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Weekly Fishing Report

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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 to share updates and photographs of your recent catches for potential inclusion in next week’s column. The leading photograph (above): This January pickerel went for a slowly-worked jerkbait, coming out from dock cover to attack.

Below freezing one week; 60-plus degrees the next. This is Maryland weather and it’s having a profound effect on the entire Chesapeake Bay fishery. Last week, the region experienced iced-over creeks, snowfall, and significant winds in the mid-Bay, which all-but-entirely shut down the bite (if not anglers). And now…a warm up, with consecutive days of above-average temperatures, which has melted everything and opened angling access to everyone. That said, the snowmelt has flushed a mix of fresh and salted (road salt) water into every tributary. Water levels/flows in the upper reaches of most rivers have peaked, so extreme care and precaution are necessary when accessing/fishing these waters.

Though air temps have increased, there remains thick cloud cover and spits of rain today/tomorrow. Water temperatures are in the mid-30sF and we don’t expect much warm up until the sun shows itself early next week. 

In the main stem of the Bay, vessels have been drawn to the shipping channel, searching for large striped bass hugging bottom anywhere between 30 and 70 feet of water. Jigging them up with heavy heads (about 1.5 to 3 ounces) and plastics up to 10 inches long has worked, as have spoons. A few captains have shown off their clients’ catches, some as close as the Annapolis vicinity of the Bay with more reports from the Potomac’s mouth on south. Additional hot spots (literally) include the power plant discharges at Brandon Shores up north or Calvert Cliffs down south. Popular departure points to access the Bay’s channel include Fort Smallwood, Sandy Point, Chesapeake Beach, Solomons, and Point Lookout on the west side, and Matapeake, Kent Narrows/Eastern Bay, Cambridge, and Crisfield on the east side. 

A few brave souls have also tried kayaking for the big stripers, trolling deep diving cranks with some success in water up to 30 feet or jigging around bottom structures like oyster beds and artificial reefs. Angler David Rudow pulled up two 40” class stripers off sunken concrete in the past several days with the bite coming within the last hour of the outgoing tide. All anglers would be wise to refer to the multiple reef/shellfish maps available at Maryland Department of Natural Resources before planning your next outing.  

Of note, the ASMFC has dictated new 2024 regulations for the Atlantic’s striped bass fishery, approving Addendum II to Amendment 7 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass. States must submit implementation plans by March 1, 2024 for Board review and approval, which will take place at a special Board meeting to be scheduled for later in March. All Addendum II measures must be implemented by May 1, 2024. For the ocean recreational fishery, the Addendum implements a 28- to 31-inch slot limit, 1-fish bag limit, and maintains 2022 season dates for all fishery participants; this maintains the same ocean recreational measures adopted under the recent emergency action. For the Chesapeake Bay recreational fishery, the Addendum implements a 19- to 24-inch slot limit, 1-fish bag limit, and maintains 2022 season dates for all fishery participants. For the commercial fishery, the Addendum reduces commercial quotas by 7% in both the ocean and Chesapeake Bay. Reactions have been mixed, and we’ll report more on this soon.

Anglers are eagerly anticipating the bite to fire up for yellow perch as the species prepares for its late-winter/early-spring spawn. As soon as water temperatures hit 40 degrees and above, it should ignite. Right now, you can still catch them by deep jigging stingers or a tandem rig (1/16-ounce spoons and darts). Tipping them with grass shrimp or small minnows can help improve your catch rate. Popular places worth exploring include the upper Patuxent, Tuckahoe at Hillsboro, and Marshyhope at Federalsburg. (And a reminder of the sections closed to yellow perch fishing within the Magothy and Severn watersheds during February, March, and April. In the Magothy, from the base of Lake Waterford downstream for 3,300 feet; and in the Severn, or Severn Run, from the Route 3 Bridge downstream for 2,400 feet.)

With the water temps still in the mid-30s, the chain pickerel bite has become more challenging for this aggressive species. Jerk baits can entice bites (with a slow retrieve and long pauses), but lively bull minnow lip-hooked under a bobber moreso. This is winter fishing. And minnows are possibly the most-effective offering right now. 

With the recent snowmelt, fishing for trout and other creek dwelling species in the Central and Upper Maryland tribs may be difficult due to high water and flows. Expect conditions to improve by next week with mostly dry weather and colder temperatures returning. 

The good news? Overall, the current warm up coinciding with a full moon could fire up fish and fishing this weekend! So give it a try and let us know what you hook into. Good luck!

This report appears within On The Water magazine’s weekly collection of Chesapeake Bay fishing reports.