Fall is certainly in the air as our friends the Canada geese arrive and some types of vegetation such as poison ivy are beginning to show their fall colors. This is an exciting time for fishermen in Maryland. The striped bass and bluefish action in the Chesapeake can be at a frenzied pace at times as diving sea gulls attack bait from above and hungry bluefish and striped bass attack from below. At times anglers will just pause to absorb such a vivid example of the food chain in action before casting into the melee to participate themselves. Freshwater fish such as trout, walleyes, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are all in an increased activity mode due to cooler water temperatures and are feeling the urgency to fatten up for the winter months ahead. Hopefully between our own sense of urgency to get the house painted or to get some other pending outdoor project done before cold weather sets in; we will all find time to enjoy the outdoor opportunities at our very backdoor. Blue crabs are about as fat and heavy as they can be this time of the year.
Fishermen are finding a mix of striped bass and bluefish spread through all three regions of the bay and they are actively chasing bait. The striped bass and bluefish can vary from under 14” to 30” for the striped bass and nearly as large for the bluefish so fishermen often will be leaving schools of breaking fish that hold mostly small fish in search of larger ones off on the horizon. The best fishing for the fleeting schools of croakers and large spot are coming from the lower bay region and the largest bluefish are being caught there also.
As we pass by the last day of September freshwater fishermen are enjoying one of the finest times of the year to enjoy some excellent fishing opportunities in the regions lakes, reservoirs and tidal waters. The large lakes and reservoirs are always a great place to fish for largemouth bass from either small boats or from shore. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits tend to be two of the most favored lures to use as fish hold shallow morning and evening and move into slightly deeper water during the day. Grass beds, fallen timber and most any kind of underwater structure are good places to look for largemouth bass. Several reservoirs such as Liberty and Prettyboy have good populations of smallmouth bass and offer some fine fishing.
The tidal rivers from the Susquehanna to the Potomac offer great fishing for largemouth bass this time of the year. Casting small crankbaits over flooded grass or outside on the deeper edges is a good tactic as is targeting any kind of structure.
Fishing for channel catfish in the Susquehanna River has been good this week and fishermen are beginning to target blue catfish in earnest in the Fort Washington area of the Potomac now that water temperatures have cooled down to about 70-degrees. Fresh gizzard shad baits and a deep hole are often the ticket to catching some bragging sized blue cats.
Slowly the middle bay region is settling into a fall pattern of fishing for a mix of bluefish and striped bass. The mix has been making life difficult for schools of bay anchovies and sometimes small menhaden throughout the region. The bait is moving out into the bay and has to run a gauntlet of hungry predators on their way south. Most often fishermen are spotting diving birds in the form of sea gulls and terns as the striped bass and bluefish push the bait to the surface. Quite often when the action takes place in the lower sections of the tidal rivers the striped bass can one to two year old fish ranging from 11” to 14” in size. Larger striped bass can be found beneath them by jigging or trolling deep but usually the larger striped bass tend to be farther out towards the open bay waters. It is not uncommon for fishermen to move from one concentration of fish to another looking for a better grade of striped bass. The larger bluefish also tend to be out in the open bay waters also. Fishermen are enjoying casting metal, surface poppers and bucktails to the surface melee and others are vertical jigging deep below the surface fish.
Cooler water temperatures have striped bass roaming the shallows and small boat and shoreline fishermen are enjoying good fishing in the early morning and evening hours casting surface lures, crankbaits and sassy shad type lures. The water is also starting to clear up so once the sun gets high in the sky most fish are headed for deeper waters that offer more protection from bright sun light. Prominent deep water points and any structure protruding out into the current are excellent places for shore based anglers to cast a variety of lures. Trolling bucktails dressed with sassy shads or twister tails along channel edges in the tidal rivers such as the Choptank has also been a good way to catch striped bass that are holding a little deeper of the shallows.
The mouth of the Choptank River and particularly the area of the Diamonds and False Channel has been a very active location to find schools of bluefish and good sized striped bass chasing bait coming out of the Choptank River. The western side of the shipping channel has been another good location where bait is being swept by the strong currents the move along the steep channel edges from Cove Point north to Thomas Point with the area from Breezy Point to Parkers Creek being one of the more productive areas to fish. Many fishermen are trolling deep with a spread of lures that contain tandem medium sized bucktails, spoons and surge tube lures for a mix of striped bass and bluefish with an occasional large red drum.
White perch are beginning to school up in the lower sections of the regions tidal rivers and creeks often holding near deep lumps such as oyster bars. Steep edges and points, ballast stone piles and even piers that project out into deep water are all good places to look for white perch. Bottom rigs baited with peeler crab, bloodworms or grass shrimp are a good choice for fishermen fishing from small boats or shorelines and casting small jigs, spinners and beetle spins close to the bottom are also effective.
Recreational crabbers are enjoying good crabbing opportunities in many of the regions tidal rivers and creeks this week as crabs are fattening up for the winter season. Cooler waters are causing crabs to move down the tidal creeks and rivers and much of the best crabbing is taking place in the deeper waters in the lower sections of the rivers and creeks. Most crabbers are reporting large numbers of sooks being caught and released from trot lines and collapsible traps.