Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary C. Ronald Franks has announced that in an annual survey measuring striped bass spawning success in Chesapeake Bay, the 2005 striped bass (rockfish) scored 17.8, well above the 52-year average of 12.0. During this year's survey, DNR biologists collected 2,348 young-of-year striped bass. The Choptank River index was the highest documented since 2001. Striped bass reproduction in the Upper Bay and Potomac River was slightly above average, but reproduction in the Nanticoke River was well below average.
The survey documents spawning success of other species as well. American shad reproduction was very high for the sixth consecutive year, particularly in the Potomac River. White perch reproduced at average levels throughout Maryland's portion of the bay. Juvenile spot were abundant as far north as the Susquehanna Flats. Biologists documented a modest increase in the juvenile Atlantic menhaden population, but spawning success is still well below levels in the 1970s.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's District sector remains extremely muddy, but anglers fishing some of the downriver creeks such as Mattawoman and Powell creeks caught good numbers of one- to two-pound tidewater largemouths. Most were taken during the first few hours of ebb tide while casting a variety of weedless rigged plastic worms and grubs. Channel catfish are still available in Washington Channel and the river's main channel just above Fletcher's Landing. Most were taken on bottom-fished chicken livers and cut fish baits.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's upper reaches are beginning to clear, but smallmouth bass fishing remains slow.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The Susquehanna River remains muddy, but there were reports of good smallmouth bass catches between Halifax and Duncannon, where bronzebacks to six pounds slammed tube lures rigged to quarter-ounce leadheads. Downriver in Conowingo Lake, most of the spring-fed tributaries are relatively clear, and the majority held fair numbers of smallmouth bass and channel catfish last weekend. The best catches of both were made on live minnows fished close to the bottom.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Both impoundments provided good weekend bass fishing, particularly in the lower reaches where the water was clearer. Lots of smaller bass weighing one to three pounds were caught and released by anglers casting plastic grubs and deep-diving crankbaits from shore. The upper reaches of both lakes provided good numbers of channel catfish, mainly weighing two to four pounds.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- The lake continues to provide fall anglers with good catches of big white perch, some measuring up to 14 inches long. The passage of last week's cold front, however, could send the fish scurrying for deeper water downlake, out of reach for boating and shorebound anglers. The reservoir's lower reaches are still closed to the public for security reasons, and fishing is not permitted downlake of Loch Raven Drive Bridge. Uplake of Dulaney Valley Bridge, weekend anglers caught and released good numbers of chunky largemouth bass to four pounds, mostly while casting spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits.
LAKE ANNA -- Lower nighttime temperatures dropped the impoundment's water temperatures to an average of 73 degrees in many areas, and although the lake is still a bit murky, the shallows are clear enough to provide fair catches of chunky largemouth bass. Most were taken on soft plastic lures, but a few were nailed using spinnerbaits and noisy topwater plugs. Mark Welch of Baltimore bagged a largemouth weighing 4 pounds 4 ounces. Striped bass action was fair for weekend anglers casting Sassy Shad and topwater plugs in the mouth of Pigeon Creek and the shallows near Holiday and Stubbs bridges. John and J.C. Moran caught several four-fish-limits during the past week, weighing up to 38 pounds.
UPPER BAY -- The waters of the lower Susquehanna River are still very muddy, however, there is a significant contrast in water quality at the nearby Susquehanna Flats. Apparently, aquatic vegetation at the flats did a great job of filtering sediment from last week's storm, preventing the suspended material from entering the relatively shallow waters inside the North East River's mouth. Consequently, good catches of tidewater largemouth bass and chunky white perch were made. Most of the bass were taken on Bass Assassins rigged Texas style, while the perch hit bottom-fished cut spot baits, cut menhaden and small jigging spoons fished in depths of eight to 12 feet. Striped bass to 30 inches were found foraging on schools of small menhaden late in the day, and most slammed live menhaden cast in their direction. Channel catfish to 12 pounds were found near the shores of Elk Neck State Park, with the best catches made at Turkey Point and the shores of the Elk River near the C&D Canal's entrance. It was a bust weekend for trollers and chummers who hoped to catch striped bass from the lumps and bumps south of Pooles Island. High winds and towering waves made fishing this part of the bay nearly impossible, even from the decks of large charter boats. On the few days when the weather cooperated, rockfish ranging from 12-inch throwbacks to 28-inch keepers swarmed into chum slicks established near Belvedere Shoal, Hickory Thicket and Love Point. Shorebound anglers managed to sink their hooks into fair numbers of white perch while dunking bloodworm imitations from the decks of Eastern Neck Island Bridge and a few jetties near Tollchester Beach.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- White perch to 10 inches and striped bass ranging from throwbacks to 19 inches were found among the pilings of both spans of Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Most of the rockfish hit small jigging spoons fished near the old span's manmade islands, while the larger perch seemed to be taking refuge among shallow pilings on the eastern shore side of the bridges. High winds made chumming near Brick House Bar nearly impossible most of the past week, but a few local charter captains tried their luck trolling tandem bucktails and managed to catch stripers to 20 inches while working the eastern channel edge. Shorebound anglers that fished Kent Narrows with bloodworm imitations and clam strips at night caught a mix of white perch to 10 inches and fair numbers of throwback stripers.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- Most of the past week's action was along the river's northern shore, where boating anglers sought protection from strong northwest winds. Lots of small striped bass to 19 inches were caught on small jigging spoons, but keepers were rare. Upriver, the Route 50 bridge contingency continues to deck a mix of channel catfish, white perch and small stripers while dunking bloodworm imitations and chunks of peeler crab beneath the span at night.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Area charter captains who braved the elements fished the bay's western channel edge, where they found limited shelter from the prevailing northwest winds. Most returned to the docks with limit catches of striped bass and bluefish to 24 inches. Chummers found similar-size fish at The Gooses and Stone Rock, where cut menhaden baits drifted into the slicks produced the best results.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Local charter captains managed to exit the river and fish some locations along the bay's western channel edge last Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday wind and wave conditions were such that most remained tied to the docks. Earlier in the week good catches of striped bass ranging from throwbacks to 32 inches were made just outside the river's mouth and south to Point No Point Light. Bluefish to eight pounds were frequently mixed with the stripers, and at least one angler reported hooking and losing a big shark while chumming for striped bass. Most were taken while trolling tandem bucktails trimmed with large Sassy Shad.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- On days when the weather cooperated, most of the charter fleet opted to venture to the bay's eastern channel edge near buoy 72A, where they chummed for a mix of striped bass and bluefish, both of which measured up to 24 inches. A few boats tried their luck bottom-fishing in Tangier Sound near Puppy Hole and Old Number Nine, most reported modest catches of small croaker and a few keeper weakfish.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- The charter fleet managed to go fishing a couple of days last week, mainly along the bay's western shore, where they limited out on rockfish and nailed quite a few bluefish to seven pounds. Shorebound anglers caught lots of tiny spot, most of which were used as bait for bluefish and striped bass. The spot hit bottom-fished bloodworms and clam strips.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- Too windy to fish for most of the past two weeks, but the one day anglers managed to sneak out of Cape Charles Harbor they found dozens of citation-size flounder to 26 inches lurking among the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's pilings near the high-rise bridge. Anglers fishing with live spot along the bay's eastern channel edge on the same day caught a mix of slammer bluefish to eight pounds and red drum to 50 inches.
OCEAN CITY -- The offshore charter and headboat fleet were tied to the dock through the entire week, but shorebound anglers managed to sink their hooks into some keeper striped bass while casting bucktails from the decks of the Route 50 bridge at night.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- A mix of sea mullet, spot and puppy drum were caught from the barrier islands adjacent to both inlets, but offshore fishing was out of the question for nearly two weeks.
OUTER BANKS -- Last week the Nags Head beaches were plagued with wads of Sargasso weed that had washed ashore. This week, the winds blew from the opposite direction, lowering water temperatures and preventing the offshore fleet from leaving the inlets. Surf and pier anglers caught a mix of snapper bluefish, sea mullet, pompano and a few big red drum.