Striped bass anglers in the middle Bay are reminded that summer striped bass season started on May 16, with a 19-inch size limit; and some sections of tidal rivers are still closed. The entire Bay and all rivers will open on June 1.
Striped bass trophy season wrapped up on May 15, and we are now in the summer striped bass season in the lower Bay. Anglers have been trolling along the steep edges of the shipping channels with 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. Trollers will now be downsizing lures to smaller shad on umbrella rigs, double bucktail rigs, and plastic hoses (surgical tube lures).
Trolling parachutes, bucktails, and Mojos with large, 9-inch sassy shads in white or chartreuse rigged in tandem or behind umbrella rigs will catch some of the late season, lingering trophy striped bass. Downsizing your lures will catch more small and medium sized striped bass. Chartreuse colors tend to work better in turbid, muddy water and white works well in clear water.
Light-tackle jig and fly anglers enjoyed some success for striped bass during the first half 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 leadheads are used to target medium and large striped bass. Chunking for striped bass near Dollys Lump or Hackett’s Bar will produce some large striped bass, but you must use non-offset circle hooks.
Traditional areas to troll for medium and 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.
We have not received any red drum reports yet but we are getting exciting news that speckled trout have been showing up along the lower Eastern Shore marshes and shorelines, and they were being caught on paddle tail lures 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 help the conservation effort to 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.