Freshwater Fishing Report, January 2024

Freshwater Fishing Report, January 26 Update:

Hopes of an ice fishing season have been dashed by the warmup and rain; the latest we heard from the southern PA lakes was that it never got much past four inches in most areas. Deep Creek had frozen over, but we weren’t able to locate anyone who could confirm safe conditions, and with the rain it’s unlikely to be acceptable this weekend from a safety standpoint. Winter still has a long way to go, so there is still hope for more winter weather and cold to get the ice forming again.

largemouth bass caught on a red plug
Two trips produced... one bass on a red square-bill this week. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Contributor Eric Packard says he finally made it out and hit a couple of locations this week, but the fish seemed to be as frustrated by this weather as us humans. For his efforts he was rewarded with one strike at St. Mary’s Lake, when a largemouth bass hit his square-bill plug. That. Was. It.

The warmup does bring good news to trout anglers looking to take advantage of the stocked lakes and ponds that froze over during last week’s arctic blast. The warm temperatures should have melted the ice in most of the stocked locations and there should still be plenty of trout left to catch. During the cold spell, we heard from anglers who were doing well throwing small spinners and Super Dupers. You can fish with three rods, so it is usually a good idea to have two rigged up to baitfish and one with an artificial lure to throw while baits soak. Berkley PowerBait floating mice tails have been a hot bait for trout with popular colors including pink, white, and orange. The Maryland DNR and Virginia DWR trout stocking websites are updated with the latest stocking information, so make sure to check them out to plan your next trip. Mossy Creek Fly Fishing says that recent rain and snowfall has been great for water levels in many of the trout streams. The snowmelt will bring some cold-water temperatures to the streams, which can lead to sluggish fish. Seeking out deep holes to locate fish is a good idea. Mossy Creek recommends loading up on jig tungsten nymphs and heavy streamers. As the waters rise and color up, it can also be a great time to grab a sink tip line with big streamers and hunt for a giant.

Freshwater Fishing Report, January 19 Update:

Maryland’s preseason trout stockings finally started last week with many locations in Calvert, Charles, and Prince Georges counties getting stocked. Contributor Eric Packard says he’s been taking advantage of the DNR’s recent trout stockings, and one afternoon between gusts and snowsqualls caught and released 10 rainbows in a Calvert County pond on a bead-head nymph with a pheasant tail dropper. But another venture proved fruitless just days later, thanks to the weather. He noted that several anglers having success alongside him were casting trout Powerbait. Another angler let us know that he has been crushing the trout on Panther Martin spinners and Super Dupers. He has noticed that the trout have been preferring the spinners in the cold weather. Working the lure as slow as possible while still getting the blade to spin has been producing the most bites. Virginia DWR has also been busy stocking many locations across the state. Make sure to visit the Maryland DNR trout stocking website and the Virginia DWR trout stocking website for up to date information. Mossy Creek Fly Fishing says that they have big-time water at the moment thanks to the recent rains and snow hitting the region. Due to the snow cover, the mountain streams will be difficult to get to, but the spring creeks are flowing with temperatures suitable for nymph and streamer fishing.

trout fly fishing
Trout are willing to bite - usually - despite the cold. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

The cold weather has locked up many freshwater fishing locations with ice this week. Larger water bodies should still have some open water, but opportunities may be limited until we get a thaw. The pickerel fishing in the upper Bay tidal creeks and Eastern Shore mill ponds has been great to start the year, but with the ice, these locations can be difficult to access. Fishing should pick back up right where it left off when the ice does melt. If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for the CCA Pickerel Championship. There is still a month and a half left to compete against fellow anglers in multiple divisions and Calcuttas.

Freshwater Fishing Report, January 11 Update:

The weather has been hard to work with to start 2024, but persistent anglers will always find a way to fish. The lower Eastern Shore tidal rivers have been productive locations for many of our freshwater species including pickerel, crappie, and bass. The Pocomoke River has some of the best crappie fishing on the Eastern Shore. Throwing small Bettle Spins or drifting live minnows under a bobber near submerged structure are two productive methods. The Eastern Shore mill ponds also offer some of the best pickerel fishing in the state and the winter pickerel bite is on full swing. Contributor Eric Packard reports constant action in the Eastern Shore millponds. In fact, on one cloudy morning of drowning minnow from their kayaks he and fellow Contributor David Rudow caught 28 pickerel (plus some bass) between them, up to a whopping 26.5”.

eric packard with a pickerel
Contributor Eric Packard found some nice pickerel between the rainstorms.

Many anglers are patiently waiting for Maryland DNR to stock the first trout of 2024. There will likely be some stockings this month, but with all the rain we just had, they may be waiting for water levels to drop in streams and lakes. Virginia DWR has been actively stocking, but again, many creeks and rivers were flooded out with all the rain we had this week. Make sure to check any local stream gauges before heading out as conditions may be unfishable for a few days. For up to date stocking information make sure to visit the Maryland DNR trout stocking website and the Virginia DWR trout stocking website. This weekend’s forecast is calling for more strong winds, so it may be a good idea to find protected waters if you plan on fishing. Good luck if you get out. The start of this fishing season has been a grind.

Freshwater Fishing Report, January 5 Update:

Happy New Year fishing friends! We know that everyone is eager to get their 2024 fishing season started, and some of you may have already caught your first fish of 2024. The weather pattern has been favorable for wet weather, and we are finally starting to come out of the drought conditions from last year. There is some wintry weather forecast this weekend that will bring some more precipitation to the region. Trout anglers have been enjoying the increased flows and we checked in with Mossy Creek to get their latest report. They said that anglers enjoyed good brook trout fishing over the holidays. Standard nymphs in 12 to 16 have worked well. Most of the western creeks are running turbid but improving each day. The weather this weekend will likely restart that process. They also said dry fly fishing should be good in the afternoons with BWO's and midges hatching. Jig nymphs and jig streamers will also be key through this cold period ahead, so focus on the deeper holes and undercut banks. Virginia DWR is still out stocking fish and Maryland DNR stockings should start up this month. Make sure to check the Virginia DWR trout stocking website and the Maryland DNR trout stocking website for the most recent updates.

catching a crappie while fishing
Crappie are a good bet even with the cooling water temperatures. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

In our region’s lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, crappie are offering a good bite for freshwater anglers. The central Maryland reservoirs, St. Mary’s Lake, and the Pocomoke River have been noted as hotspots recently. You will want to fish around submerged structures like fallen trees, stump fields, and rock piles. Crappie will hit a variety of baits including beetlespins, small plastic jigs on 1/32-to-1-ounce jigheads (depending on water depth), and live minnows. Live bait is always a solid option if you can find it this time of year as floating a minnow under a bobber is hard to resist for a hungry crappie. Pickerel are another popular winter target, and they are being caught from the upper Bay tidal creeks down to the Eastern Shore mill ponds. Recent reports from other anglers showed that the pickerel are hanging around shallow grass beds in two to three feet of water, near shoreline structures, or are hanging at the ends of creeks in around five feet of water. Any lure with flash is producing bites right now, especially inline spinners paired with paddletails. Pickerel anglers should check out the CCA Pickerel Championship which runs until the end of February. The biggest three fish stringer can earn you some cool prizes and bragging rights among other anglers.