Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing Report, December 2023

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 29 Update:

The Angler in Chief says the catch-and-release trophy striper jigging in the Middle Bay is downright epic, with success on 40-inch-plus fish on every attempt this week. On one trip so many big fish were landed they lost count at a dozen and kept going, and at one point enjoyed a quad-hookup of all trophies. The biggest on the FishTalker this week was a rotund 45-incher, and he says they watched a boat next to them catch, quickly measure, and release a 50-incher. The fish have been scattered through the middle of the main-stem Bay anywhere from between Eastern Bay and Franklin Manor southward, with the waters just south-west of Poplar Island proving particularly hot. Fish have mostly been in 40 to 60 feet of water but have been found as deep as 80 and as shallow as 30. Boss BKDs, Old Skools, and similar soft plastics in nine and 10 inches have been hot with white, pearl, chartreuse, and silver all doing the catching. Smaller baits are effective as well, but often get chewed on by the numerous 20- to 35-inch fish in the same areas.

trophy rockfish in the mid bay
American Sportfishing Association President Glenn Hughes had his hands full this week... full of 40-plus-inch trophy rockfish!

Reader reports of similar hot action have come from the False Channel, Chesapeake Beach, the Cove Point area, and Point Lookout. There was also a reader report of good action near Bloody Point, but with the fish topping out in the 30s. We also had readers check in with solid success on these fish while trolling tandem rigs with nine-inch shad and umbrella rigs. Finding birds has been key to locating the fish, and on some recent foggy days using radar and listening for active birds has been critical. Remember, it’s important to handle these fish with care; check out Dos and Don’ts of Catch and Release Fishing for a brush-up on how to handle them without doing harm.

White perch anglers are still finding success in deeper waters as fish are staging for the winter. The mouth of the Patuxent River has been noted as a productive spot for the perch. Anglers dropping down small metal jigs in around 30 feet of water are having good results. Jigging along the pilings of the Solomons bridge can also be a good bet for catching perch at times. Anglers Sport Center recommends the Chesapeake Sibiki Rig for its depth-reaching capabilities and regulatory compliance with Maryland waters, boasting only two hooks. To enhance your success, tipping these rigs with live or artificial bait proves to be the perfect strategy.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 22 Update:

Christmas has come early for many Middle Bay anglers as trophy sized striped bass have migrated into our waters. Big fish up to and even hitting the 50-inch mark are being caught from the Patuxent River up to Annapolis and just about everywhere in between. Birds are still working schools of bait which have been giving away the location of fish on some days. However, the birds don’t always cooperate, so using your fish finder and side scan will be very helpful in finding fish. The general range has been between 40 to 60 feet of water, but some fish are being caught both shallower and deeper. The big stripers have been enticed by seven- and nine-inch soft plastics on one and a half to two-ounce jigheads. Using the bigger baits helps to keep the smaller fish off the hook, but even the smaller fish have been quality with a lot of 20- to 30-inch fish in the mix for anglers still catch and release fishing.

striped bass ont he caymas
Mark jigged up a 39.5 incher last weekend (soooooo close to 40!!), fishing off North Beach with a nine-inch tail on a two-ounce head. 

The Angler in Chief says that for the first time in a long time, on a recent trip he hit a Middle Bay wreck in 60’ of water and did not find any sea bass willing to bite. He noted that the tide was ripping and that they didn’t try multiple spots since they were on their way to the power plant in search of specks — which was also a complete bust. However, he also extoled the excellent C&R bite for rockfish, with the anglers on his boat catching four fish over 40” along with several upper-30-somethings and plenty of smaller rockfish slightly north of Chesapeake Beach last weekend. The hot zone was 40’ to 50’ of water, and nine-inch Old Skool OG Eels and Boss BKDs in white proved effective. Reader reports of success on monster rock also came from the False Channel (up to 47”), the mouth of Eastern Bay, and “the middle of nowhere” between buoys 82 and 83.

White perch are also still on the table in the Middle Bay. By now, they are staged up in deeper water usually from 30 to 50 feet. The mouth of the Patuxent has been noted as a productive area for the past few weeks with small metal jigs being a top producer. Jigging along the deeper pilings at the Route Four Bridge in Solomons is another good way to catch perch and rockfish this time of year. One reader reported finding some nice sized white perch off Franklin Manor under schools of rockfish. Making long and slow drifts while jigging was the best tactic for putting some in the cooler.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 15 Update:

The Angler in Chief says he’s sadly waved goodbye to keeping anymore rockfish dinners for 2023, but there’s still good Middle Bay catch-and-release action plus sea bass biting on wrecks in very deep (60-plus feet) of water if you want something for the cooler. As has been par for the course this year, Rain Minnow with Fishbites has been getting them biting and he noted that silver spoons with blue/white crab flavor was working well. He also noted that during a strong tide the bite slacked off but fish up to 15” still came over the gunwale last weekend. White perch are also available to catch with bottom rigs or small metal jigs. A few anglers have been finding the perch feeding on bait under schools of rockfish. One reader fishing last weekend reported finding rockfish off Franklin Manor in 45 feet of water, but added that many of them were under 19-inches. They did however catch some big white perch by dropping down live minnows on bottom rigs. Most of their perch were 11-to-12-inches with two fish over 13 inches.

mid bay black sea bass
Scotty reeled up a chunky sea bass from a wreck near Poplar Island.

Some big ocean-run rockfish turned up this week, with multiple readers reporting fish in the 35- to 45-inch class caught near the mouth of Eastern Bay, at the False Channel off the Choptank, and near the mouth of the Pax. Two of the big scores were made by trollers pulling umbrella rigs and a third was a jigger catching 20-somethings who got a big, big surprise. Two mentioned that that the fishing was slow up until the last hour or so of daylight, then the action cranked up. Many of the light tackle fishing guides have also been running into big fish this week with Pete Dahlberg of Four Seasons Guide Service and Steve Griffin with Griffin’s Guide Service checking in multiple 40+ inch fish caught while jigging large soft plastics. Both captains have also been putting their anglers on plenty of 20- to 30-inch fish. A good amount of bird action has been helping boats find feeding fish. Searching for the birds may require covering a lot of ground, but when you find them, it has usually been worth it.

ANGLER ALERT: If you partake in striped bass fishing in Maryland, remember, next year’s regulations will be changing to combine all Bay jurisdictions and you only have until December 22 to provide comment on 2024 regulation options! See Chesapeake Bay Angler Alert: 2024 Striped Bass Reg Changes for the details and instructions on how to submit comment.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 8 Update:

The Angler in Chief says the rockfish action has picked up considerably along the west side, particularly off Franklin Manor in 35’ to 50’, and during last weekend’s fog-bath those who made it out and used either radar or their ears to locate the birds enjoyed excellent action. He reports 18- to 27-inch fish were churning water and for once kept up the action even as the boat approached. Topwater was hot when the fish were up top and swirling, and six-inch pearl Swim Shad and avocado BKDs under a white skirt on 1.5-ounce jig heads did the trick when they went down deeper. We also had another reader check in after fishing in the thick fog last weekend. They reported finding a great rockfish bite in 45 feet of water off the Deale area. The fish initially weren’t biting their soft plastics, but once they switched over to metal jigging spoons, they were hooking up with 18-to-26-inch fish every time the schools were under the boat. Those same anglers also mentioned that they snagged a few white perch, so after having fun with the rockfish, they dropped down bottom rigs baited with live minnows and started hooking up with big 12-inch white perch. The perch will often follow and feed under rockfish schools this time of year, so keep that in mind when out fishing. Chesapeake Beach was also reported as harboring breaking rockfish by several anglers this week, in 35 to 55 feet of water.

dan with middle bay rockfish
Dan and his crew got into breaking rockfish off Franklin Manor, and pulled up dozens of 18- to 27-inchers in the fog last weekend.

FishTalk Contributor/engineer wiz Walt reported that the Middle Bay black sea bass bite is still going strong, and on one outing this week he had three keepers in the box out of 18 caught, before 14 more throwbacks came over the gunwale. The Tackle Box checked in with a surprise catch of the of the week with a BIG speckled trout caught off Cove Point. Angler Ryan Galligan was jigging for rockfish when he caught a seven-pound speck along with some hefty rockfish. The fishing is great in the Middle Bay right now, so make sure to get out on the water between your Christmas shopping trips. And remember, keeping rockfish ends after December 10.

ANGLER ALERT: If you partake in striped bass fishing in Maryland, remember, next year’s regulations will be changing to combine all Bay jurisdictions and you only have until December 22 to provide comment on 2024 regulation options! See Chesapeake Bay Angler Alert: 2024 Striped Bass Reg Changes for the details and instructions on how to submit comment.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 1 Update:

The Angler in Chief says the birds disappeared, hopefully just temporarily, from some east side areas they were prevalent including south of Poplar Island, but were working hard from Franklin Manor down to Chesapeake Beach recently. As has been the case all fall the approach of a boat usually breaks them up quickly, and it’s necessary to putt around the area until spotting fish on the meter or side-scan. White skirts over avocado BKDs on one- and 1.5-ounce heads have been working well, and with the fish and birds moving around so quickly, trollers are often out-catching light tackle anglers. He noted that the grade of fish has also improved recently, with only one or two throwbacks among the 20- to 26-inchers caught on his latest trip.

winter fishing on the chesapeake bay
Melissa trolled up some fat rockfish on chartreuse Tsunamis, near The Diamonds.

Contributor Eric Packard enjoyed similar striped bass action in the Patuxent in 15’ to 20’ of water in the vicinity of Sheridan Point using a Bass Assassin eel and BKDs. Both Packard and Rudow noted a large number of loons are around, and that at times, birds were working but no rockfish were present as the loons appeared to be pushing bait to the surface.

Black sea bass are still snapping up jigging spoons tipped with Fishbites crab flavor and a trip last weekend proved pink shrimp flavor works just fine, too. However, the AIC mentioned that recently they seem to have become a bit more finicky regarding the tide, and when it’s pushing hard the action has been slow.