If there is a bright side to the passing of Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd earlier this month, it is that rivers and streams east of the Catoctin mountains and smaller reservoirs and lakes are in better shape than they were all summer.
And as fall begins, freshwater fishing is picking up nicely.
"Freshwater action should only get better in many locations, as water temperatures are now falling in the optimum range," said Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary. "Impoundments such as Loch Raven, Piney Run Reservoir and Little Seneca Lake all are fishing well now."
However, larger reservoirs such as Prettyboy and Liberty are still far below crest levels. Heavy rainfall from the two storms raised water levels by 5 feet, but Prettyboy is still 24 feet below crest, and Liberty is 22 feet below crest.
Flows on the Potomac River are at or just under median rates, and conditions are excellent for smallmouth bass, walleye and redbreast sunfish -- and the action for tiger muskie should begin to pick up.
Farm and mill ponds, too, are nearing top conditions, Gary said, as cool temperatures are clearing the algal blooms of summer.
Heavy rainfall also has raised stream levels enough to allow fall trout stocking in many areas of the state, although streams in Garrett and Allegany counties, where there was little rainfall, are still low.
Gary said fisheries biologists are surveying streams across the state to determine when stocking will occur.
Upper Chesapeake Bay: Chummers have been doing very well for rockfish at the Triple Buoys near the mouth of the Chester River, although many fish are just under the 18-inch minimum. Bluefish from 10 to 24 inches are numerous from the Bay Bridge to Pooles Island, and spot are still on oyster bars off the western shore and in the Chester. Toward the head of the bay, as waters clear, the Susquehanna should be a good choice for smallmouth and largemouth bass and rockfish. Best largemouth action could be on wood structure in the Gunpowder, Bush and Sassafras rivers.
Middle Chesapeake Bay: Spanish mackerel appear to have moved out of the area, but hordes of bluefish remain and are being caught by trollers, chummers and bottom fishermen. Chumming seems the best bet for rockfish, with The Diamonds, Hill and Gas Docks very good locations. Bottom fishing continues to be good for spot and some sea trout at the mouth of the Choptank. White perch, spot, sea trout and occasional flounder over hard bottoms from Thomas Point Light to Hacketts.
Lower Chesapeake Bay: Point No Point Light and the eastern edge south of Buoy 72A have been good locations for chumming rockfish in the 17- to 23-inch size range. Bluefish in tightly packed schools from Hooper Island Light south to the Southwest Middle Grounds. Bottom fishing for sea trout, spot and flounder has been spotty.
Ocean City: The red drum run is on in the surf, and there have been multiple reports of catches exceeding 40 inches and 30 pounds. Red drum should be passing south along the beaches through mid-October. Tautog and sheepshead at the south jetty. Flounder action slow. Offshore, chunking for yellowfin at the 30- fathom line has been excellent from the Hot Dog to the Tea Cup. Action for billfish and wahoo was slow. Weed lines turning up small and gaffer dolphin.