Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, April 2024

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reports, April 26 Update:

The weather cooled off this week, but the fishing remained steady in the Middle Bay zone. White perch are thick in the tidal ponds (check out Tidal Pond White Perch for a how-to refresher), and multiple reports came in from both readers and Contributor Eric Packard of epic-level catches. Packard reported catching 64 while casting white and chartreuse mini-spinnerbaits in a Calvert County pond, and a reader noted that grass shrimp suspended two feet under a bobber on a shad dart allowed him to load his stringer. As the perch have moved into the tidal ponds, they should also start to move into their summertime hangouts in the tidal rivers. Middle Bay water temperatures are inching close to the 60-degree mark and should reach that soon if next week’s warm weather forecast holds true. That is when a lot more fish will move up into the shallows.

whit eperch in the tidal ponds
Dale found a perch or two... or 20!

Middle Bay blue catfish reports continue to roll in this week with the big fish still presenting plenty of opportunities for anglers. The hot zone has been from Sandy Point down to Chesapeake Beach. The mouth of the Patuxent River is another good location to try, and we have even heard hearsay reports of anglers catching them at the CCNPP warm water discharge. Chunks of menhaden or gizzard shad are working very well to get the catfish to bite. One reader wrote in to let us know that the most consistent bites he found this week have been at night. He pulled up a few catfish up to 15 pounds and a 23-inch striper (that was promptly released) during an early week trip. These invasive fish are continuing to grow bigger every year which is not good news for our native aquatic species. We encourage anglers to get out and fish for blue catfish in the Bay. Their population is huge, but every fish we catch and keep will save a lot of crabs, clams, and smaller fish. If you plan to fish for them, consider participating in CCA Maryland’s Great Invasive Species Count. Anglers can help collect data on where these fish have spread to and will be entered in monthly drawings from now until next March. Watch for the winners to be announced each month of Live with Lenny.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reports, April 18 Update:

The weather has finally started to feel like spring as we approach the latter half of April. Fishing opportunities are still abundant, and you don’t have to travel far to catch fish right now. Contributor Eric Packard had some fun shad action in the Patuxent near Governor Bridge Road, with better than a dozen fish hitting his darts. A reader a few miles down from there fishing near Jug Bay reported a good catfish bite with mostly small channels and blues but a few in the 10-plus pound range biting on cut white perch. The shad run will start to slow down on the Patuxent as we approach the end of the month, but white perch should still be available in the upper Pax around Wayson’s Corner and Jug Bay. Warmer temperatures will also get the snakeheads more active in the upper Pax and Western Branch is a great location to target them this time of year. On warm, sunny days, you will often see snakeheads sunning along the shoreline. Slowly moving up the river and sight fishing for them is a fun way to target them. Zoom flukes are great baits to pitch to them and will also catch any bass that are willing to bite.

patuxent catfish
Blue cats are happening on the Pax. Photo courtesy of The Tackle Box.

The big blue catfish continue to show their presence in the Middle Bay zones. Reports have been rolling in anywhere from Sandy Point down to Chesapeake Beach of catfish up to 30 pounds. A reader wrote in after fishing for them at the mouth of the West River earlier in the week. They started by anchoring in 12 feet of water, but did not get a bite in over an hour. They then moved to five foot of water and started catching fish right away. They boated eight fish ranging from 10 to 30 pounds and lost a few others. Chunks of menhaden and gizzard shad on fish finder rigs got the fish biting in the shallows. They noted that the bite was hot until the tide slowed down. There is no shortage of catfish right now in the middle Bay and CCA Maryland’s Great Chesapeake Invasive Count just started this month, and we encourage anglers to participate. The goal of this initiative is to help fisheries managers understand which invasive species are being caught and where. All you have to do is log your catches and you will be entered for a chance to win great prizes. Get more details on the Coastal Conservation Association website.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reports, April 12 Update:

It finally felt like spring made its arrival this week. Temperatures climbed into the 70s and a lot of green has started to pop up in the trees. It was a great week to get out and enjoy the weather. Contributor Eric Packard found some hickory shad willing to bite in the upper Patuxent, but just a handful, in the high and off-color water. A reader also reported probing the Pax for snakeheads mid-week but said the water temps had dropped and the bite was slow. Another slow bite from the Pax was reported from a catfish angler who said four hours of soaking baits around Jug Bay last weekend only produced two 12-inch blue catfish. River conditions were low and muddy and the rain from the previous week could have had the fish acting wonky. The Angler in Chief reports that an exploratory trip looking for blue cats in the South didn’t provide any action, but he noted that his bait was sub-par (some farm-raised shrimp from the grocery store), he only gave it a couple of hours, and last spring several people did well on catfish in the area — so he’s hoping for better luck next time and would still encourage anyone looking to bend a rod to try for ‘em.

angler with a blue catfish
Old photo inserted by editor to prove he can catch a catfish on occasion because, well, just read below. Ouch! 

Despite Lenny's lack of luck, there were multiple reports of big blue catfish being caught along the bayfront from Chesapeake Beach up to the West River. An angler fishing near Cedarhurst let us know that tossing out chunks of cut bunker at night produced four catfish from 10 to 20 pounds. Another reader caught two 20 pounders on cut bunker near Deale while night fishing and one more report came from an angler who caught a 25-pound blue cat off Franklin Manor on Tuesday morning. These fish are showing up just about everywhere in the Middle Bay, likely due to all the rain we have had this spring. They are a great alternative to fish for right now with the striped bass closure in effect.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reports, April 5 Update:

Many anglers made sure to get their fishing in before this rain filled week hit the region. Readers reported closing out the rockfish catch-and-release season with a bang; trollers reported one to four fish in the 39” to 45” class from the Annapolis area, near Bloody Point, and off Chesapeake Beach, with white and chartreuse tandems called out as the winner. We also head from several anglers who had success working jigs and stick baits in the shallows, including kayak fishermen. With striped bass now closed through May 15, however, anglers will need to look in a different direction to get a bend in the rod. Catch and release fishing for striped bass closed on April 1st (no it isn’t an April fools’ joke) in all areas of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland waters. The no targeting closure will remain in effect until May 16th when some areas of the Bay will open for the summer season. Make sure to check the striped bass regulation maps to see where and when fishing for stripers will be allowed.

last rockfish of the catch and release season
Pedro closed out the catch-and-release season with a bang!

The Angler in Chief reports that the white perch run has been going strong on the upper Patuxent and its feeders, with grass shrimp being the undisputed champion of baits. Last weekend fishing them on small shad darts of multiple colors, whites were caught in abundance up to 12” alongside some crappie, bass, and bluegills. He said the perch had moved up close to spawning grounds but were still pre-spawn, were in small channels of five or more feet of water, and they also bit well in the shallows around marsh edges on the flood tide. He noted that talking with pier anglers fishing from Patuxent River Park it looked like they were catching their fair share of perch as well, along with some catfish. Readers reported also catching some shad farther upriver, near Governor Bridge Road. The recent rains will have the river running high and muddy into next week, so it may be a few days before conditions will be favorable for fishing. The extended forecast looks like we may get a warmup next week which should send the perch into spawning mode.