Our usual disclosure: Fishing reports published in print are generalized and weeks may have passed before the report gets into your hands, so for timely up-to-date reports, visit our Fishing Reports online. Current reports will be published every Friday by noon — just in time for your weekend fishing adventures. In the meantime, here’s our monthly prognostication.

fishing reports editor dillon waters
Our intrepid fishing reports editor Dillon Waters shows off his most special catch of the 2023 season. “You wouldn’t believe how hard it fought,” he says, “at first I thought I had hooked a tarpon.”


February is not the month best known for intense fishing action at the beach, but there will still be some fish around. The perpetual wintertime favorite is the tautog. Though these fish can be frustrating to catch you’ll find them on most of the inshore wreck and reef sites, and they’ll bite right through the winter. There’s often a shot at stripers, too, though just where the bulk of the fish will decide to spend the winter is always an open question.


In some parts of our region you’ll want an ice auger and tip-ups to go fishing this February, and in others, launching a boat on open water will be no problem. Just what the weather has in store we can’t predict, but we do know that species like yellow perch, crappie, and walleye will bite no matter how cold it may be. A word to the wise: at this time of year, few offerings can match a live, wiggling minnow.


The two bites that carry anglers through the chill of the season, blue catfish and yellow perch, can be counted on to stay active through this month. Also note that bass will be feeding, and last February several anglers reported some good accidental largemouth action in the Gunpowder and Elk rivers while searching for yellow neds.


In the rivers that support yellow perch runs now is a great time to fish channels and holes just downriver of the spawning areas. Pickerel sharpies on the hunt for toothy monsters will have a different game plan in mind, though. February is usually the peak of pickerel action and now is when 26- and 27-inch trophies often come to the net.


In the tribs and creeks yellow perch will be staging downriver of spawning grounds and pickerel will be highly active, too. But if this year is anything like last year anglers will be getting out onto the Bay and looking for birds from just outside of Eastern Bay clear down to PLO, hoping to catch and release the rockfish of their lifetime. Considering how good the bite was for 40-plus-inch fish in December, we’re thinking that trophy hunting in the Mid Bay holds a lot of promise in February.

winter striper on the chesapeake bay
Will those mammoth stripers be around this winter, like they were in 2023? Henry is sure hoping the answer is yes!


The forecast for the Lower Bay mirrors that for the Middle Bay zone, with the promise of panfish in the tribs overshadowed by the oh so tempting possibility of catching a new PB rockfish. Who’s ready to rumble?


Most of the action in this neck of the woods will likely be taking place up the tribs, where pickerel, perch, bass, crappie, and catfish will all be chewing as they await warmer weather. Remember to look in the holes especially during falling and low tides, but when the water level is high and shallow flats get flooded and warmed by an afternoon sun, those pickerel can move into skinny water and go into a feeding frenzy. ESVA challenge: will any bold angler search out a winter red or two? They were still there in late December and two years running they’ve been confirmed on the west side during February, so…


While areas up the tribs will be seeing the same panfish runs as up north, unless we get a deep freeze there’s a shot at rockfish, redfish, and specks in the inlets and the Elizabeth. If you hope to target stripers for catching and releasing remember that night fishing under the lights of buildings, piers, and bridges tends to be best. Of course, in this neck of the woods there’s always the temptation of zipping out and hitting the inshore wrecks and reefs, too. Decisions, decisions!