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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): The yellow perch run could pop any day now, at any number of potential spawning rivers. Pictured is a late-winter, pre-spawner from the Severn River.

Two biggest stories of the past week heading into next, must be: (1) the wild February weather that the middle Chesapeake Bay region has experienced and (2) the highly-anticipated yellow perch run, a harbinger of spring fishing. 

Last Saturday, the full moon and mild temperatures made for bright nights with peak tides. This gets fish active at night and if you braved fishing during moonlight, you could have played the shallow water striped bass bite that often gets overlooked this time of year. Striped bass are just starting to make their move toward spawning rivers, and will pit-stop to feed at major points and sandbars that jut into the main bay. Most of the big, migratory striper action has been Chesapeake Beach south, but should shift northward more and more during March. Schoolies can be caught in the lower ends of rivers. Depending on tide and time, you may find them hugging bottom near deeper channels and structure (morning through noon, especially on an ebb tide) or moving to shallower flats looking to feed (afternoon through night on a flood tide).  

These mild, moonlit nights continued Sunday and Monday. So, about those yellow perch…

Many anglers are clamoring for info on whether or not the perch are running to their spawning grounds in many of the Chesapeake tributaries’ headwaters. The answer, of course, depends on who you ask, when and where they are, and what info they’re willing to share. I theorize that the mild weather and bright nights got fish on the move during the early half of the week, moving them from downriver winter holes to upriver staging spots just ahead of spawn. 

En route to the Severn’s headwaters this past Monday.

I personally visited the headwaters of the Severn River on Monday afternoon by boat, just below Severn Run/Jabez Branch spawning grounds in legally fishable water (remember the “Run” itself is off limits through April). Surface water temperature in about 2 feet of water during a sunny, 65-degree day, reached 49.5F. This is about as close as the 50F degree mark you can get, which triggers the neds to start their spawning run. I saw some fish activity up there with splishes and splashes, but they would not hit anything I threw at them (stingers, nungessers, tiny bucktails, even inline spinners). Perhaps a live minnow or grass shrimp on a shad dart under a bobber would have done well. Regardless, fish were showing themselves and I think they were yellows; not common carp (which spawn up there in late-April). 

Any day that you have available to fish and the weather cooperates, take it and try any of the known perch tribs and spots. They could be there now, tomorrow…any day in the next several. Though we had a major front push arctic air across the region Wednesday night through Thursday, cooling things off considerably, the week ahead looks very promising with steadily rising temperatures, which should even hold overnight. I’m eyeballing: the upper Severn River; Beachwood Park and the upper Magothy; Wayson’s Corner on the Patuxent up to Wooten’s Landing; the Tuckahoe from Stoney Point to Hillsboro; Choptank at Greensboro/Red Bridges; the Marshyhope at Federalsburg; and many others (lower Susquehanna!).

These waters and where exactly you probe for yellow perch (around laydowns and docks that sit in deeper water upwards of 5 feet or so) will also hold chain pickerel. Upsize your offering to 3- to 5-inch plastics, jerkbaits, or inline spinners to entice a nice tug. And keep that bucket of minnows closeby. If you find yourself getting more chasers than takers, a minnow under a bobber can be a saving grace.  

Blue catfish have been keeping charters and recs busy this winter, with a good number of feeder size fish harvested from the Potomac River’s lower section to mouth, and the mouth of the Bush River. That’s where some reports are coming from, but you should be able to hook into the bottom feeders in deeper water of most tribs in the middle Chesapeake. Three-way swivel rigs with a heavy cannon-ball style weight or dragging weight work well for drifting open water. Shore bound anglers can do well with hi-low or Santee rigs. As we move into March and the fish get more and more active, the shore bite should pick up at the likes of Sandy Point State Park, Matapeake fishing pier, Fort Smallwood on the Patapsco, and the Potomac banks around D.C. to name a few spots.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources continues stocking golden and rainbow trout, plus a few browns, though most of the attention has been in the western part of the state in Washington and Garrett counties. Last week, stockings took place in the Greater Baltimore region, so you have a shot at those fish still (Little Gunpowder Falls, for example). 

And we should start seeing increasing largemouth bass and northern snakehead activity as the species begin pre-spawn staging. Bass have been caught (we’ve seen reports from several millponds on the Eastern Shore, and small lakes in southern Maryland) and can be a reliable winter target provided the angler has patience to work for the bite. But snakeheads usually get lockjaw altogether until the water temp begins to reach the 50s. And we’re almost there. Try chatterbaits with fluke or paddle trailers, crankbaits, football jigs with craw trailers, or large spinnerbaits, and slow your presentation down. Good luck!

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