Freshwater Fishing Report, February 2024

Freshwater Fishing Report, February 23 Update:

It is getting to be that time of year where the yellow perch are getting ready to spawn but reports have been slow to come in, so it seems that the spawning run hasn’t kicked off just yet. We had a report from a reader fishing the upper Patuxent River near Jug Bay with minnow. He found plenty of catfish and a good number of largemouth bass, but no perch. The good news is that the extended forecast is calling for some warmer temperatures, so it should get the fish more active. A few readers reported in after fishing St. Mary’s Lake last weekend. They let us know that the bite was very slow to start the morning, but once the sun got up and temperatures began to warm, the action picked up. They were fishing with small crappie jigs and managed to put together a stringer of around 25 eater sized crappie. They also mentioned catching around a half a dozen pickerel and a few small bass. Contributor Eric Packard also had a good day on crappie plus some stripers in the Blue Plains area of the Potomac late this week, with the best bite in the afternoon. Fishing during the warmer part of the day in February can certainly lead to finding a better bite.

pickerel in the net
February is often prime time for chasing those pickerel, though this week we heard even more about success on crappie in the area's freshwater waterways.

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing gave us the latest report from the western trout areas. They said that dry fly fishing is getting better up in the mountains. Even with only a few bugs hatching right now, their reports are getting better from those folks fishing dry flies. They expect caddis will be coming off in the mountains and on the spring creeks soon. Fishing deep while the water is still cold will yield more and possibly bigger fish until insect hatches really mature and water temps warm up. Both the Virginia DWR and Maryland DNR have been busy stocking various locations throughout the region this week. Most of the northern and western counties in Maryland received fish so there are plenty of places to go chase them. One reader in southern Maryland reported stopping by a few of the locations that were stocked in January to see if there were any holdovers. Wheatley Lake and Governors Bridge Pond produced a few fish, but it was a slow bite overall. They did mention that they could see trout swirling but they just wouldn’t bite. More stocking should be on the way soon so make sure to visit the Maryland DNR and Virginia DWR trout stocking websites.

Freshwater Fishing Report, February 15 Update:

Warm weather this past weekend seems to have turned the bite on in many areas. Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow says some perch are already beginning to arrive in the holes closest to their spawning grounds in the tribs in the west side, and a trip to the upper Patuxent near Wayson’s Corner last weekend produced four yellow perch as well as plenty of catfish, crappie, and even some dink rockfish. All the fish hit minnow fished on darts and Sabikis in and around deep holes.

unicorn pickerel
Lucy got lucky on the pickerel!

Contributor Eric Packard made it over to St. Mary’s Lake late last week with some minnows in the bucket and reports that pickerel were willing to play off points over grass. He mentioned that a few bass were hitting, too, including one nice one that went 22”. He also visited the Eastern Shore millponds near Salisbury this week and while the pickerel bite was just so-so, good numbers of crappie and a surprising number of nice yellow perch up to 12.5” were biting. Minnow on small white bucktails did the trick and jerkbaits were getting hit by the pickerel. We also had a reader report of action on pickerel from Unicorn Mill Pond near Millington.

We checked in with freshwater correspondent Jim Gronaw to get the latest report for winter fishing in the central Maryland region. Jim said that they are catching a fair amount of largemouth bass in the two-to-three-pound range with the occasional four pounder. Z-Man TRD Neg Rigs fished on the edges of weed beds have been working best. Some fish have taken the Damiki Vault blade baits fished with a slower lift/drop retrieve and some bass are also taking the Z-Man Micro Finesse baits intended for crappies when fished 3 to 5 feet below a bobber. Jim says he likes to fish during a falling barometer associated with incoming cold fronts and during warm/windy afternoons. Crappie have been harder to pattern this winter. He likes to use the four- and three-quarter inch Rocket Bobber with Z-Man Micro Finesse baits on 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jigheads. wind-blown shorelines seem to hold fish as they move toward warmer water along the banks. Chartreuse and Electric Chicken are preferred colors.

Freshwater Fishing Report, February 9 Update:

Mild temperatures are giving us the first taste of spring this week. Water temperatures are still cold, but warmer air temps should kick of a decent bite as we head into the weekend. Contributor Eric Packard said the bite was tough at times this week, and in two days of fishing (one at local lakes and ponds and the other on the Patuxent) he caught just one bass. It was a nice one but fishing early this week in the chilly temps was “a grind.” The yellow perch have started to get more active this week on the tidal tributaries as more reports start to trickle in. The run hasn’t cut loose yet, but the fish are starting to stage at the headwaters of their spawning grounds. Fish are being caught anywhere from the lower Susquehanna River to the Magothy River. Grass shrimp and live minnows floated under a bobber are out catching other baits.

big bass on a ruler
The bass fishing was a grind early this week, but should pick up with the warming temperatures. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Trout fishing is really picking up as we are entering a more stable weather pattern. Mossy Creek let us know that the western streams are looking perfect right now. They recommend that anglers have plenty of nymphs, small streamers, split shot, indicators, and a few small dry flies handy in the event a hatch comes off. The bass fishing will be better as the larger rivers have dropped and cleaned up significantly from last week. Warming temps should get the bass and musky moving around a bit more as we approach the end of the week. State agencies have been busy stocking various locations in our region, so there are more than enough reasons to get out and fish. We had a report from an angler who hit a few stocked locations in Prince Georges County who said the bite was slow but steady over a few hours. Allen Pond was the most productive this week and the trout were preferring spinners over other bait. They also mentioned that they caught some eater size crappie while floating minnows under a bobber. Check out the Virginia DWR trout stocking website and the Maryland DNR trout stocking website to get the latest information on where fish are being stocked. This weekend’s forecast is calling for weather that will feel more like April than February, so enjoy the weather and catch some fish!

Freshwater Fishing Report, February 2 Update:

Mossy Creek Fly Fishing gave us the latest from the western trout areas. They said that last weekend’s rains dumped over two inches in many areas, so it will likely be another week until the big rivers are back to fishable conditions. The smaller trout streams and spring creeks are in good shape and should continue to improve into this weekend. They recommend using big streamers and heavy leaders in these conditions and that using appropriate weights to get into the strike zone is particularly important. Virginia DWR was out stocking many places this week including Dry River and North River. Maryland DNR was also stocking this week in central Maryland. Make sure to check the Virginia DWR trout stocking website and the Maryland DNR trout stocking website for up-to-date information. There are plenty of fish in local waterways, so go out and catch them up.

crappie fishing on the eastern shore
Herb found a nice crappie willing to bite on the Eastern Shore.

Contributor Eric Packard hit the Eastern Shore millponds several times this week and found a decent pickerel bite, catching a half dozen per afternoon of fishing plus crappie and yellow perch. Pickerel fishing is still one of the most reliable freshwater fishing opportunities this time of year. Most of the major reservoirs, upper Bay tidal creeks, and various locations on the Eastern Shore have plenty of them to target. Cold water temperatures usually require a slow retrieve, but a few warm afternoons can trigger the pickerel to have an aggressive bite, so keep an eye on the weather. Live minnows work great, but if you can’t get live bait, a variety of lures including spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and paddletails are very effective.

Reports have started to trickle in from anglers targeting yellow perch on the Bay tribs. The fish have started to stage at the mouths of the tidal creeks and are being caught in just about all the upper Bay tidal rivers from the Magothy up to the Susquehanna. Searching around different creeks and deeper holes until you find a school of fish is the best tactic. Live minnows floated under bobbers or dropping down small soft plastic jigs work great. If you find a thick school of perch, it can lead to a fun day of steady catching. The fish are still in pre-spawn mode, but we will make sure to let you know when they start running.