Maryland Weekly Fishing Report March 21, 2012

The warm weather continues this week as we move into the second official day of spring. Everything seems to be bursting at the seams as flowering trees are in full bloom everywhere. The spawning runs of the yellow perch and white perch are over now and the first spawn of striped bass, although small in stature occurred Monday evening on the Choptank River. The first hickory shad have also been caught on the lower Susquehanna River, so our spring is quickly moving along.

Fishermen have shifted gears this week now that the yellow perch and white perch spawning runs are over. There are still both yellow and white perch to be caught if one can find them in the middle and lower sections of the tidal rivers as the perch head down river. Due to the depth of water in the channels most fishermen are finding they have to use a bottom rig and sinker to hold in the current. Bloodworms are the bait of choice but garden worms or nightcrawlers can stretch your bait budget out a bit, if you mix the garden worms up with the juice from the bloodworms when cutting them up in pieces.

Perhaps some of the best fishing this week in the middle sections of the tidal rivers is fishing for catfish. Water temperatures are just about ideal for channel, bullhead, white, flathead and blue catfish. Channel catfish are perhaps the most common in our tidal rivers and a few selected reservoirs and lakes and can be caught on cut bait such as white perch, chicken livers or nightcrawlers. They make excellent table fare and offer some fun action. White catfish are common in the bays tidal rivers and creeks and are actually a light gray in color, have a large mouth and head and an appetite to go with it. Flathead catfish at the moment are mostly found in the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam and can be rather large. Most catfish eating experts agree that they are one of the finest catfish for eating and this author would agree after frying some up in chipotle panko recently. This is the fabled catfish that is caught by hand by some in the southern art form called noodling. The last guy on the list is the blue catfish which like the flathead is considered an invasive species of concern by fisheries biologists because of their ability to reproduce at a high rate, their large size, appetite for any live fish they encounter and their propensity to migrate to other river systems. The tidal Potomac River at the moment contains the largest number of blue catfish but they have been caught recently as far north as Baltimore Harbor and east to the Nanticoke River. The large size they attain can be attested by the recent new state record of 80 lbs, 12oz by Shawn Wetzel while fishing near Fort Washington on the tidal Potomac. Click here to learn more about Shawn's catfish and blue catfish in Maryland.

Striped bass are moving into the tidal river spawning areas this week and some are being found out in the bay as they head up the bay to the upper bay spawning areas at the Susquehanna Flats region. A few fishermen are shaking out the bugs in their boats and trolling gear and gently practicing catch and release with striped bass along the shipping channel edges. Light tackle fishermen are trying some jigging at the warm water discharge out in front of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. A report from our southern neighbors at the mouth of the Chesapeake is that croakers, small bluefish and flounder are moving up the bay.

At the Susquehanna Flats area fishermen have been out poking around looking for some catch and release striped bass action; but are mostly finding they are enjoying the beautiful weather and hungry white perch and channel catfish. Water temperatures are hovering near 50-degrees in the area so fishing with bait such as bloodworms or cut menhaden and circle hooks is usually the best way to fish when water temperatures are chilly. A few more degrees of warmth and the striped bass will begin to hit jigs and crankbaits. A few hickory shad are being caught in the lower Susquehanna River and it is a good sign for catch and release fishermen waiting for the action to begin at Deer Creek.

Freshwater fishermen seem to have it all right now; just about every species of freshwater fish is hungry and active due to near perfect water temperatures. Everything from bluegills to muskies and everything in between is providing wonderful fishing opportunities and did I mention the weather? Trout fishermen are enjoying the catch and release management areas and put and take fishermen are enjoying the pre-season stocking efforts of the fisheries crews. Fishermen on the upper Potomac River and Deep Creek Lake are enjoying some wonderful catch and release action with walleyes and smallmouth bass are hungry also. Largemouth bass are providing a lot of fun fishing for fishermen in just about every pond, lake, reservoir and river throughout the state. The bass are moving out of deeper water now and cruising along edges of emerging grass beds and transition zones of water depth. Fishermen are employing chatterbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits in the shallower areas and jigs, soft plastics and crankbaits in the transition zones; all with good success. Herb Floyd holds up a nice largemouth before returning it to the water in a small pond he was fishing.

Fishermen in the Ocean City area started to see the first tautog being caught inside the inlet this week and the fishing will only get better as water temperatures slowly creep up. The warm weather has also brought out fishermen to try their luck in the surf along the beaches. Most fishermen are using fishing bottom rigs baited with fresh cut menhaden and are finding a mix of hungry dogfish and skates eager to chew up baits. A few nice striped bass are being caught which makes the effort all the worth while. Inside the 3-mile marker fishermen continue to pick away at large striped bass by trolling along the shoal areas.

Farther offshore the inside wrecks and artificial reefs are producing some whopper sized tautog. Fishermen venturing out to the deeper waters of the continental shelf for deep drops are catching a mix of tilefish and wreck fish.

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