Reel Report: Rules changes for bass to keep in mind
By James Drake
Wednesday, the rules will change for striped bass fishing here in Maryland.
Instead of one big striper per angler per day, you may start keeping two, measuring at least 18 inches in length from tip of nose to end of tail, but only one of those two fish may be larger than 28 inches. Additionally, areas just inside the mouths of the Chester, Choptank and Patuxent rivers will be open to legal striped bass angling.
You still may not use eels as bait, and legal fishing hours are from 5:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. daily.
Slightly different rules apply to the Susquehanna Flats and Northeast River. These latest striper regulations will be in force until the end of May. And, if you tire of catching fish, don't forget Maryland’s spring turkey season continues until May 23.
Southern Maryland lakes and ponds The fishing in smaller waters continues to be excellent, and that’s especially so on our more cloudy, overcast days.
Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park said the largemouth bass at St. Mary’s Lake are absolutely wowing some fishermen there.
Casey McClure, park manager at Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville, told me the Fishin’ Buddies tournament held there last weekend was a huge success with decent weather plus lots and lots of willing fish. And, besides being just willing, there were some pretty fair-sized bass, catfish, crappie and bluegill caught. McClure also mentioned some trout also taken.
“They’re still around,” she said.
And, in case you need a definition of willing fish, it took a total catch of 55 bluegill to win the most fish award in that category.
Mattawoman Creek The area around Marsh Island has the best grass growth in the area and the guides from Life Outdoors Unlimited (301-937-0010) are doing OK there with Case Magic Stiks and chatterbaits. A better bet might be the nearby Occoquan and Belmont Bay grass beds and that’s despite some intense fishing pressure on both.
Upper Potomac River The recent rains have actually improved conditions on the upper river. Also, be cautioned that you must wear a life jacket up here through the end of May. Just sitting on one won’t get you out of a citation.
At Lander, it’s your choice to go upriver or down but either way, try throwing tubes. Ken Penrod, boss guide with LOU, told me the following story about fishing here last week.
“My client wanted to learn to use tubes,” he said. “On my first demo-cast, I caught a 16-inch smallmouth. On his first lesson-cast, he caught an 18-incher. I love it when a plan comes together.”
If you’re considering launching at Whites Ferry, be warned that the ramp is in terrible condition plus you’ll be charged $10 to use it. Putting your boat in at Lander or Edwards Ferry might be the better plan.
Tidal Potomac River Many largemouths were on beds with that super moon of a few days ago.
“The spawn appears to be in full swing,” said Andy Andrzejewski with the Reel Bass Adventures stable of guides.
They’re catching good numbers of fish, but the majority are males and spawned-out females. Their better baits have been Mann's Baby 1-minus cranks or a wacky-rigged stick worm fished weightless. Both should be fished very slowly, Andrzejewski cautioned.
These RBA pros are also finding nice crappie in the shallow coves along gravel banks or on downed trees and isolated wood, and they are jumping on a little crappie tube suspended beneath a bobber coated with Smelly Jelly. LOU guide Keith Barker has been doing real well in Piscataway Creek while using Mizmo tubes.
Penrod also recommended the boat docks just south of Hog Island and points in Broad Creek in spite of scant SAV. Pomonkey Creek and Pohick Bay are also worthy of some casting time.
Lower Potomac River The lower river has been one of the bright spots lately in the search for stripers throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and trollers continue to connect on nice fish.
My good friend Franco Foraci told me the waters around St. George Island had been very productive to fishermen trolling large umbrellas. Foraci also noted that the bait disappeared near St. Clements and so did the predators. Plus, he found some of the red tides had been horrible in the area.
Commercial crabbers running 200 or so pots have been coming back to the dock with only one or two bushels. Let’s hope that soon improves.
Look for better and better croaker catches in the days and weeks ahead.
Patuxent River Croaker are biting for shore fishermen around the mouth, Lamb said. Average catches now are from half dozen to enough for a decent fish fry for the whole family. The white perch should be available in the shallows if you’re throwing artificials such as a little Beetle Spin.
Deep Creek Lake Jimmy Nicols at Bill’s Outdoor Center reported the smallmouths continue to hang around spawning areas. As for the largemouths, look for them in three to six feet of water in the shallow, grassy coves. Pickerel and northern pike continue to bite well on medium to large minnows.
Lake Anna Alabama rigs drew attention last fall when used by Paul Elias to win a big money tournament at Lake Guntersville and have become the go-to bait lately at Anna to catch suspending bass.
Stripers are biting fairly well in mid-lake regions. Start your striper searches around the mouth of Contrary Creek.
The crappie action is beginning to slow down with fish now moving to deep water haunts although some are still holding on pilings and around deep docks.
Chesapeake Bay The big spring striped bass tournament held last weekend sponsored by the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association was a disappointment to many anglers who discovered some tough fishing.
Nonetheless, some of the luckier ones did connect on big fish in the 20- to 30-pound range. Weights for first through 10th place ranged from a 42.10-pounder down to a 27.70-pound fish.
Lamb recommends the best trolling location now from around Point No Point to 72-A. Lamb also has heard of trophy stripers recently caught up around the Bay Bridge. So although many fish have already left our area for the ocean, a few more will still be coming through.
My friend Capt. Sonney Forrest (443-532-0836) has a theory about the state of striper fishing around us right now. Forrest thinks the recent spawn of the May Worms has provided a boom to the stripers for easy meals, and many fish are simply full and fat.
In addition, the full moon had many of these big fish feeding at night, and the crab shedding going on now has brought good fish into the shallows.
Forrest recommends that you downsize your offerings now and troll in relatively shallow water, 25 to 45 feet in the next week or so. Also, you might want to try shoreline casting.
Lamb also reported on some nice speckled trout being caught in the shallows and flats around Tangier Sound and the Honga River. These were mainly 15- to 24-inch fish taking live minnows and soft shell crab hunks along with Gulp! Shads, bucktails and Sassy Shads. Good numbers of smaller rockfish have been found between the Potomac’s mouth to Buoy 68 and beyond.
Atlantic Ocean -- Sue Foster at Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City reported a slow flounder bite but some active tautog around town and more out by the wrecks. Some very nice striped bass were also caught from the surf this past week. Way offshore, there are bluefin and makos.