Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 2024

Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 29 Update:

Spring has brought some very sporadic weather to the region this week. Cold nights along with stiff winds have made fishing conditions unfavorable. A few shots of rain over the past week also has water muddied up in some places which always makes things tougher. Resilient anglers still made the most of the week and some were rewarded for their efforts. There was a report from ana angler fishing below the Conowingo Dam who said that the shad fishing has been spotty, but the hickory shad have been big. It seems that right now it is quality over quantity. Gizzard shad have been abundant just below the dam and many people fishing have reported snagging them with their shad darts and other lures.

hickory shad fishing in the river
Hickory shad are providing some action when weather conditions allow. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

This weekend will be the last chance at striped bass until June. The big fish are certainly out there, but the weather has made it tough to get out and fish for them. We saw a report from an angler who hit the Susquehanna Flats targeting big stripers but only managed to catch a few perch and a blue catfish. The blue catfish was big and measured 40 inches, so a decent consolation catch. The white perch are still running up the tidal tributaries and we should see a steadier bite develop as we move into April. We still need water temperatures to rise some to get the perch pushing all the way up to their spawning grounds in northern areas. The mouths of rivers have been hit or miss for anglers dropping down bloodworms or grass shrimp on bottom rigs. Once the run cuts loose, targeting them will be much easier.

The striped bass catch and release season will close for the entire portion of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland waters starting April 1st. Trophy season was eliminated this year due to emergency regulations submitted by DNR to protect the spawning stock of striped bass. Anglers will not be allowed to target striped bass in this region of the Bay until June 1st. Once the season reopens, the creel limit will be one striped bass per day between 19 and 24 inches. We encourage you to view the striped bass regulation maps on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website to get familiar with the open and closed areas throughout the year. It has been an incredible few months of fishing for trophy striped bass on the Bay. Now let’s hope for a successful spawn this Spring.

Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 22 Update:

Spring has finally arrived after a long winter here in Chesapeake country. Though the bite hasn’t been epic last week’s warmup did get the fish biting and we had two readers report catching and releasing trophy rockfish on the flats before the chill returned to the air. Remember that targeting striped bass is closed from Twin Rocks up to the Conowingo Dam right now. The Susquehanna Flats is open for catch and release fishing. You can view the striped bass regulation maps on the Maryland DNR website. We also heard that the panfish bite in the northern rivers is strong, with a mix of crappie, bass, and perch on the feed. As the yellow perch run is beginning to slow, the white perch are starting to make their appearance. The fish are still in deeper waters so fishing for them with bottom rigs has been the go-to. Look for them to start moving up the tributaries in the coming weeks.

big susquehanna flats rockfish
Andrew had a great day catching and releasing on the flats - that is one epic fish!

Hickory shad have finally made their appearance in the lower Susquehanna. The first shad was caught last week and a few more have been trickling in this week. They are being caught just below the Conowingo Dam and at the various creeks downriver from there. One angler reported catching six small male hickory shad but seeing hundreds in the shallow rocky areas of the river. Gizzard shad are also stacked up thick below the dam and many are being snagged by those casting into the current. Small shad darts and metal spoons rigged in tandem are the tried-and-true rigs for catching shad. We also saw video evidence of an angler catching a huge musky just below the dam this week. There is a big rain event expected this weekend which is forecasted to drop up to two inches of rain. If we get that much water, the river and northern Bay will be running high and muddy for quite a few days afterwards. Make sure to check local conditions before heading out. Spring fishing opportunities are finally emerging, and it is going to be an exciting few months fishing the various spawning runs.

Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 15 Update:

It has been a great week to get out and do some fishing on the Chesapeake. Very warm temperatures are showing signs of spring’s early arrival. Unfortunately, rainfall last weekend has led to heavy flow conditions in the Susquehanna River and many locations way up the Bay are dealing with muddy water. Anglers who have avoided the debris and murky water are finding some white perch starting to show up on the Flats and around Perryville. In the Northeast River, Yellow perch are still being caught near the town of Northeast and the white perch will soon make their arrival. Blood worms, grass shrimp, or minnows paired with bottom rigs (don’t forget about the whole minnow-on-circle hook thing that’s popped up and has been detailed in the past couple of reports) work great. If bait fishing isn’t your preferred choice, shad darts and other small jigs tend to work well. If you find a school, you can quickly fill a stringer.

fishing for yellows
In most areas to the south the yellow perch run has already peaked and crashed, up yellows were still being caught in this zone the past week. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Another big attraction to this section of the Bay is the arrival of big migratory striped bass on the Susquehanna Flats and in the Susquehanna River. Anglers are prohibited from targeting stripers from Twin Rocks to the Conowingo Dam. The area open to catch and release is bordered by a southern line from Turkey Point to Sandy Point and a northern line from the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp at Lapidum to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. You can view the Maryland striped bass regulations maps to see the areas open and closed to targeting. Trolling paddletails or large jerkbaits from the Lapidum boat ramp to the mouth of the river is how anglers find most of their success. The catch and release season will close at the end of the month, so there are only a few weeks left to target these fish. If you do catch one, please make sure to use proper catch and release tactics and have the fish out of the water as little as possible.

Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 8 Update:

The big news in this region is the arrival of trophy sized striped bass heading towards their spawning grounds. Big fish are starting to be caught on the Susquehanna Flats and in the lower Susquehanna River. Kayak anglers trolling shallow diving plugs and paddletails are picking up a few fish here and there, but it is hard to pattern the stripers in this area. The rocky areas around the Lapidum ramp are known for having big fish this time of year. If you decide to target them there, be prepared to run into other anglers as the March closure areas have condensed where striped bass may be targeted. You can view the maps of open and closed areas on the Maryland DNR website.

perch and crappie
Kenny enjoyed some excellent action just before the recent deluges.

The yellow perch runs have kicked off and the white perch will be right behind them in the northern Bay tributaries. We had a reader report of good action on crappie and perch from the Northeast River, but that was just before all the rain fell. Since then high, muddy water has been the rule rather than the exception. More rain is in the forecast this weekend which may prolong the less-than-ideal water conditions in the northern Bay. Fish will still bite, but they may be harder to locate. If you can get live minnows, they usually outperform artificial lures, but make sure you are using circle hooks. Natural Resources police officers have been enforcing the striped bass circle hook restrictions on perch anglers, interpreting fishing with minnow as “live lining.” This means that the normal j-hooks, jigheads, and shad darts that just about everyone uses for perch would not be allowed in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. It is okay to use j-hooks if you are fishing in non-tidal waters or are using bait other than live finfish. You can read the circle hook regulations here; we are hoping to get more clarification on this matter in the future.

Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 1 Update:

RED ALERT for Perch Anglers: We have received multiple phone calls and emails this week about anglers perch fishing with minnow on bottom rigs (in tidal areas) being issued warnings by the NRP for not “live lining” with circle hooks. Please spread the word, if you fish minnow for perch this weekend with shad darts or standard bottom rigs you are at risk of being cited!!! Even more important, when we reached out to the DNR about this we were told large numbers of floating/dead perch were spotted when and where this occurred. Since this is certainly not the norm we worry something else may be amiss - if you are out there fishing this weekend and see a fish kill occurring it should be reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment hotline, 800/285-8195.

blue catfish in bay waters
Catfish remain the most reliable target for area anglers.

Blue catfish are another species that is abundant and easy to target. Reports of big fish and steady bites have been rolling in this past week. One angler fishing in the lower Susquehanna was using fresh cut bunker and found plenty of catfish biting. During an evening trip he landed 15 blue catfish and four channel catfish. All the blue catfish were kept with the biggest weighing nearly 40 pounds. It is always a good idea to remove these invasive fish from our waters. Plus, they taste delicious!

There were reports of some excellent catch and release action on rockfish in the Susquehanna late last week, however, we also heard from folks who were there over the weekend that the bite had quieted down. A shot of rain this weekend could get water flows moving again from the Conowingo Dam which often leads to better fishing conditions for the stripers. Catch and release striped bass fishing regulations are getting stricter as we head into March. The main stem of the Bay is still open for catch and release fishing, but many of the rivers will be closed to targeting striped bass. In the northern Bay, catch and release fishing will be allowed on the Susquehanna Flats upstream of a line from Sandy Point to Turkey Point. In the the Susquehanna River, catch and release will be allowed downstream from a line connecting the Susquehanna State Park boat ramp at Lapidum to Twin Rocks to Tomes Wharf in Port Deposit. The Northeast River will also remain open to catch and release through March. Maps of the open and closed areas can be found on the Maryland DNR website.

While the rockfish’s arrival to this region is certainly exciting for catch and release anglers, the yellow perch run has been grabbing attention too. The perch are starting to push up their spawning creeks and the milder weather should really get them going. They can be caught using minnows, grass shrimp, or small artificial jigs. Floating live bait under a bobber works well in the shallows while dropping down bottom rigs tipped with live bait works in deeper water. Areas around Perryville, the North East River, and the Elk River are prime locations to search for yellow perch this time of year.