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): December is a prime month to target yellow perch in many of the Chesapeake tributaries noted for their populations of the species. Photo by yours truly.
Last weekend was above-average warm. Then things got frigid. But still fun. There’s great fishing right now throughout the middle Chesapeake Bay region. Temperatures overnight have dropped to below-freezing, so we’re starting to see some skim ice in the skinny water of creeks and coves of many tributaries. Not much, but some. Daytime temps have hovered near the 40 mark, so if you’re going after chain pickerel, yellow perch, and other river-specific species, then the afternoons may be the best time to target them, as the sun has had a chance to warm the water slightly on southern facing shorelines. Try 3–4” jerkbaits, small inline spinners, or 2–3” soft plastics on 1/8oz jigheads to get these fish. The colder the water gets, anglers may want to try a live minnow under a bobber to entice the pickerel.
Perch should be starting to school up ahead of their winter spawn and if you hook into one, keep throwing in the general area. You should find more. My best perch outing ever was at this exact time last December in a small cove of the Severn River. Other hot rivers include the Magothy, Patapsco, South, Choptank, Nanticoke, and to a lesser degree, the Chester and West/Rhode.
Even though December 10th marked the official close of keeper-season for striped bass and the unofficial end to fishing season for many anglers, die-hards are still hitting open water for a great catch-and-release bite. There are big fish to be caught. And this week, most of the action seemed to be in water south of Annapolis. Between Franklin Point on the western side of the shipping channel and Poplar Island on the eastern side, anglers have found a nice grade of fish up to 30” hugging bottom. Snap-jigging or gently bottom bouncing large plastics on heavy jigheads up to 2 or 3oz works well. Dab some Pro-Cure gel on the plastic to enhance your offering. Heavy spoons also work well to get down to the fish.
A few reports of 40” to 45” stripers came from a few charters this week. And these fish appear to be coming from waters even further south, from Cove Point to Cedar (outside of Solomons), and down to Point Lookout, to where some captains have shifted their winter operations. With winter ahead, warm water discharges will become go-to places to jig for big fish (Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant for example).
Anglers in the lower-to-middle Potomac and Patuxent watersheds that are targeting blue catfish have reported mixed outings. Success but not the same numbers seen in autumn. The fish seem to be transitioning to their winter holes and hunkering down deep. That’s the shared consensus. To get them, you’ll want to find the deepest holes and bends. Soaking chunk bait on bottom rigs will still get hit once you locate prime, deep habitat.
Now is a great time to dust off your fly rod and try for a mix of rainbow, golden, brown, and brook trout. Maryland Department of Natural Resources is actively pre-season stocking the first three species into ponds, creeks, and rivers throughout the state. Check DNR’s trout stocking page for daily updates. And anglers are reporting catches of native brookies in Western Maryland watersheds, but also the Gunpowder River in the Baltimore region. Good luck!