Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing Report, May 2024

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 31 Update:

The Angler in Chief says rockfish have been going hot and cold in the past week, with some good days and some slow ones too. He noted that recently he’s done significantly better on the Western Shore than on the east side, with bayfront piers, Thomas Point, and river spots all producing fish at one time or another. He also said a four-inch chartreuse Bloody Point Baits Shad on a quarter-ounce head out-caught all other offerings by a significant margin the last few trips. He also noted a good perch bite on Perch Pounders in the South River and encountered an oddball snakehead in the eight pound range in Ramsay Lake this week. Readers reported a rockfish bite that also went cold at times on the Choptank, with one reporting a skunk where he had caught a dozen fish a week earlier and another reporting a pair of rockfish for his efforts. They also noted, however, that spot have moved into the area in strong numbers.

stripers are biting in the middle bay
Olivia crushed it while fishing with granddad on the Miss Jimmy, courtesy of Fish With Weaver.

A reader fishing Poplar Island over the weekend reported a great topwater bite. They said with the high tides, the fish were sitting very tight to the rocks and precision casts up to the shoreline were needed to entice the bite, but if you landed in the right zone the fish were eager to hit. A bone colored Heddon Super Spook was the hot bait. Two trips on back-to-back days produced around a dozen fish in the 20-to-24-inch range exclusively on topwater lures. The fish were not interested in hitting paddletails or jerkbaits.

A mix of blues and rockfish is around the mouth of the Patuxent and Cedar Point, according to reports from The Tackle Box. They also mentioned that redfish are in the Patuxent’s creeks and spot are proving unusually plentiful already for those dropping bottom rigs baited with bloodworms. Specks are also around from the Choptank down on the east side and the Patuxent down on the west side, though reports this week dropped off a bit from last week and consisted of a fish here and a fish there as opposed to big catches. The other big news for the Middle Bay has been the early arrival of puppy drum in areas relatively far north. We had multiple reports of fish being caught at the mouth of the Pax, Holland Point, the West River, and even the South River. We have yet to see a confirmed report of a slot fish, but lots of close 17.5-inch fish have been reported including one caught in the South late this week from a reader who was casting spinners for perch. The puppy drum grow fast, and these are some of the earliest reports we have seen over the years. More fish should continue to push north into our waters and the just under slot fish should be in the slot range in a few months.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 24 Update:

Fishing is starting to take on its summer form with lots of action happening throughout the bay. The AIC says there’s been a solid rockfish bite in shallow areas with structure in four to 10 feet of water. He mentioned the usual suspects (Thomas, Poplar, outside the Choptank) were all producing fish from 16” to 30” (plus a bonus 35” last weekend) but they’ve been running hot and cold from one day to the next. He also said they seem to be widely scattered as opposed to clustered in any one spot, so keeping on the move is important. The AIC decided to spend an afternoon trying an exploratory sea bass trip, too, hitting Cedarhurst, Tilghman Reef, and a deepwater wreck to see if any fish had overwintered, but alas, to no avail. Meanwhile, a slew of readers reported the best luck on stripers by fishing the shallows. Casting to rocks and riprap with chartreuse paddletails was noted as effective by several anglers. FishTalk intern Adam Greenberg confirmed the fish’s presence in the mouth of the Choptank, catching plenty of rock up to 28” plus speckled trout in the 20” range, casting spooks at dawn and Rattle Traps, diving plugs, and paddletails once the sun was up, all of which got bit.

round bay rockfish
Jackson wasted no time getting lucky after rockfish season opened up!

Many other reports of Middle Bay specks came in as well, with catches of three to five keepers much more common than most years at this point in the season. The lower Patuxent, Choptank, and Slaughter Creek area were all mentioned as holding fish. Griffins Guide Service has been hitting the shallows of the Eastern Shore in the Middle Bay zone with a lot of success on rockfish and some specks. They let us know that the early morning topwater bite has been great when the tide has been running. Islands and stump fields have been holding a lot of fish, but a lot of cow nose rays too. If you stumble into a lot of the rays, it is best to move to another location as they will mess up the bite quickly.

Multiple reader reports of white perch showing up early in summer spots have continued to come in. Casting Super Roosters and bobber/shad dart rigs sweetened with grass shrimp were noted as effective. All the creeks off the main tidal rivers will have schools of perch roaming around structure in the shallows. The first push of fish into the Holland Point area was also noted with multiple boats catching fish.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 17 Update:

The Angler in Chief says that on the evening of opening day he found plenty of rockfish between 18” and 26” on shallow water structure in eight to 10’ of water just outside the South River which were willing to hit both paddletails and topwater. And despite their best efforts to find speckled trout last weekend, with a boat full of Team FishTalk members casting jigs and plugs of all different colors, shapes, and sizes, and fishing many multiple shallow water spots in the Choptank, Little Choptank, and at James Island, that day had turned into an unintentional rockfish-fest — so the shallows are definitely lit up right about now. However, readers fishing in the Choptank did report catching some specks, and Contributor Eric Packard reported finding some in the lower Patuxent as well. The Tackle Box reports that some redfish have been caught in the Pax, too. The best news is that we no longer have to avoid the stripers. As of May 16th, the summer and fall striped bass season in Maryland is open and anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per day within a slot of 19 to 24 inches. There are some areas of the Bay that are still closed to targeting, while others are catch and release only. We recommend viewing the striped bass regulation maps on the Maryland DNR website to see when and where you can fish for striped bass.

big blue catfish in the west river
We know rockfish have center stage right now, but Cooper was super-stoked to tie into this big blue cat in the Rhode River this week and we're stoked for him - nice catch!!!

The spot are making an early showing this year and have already pushed into the Middle Bay. We have heard reports that eater sized fish are already being caught at the mouth of the Patuxent. Anglers Sport Center told us that spot are being caught as far north as the Bay Bridge and they are being found near shoals and areas with oyster bottom. They recommend trying Hacketts Point, Tolly Point, and the oyster reefs south of the Bay Bridge. Bottom rigs baited with Fishbites, bloodworms, or lug worms will be the best setup to use when bottom fishing. The white perch have also pushed into their summer areas and can be found in the many creeks off the Middle Bay tidal rivers. We heard from an angler who was fishing in the upper reaches of an unspecified creek but said that the perch were eager to hit live minnows fished under a bobber. Fishing close to docks produced a healthy stringer of eater sized fish. The perch fishing should only get better from here on out.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 10 Update:

The spring bite has really started to pick up in the Middle Bay this week. The Angler in Chief says that he finally located some blue catfish willing to eat shrimp in the South River up near the Route Two bridge, and much to his surprise, also located fair numbers of white perch which had already shifted over to their summertime haunts in the river’s creeks. Similarly, FishTalk’s Zach Ditmars encountered some nice perch casting around in a creek near his house where the fish generally move in later in the summer. Far more exciting news comes, however, in the speckled trout department. Contributor Eric Packard caught the first Patuxent River speckled sea trout — and the first Middle Bay speck — that we’ve heard of this year. Just a day later FishTalk intern Adam Greenberg caught a speck, too, this one on the shores of the Choptank on a Rapala X-Rap. He said he had two fish on while livelining silversides, too, but both pulled off the hook.

choptank river speckled sea trout
Adam found an early speck in the Choptank this week.

Water temperatures are now in the 60s in most locations and the speckled trout numbers should continue to increase in the mid Bay. Light tackle guide Pete Dahlberg of Four Seasons Guide Service has been finding more fish in the shallows of the Eastern Shore near the Honga River and expects the coming weeks to be great for targeting specks. They are a fun fish to catch and with stripers opening soon, the shallows should attract many anglers. The striped bass closure will end on May 16th in parts of the Bay. Once the season opens, anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per person per day between 19 and 24 inches. The fish should already be at their normal summertime hangouts. Last year the bulk of the fish were in the Upper Bay, but we will have to see where those fish end up once we can start targeting them. Check out the Maryland DNR striped bass maps to see when and where areas are open for stripers.

Spot seem to be making an early showing this year, with the mouth of the Pax noted as a hotspot by The Tackle Box. They said the Shea-D-Lady caught 64 eating-sized fish in the mouth of the river. Contributor Packard also encountered several in Mill Creek this week. They should be plentiful by the time striped bass season opens for those looking to live line them.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 3 Update:

The white perch run in the rivers is mostly a done deal, but tidal pond runs are still underway. We had a couple of reports from shoreline anglers who caught good numbers of fish casting floats suspending a shad dart tipped with grass shrimp. Finding the edge of a weedbed was noted as a good move. The tidal pond bite can vary depending on the day, but there are a bunch scattered from the Mayo peninsula down along Calvert Cliffs to give a try. White perch should also move into the Middle Bay tidal tributaries soon as water temperatures are warming up quickly. Once they make their way into the rivers, they can be found hanging out near rock jetties, docks, and fallen trees. Small spinners or underspin jigs work great for casting to structure with an ultra-light set up. Live minnows under a bobber is also a bait that perch usually can’t resist. Some fish may be in their summertime spots now, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check them out.

mid bay blue catfish
Peter T. found a big blue in the South River.

Anglers looking for big blue catfish have had some success near the river mouths and also up the rivers, and FishTalk contributor Peter Turcik reported catching a 33-incher in the South. The AIC said he spent an afternoon looking for them near Mayo Beach but came up blank, proving that blind squirrels may find a nut now and then but they often go hungry, too. The Patuxent River is a great location if you are looking for a more consistent catfish bite. A reader fishing just south of Jug Bay reported that the evening bite was hot this week as they caught 10 blue catfish from the bank one day. They ranged from four pounds up to 15 pounds. If you are looking to get out on the river in a boat, there are a few boat launches on the Prince Georges County side of the river including Jackson’s Landing, Selby’s Landing, and Magruder’s Landing. Anchoring up along a ledge with shallow water close to deep water is a good strategy. Throwing out baits on both sides will usually reveal what depths the fish are hanging out in.