Middle Bay Fishing Reports

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, April 18 Update:

This week as I called around asking our sources what the rockfish bite has been like, the most common answer was “few and far between”. Seriously, three guys I talked to in a row said exactly that, so unfortunately, we don’t have any specific areas to recommend. This isn’t the opening day report we want, and it seems like this weekend is shaping up to be a tough one. However, Anglers Sport Shop noted that high wind has been preventing pre-season fishers from leaving the docks, and while those that made it out largely returned without catching a glimpse of a striper, the lack of positive reports may also to some degree be because of the lack of boats pre-fishing. Most boats making it out have been trolling umbrellas or tandem rigs. Unfortunately, the weather also does not look ideal for the opener – hopefully, this won’t be the single time the weather guys are right. If you’re unsure of which areas are off-limits for fishing entirely, which are open for catch-and-release only, and which are open for catch-and-keep, check out the Maryland Striped Bass Regulations Interactive Map. (It’s pretty dang easy to use and very well-designed. Pat on the back, to whoever works on that for the DNR).

middle bay striper
The bite's been tough, but FishTalk team member Zach Ditmars encountered this schoolie one evening after work this week.

Meanwhile, there’s quite a lot of action going on aside from the trophies. Many local anglers have been heading to the Eastern Shore to fish for snakehead in recent weeks – the fish are plentiful, good fighters, and easy to access by boat or from shore. Blackwater, the Tuckahoe, and other southern Shore rivers have all been hotspots, and Alltackle in Annapolis reported that most guys have been catching on minnows. See the Tangier and Lower Shore report, for more details.

As the perch have spawned out and are headed to the main stem of the rivers and Bay, making them difficult to pin down, scores of anglers have shifted their attention to the ever-booming catfish bite. Cats have been strewn throughout the tribs, and Bay Country Crabbing Supply reported that most guys are opting to use cut bunker or catfish dough when going after them. They also noted that although the perch run is slowing down significantly, Beverly Beach and Triton Beach have remained areas where it’s possible to pull a white perch dinner from. Crabbing opened earlier this month, and Bay Country also suggested that within the next week or two the season for potters should start to pick up – they’re already hearing reports of crabs in the Little Choptank, on the Miles, and in Virginia.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, April 11 Update:

A spotty striper bite isn’t what we want as opening day quickly approaches, but unless the fishery takes off in the next week, it looks like fishing could be hit or miss. Angler’s reported that although some trophies are being caught, as reported for the Upper Chesapeake Bay it’s been difficult to nail down any places where they’ve gathered. Most reports of success coming from the Middle Bay have been from anglers trolling umbrellas and tandems at the mouths of the rivers, where a few trophies have been caught. There’s also been a slowish but somewhat steady bite at the power plant (more schoolies than big fish). Again, it’s difficult to gauge just how well the fishery is doing – it seems like everyone knows a guy or two that’s caught and released a striper that would’ve been dinner if it was landed a few weeks later. With that being said, catch and release anglers heading to Eastern Bay have had some success, with Alltackle and Anglers reporting that fish ranging from schoolie-sized to upwards of 30-inches have been caught. Hopefully, as the weather warms up a bit more, pushing the water temperature above the 52-degree mark, we’ll start to see stripers a bit more consistently.

woman caught a snakehead
The snakehead bite is still happening, folks. Melissa Rudow caught this chunky one just to show up her husband... again!

If you’re looking for a somewhat more reliable fishery, or to give your beloved Bay ecosystem a helping hand, Angler’s suggests heading to the Eastern shore to catch some snakeheads. Snakeheads seem to have taken over the Blackwater and local tributaries (among many places in the Bay area), and have an unquenchable thirst for minnow. There’s a bit of an argument over the overall impact of snakeheads, an invasive species that hails from Asia, which snack on the native fish and their food sources. The effect doesn't seem to have caused too much harm in the Potomac, but it also appears that the very different geography and ecosystem on the Shore is being utilized by the snakeheads in a different and much more dramatic way. While this certainly doesn’t excuse wanton waste (there have been some unfortunate reports of snakeheads piled then abandoned on the shoreline), if you’re like me, the thought of a threat to our beloved native fish populations is enough motivation to stock up on minnows and spend an afternoon terminating some snakeheads. Added bonus: they taste fantastic, too, and you don’t have to feel guilty about taking a few fish home for dinner.

As water temperatures are gradually rising, white and yellow perch are beginning to make their way out of the upper reaches of the tribs and down towards the mouths of the rivers. Although they’ve started to move, some fish have remained in the uppermost parts of the rivers, thinning out the schools and meaning it can take some searching to find a group of fish and stick with them. Alltackle in Annapolis reported that most guys are continuing to use a bottom rig with grass shrimp, blood worm, or small minnow. Some anglers have also been using chartreuse, pink, and orange shad darts, which the crappie have seemed to like, as well. Channel catfish have been in the mix, and although they’ll swallow up just about anything you drop on bottom, bringing cut chicken breast, gizzard, or menhaden is a good way to target them.

middle bay rockfish
Dr. Mike managed to find this schoolie willing to feed, near Thomas Point.

As April 20th quickly approaches, Angler’s Sport Center reported that although many boats have been leaving the docks in hope of catching a pre-season trophy, most boats are having limited success and have been catching mid-range fish when they do hook up. Anglers jigging for suspended fish at the mouths of the rivers have primarily been catching medium-sized males on their way up north to the spawning areas, while those trolling larger rigs along the channel edges are struggling to get a bite. Although very few trophy fish are being caught, Island Tackle Outfitters did report that a few guys have been catching trophy fish at the Calvert Cliffs warm water output, primarily jigging. We had similar CCNPP reports from readers, too – there are a few bent rods out there but overall, it’s been very slow.

Many anglers in search of solid action are also running over the Bridge to visit the Blackwater system and the freshwater tributaries of the Tangier Sound, hunting for snakeheads. That bite has been on fire recently, especially for those fishing jumbo minnow under a bobber. The FishTalk crew ran over there on Sunday and filmed this how-to snakehead fishing video while enjoying a unique fishing adventure.

March 1, 2019
Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 28, 2019 Update: Perch anglers are still pulling some whites out of the usual spring spots on the Eastern Shore, but it seems that many of the larger fish came and did their thing, then left town. Most… Read more...
February 1, 2019
Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, February 21, 2019 Update: The yellow perch run has finally begun in the Middle Bay – waters of the Nanticoke and Choptank have been particularly active, with a strong bite on bottom in deeper waters. Targeting… Read more...
January 4, 2019
Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 25, 2019 Update: Fishing in the Chesapeake and its tributaries has been shut down this week by high winds, low temperatures, and thin ice cover in some areas. Alltackle in Annapolis had no confirmed… Read more...