Maryland Fishing Report Week of August 19th, 2020

Summer fishing trips with the kids are always filled with fun — one never knows what will occur.

For anglers who also enjoy catching Maryland’s natural beauty on camera, the Department of Natural Resources 17th Annual Photo Contest is taking entries through Aug. 31. Instructions, rules, and other details are available on the DNR website.

All areas of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal rivers are closed to striped bass fishing from Aug. 16 through Aug. 31. This closure is done to lessen catch-and-release mortality that can be caused by high water temperatures and low oxygen values.

Forecast Summary: Aug. 19 – Aug. 25:For the latest detailed fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to check out Click Before You Cast. For information on oxygen conditions, see Maryland’s latest hypoxia report.

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Upper Chesapeake Bay

Photo of boy holding a white perch

Photo by Eric Packard


The Conowingo Dam continues on a robust afternoon power generation schedule. In the mornings when flows are down, there is good fishing for large flathead catfish in the dam pool. Casting out fresh cut bait of gizzard shad or white perch tends to be one of the more popular ways to fish for them. Others are placing cut bait on jig heads and casting out into the pool.

Blue catfish and channel catfish are being caught in the lower Susquehanna and Elk rivers on fresh cut baits, clam snouts, and various other baits. The channel edges and some of the holes found in the main body of the rivers are generally holding excellent numbers of catfish. The other tidal rivers in the region also hold healthy populations of channel catfish and a scattering of blue catfish. The Chester River is one exception, where large numbers of blue catfish are present.

All tidal rivers and creeks in the upper bay have great fishing opportunities for white perch. Casting beetle-spins and similar lures offers a lot of light-tackle action along shoreline structure. Fallen trees, sunken wood, docks, and piers as well as jetty rocks all offer fun fishing in the mornings and evenings. Fishing from shore or a dock with a simple bottom rig baited with pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp is another fun way to fish for them. Out in the bay, white perch can be found on various shoal and reef locations as well as the bridge piers at the Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

Middle Bay

Photo of boy holding a Spanish mackerel

Tyler Burggaff is all smiles with this nice Spanish mackerel. Photo courtesy of Alison Cogan


Now that striped bass are off the table for anglers in the Chesapeake Bay until Aug. 31, there are plenty of other fish species to focus on — speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish are at the top of the list.

Speckled trout can be found along the shallower areas near grass beds, prominent points with good current flow, creek mouths, and stump fields from Kent Island to Hoopers Island. The mouth of the Little Choptank and the cuts between upper and lower Hoopers Island are excellent places to find speckled trout this week. Casting 4-inch to 5-inch soft plastics in a variety of colors on a jig head has been the ticket to this show. Popular colors are white, pink, and the all-time favorite, pearl with lots of sparkle flakes. Zara Spooks in silver are a fun topwater lure to use. The early morning and late evening hours are the best times to fish these areas, and a good tide is important. Drifting peeler crab baits when a falling tide is running out of the tidal creeks or cuts is an excellent way to catch them.

Spanish mackerel have moved into the region and can be found mostly along the edges of the shipping channel, where bait in the form of bay anchovies are being swept along by strong currents. Trolling at a good clip with #1 gold Drone or Clark spoons has been a popular item behind  #1 or  #2 planers or heavy inline weights. Silver Clark spoons will work also as well as Drone spoons with stripes of color such as chartreuse running through them.

The Spanish mackerel have been mixing it up with bluefish and 2-year old striped bass chasing schools of bay anchovies and can be found by looking for bird activity or slicks. Diving gulls are always a dead giveaway to where the action is. Casting metal jigs beyond the edge of the surface action, allowing the jig to sink, and then speed reeling is a good way to catch the Spanish mackerel.

Casting spoons or jigs to the surface action will usually get you into the bluefish. If you use a barrel swivel for your leader, make sure it is black, although even that will not always prevent you from getting cut off by those sharp flashing bluefish teeth. Most of the bluefish are in the 0.75-pound range, which is ideal for eating.

The tidal rivers are full of channel catfish which offer plenty of fun action and some pretty good eating. Most any kind of fresh cut bait is a good choice to fish on a bottom rig, but clam snouts, chicken liver, or even chicken breast can be a good bait. Blue catfish can be found in good numbers in the upper Choptank and Nanticoke rivers.

White perch are always a great summer treat near the many docks and piers that dot the shorelines of the region, and there are plenty of large perch to entertain anglers young and old. The perch tend to stick close to any kind of structure they can find, whether it is sunken wood, rocks or a dock’s pilings where a good current is running.

Casting beetle spins or similar spinners during the morning and evening hours along shoreline structure provides some wonderful ultra-light action. Small chartreuse Clousers with some Krystal Flash tied in and worked on a sinking tip with a light fly rod is also a real pleaser to any fly fisherman. Fishing with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm on a simple bottom rig is a fun way to fish for white perch, especially with our younger anglers. Many a seasoned angler will tell you that as a child, their first catch was a white perch.

Lower Bay

The main stem of the Potomac River remains closed to all striped bass fishing until Aug. 20 and all of Maryland’s tributaries until Aug. 31. There are some exciting species that are present in the lower bay, offering some wonderful fishing opportunities.

Photo of man holding a small red drum

Eric Packard holds a small red drum. Photo by Eric Packard

Speckled trout are providing exciting opportunities along the shores of the lower bay and many of the region’s tidal rivers and creeks. The morning and evening hours are the most productive times to be casting soft plastic jigs near prominent points, stump fields, and marsh edges where grass is present. Soft plastics in the 4-inch to 5-inch range in pearl with sparkle flakes in them tend to be the most popular lure choice. Silver Zara Spooks can also be a great choice in the early morning or late evening hours and offer fun topwater action. Drifting peeler or soft crab baits in the swift ebbing currents of small tidal creeks are another excellent way to fish. These methods will also entice small puppy drum to be part of the mix. Unfortunately most of the puppy drum being encountered fail to meet the 18-inch to 27-inch slot limit.

Spanish mackerel can be found in excellent numbers out in the main stem of the bay and mostly along the steeper edges of the shipping channel. Trolling a mix of #1 Drone and Clark spoons behind #1 and #2 planers or heavy inline weights has been one of the more popular ways to catch them. Gold tends to be the most productive color. The steep edges near Buoy 72A and down to Buoy 68 has been one of the better places to troll, but the western side of the shipping channel and near Point Lookout have been producing some excellent catches.

The Spanish mackerel are feeding on schools of bay anchovies and at times they will be in the thick of it, along with bluefish. The action usually can be pinpointed by flocks of diving seagulls joining in on the melee. Other times surface slicks will reveal that the party just subsided but there is often action going on deep below the surface. These are times when a good depth finder and the ability to read marks are valuable assets. Trolling along the outside edges is often a good bet but one should never troll through the middle of breaking fish, especially if other anglers are casting into the fray.

Photo of state record sheepshead caught by Daniel Mastronardi Jr.

Daniel Mastronardi Jr. holds up the new Chesapeake Division Maryland state record sheepshead. Photo courtesy of Daniel Mastronardi Jr.

Casting into breaking fish can offer some fun and exciting light-tackle action. If Spanish mackerel are your target, the best tactic is to cast over and beyond the breaking fish, allow your metal jig to sink a bit, and then reel as fast as you can. A slower retrieve closer to the surface will bring you into the midst of bluefish.

Below the layers of bay anchovies, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel often lie large red drum. At times they stay close to the bottom picking up injured or fleeing bay anchovies, and other times they’ll come charging up through it all. Working large soft plastic jigs or spoons down deep is rewarding anglers with some exciting catch-and-release action.

Anglers who are watching for cobia to swim close to the surface are picking them up now and then by pitching live eels or large soft plastics to them. The area around the Target Ship, the Mud Leads, and over to Point Lookout are popular places to look. The Target Ship is a draw for other species of fish also such as speckled trout. One lucky angler fishing with peeler crab picked up a 14.1-pound sheepshead to break the standing record from 2017 caught in the same general area.

Fishing for a mix of spot and white perch could hardly be better in places like the mouth of the Patuxent River, the lower Potomac near Cornfield Harbor, and Tangier Sound. Many of the spot are now large enough for table fare. The most popular bait has been pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig. Those bottom fishing are also catching a mix of bluefish and speckled trout. Those that take the time to target flounder in the Tangier Sound area are catching them along channel edges.

Recreational crabbers reported a bit of a slowdown in regard to catches this past weekend which may be due to algae blooms and the influx of runoff. The best catches of crabs are being reported along the 12-foot to 15-foot edges; any shallower and baits are getting chewed up by smaller crabs. Most are reporting a bushel of crabs per outing in the middle and lower bay regions and a half-bushel in the upper bay. Razor clams continue to be the bait of choice for those who are serious about their crabbing.

Freshwater Fishing

The western and central trout management waters that are designated for catch and release are offering some fun and challenging fly fishing opportunities. Trout tend to be loafing this time of the year but can still be enticed to pick up a few tidbits. Terrestrial imitations of beetles, ants, and grasshoppers are excellent choices when casting under overhanging trees or near overhanging banks. A midge nymph tied in as a dropper under a larger fly is also a good choice.

Deep Creek Lake has much to offer in regards to fishing this week. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found relatively shallow at dawn and late in the evenings near grass and shoreline structure. As the day progresses they will move into cool shade under floating docks and moored boats or go to deep grass beds. Bluegills can be found near docks and grass beds, trout will be holding deep along the dam face.

Smallmouth bass fishing in the upper Potomac River is best in the early morning hours, Small grubs, tubes and crankbaits work best in the deeper waters; topwater lures work at first light in the shallow grassy areas.

Largemouth bass can be found feeding in the shallower areas of lakes, ponds and tidal waters in the early morning or late evening hours. Topwater lures such as frogs, buzzbaits and soft plastics are good choices for this type of fishing. As the morning hours wear on and the sun bears down, bass will retreat to deeper waters seeking cool shade. Deep and thick grass, bridge piers, docks, and overhanging brush and fallen treetops over fairly deep waters are great places to fish for them. This time of the year life is good for these fish — there is plenty to eat and when they are loafing in the shade it can take some patience to entice them to pick up a snack. Try using small wacky rigged stick worms or soft plastics and work them very slow and keep at it. They may not pick up a bait at first glance and eventually being annoyed may work against them.

Fishing for northern snakeheads remains good. They can be found back in the thick grassy areas or near the edges. Topwater soft frogs are one of the most popular lures for working grass but buzzbaits and chatterbaits can also work well. Live minnows and soft plastic swimbaits work well on the edges of grass and spatterdock. Northern snakeheads can be found in every tidal river of the bay and the Patapsco, Chester, Nanticoke, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers hold the greatest numbers.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Photo of man holding a flounder

Photo courtesy of Brian Bokulic


There are plenty of kingfish being caught in the surf this week along with spot, bluefish, and flounder. Pieces of bloodworm on a bottom rig are working well for the kingfish and spot. Bluefish are being caught on finger mullet or cut mullet baits. Squid strips are working well for catching flounder. The best fishing success by far happens in the early morning hours.

At the inlet there are plenty of bluefish to be caught; most anglers are casting and jigging with bucktails or Got-Cha lures. Drifting cut mullet bait has been working well for others. Those fishing for flounder near the inlet are catching flounder on traditional squid and minnow baits as well as Gulp baits. Bluefish will take these baits as well. The back bay channels are holding flounder for those drifting the channels or their edges during a good running tide.

The boats heading out to the offshore wreck and reef sites continue to enjoy excellent fishing for sea bass and large flounder. Rail huggers on the party boats are catching some nice sea bass and limit catches are not uncommon. Those fishing with squid or Gulp baits are catching some impressive flounder and a few patrons are being treated to a small dolphinfish now and then.

The boats stopping at some of the 30-fathom lumps such as the Hot Dog are chunking for yellowfin tuna. Success has been up and down and each day is different. The boats heading out to the canyons are enjoying trolling for a mix of white marlin, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, and dolphin. Some of the dolphin are gaffers and boats are stopping near lobster buoys and breaking out the spinning gear to catch large numbers of small or “chicken” dolphin. Those wishing to do a little deep drop fishing are catching blueline tilefish.

“Civilization is a harsh fact, but with a little imagination we dreamers can deal with it. As long as the fish don’t know that the rumble is a truck or a train, not thunder, I can pretend as well; the choice between the dream and the reality is still an easy one. ” — Gene Hill

Maryland Fishing Report is written and compiled by Keith Lockwood, Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.