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Maryland Fishing Report – July 28

Lower Bay
Photo of a Spanish mackerel on ice

Marty Zupancic caught a limit of Spanish mackerel up to 20 inches around Point Lookout and Cornfield Harbor, trolling with a #2 planer and size 0 Drone and Clark spoons and casting metal spoons on light tackle. Photo by Marty Zupancic

Cobia are still being reported in the lower bay. Chumming and drifting live eels back in the chum slick is a proven method to catch one of these great gamefish. Be prepared to see a lot of cownose rays hitting baits while chumming. Trolling surgical tubes or hoses is also productive. Sight fishing with an elevated platform has become an increasingly popular fishing method in recent years. After spotting a cobia, casting a live eel, large soft plastic, or large bucktail is a good way to target them. Smith Point, the Middle Grounds, the Target Ship, and Virginia waters are good places to find cobia. 

There are puppy drum in the shallows up to the South River and the Choptank mouth. Small paddletails work great for these fish. The larger bull redfish are beginning to show up in southern Maryland waters. 

Numbers of Spanish mackerel are increasing in the lower Bay and they should continue to move north with the warm, dry weather in August. Trolling small Drone and Clark spoons behind inline weights and planers at a speed of 6-8 knots is the best method. Casting and retrieving small metal lures at high speeds around breaking Spanish mackerel is another effective technique. 

Bluefish are working their way up the Bay and have been found around Cedar Point, up to Breezy Point and the mouth of the Choptank River. 

The Cedar Point rocks, bulkhead areas, the cuts through Hoopers Island, and the Marsh edges of the lower Eastern Shore are all good places to fish for spotted sea trout. Another good spot for casting in recent years is around the foundation structure of Sharp’s Island lighthouse. Some speckled trout have been found as far north as Eastern Bay. 

Bottom fishing in the lower Patuxent River, Solomons Island, Tangier Sound, and St. Mary’s River should be steady into the first few weeks of August. Some flounder are being caught in the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds along channel edges and adjacent hard shoals, and around Point Lookout and Cornfield Harbor. Croaker have been rare with only a few small ones reported, mainly in Virginia waters. 

A reminder that the main stem of the Potomac River will remain closed to striped bass fishing through August 20. The tidal rivers on the Maryland side of the river will stay closed until August 1.

Recreational crabbing has been tough for most crabbers this year, with some large ones up to 9 inches being caught in the upper Bay. There has been some success reported in the Severn River and Annapolis areas. Recreational crabbers can catch anywhere from a couple dozen good crabs up to a half bushel or more with trotline gear. Generally, catch in the lower Bay has been lagging behind the middle and upper Bay regions with some decent action between Deale and the West and Rhode rivers last week. In recent years, most savvy crabbers find using razor clams will produce better catches, while others rely on the old standby, chicken necks.

Freshwater Fishing
Photo of man in a small boat holding a smallmouth bass

Angler Wade Elwood caught this 4-pound, 9-ounce Potomac River smallmouth bass. Photo by Josh Henesy

Our inland fisheries biologist and resident muskie expert Josh Henesey reports that the upper Potomac River continues to run low and clear. Anglers are still experiencing excellent fishing throughout the river for smallmouth bass; particularly in the morning and evening hours. As flows continue to drop, bass become more concentrated in the slightly deeper pockets of water. 

A nuisance algae species has returned with a vengeance since reporting last week. It is suspected that the milder weather last week lowered water temperatures back into the optimal growing range reported for this species. 

Freshwater biologists have been conducting the annual seining survey for smallmouth bass juvenile recruitment. Preliminary observations suggested an excellent hatch; however the survey thus far has indicated below-average numbers. There appears to be some fish health issues that are impacting juvenile smallmouth, in particular — staff are currently collecting samples of these fish to identify the cause. A detailed summary will be available following the conclusion of this survey. 

As we reported last week, both channel and flathead catfish species are found in high abundances and have been providing recreational opportunities throughout the river. These species tend to seek out deeper water during daylight hours with abundant woody debris. At night, which is the most common time for angling, larger fish move into the shallows to feed. Channel catfish can be caught on a variety of dead baits, including chicken liver and cut fish, while flatheads tend to be more selective and finicky, and prefer live baits. 

Invasive snakehead continue to strike plastic frogs, spinners, buzzbaits, paddletails, and chatterbaits in the usual locations including the tidal rivers north of Baltimore and the Blackwater area on the eastern shore.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
Photo of man and woman holding a large mahi-mahi, or dolphinfish.

Angler Tracy Dunaway with an impressive 41.5-inch fork length mahi-mahi which is a nice catch for an inshore party boat. Photo by Monty Hawkins

Recent reports from the Atlantic coast indicated continued improvement of water clarity in the surf. Anglers are catching kingfish, small croaker, and spot on pieces of bloodworm or Fishbites. Those fishing with cut spot strips are catching small bluefish and flounder. There was also a showing of large red drum in the surf.

At the inlet and back bays, there have been decent numbers of mainly sub-legal striped bass. Most are working white soft plastic jigs or bucktails dressed with a curly tail, and the “Roy Rig” lure near the South Jetty and near the Route 50 Bridge. Small and medium-sized bluefish are running in and out of the inlet and back bay areas.

In the back bay areas, the summer fishing focus continues to be on flounder and they are being found in the usual channel areas of Assawoman and Sinepuxent bays, the “Thoroughfare” near the Route 50 Bridge, and the backside of Assateague Island near the Verrazano Bridge. Drifting with traditional baits of squid strips or minnows is popular, and working large soft plastic jigs and Gulp baits in white or pink work well for the larger flounder. 

The wreck and artificial reef sites continue to provide excellent fishing for black sea bass. Flounder have also been caught around the artificial reef and wreck sites around the edges of the structure. Mahi-Mahi — known as dolphinfish — have also showed up inshore, creating some excitement for party boat anglers.

Most of the offshore action has been with yellowfin tuna and deep dropping with dead baits for swordfish. Reports indicated success with trolling for yellowfin tuna at the Washington canyon, but it has slowed down in recent days. Anglers also reported that several hooked yellowfin tuna were bitten off by hammerhead sharks. Trolling the canyons is producing a mix of yellowfin tuna, dolphin, and the occasional white and blue marlin. 

Highly migratory species are being caught off the Maryland coast. The Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that a catch card must be completed and exchanged for a tag to land bluefin tuna, swordfish, billfishes, or sharks in Maryland. Details and forms for the Catch Card Census are available on the DNR website.

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