Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 2023

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 24 Update:

The Angler in Chief says there are plenty of spots with bird action, including just south of Poplar Island, the mouth of the Choptank, outside of Franklin Manor, and off the Chesapeake Beach radar towers. However, the action he has experienced jibes with multiple reader reports of birds continually breaking up whenever a boat approaches and fish that seem to be very well fed and unenthusiastic about hitting a lure. Marks on the meter that would indicate a free-for-all are instead producing a mere bite or two from fish that are undersized up into the mid-20s. White skirts over avocado BKDs on one ounce heads have been doing best for jiggers, and trollers are out-catching light tackle anglers much of the time. That said, there are enough fish popping up and down that if you keep at it, jiggers can certainly catch their share.

middle chesapeake bay sea bass
Middle Bay sea bass provide a great alternative to rockfish, when the birds don't cooperate.

Rudow also says that the black sea bass bite in the Middle Bay continues to make up for the relatively lackluster rockfish bite. Chunks of Fishbites blue crab flavor dangling from jigging spoons will get the job done and he notes that recently the pinkish colored Fishbites (also crab flavor) did seem to be working better than the white or blue ones. One-ounce Rain Minnow in green or white and two-ounce silver Stingsilvers were the top pick for spoons. Note that these fish have moved deeper with the cooling temps, and many of the 15- to 35-foot-deep reefs that were holding them previously have been barren. Wrecks in 40 to 60 feet have been best.

White perch are now mostly being caught in deeper waters now that we are into the colder months. The mouth of Eastern Bay, Matapeake, the mouth of the Choptank, and any areas with oyster bottom are generally good places to search for perch this time of year. Bottom rigs tipped with Fishbites or bloodworms are popular options that usually get the fish biting. Thick schools of perch will show up on the fish finder holding close to bottom so idling around while keeping a close eye on the screen in the aforementioned areas will be a good way to locate them.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 17 Update:

Eastern Bay and the mouth of the Choptank have continued to be cited by readers as having a strong bite on fish from 16” to 24” with a larger fish here and there being reported. Sporadic bird action gives away their general location but then it’s usually necessary to hunt a bit with the fish finder, as the birds tend to be up and down fast. The Angler in Chief says there have also been huge numbers of birds working just a mile or two south of Poplar, with fish in the same class under them, but also noted that they gathered and disbursed very rapidly. He said there were huge shoals of bait around and even when spotting stacks on the meter, much of the time it was tough to produce bites from the well-fed rockfish. Trollers looked to have more reliable action. One boat reported in earlier in the week after catching a three-man limit of fish up to 25 inches while trolling in Eastern Bay. Some minor bird play was spotted on the west side as well, in 30’ of water a couple miles south of Cedarhurst, which produced a few fish from just undersized to in the low 20s.

black sea bass in the middle chesapeake
Black sea bass are chewing in the Middle Bay zone.

Rudow also said the sea bass bite continued to be fantastic and last weekend he caught a half-dozen keepers up to 16” in one trip to a mid-Bay wreck in 60’ of water. Chunks of Fishbites blue crab flavor dangling from jigging spoons, live bull minnow on bottom rigs, and chunks of shrimp got the bass biting with equal enthusiasm. He notes that the shallower spots he had been hitting lately in 18’ to 25’ did not produce, so these fish seem to have shifted deeper with the change in the weather. The sea bass are here in numbers at a lot of wrecks and reefs, but it seems to be a tossup as to whether the one you are fishing will have keepers on it. Another reader wrote in that they went out to target the sea bass and found plenty of them at a wreck site in 30 feet of water along the shipping channel south of Chesapeake Beach. They caught over 60 fish over the course of a few hours, but not one of them was keeper status. Meanwhile Mack Speed Walt checked in after catching five keeper sea bass out of a total 47 landed. He noted that the slack and early incoming tide was best.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 10 Update:

The mornings have been crisp and the afternoons have been warm this week, which has the rockfish bite starting to level out finally. Reader reports note a shift in the fishing thanks to the weather, and we heard from several this week that fish had become a lot less plentiful in the shallows. On the flip side of the coin, schools of breaking fish have popped up in several locations, including the mouth of Eastern Bay, the west side of Poplar, and off the mouth of the Choptank. Most have been in the low 20s with some fish up to 27 inches being reported. One of the readers fishing off Poplar jigged below working birds in 35’ and caught a keeper sea bass where he expected the rockfish to be. We also had two reader reports from the False Channel, where a jigger said sporadic bird action looked fishy but they were up and down so fast it was tough to find the fish, and a troller caught fish in the mid-20s on umbrellas and tandems.

kayak fishing for stripers in the middle bay
David enjoyed a nice bite in the shallows, kayak fishing for Chesapeake rockfish.

The Angler in Chief says there were a few fish around the Bay Bridge rockpiles last weekend, all rock and all between 18 and 23 inches. One-ounce jigging spoons in chartreuse and white and white shad-tail plastics fished on bottom in 30 to 40 feet of water got them biting. A boat fishing out of Eastern Bay reported a hot rockfish bite while fishing last weekend with five keeper fish before nine o’clock. They kept a 24 and 26-inch fish and released the rest. However, by most reports the Eastern Bay rockfish bite has been hit or miss. Some days boats are finding stacks of fish and others the entire fleet struggles to find a bite and we heard from several disappointed anglers who hit the area this week. Your best bet will be to cover a lot of water and always be looking for bird or bait action. The AIC hit E-Bay for a couple of hours Thursday afternoon and said the birds were up and down in a matter of seconds, dozens of boats were pounding on them, and the bites were few and far between but skirted chartreuse BKDs on one-ounce heads did produce a half-dozen rockfish in the 20- to 23-inch range. Much of the action was within sight of the green 1E and working the area via the meter sometimes produced better than chasing birds.

We also had a report from a boat fishing on the south end of Poplar Island early this week who found “thick stacks” of rockfish along the shipping channel edge. They said a lot of small fish were in the mix but they eventually landed a few keepers up to 23 inches. They then fished the Tilghman Island Reef for sea bass and caught a bunch of shorties along with two keepers that went on ice.

Several readers focusing on black sea bass at the reef sites said that the bite remains strong but keepers have become more difficult to find recently, perhaps because this fishery has attracted a lot of interest lately. One reported a approximate 50 to one ratio of throwbacks to keepers, and another said he caught “a ton” and only got one keeper.

Middle Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 3 Update:

Fall has returned with a vengeance after a stint of warm weather had it feeling like summer last weekend. It has been much colder this week, which will start making water temperatures fall again. During the warm up, middle Bay water temperatures were in the mid 60s. That is still warm for this time of year. The colder weather should help the fishing in this region and also cut back on most of the fair-weather anglers. Light tackle guide Pete Dahlberg of Four Seasons Guide Service shared a report for how his Rocktober went. Dahlberg says that there is very little biomass in the middle Bay right now near Taylor’s Island and the Islands to the south. There are small slivers of quality fish here and there, but the lack of numbers is “alarming”. The best results have come by surface plugging, jigging, and throwing crank style baits in the shallows near shoreline points and stump fields.

rockfish caught in the middle bay
Ned enjoyed a productive trip to the shallows of the Choptank.

The Angler in Chief reports an up-and-down bite for both striped bass and sea bass this past week, with some frustration on both fronts. Fishing the shallows of James Island produced just a smattering of rockfish to 22” and Tilghman and Cedarhurst reefs now seem to be producing a lower ratio of keeper sea bass to throwbacks, perhaps a reflection of the number of boats that have been focusing on them recently. He also noted that the smallish schools of stripers off the mouth of the West River have been extremely temperamental (and are also under lots of pressure). There have been reader reports of better rockfish action in the shallows of the Choptank and the mouth of Eastern Bay, though with the beautiful weather we had last weekend, those fish were also very heavily pressured and only came up top to feed for very brief intervals. A reader wrote in to let us know that they are still finding a consistent night bite for slot rockfish while shore fishing in the Deale area. The fish are preferring live bait over cut bait on fish finder rigs. We are still waiting on reports to come in to let us know how the patterns are changing with the cooler weather, so we will make sure to include them in next week’s report.

Attention Anglers: Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists are looking to better understand the striped bass recreational fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and are asking for your help. Biologists have set up an online survey site where anglers can enter fishing data from a smartphone or computer. All you need to record is the length of any striped bass you catch and whether you kept or released it.