Striped bass trophy season will continue until May 15, and when the wind and wave conditions improve on the lower bay, anglers will be trolling along the steep edges of the shipping channels with large parachutes, bucktails, and Mojos dressed with large sassy shads. As usual, planer boards tend to produce more strikes by deploying a wide trolling spread, along with a few flat lines fished directly off the stern.
Traditional areas to troll until mid-May for large striped bass will be the channel edges at Cove Point, Cedar Point, Point No Point, and Smith Point on the western side of the bay. On the eastern side, areas include the steep channel edges from the CP Buoy south to Buoy 76, 72B, and the main channel down the center of Tangier Sound. In the lower Potomac River, the steep channel edge from Piney Point to St. Georges Island and Point Lookout will be good bets for trolling action.
Striped bass are typically swimming close to the surface during early morning hours, and boat traffic will drive them deeper in the water column during the day. Surface water temperatures are warmer than deeper waters so it is often a preferred space for striped bass in the spring.
Large parachutes, bucktails, and Mojos with large 9-inch sassy shads in white or chartreuse rigged in tandem or behind umbrella rigs are the best trolling lures for striped bass. Chartreuse colors tend to work better in the turbid and muddy waters that we are currently experiencing in many parts of the Bay. Heavy inline weights are used on the deep lines, and unweighted tandem rigs will cover the top waters. At dawn, it is common for the large striped bass to be close to the surface, but boat traffic and bright sunlight will eventually drive them deeper in the water column.
Light-tackle jig and fly anglers enjoyed some success for striped bass during the first week of May. Good areas for light tackle and fly casting include Eastern Bay, Poplar Island, and any areas where striped bass are suspended near channel edges. The warm water discharge plume at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant will most likely produce fish on jigs for the rest of May. Large soft plastic jigs in the 7-10 inch range on lead heads are used to target medium and large striped bass.
We had some exciting news that the first speckled trout of the year had shown up along the lower Eastern Shore marshes and shorelines, and they were being caught on paddle tails by kayak anglers. That fishery should improve as waters warm in the lower Bay.
Blue catfish will continue to offer fun fishing in the tidal rivers through May, and anglers can participate in a conservation effort to help diminish this invasive fish and their predatory effects on native fish populations.
Northern snakeheads are another invasive fish that has spread across every tidal river in Maryland. This is an aggressive predator that feeds on native fish populations. The tributaries to the Potomac River tend to hold some of the largest concentrations of snakeheads. The upper Patuxent River and the rivers and creeks of southern Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore are a close second. Lately anglers have been having good luck casting frogs over patches of grass, and white or chartreuse paddle tails rigged weedless are always a popular bait. A large minnow rigged under a bobber is also a good tactic when lures are not producing.
Fishing for crappie should be a good bet until waters become too warm; the cooler water temperatures allow the crappie to freely move in a variety of water depths. Structure is often the key – fallen treetops, sunken wood and brush, or marina docks are good places to look for crappie. Small marabou jigs or minnows under slip bobber, or casting jigs with a very slow retrieve are traditional methods for crappie.