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): This healthy 23” chain pickerel was caught on an inline spinner worked along grassbeds in the Severn River on 11/26. Photo by yours truly.
Step into the freezer…indeed! This week, the middle Chesapeake Bay has chilled down considerably with overnight temperatures dipping into the 20s Farenheit (don’t forget to shut off your hose bib supply lines). Daytime highs reached the high 30s/low 40s, and we have felt it. The fish have, too. But that’s a good thing if you know where to look.
On a dismal, cold, and rainy Sunday (11/26), I needed to fish, so I took my river runner, a ’78 McKee Craft, down the Severn to target chain pickerel. I’m a glutton for punishment (weather-wise), but the day paid off with a few nice specimens caught on inline spinners (Mepps Aglia Streamer) casted along dying grass beds in 2–5 feet of water. Largest went 23”. Not too shabby. Yellow perch were active and willing to hit small offerings as well, like a micropaddletail on a 1/8oz jighead.
It’s early in the season, but the pickerel bite has been excellent in many of the popular riversheds—Severn, Magothy, upper Choptank, Tuckahoe, Marshyhope—and freshwater environs, like the Eastern Shore millponds (I love Unicorn Lake!) and Baltimore region reservoirs. The water is still very low at Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs. The boat ramps are fully-closed at Triadelphia, and just one remains open at Rocky Gorge (Supplee Lane). But you can fish the piers and shoreline at both.
The surface water temp has reached 50F in the Severn. Reports from others throughout the middle Bay have said the same. I’m certain that during the past couple days, water temp has dropped a few more degrees. This means slow working jerkbaits (I prefer Rapala XR08 and XR10) at various depths around structure will become the hot ticket to catching pickerel. In deeper water >10’ jigging a blade bait may be a good option. The largemouth bass guys are already starting to employ this bait to pull up some nice fish (Eric Packard at St. Mary’s Lake, @ericp132 on Instagram).
On windy days, a few charter captains have taken clients into the creeks and coves of middle Bay rivers to try for pickerel, in lieu of striped bass. Capt. Tom Weaver (@fishwithweaver) has put clients with fly gear on a few fish; stripping in sinking streamers, Clousers, etc. can work.
And when the weather windows are calm, access to the main Bay has provided great striper fishing. Big blitzes on bunker are still drawing boats into the frenzy. This week we heard of action occurring at the Patapsco mouth around the knolls (still good fish there!), Gum Thickets, and down to Bloody Point and Eastern Bay. The mouth of the Choptank also sees spurts of activity. The further south you run, the better shot you’ll have at hitting schools slamming the bunker that are migrating toward the ocean. Jigging is the name of the game with 1–2oz jigheads and soft plastics in the 5–7” range.
We’re also seeing the biggest blue catfish of the year being pulled up. Earnie Robinson (@earnie_the_hog_snatcher) has pulled up multiple 40-pounders from the D.C. banks of the Potomac this week. But the largest fish of the season is a 79.9-pound whopper that angler David Confair caught on 11/24 from the Marshyhope. What a fish! (The Maryland state record is 84 pounds). Bottom rigs with the freshest, oiliest chunk bait you can get, on 7/0 to 10/0 circle hooks, will attract and hook the fish.
And some reports of walleye are trickling in from a few anglers that are targeting them near the Conowingo portion of the Susquehanna River. Bottom-bouncing baits and minnow-mimicking lures worked in deeper cuts can be effective. We’re getting closer to the winter season, which still offers amazing fishing. Reminder that the striped bass keeper season closes on 12/10; afterwards, it’s catch-and-release only until the 2024 spring regulations kick in (updates on that soon). Good luck!