Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report

5/26/2017 Update:

Alltackle in Annapolis let us know that rockfishing has been good this past week. Most anglers have been chumming or light tackle jigging from Thomas Point to the Power Plant. Chesapeake Beach to North Beach was been especially hot last weekend and prior to the bad weather moving in, with many anglers limiting out on rockfish between 20 and 30 inches. Anglers Sport Center adds that there were good numbers of stripers caught just south of the bridge and pointed out that they have a fresh—not frozen—load of bunker that just came in, for chummers who want to fish with the best quality baits.

Weather this Memorial Day weekend is expected to continue to be rainy, but the wind shouldn’t be too bad and anglers should still be able to get out on the water. The schools of stripers near Chesapeake Beach had been moving northward recently (with breaking fish in the mid-20’s being caught just south of Franklin Manor, in 30’ to 32’ of water) so if you’re running south from a northern port while heading for Chesapeake Beach, and you see a few birds that look interesting, don’t hesitate to stop and check things out.

FishTalk editor Lenny Rudow notes that when his boat was working the schools off North Beach the other day, a four-inch topwater chugger (blaze orange/green with a bucktail teaser on the aft hook) out-caught a variety of other lures for keepers, by a seven-to-one ratio. Jigs and spoons were still attacked with abandon, but mostly by small fish. The vast majority of the larger stripers wanted to smack those plugs. Black drum have been confirmed at the Stone Rock, too, biting on soft or peeler crab chunks. If you want to try catching one of these monsters, be sure to read our How to Target Black Drum article online. Also check out the Plan of Attack department in the June edition of FishTalk, now on the streets, which is stuffed with black drum tips and tricks for Chesapeake Bay, Deleware Bay, and seaside anglers.

On the eastern side of the bay, Josh from Island Tackle Outfitters reports plenty of good catch-and-release fishing for stripers in Eastern Bay. If you want to catch and keep on that side of the bridge, you may want to tap into the snakehead bite going off in the upper reaches of the rivers.

The perch bite has also been hot all around, in most of the tributary river shallows. Try fishing structure and rocks to target them, using grass shrimp and bloodworms. Perch should stay steady through late summer, and are a great option for summer fishing while the kids are on vacation. The first croaker of the season have been reported in the middle bay in the West and South Rivers, and are biting soft crabs and razor clam.

Crabbing has picked up, too, and local watermen are starting to fill their bushel baskets with delicious catch. Although most crabs have been on the smaller side this year, as waters warm up more and more crabs should be migrating North, bringing a larger and more mature mix to the catch.

5/21/2017 Update:

Holy mackerel, there are a lot of school-sized stripers in the middle bay right now. The fish seem to be moving a bit north, as the hot bite off the radar towers shifted up towards North Beach and then Deal over the weekend. Today there were fish breaking in scattered patches from North Beach clear up to Franklin Manor, mostly in 30' to 35' of water. Many of the schools consisted of undersized fish, but if you bounced around and hit multiple schools, most anglers eventually found larger fish. 

chesapeake bay fishing
Ethan Cann holds up a pair of 22-inch fish caught from the breakers, just a mile or two south of Franklin Manor.

Sometimes the breaking fish were hitting just about everything with chartreuse and pink being hot colors, though at other times, they really seemed to want very small lures of about three inches, in silver and gold. Castmaster spoons and white twister-tails were effective when the fish were in this mode. It should be noted that these stripers came up spitting small bay anchovies, so apparently, they were very focused on small baits. Interestingly, many of the larger fish were hitting poppers and topwater chuggers worked vigorously across the surface. Some larger fish showed up too, with a 35-incher reported off Franklin Manor Sunday afternoon.

If you want to chase after larger fish - much larger fish - get some soft crab and head for the Stone Rock. Early reports of black drum are trickling in, with a few bent rods and mammoth blacks sighted this weekend. Our June edition is now out on the streets and in the Plan of Attack section, you'll discover some how-to tactical angling information that will help you hook into one of these big bruisers.

5/19/2017 Update:

This past week as the regular season opened, anglers were treated to successfully catching large numbers of schoolie rockfish. If you haven't read it already, be sure to check out our School Sized Stripers are Legal - and the Middle Bay Bite is Hot article.

Most fish the guys at Anglers Sport Center in Annapolis saw this weekend were close to the 26 inch mark, and many were caught on six and 10-inch BKD’s and nine-inch Bust em’ Baits in pink, black, white or chartreuse. Jigging seemed to be popular for catching the schoolie rockfish, a nice change in tactic from the trolling that brought in all-to-few trophy rock during the spring season. That said, trollers who have down-sized their baits from the spring spread have also been quite successful on these fish. Bay Country Crabbing Supply let us know that many charter captains have been limiting out on fish within the first few hours of being out, and headed to Deale Beach, Chesapeake Beach, and the mouth of the South River around Thomas Point. Chumming and trolling have both been effective. The best bite, however, has been along the 25 to 30-foot contour and nearby depths from Holland Point down to the Power Plant. Most of these fish are in the 23" to 26" range but anglers putting in their time have been encountering a few fish that have stretched over 30 inches. It seems that as you go father south, the fish get bigger. Right off the radar towers has been a hot-spot but has also been getting a lot of boat traffic, and we note that these schools are spread along the contour - it's not necessary to join the pack to get into the fish. Jigging and trolling have been the best methods for taking these fish, and anglers have noted that chartreuse and pink have been effective colors. Most of the fish are from mid-depth down to the bottom, though on rare occasions they come up top and start breaking. Most of these frenzied events have been very short, but tip off anglers as to the general location of the fish. When the fish are down deep, working your lure at or near bottom has been the ticket.

In addition to the strong run of smaller rock, many anglers in the middle Bay region caught up the perch this week. Most creeks and rivers are holding them around structure such as fallen trees and deep cuts, and the perch are biting grass shrimp and small lures like Mepps spinners and Beetle-spins. As waters warm up, watermen can look forward to a strong run of crabs this season. Bay Country Crabbing Supply also mentioned that Virginia is loaded with crabs right now, and those crabs should migrate up within the next week, providing not only a great time on the water but great meals as well.

5/16/2017 Update:

Schoolies are in and YUP, they're around in numbers!! FishTalk Editor in Chief Lenny Rudow reports that an afternoon trip down to Chesapeake Beach produced lots of mid-sized fatties like this guy:

rockfish in chesapeake bay
Ron Ballanti, from California, holds up the first Chesapeake Bay striper he's caught since his last trip out east about a year ago. 

The bulk of the fish were in the 22" to 25" range, and though no big fish hit the deck, a 36"-ish fish did swirl on a lure right next to the boat. D'oh! Other anglers reported fish up to 38" in the area but the bulk of the catch was in the mid 20" range. Chartreuse was the hot color, and 6" BKDs were the hot bait. There were plenty of fish around but they were finicky on the tide, biting strong from the change of the tide (around 3:00) until about 4:30, when there were suddenly more short strikes than solid hits. 28' to 32' was the best depth and the fish stuck relatively close to the bottom, showing from 15' to 30' on the meter but with the majority of the strikes coming from jigs worked at or very close to bottom. Birds were inactive, and these fish were located by roaming with a close eye on the meter. Rudow also notes that they found some nice schools of fish about five miles to the north in 26' of water, but most of them had lockjaw and those that did bite were smaller, in the 18" to 20" range.

Good luck, everyone!

5/15/2017 Update:

Attention anglers, we're about to have the schoolies become legal and we're hearing multiple reports of massive schools of fish in the mid 20 to the mid 30 inch range on the western side of the Bay, from Deal down to Calvert Cliffs. Most of these schools are roaming along the area of the 30 foot contour, though you'll find them anywhere from 28 or 30 feet down to 35 or 40 feet. They're often given away by the birds, but not always - they've been coming up and abruptly going back down rapidly. If you spot large numbers of birds sitting on the water or up in the air looking, DO NOT leave the area!! Search with your fishfinder, and spend some time looking around because there's a good chance one of these schools is near by.

Top lures have ranged from metal jigging spoons like blue/silver Stingsilvers and Crippled Herrings (used vertically when fish are spotted on the meter fairly deep beneath the boat) to soft plastics (five and also 10 inch baits have been effective, with white, chartreuse, and pink all producing big numbers of fish) used for suspended fish and those breaking water. BKDs on three-quarter ounce heads have reportedly been hot. Catches of dozens of fish at a time and the use of words like "epic" have been used to describe this bite! 

5/12/2017 Update:

According to Bay Country Crabbing Supply, trophy fishing has been slow but as the weather warms up anglers should look forward to schoolie season and switch from trolling for the trophies to jigging and using bucktails in white and chartreuse. Wind kept many anglers off the water recently (and last weekend was extremely tough) but for those who have ventured out very strong numbers of smaller fish - many of which will be keepers soon - are being found near Chesapeake Beach, and caught on white and chartreuse soft plastics. There's been bird action, too, though the schools have been up and down.

striped bass
Casting light tackle in the shallows produced this nice striper - soon to be legal - for Josh Lowery.

Chummers looking for trophies in 30 to 35 feet of water have also encountered excellent numbers of fish in the mid-20's to the 30-inch range, especially near Hackett's, Thomas Point, and the green #1 buoy. Angler's Sport Center says that even shoreline anglers are catching good numbers of these fish at Sandy Point and Matapeake, usually on cut bunker. Those casting the shallows in Eastern Bay have also encountered good numbers of school-sized fish, many right up against the shore at daybreak and sunset. Try five and seven inch white and chartreuse BKDs or Bust 'Ems, fished on a quarter-ounce jighead.

Perch are being found in rivers and caught on bloodworms. Many creeks and salt ponds are now loaded up and some anglers have already switched to casting artificials for them. Beetle-Spins, two-inch tube jigs, and Mepps spinners are all top picks.

big rockfish
Jim Catterton caught this nice 37-incher this (Friday) morning before the east wind came up, in the middle bay. He reports the fish were suspended, and eating six inch BKDs. Pink was a hot color.


Marty’s Sporting Goods said fishing for trophies in the middle Chesapeake had picked up a bit, but at this point, more importantly there’s a massive load of schoolies out there. Everyone’s fingers are crossed that as of May 16 the fishing is still as good for fish in the mid 20’s up into the low 30-inch range. If you have a chance to get in some last licks for trophies, Bloody Point and Deale seemed to be the better bets. Also, for shoreline anglers, trips to the Triton ponds have produced good numbers of perch.

The guys at Anglers Sport Center in Annapolis mentioned that the anglers finding the most success on rockfish have been chumming in 30 to 34 feet of water as the tides turn. Hot spots in the area have been Love Point, Hacketts, and Thomas Point. But they also said it’s time to gear up for an exciting topwater season—smaller fish are already smashing plugs casted from shore, with a fast retrieve at or just below surface. Local anglers have found success fishing from the rocks at Mayo Beach Park using blue Rapala Poppers. And again, everyone’s waiting for schoolie season to opens up May 16th, since the smaller fish have been so abundant.

According to Bay Country Crabbing Supply, perch are being found in deeper water throughout all the rivers, and are biting bloodworms and grass shrimp. Crabbers in the area should gear up for an amazing season. Warmer temperatures have brought the crabs in early, and watermen using traps have been successful at the mouth of the rivers. Trotline season hasn’t quite kicked in yet, but should very soon. A tip, from Bay Country: if you`re thinking about crabbing early this season, try to get fresh, unfrozen chicken necks as bait.

striped bass caught
Garrett Oster hoists up his first trophy, a 37-incher trolled up in the middle Chesapeake Bay. You can see ships in the background; read  Striper Tactics: Hit the Ships to gain some insight on fishing around this "structure". Photo courtesy of Gary Oster.