Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 2023

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 28 Update:

Red Alert: It's come to our attention that anglers fishing around pound nets are being cited by Natural Resources Police. We have reached out to the DNR to attempt to get clarification on why (no laws have changed), and will report back to you asap. Meanwhile, we suggest giving the nets a wide berth to avoid any unfortunate situations.

The Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay are still closed for targeting striped bass until August 1st. While the rockfish are getting a break, many anglers are turning their attention elsewhere to scratch their fishing itch. We heard from a reader fishing the Choptank that the perch fishing was good, but better yet, dozens of croaker in the three to seven inch range were caught. They may not be big – yet – but hopefully we’re seeing a comeback! A report of another cool and interesting catch came from the Bay Bridge, where a 10.5-inch black sea bass was landed among the croaker and (unfortunately…) toad fish. Perch fishing in just about all the mid Bay rivers has been good and multiple reports are coming in of small puppy drum showing up. A reader fishing the West River for perch this week found them along docks, rock walls, and bulkheads. He and another angler put 40 nice sized perch in the cooler and caught three small puppy drum in the 10-to-12-inch range.

middle bay chopper bluefish
Steve was fishing aboard Schooled Up charters when he encountered this massive chopper blue. Photo courtesy of Travis Long.

A reader checked in to let us know the blues were busting water in the Poplar-to-Sharps zone, and the catching was fast with a limit reached in short order. The fish were 10 to 20 inches and hanging in 20 to 30 feet of water. However, we heard from another angler working the same zone just yesterday that the fish were playing hard to get and never came up to the surface. That’s fishing! A bit farther down in the PLO zone, we also caught wind of a monster chopper blue showing up — just look at the size of that thing! Many boats are trolling small Drone or Clark spoons behind number one planers along channel edges. There are schools of bluefish moving around on both sides of the Bay, but the larger blues have seemed to be found on the Eastern Shore side and hanging close to submerged structure. Sporadic schools of breaking fish have also popped up this week so keep an eye out for breakers. Also keep a close eye on your fish finder because the bluefish often attract bull reds to get in on the feeding frenzy.

Spot fishing is great all over the middle Bay. The larger schools and bigger sized fish have been down near the Patuxent River, but they are being steadily caught all the way up to the Bay Bridge and north. They can be found anywhere from five to 20 feet of water. If you don’t find them on the first drop, try moving around and changing depth. Bloodworms are one of their favorite baits, and Fishbites, lugworms, and shrimp all work well. The spot are hungry and you should be able to catch them no matter if you are fishing from the boat or shore.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 20 Update:

Rockfish season is currently closed until August 1st in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. While the closure prevents anglers from directly targeting one of the more popular fish in the Bay, there are many other species to pursue. White perch are fun to catch, great to eat, and easy to target. They can be found in the shallows near docks or rock jetties, and out deeper close to shoals or oyster bars. An angler fishing out of Sandy Point took some time to target white perch while the rockfish are getting a break. He started his trip by anchoring in 14 feet of water over shell bottom and found lots of small croaker and a few spot. The spot were kept to strip up as perch bait (which works great). He headed to the Bay Bridge pilings where he caught lots of small perch in the six-inch range and a few 10 inchers that went in the cooler. A few 10-inch croaker and some toad fish were mixed in to round out a solid day of catching.

bluefish in the Chesapeake bay
Bluefish numbers are on the rise - thank goodness!!

The diversity of species in the shallows will increase the farther south you go in the mid Bay. Creeks off the Patuxent have been producing plenty of cutlassfish, and Contributor Eric Packard has been catching them right off the docks (and losing plenty of paddletails). Also in the mix have been snapper blues. The cutlassfish have been caught as far north as the South River this summer and one angler trolling near Thomas Point even caught one on a three-inch spoon. Scattered schools of bluefish and Spanish mackerel have started making their way into the mid Bay. Their numbers should increase as we approach the end of the month. A few hearsay reports have come from around the mouth of the Choptank, but the better schools of bluefish seem to be sticking around Solomons and areas south. Mackerel reports have been slim but there seem to be a few mixed in near the blues.

Cool catch alert: a reader who was perch fishing with a Beetle Spin near Shady Side tied into not one, but two little redfish this week. They weren’t keepers but any way you cut it that’s awesome to hear – and it means you could catch a red just about anywhere in the Middle Bay right about now.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 14 Update:

Summer fishing has been picking up for many anglers but we are about to enter the rockfish closure from July 16th through July 31st. During this time, no targeting of rockfish is allowed in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. With this summer closure upon us anglers will be happy to learn that more blues and a few mackerel have moved up into middle Bay areas. One reader reported trolling up a “mess” of blues off the Sharps Island flats, with one Spanish in the mix. Spoons behind planers did the catching. Another option is chasing cutlassfish, which Contributor Eric Packard reports are now in better numbers in the creeks on the lower Patuxent. While targeting rockfish on a recent trip, he retrieved multiple shredded plastics and a couple of accidental cutlasses.

rockfish caught from shore
Taylor enjoyed some action in Kent Narrows, fishing from the shoreline.

A reader in the Little Choptank caught a pair of beautiful slot puppy drum on a Bass Assassin while casting in three to eight feet of water. Both the Choptank and Little Choptank are producing some speckled trout for anglers targeting the shallows. The early morning topwater bite for rockfish has been good with some specks busting the surface. Once the sun is up, paddletails have been the name of the game. G-Eye jigs rigged with five-inch DieZel MinnowZ have been working great. Focus on shoreline points, stump fields, riprap, and other nearshore structure where fish will be looking to ambush bait. Water temps are warm so a moving tide will is providing a better bite than the slack.

Fishing for white perch has been great in the shallows, especially around docks and rocky shorelines. Both the rivers and bayfront are holding schools of perch around structure and all you need to target them is a light rod and reel combo, four-to-six-pound line, and a small spinner. Small jigs work great too. The perch are also out deeper in 10 to 20 feet of water at the shoals and oyster beds where they can be caught alongside spot and small croaker. Bloodworms or Fishbites paired with a bottom rig should have them biting in no time.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 7 Update:

Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow says the docks of the South, the shallows of the Choptank, the shallows of the Little Choptank, and the remnants of James Island remain productive for rockfish into the mid-20s on white paddle tails and bubblegum pink shad tails. He also said the speckled trout bite is on the upswing and some are quite nice, with one trip producing five in a morning of fishing including a few over the 20-inch mark. We also had a reader check in after catching a couple of specks in the Choptank, including a beautiful 25-incher, or green Rain Minnow. However, his big new from the weekend was of a cutlassfish (ribbonfish) caught in the South River by FishTalk’s own Zach Ditmars. He notes it’s the first time he’s seen a cutlassfish in this river with his own eyes, and it hit a white paddletail being fished like any other for dock-stripers. Meanwhile on the Patuxent, where cutlassfish have become “normal” summer visitors, contributor Eric Packard reports they’re now present in fairly good numbers in Mill Creek with anglers targeting them catching up to 10 in a morning of fishing.

cutlassfish int he south river
What in the heck!? Zach found a South River cutlassfish!!

I was able to get out with FishTalk contributor David Rudow for a quick trip targeting rockfish in the South River on the fourth, and despite constant boat traffic, found some fish willing to bite. Z-Man Diezel MinnowZ pitched to docks produced around a dozen stripers and three super-sized perch. Only one rockfish met keeper status and the others were between 15 to 18 inches.

The first reader report came in this week of a mixed bluefish and Spanish mackerel catch, made while trolling south of Poplar. He also noted that the perch fishing up inside the creeks has been great, too. We can expect more mackerel and bluefish to move into the middle Bay region throughout July and into August. The only question is how far north will these fish move. Typically, the mackerel will make it to Poplar Island but some years they are caught north of the Bay Bridge. Water temperatures typically dictate their pattern with warmer water more favorable for these fish. Now that we know some of these toothy fish are in our area, keep an eye out for breaking fish. Metal jigs, Gotcha plugs, and Rain Minnows are all popular lures to throw when fishing for them with light tackle. Trolling Drone or Clark spoons behind number-one or -two planers is also a popular option. We will keep you updated as more reports roll in.

Crabbing report: We’re hearing that the numbers are decent, and the sizes are absolutely excellent in some of the mid-Bay area's right now. One report from the West River was of three dozen “monsters” in six to eight feet of water.