Like weather, tidal fishing has heated up


Almost everywhere in the tidal waters of the state, fishing is running about a month ahead of schedule, with bluefish in the lower and middle bay, sea trout and some spot in the mouth of the Patuxent, flounder as far north as Poplar Island and even few channel bass in the Middle Grounds and at the mouth of the Potomac River.

Perhaps the hottest spot is Ocean City, where the surf, inlet and back bays are turning on, just in time for the first big holiday weekend of the season.

"The flounder run in the coastal bays continues to be the best in years, with anglers seeing both good numbers of fish and quality size," said DNR Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary.

"Augmenting the great flounder catches are some very nice-sized stripers from the bridge and the surf, bluefish inshore and offshore and some large weakfish to 8 pounds in the inlet."

According to Gary, flounder catches generally have ranged from 16 to 18 inches, with occasional catches to 22 inches. Squid and minnow combinations have been the best baits.

Most of the coastal bluefish action has been for 2- to 4-pounders, but catches have ranged as high as 37 inches. Best action for bigger blues is offshore, from the First Lump to the Fingers.

While coastal fishing is hot, bay rockfish anglers are due for a change from trolling to chumming.

According to Gary, most of the big, migratory rockfish have moved out of the bay and started north along the coast, and the majority of stripers available now for bay anglers are 23- to 25-inchers from the large 1993-year class.

While chumming should provide plenty of action, most of the fish caught will be under the current 28-inch minimum and must be released. To minimize injury to the fish, try using circle hooks, which most often result in a lip-hooked fish that is easily released.

Fishing updates

Salt water

Upper Chesapeake: Chumming probably is the best bet for rockfish, but keepers are few while the minimum length is 28 inches. In the tributaries, largemouth-bass fishing has been steady, with the Gunpowder-Middle River complex very good and the Sassafras a good second choice. On the Susquehanna, conditions have been high and murky because of releases from Conowingo Dam, but white perch are still abundant.

Middle Chesapeake: Trolling continues to take keeper rockfish, although the catch rate is well off what it was at the beginning of the month. For larger stripers, troll deep with white or lime bucktails and sassy shads and parachutes. Chumming will produce good action on mostly 22- to 25-inch rockfish and some bluefish. Trollers also have been hooking up with occasional blues, with a 36-inch, 19-pounder checked at the Tackle Box on Saturday.

Lower Chesapeake: Whether trolling or chumming, the Middle Grounds might be the best bet for keeper rockfish, along with increasingly good bluefish action. DNR reports a horde of 2- to 4-pound blues moved into the area last weekend. Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box reports a handful of channel-bass catches from the southwest Middle Grounds and the mouth of the Potomac. Spotted sea trout are moving into the shallows of Tangier Sound and around Bloodworth and South Marsh islands and the Honga River. Sea trout catches have been increasing at the mouth of the Potomac and in lower Tangier Sound.

Ocean City: Good to excellent flounder action behind Assateague, the Airport and Eagle's Nest, as well as the East Channel. Bluefish numbers are up again in the surf, the inlet and back bays, including occasional catches to 37 inches. Sea trout action is picking up at the inlet piers, the Route 50 bridge and the south jetty. Keeper rockfish available in the surf and from the Route 50 bridge. Offshore, large bluefish from First Lump to Fingers.

Fresh water

Loch Raven: Crappie anglers should concentrate on cove mouths. Largemouth-bass action on shallow edges of grass beds and northern pike still a decent bet near the Warren Road Bridge.

Prettyboy: Trolled nightcrawlers have been doing well for white ZTC perch and smallmouth bass are a good bet on crankbaits or spinnerbaits fished in the the shallows.

Deep Creek Lake: Minnows and small spinners fished along shallow rocky shorelines should do well for smallmouth bass. Walleye action limited, but mostly found over gravel bars.

Tidal Potomac: Largemouth bass action continues to improve and has benefitted from a week without rain. Deeper channels of the mainstem still a good bet for large catfish.

Choptank: White perch, channel catfish, bass and yellow perch in the upper river.

Gunpowder: River is running low and clear. Nymphs, green weenies and green San Juan worms.

Pub Date: 5/21/98

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