Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 2024

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 26 Update:

Big news was announced this week for striped bass regulations. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has voted for option B2, setting Chesapeake Bay 2024 striped bass regulations across all jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River. The limit will be one fish per person per day with a slot from 19 to 24 inches. Seasons will remain the same as 2022 through this action, but the State of Maryland in its latest action has proposed eliminating May trophy season plus adding another week during the summer closure to extend it through the first week of August. Maryland DNR announced an “Emergency Regulation” ending trophy season and simultaneously closing catch-and-release fishing during the same period. That “Emergency” action appears to have stalled. The DNR announced that since the Joint Committee on Administration, Executive, and Legislative Review has not taken action, a public comment period on this now-proposed change has been opened. You can click on this link to the DNR Striped Bass – Changes to Season Comment Form to voice your opinion.

big rockfish in the kayak
David found a chunky rock willing to play tug of war this week.

The Angler in Chief says the warmup may provide a shot at some action this weekend, but due to the weather he doesn’t have any firsthand updated from this week. One reader who made it out midweek reported a slow birdless day with just a couple of bites, but both hits were from were monsters over the 40” mark. He said finding fish on the meter was the only play, and both fish came from 50-plus depths. We also had one report of a big rock hitting a plug trolled behind the kayak. Now that water temperatures have dipped into the 30s on the main stem of the Bay, covering lots of water will be the name of the game. Searching channel edges and river mouths with side scan is the best way to locate bait and fish right now. There was an awesome video circulating this week thanks to light tackle guide Tom Weaver from Fish With Weaver. He was out with his anglers targeting trophy rockfish when they hooked up with a big one. When the fish got close to the boat, another trophy sized fish was following along trying to eat the bait out of its mouth. When the hooked fish got close enough to the boat to net, the other fish followed, and both were netted simultaneously. Now that’s one of the craziest fishing stories we have ever heard recently!!

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 19 Update:

This week gave us the first round of snow in a long time and with it came some brutally cold temperatures not ideal for fishing. Due to the weather, reader reports of Middle Bay trophy rockfish action have petered out to… virtually nothing. The Angler in Chief says that like many he cried uncle for the week and has buttoned up the fleet until temperatures rise above freezing… or the opportunity for ice fishing arises! We did hear from Captain Steve Griffin of Griffins Guide Service who has been staying on the Middle Bay trophy rockfish bite. Steve said that they have had to cover a lot of water on recent trips to locate the fish as they have scattered quite a bit. Side scan is an essential since most of the bird shows have stopped giving away the location of fish. Recent trips have been producing a few trophy sized fish but nothing like it was in December. Fish are still scattered along the main stem of the Bay from Solomons to Eastern Bay. Scanning channel edges for bait will be the best technique for locating them. Contributor Eric Packard added that one day last week they hit numerous locations including the power plant and caught just a handful of fish with the largest being a 37-incher.

winter rockfish on the middle chesapeake
Though it's become far tougher to locate them, some big rock are still out there. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Pickerel are another popular option this time of year, but the cold weather has locked up many of the tidal creeks in the rivers that hold them. The Severn has some of the best tidal pickerel fishing in the state and there are also a few found in the upper reaches of the South River. Pickerel will hang around shallow water structures like fallen trees, rocks, and docks as they prefer shallow areas with drop offs nearby. 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 Calcutta’s.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 11 Update:

Fishing has been difficult this week with strong winds and flood conditions. Decent weather windows have been hard to come by, but anglers are making sure to take advantage of them. The monster rock are still around, though we did hear more reports of difficulty in finding them this week. Several readers said they caught zero to two fish over 40 inches, though a good number of 20- and 30-somethings were still hitting. Contributor Eric Packard noted that on one afternoon they worked the entire area from Cove Point to the Choptank and back, without finding any birds or big bruisers. Another day the fish eluded them in the Bay and the power plant produced just one rockfish and one speckled trout. But we also had a report from just prior to last weekend’s storm hitting of eight rockfish over 40” and one reaching 45”, plus smaller fish, on BKDs and ZMans fished in the vicinity of Chesapeake Beach. Last weekend there were several reports from boats fishing around Poplar Island who stated that they found small bird shows with schoolie sized fish underneath (14 to 22 inches) and a noticeable lack of larger fish on fish finders. It will be interesting to see what the bite is like once the weather calms down, but this weekend’s forecast does not look promising. Strong winds are expected, so fishing activities might have to wait until next week.

massive rockfish in the middle bay
Just before the latest deluge, Dennis caught this mega-rock. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 5 Update:

Thus far this winter has been one of trophy striped bass in the Bay. As we enter 2024, the bite is still red hot. So many reader reports of success on trophy rockfish flowed in during the past week that we’ve lost count. Areas noted as hot include Bloody Point, Eastern Bay, south/west of Poplar Island, the mouth of the Choptank, Chesapeake Beach, east of Parker’s Creek, east of Cove Point, west of Hoopers Island, and points south in the Lower Bay report. Most anglers are fishing large soft plastics on one- to two-ounce jigheads, but plenty of trollers pulling tandems and umbrellas are enjoying success as well. Thanks to the exceptional bite and the exceptional weather there have been hordes of boats out, so expect thick crowds in all these locations and anywhere may birds pop up – when a dozen or more group together, it doesn’t take long for a dozen or more boats to head for them.

rockfish with tom weaver
David put down the camera and picked up his rod to score big while fishing with Weaver.

I was able to get out with a few anglers during one of the “sportier” days this week. There were noticeably less boats due to the rough chop, but the fish were still fired up. We found big bird shows south of Poplar Island with fish ranging from 20- to 48-inches. Strong wind made our drifts very fast so three- and four-ounce jigheads were required to get down in the water column.

While the big striped bass are the focus for many anglers, there are other species the provide a good bite throughout the winter in the Middle Bay. The Severn River is a popular destination for pickerel anglers and the bite has been very good lately. Recent reports from anglers showed that the pickerel are hanging around shallow grass beds in two to three feet of water 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. The Patuxent River is also a reliable destination for anglers looking to catch catfish. Big blue catfish and channel catfish can be caught along the river’s main channel and in the deeper holes. The area around Jug Bay and the Western Branch are good places to target these fish, but they can be found all up and down the river.