and slow will be the name of the game, not only for striped bass. Other target species include pickerel and yellow perch in the headwaters of many rivers (Magothy, Severn, South, Nanticoke) and blue catfish near the mouths (Bush, Magothy, Choptank, Potomac). Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources continues to stock trout in many western,central, and southern locations. There was a focus on Calvert, Charles, and Prince George’s counties this week. Check the Dept.’s Trout Stocking page for updates. Susquehanna smallmouth bass and walleye also remain a viable option on a fair-weather day. And if you really have hankering, take a light spinning outfit to a nearby creek and toss small stingers on 1/32 up to 1/8-ounce heads for a shot at crappie and fallfish. The likes of the upper Patuxent, western Patapsco, and Tuckahoe Creek are ideal locations to try. Remember, all fish still need to feed, so any day with settled conditions is a day to target on the water.
My advice. Until we see these winds push out the region, saddle up with a coffee in hand and cue a few Babe Winkelman and Lindner brothers videos on the ole Youtube. Think about how those Minnesota boys have to fish through the ice in some of the coldest parts of the country and thank your lucky stars that you still have a shot at big stripers in the Chesapeake. If not today or tomorrow, perhaps the day after next. Good luck!