Upper Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 2024

Upper Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 23 Update:

It is feeling a lot more like winter this week as colder temperatures have moved back into the region. Cold weather may keep some of us indoors, but hardcore anglers will hit the water no matter the conditions, and a few are taking advantage of catch and release striped bass opportunities in the Patapsco River. The bite has been hit and miss, but if you have enough patience, you should be able to locate some fish. One angler reported finding some fish in 25 feet of water in an area with strong current and underwater structure. One to one and a half ounce jigheads with five-to-seven-inch soft plastic baits are working the best. Rockfish are also known to hangout around the rock piles at the Bay Bridge, but again the bite can be very finnicky this time of year.

kayak on the creek
Some parts of area creeks have been skimming with ice at night and others have remained open, but the bite has been tough in recent days. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Yellow perch have been slow to start their spawning run in the Upper Bay tidal tributaries. The colder weather has likely been why, but the extended forecast is trending warmer so they should get going soon. Pickerel fishing has been good in the Magothy, but overnight lows below freezing have been icing the tidal creeks where they like to hangout. Contributor Eric Packard paid a visit to the Baltimore area creeks early this week but encountered skim ice and despite his best efforts couldn’t find any pickerel in open-water areas willing to eat his minnow. Fishing during the warmest part of the day on sunny days is usually when the pickerel will be most active. The good news is that the start of spring is less than a month away and fishing will start picking back up soon.

Upper Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 15 Update:

Yellow perch reports are about the same this week in the upper Bay tidal rivers where these fish like to spawn. Fish are still scattered, and it has not been easy to locate the big schools of fish. Anglers are catching some at the mouths of the tidal creeks, but it doesn’t seem like they have made a big push yet. Minnows or grass shrimp seem to be out catching artificial jigs, so if you can get live bait, make sure you do. The pickerel fishing has remained consistent and there are plenty willing to bite in the Magothy and Baltimore area creeks. On warmer days, southern facing shorelines will attract fish in the afternoons as the water is warmed up by the sun. Shoreline structure in the form of fallen trees, docks, and submerged vegetation are all good ambush spots for pickerel and are worth fishing. The CCA Pickerel Championship will conclude at the end of February, but there is still some time left to boost those numbers. Every little bit will help!

perch are biting
Now's the time to get after those perch!

More updates to striped bass regulations were released this week by Maryland DNR. “Striped bass emergency regulations submitted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to support the spawning population was approved this week by the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review, and are effective immediately. The emergency regulations extend periods of closure to recreational striped bass fishing in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Targeting of striped bass will be prohibited from April 1st to May 15th, eliminating the Maryland striped bass trophy season. In the Susquehanna Flats, targeting of striped bass is prohibited through the end of May.” Additional information can be found on the Maryland DNR website.

Upper Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 9 Update:

February has brought us some more stable weather to start the month and we are ending this week with some pleasant temperatures. A few reports of striped bass action in the Patapsco rolled in this week. One angler reported finding a good bite using metal blade baits along the main channel. Their fish ranged from 25 to 30 inches. Another angler was also using metal and caught fish up into the mid 30s. You may have to do some looking around, but there are fish out there to catch even in the cold weather.

yellow perch in the chesapeake
It's time for perch action to start picking up!

More yellow Perch are being caught in the tidal creeks of the Magothy, but it is still a slow bite. The perch have not pushed up shallow yet in huge numbers and are mostly holding in the deeper headwaters of their spawning grounds. A reader fishing last weekend let us know that they only caught eight keepers during a day of fishing and most of the fish they caught were undersized fish. Grass shrimp floated under a bobber were outproducing minnows significantly. The perch run should start to kick off towards the end of the month and we will make sure to let you know when the bite is getting good.

Pickerel fishing in the tidal tributaries is a very reliable option this time of year. The Severn, Magothy, and Patapsco Rivers have some of the best pickerel fishing in the state. The smaller creeks off the main stem of the rivers hold the most fish. You can target them using a variety of baits including spinners, paddletails, and jerkbaits. Pickerel are ambush predators and will usually be hanging out around fallen trees, docks, and other shoreline structure looking for opportunities to bite. There is still time to enter and fish the CCA Pickerel Championship to compete against other anglers throughout the state. The tournament ends at the end of February, so make sure to enter now. Fishing is great so you can still put together a solid stringer or bump the stringer you already have. Good luck to those competing!

Upper Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 2 Update:

The striped bass bite has slowed down significantly from what it was back in December and early January, but there are still fish around. It will usually take more time locating them right now, but there is a lot less boat pressure to worry about. Areas like the Bay Bridge rock piles and inside the Patapsco River historically will hold stripers throughout the winter. One angler fishing in the Patapsco this past week reported finding a solid bite in 50 feet of water. They were using one ounce jigged Up unlimited jigs paired with five-inch Z-Man paddletails.

upper bay pickerel fishing in winter
Look out for these toothy critters - they'll be biting in the chill. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Pickerel fishing is still in its prime this week on the upper Bay tidal rivers. Cold water temperatures usually require a slow retrieve, but a few warm afternoons like we had last week can trigger the pickerel to have an aggressive bite, so keep an eye on the weather. Live minnows work great, but if you can’t get live bait, a variety of lures including spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and paddletails are very effective for pickerel. Reports have also started to trickle in from anglers targeting yellow perch on the upper Bay. The fish have started to stage at the mouths of the tidal creeks and are being caught in just about all the upper Bay tidal rivers from the Magothy north. Searching around different creeks and deeper holes until you find a school of fish is the best tactic. Live minnows floated under bobbers or dropping down small soft plastic jigs work great. If you find a thick school of perch, it can lead to a fun day of steady catching. The fish are still in pre-spawn mode, but we will make sure to let you know when they start running.