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Maryland Fishing Report – April 3

Photo of man by a stream holding a fish

Matt Ferenschak took his son and his son’s friend trout fishing and although the boys both caught their limits, dad had to show them how it’s done with his trophy-sized rainbow trout. Photo by Tyler Ferenschak.

Trout anglers enjoyed their traditional opening day last Saturday and the fun fishing will continue for the next few months, as stocking crews release more trout into Maryland’s put-and-take waters.  

Forecast Summary: April 3 – April 9:

With a rainy, warm start to April, the increased river flows and the longer days will continue to slowly heat up our local Maryland waters for the progression of spawning gamefish. Main Bay surface water and river temperatures are holding at 50 degrees, although smaller streams and downwind areas will warm faster on a sunny day and can hold temperatures in the mid to upper 50s. Such areas in low salinity areas will be prime areas to look for shad as they move upriver to spawn.

Expect above average flows for most Maryland rivers and streams. As a result of recent rains, expect decreasing water clarity for most Maryland portions of rivers. To see the latest water clarity conditions, check Eyes on the Bay Satellite Maps. There will be above average tidal currents Friday through Tuesday as a result of the upcoming new moon on April 9.

For more detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area, continue to check out Click Before You Cast.

Upper Chesapeake Bay
Photo of boy holding a fish by a river bank.

Cooper Goff had fun fishing for hickory shad recently with his dad in the lower Susquehanna. Photo by Don Goff

The arrival of hickory shad in good numbers in the lower Susquehanna River is providing plenty of fun catch-and-release fishing. Most are casting small gold or silver spoons and brightly colored shad darts. These fish offer a lot of fun fishing on light tackle and the action should last for several weeks. Matt Jargowsky is our shad biologist, and he feels the American shad should start showing up in the Susquehanna River around the second week of April when temperatures are supposed to start increasing. Anglers fishing for hickory and American shad are urged to participate in the shad volunteer survey to help biologists better understand their populations.

Anglers are focusing their fishing efforts on white perch and a mix of channel and blue catfish this week now that the catch-and-release season for striped bass is over. White perch can still be found not too far below the spawning reaches and can be caught by casting small jigs tipped with grass shrimp, a piece of bloodworm, cut minnow, or a piece of artificially-scented bloodworm bait. As the perch move into deeper waters, a bottom rig baited with any of the above will be a better choice for fishing success. 

Fishing for blue catfish offers a fun and productive fishing experience for anglers this month. There are plenty of large blue catfish in the upper Bay, all the way south to the Bay Bridge. The lower Susquehanna, Middle River, Magothy and Chester rivers are all excellent places to fish for blue catfish. Channel catfish will also be found in the Bay and all the region’s tidal rivers. Fresh cut gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, or items such as chicken liver all make good baits.

A 2,000-yard vessel exclusion has been instituted at the site of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which essentially closes the mouth of the Patapsco River to boating traffic except those approved by authorities. Boaters in the Patapsco River should look for notices from the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard for any updates.

As a reminder, under emergency regulations, the Chesapeake Bay and tidal tributaries are closed to targeting striped bass from April 1 through May 15, and the Susquehanna Flats, Susquehanna River, and Northeast River, are closed to targeting striped bass from April 1 through May 31.

Middle Bay
 Photo of a dog looking at three blue catfish

Blue catfish, photo by Keith Lockwood.

White perch are still a major focus for a lot of anglers in the middle Bay region. There are plenty of white perch to be found in the upper sections of the region’s tidal rivers, including large numbers in the Choptank River between Greensboro and Denton. They are being caught by casting small jigs and shad darts in medium depth waters and bottom rigs in the deepest waters near Denton. 

Hickory shad are being caught and released in the upper sections of the Choptank River from Greensboro to Red Bridges. The best fishing is occurring near Red Bridges this week. Light spinning tackle and colorful shad darts or small shiny spoons are good lures to use. Don’t forget to enter your fishing experience in our volunteer shad survey

The Choptank River is also a good place to fish for blue catfish. The best fishing is being reported from the Dover Bridge area upriver to Denton. The catfish are holding in the deeper channels but are also venturing along the edges of the channels at times. Channel catfish are in abundance in the Choptank and Tuckahoe and much like the blue catfish can be caught on fresh cut baits like gizzard shad, menhaden, white perch, or chicken liver. Circle hooks with a 2-inch cork near and a sliding sinker rig are a very popular bottom rig to use. 

Lower Bay
Angler Gavin Cozard
Photo by Karl Prinz

Angler Gavin Cozard with a hickory shad, photo by Karl Prinz.

All catch and release of striped bass is now closed in all Maryland waters through May 15, until the summer striped bass season begins May 16. The main stem of the Potomac River from the Wilson Bridge south will be open to catch and release fishing for striped bass until May 15. Jigging will be one of the most popular ways to fish for them and those deciding to use cut bait must use circle hooks. 

Anglers are enjoying excellent hickory shad catch-and-release action at the Fletchers Landing area of the Potomac River this week. There was even the first report of a buck American shad last week so larger female American shad should be available in the very near future. Anglers report that pink shad darts and flies are very popular lure choices. Small gold/chartreuse spoons are also a popular choice for those using spinning gear.

Fishing for blue catfish can provide fishing action for larger fish that also make excellent table fare. Anglers can get in on the action from many shoreline locations on the Potomac River from the Route 301 Bridge to the Wilson Bridge. The Patuxent River is another excellent place to fish for blue catfish; the area at and above the Benedict Bridge tends to be one of the better areas to fish for them. The area near the Sharptown and Marshyhope Creek area on the Nanticoke River is another excellent place to fish for blue catfish. 

There are several charter boats that are now offering trips on the Potomac River to fish for blue catfish, and a simple Google search can find them. Sharing the charter fee with five of your fishing buddies makes this a very affordable fishing trip with plenty of action and delicious filets to take home – as an added bonus, there is no catch limit. 

White perch are moving down the upper sections of the spawning rivers and creeks this week. In many places they still can be found in waters shallow enough to catch them on small jigs and shad darts. Tipping those jigs or shad darts with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm or artificial bloodworm scented bait strips will further help entice white perch. As the perch enter deeper waters, using bottom rigs baited with grass shrimp or pieces of bloodworm is an excellent way to fish for them.

Freshwater Fishing
 Photo courtesy of Matthew Lewis

Largemouth bas, photo courtesy of Matthew Lewis.

The traditional opening day of trout season has come and gone, most anglers had a great time in the put-and-take trout management waters this past weekend. The fun is far from over as stocking crews are out every day this week and will continue in earnest for the next couple of months. Specific trout stocking details and locations can be found on our trout stocking map.

Walleye are spawning at Deep Creek Lake this week and yellow perch are soon to follow. Once spawning is completed, these fish will be actively feeding along steep shorelines and grass lines. Drifting live minnows is a popular way to fish for them. Smallmouth bass are active near rocky points and largemouth bass can be found near shoreline structure.

Fisheries biologist Josh Hennesy sent us a short report from the upper Potomac River. “With the weather this week, the river will rise quickly and be unfishable for several days. Walleye have spawned, muskellunge are next, and the smallmouth have been cooperative! Most of the bass are still inhabiting deeper pockets and have not moved into spawning areas yet.  We suspect they will transition later this month.  Fishing for both bass and walleye has been decent. Typical of springtime river fishing, every day is not created equal. You could have a banner outing one day and struggle to convince fish to bite the next. But both have been in moderate current where jerkbaits and crankbaits have been the key.”

Largemouth bass are becoming very active in their aggressive, pre-spawn feeding behavior throughout the day, caused by almost ideal water temperatures  They will be patrolling along the shallower water and if emerging grass beds can be located, those areas can provide good fishing opportunities. Working spinnerbaits and jerkbaits along these edges is a good tactic. Largemouth bass will also be exploring small feeder creek mouths and can be found holding near sunken wood or similar structure. Casting soft plastics is a good tactic in these locations. Deeper structure can also hold largemouth bass and craw jigs or crankbaits can be good lures to use there.

Northern snakeheads are slowly becoming more active, and without their favorite grass beds to hide in, they can be found near shoreline structure. Fallen brush and sunken wood will fit the bill and some of the best opportunities can occur during the afternoon on the sunny side of tidal creeks, where the waters are slightly warmer. Fishing large minnows under a bobber is a good tactic while casting white paddletails near shoreline structure. Just keep a sharp eye on that bobber. 

Chain pickerel are one fish that does not mind cold water and they can be found holding near sunken wood until  summer grass beds reach full growth. Casting a variety of lures outfitted with single hooks can offer a lot of fun fishing with chain pickerel. 

Springtime and crappie naturally go together and the season offers one of the best times of the year to catch the largest crappie. Shoreline structure in the form of fallen treetops and rocks, or deeper structure in the form of bridge piers and marina docks. all can offer excellent fishing. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber are a good way to explore locations where crappie might be holding. A slow retrieve with small lures is also a good tactic.

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays
 Tautog, photo by Monty Hawkins.

Photo by Monty Hawkins

Recent gusty winds made fishing along the beaches a bit uncomfortable, but hopefully nicer weather will be in the forecast. Anglers are fishing baits of clams, sand fleas and cut bait in search of the first black drum to move along the beaches. Dogfish and clearnose skates have been keeping anglers busy. 

Tautog are being caught inside the Ocean City Inlet near jetty rocks, bridge piers and bulkheads. A fair portion of the tautog being caught measure a bit shy of the required 16 inches, but most anglers can bring two or three legal fish home for dinner. Sand fleas and pieces of green crab are popular baits. 

Striped bass are being caught inside the inlet and near the coastal bay bridges this week. Soft plastic jigs and paddletails are good lures to use and the best fishing has been occurring in the evening hours. Most of the striped bass fail to meet the 28-inch minimum but no one is complaining about the catch and release fun.

Anglers headed out to the offshore wreck and reef sites report good fishing for tautog when the weather allows boats to head outside the inlet. Some of the tautog being caught are large, often weighing in the double-digits, which is a beautiful sized fish. Pieces of crab are the most popular baits being used.

“You can always tell a fisherman, but you can’t tell him much.” – Corey Ford

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

Click Before You Cast is written by Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Director Tom Parham.

This report is now available on your Amazon Echo device — just ask Alexa to “open Maryland Fishing Report.”