Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing Report, October 2023

Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing report, October 27 Update:

Summer is trying to make a return with near record high temperatures hitting the region late this week and over the weekend. The heat is going to make for some excellent fishing days. AIC Lenny Rudow reports slim pickings at the Power Plant, though a 29-incher - with sea lice on it - did swallow up a five-inch white paddletail there on a trip early this week. Sea bass action was solid numbers-wise at Tilghman Reef, the Stone Rock, and the Gooses reef, however, 40-plus fish (plus six or eight small flounder) produced just two 14-inch keepers. Pink Rain Minnow spoons tipped with Fishbites crab flavor was the hot bait. Fishing for white perch is still good this week. The fish are still hanging close to shoreline docks and rock jetties, but more and more are starting to move to deeper water around oyster bottom. Dropping down soft crab or bloodworms on bottom rigs will usually get the perch biting if you find a school of them. The Fishbites counterparts of these baits work excellent too and often stay on the hook better than live bait. An angler fishing in 25 foot of water in the Severn River reported that the bite was lights-out when he was able to stay on top of a school. He caught over two dozen 10-to-12-inch perch which went in the cooler and will make for some delicious meals.

eastern bay rock fish
Eric trolled up this 26-incher while pulling tandems and umbrellas off the Wild Grounds.

The rockfish bite near the Western Shore rivers of the middle Bay is still going strong with boats finding fish between Thomas Point and Chesapeake Beach. Thomas Point has been producing some fish but has also been producing a lot of pressure, with over a dozen boats spotted anchored up in the shallows one nice evening this week. A reader fishing from the shore near Deale reports that the rockfish seem to be moving into the shallows at night to feed and multiple recent trips to a bayside pier have produced fish up to 24 inches. They said throwing out bunker chunks on fish finder rigs is working best right now. Contributor Eric Packard noted lots of small puppy drum were hitting in the Patuxent, and ¾-ounce heads with four-inch white paddle tails produced four in a short trip at Solomons. A run across the Bay to the water near Punch Island produced good numbers of rockfish up to 23 inches. We also had some reader reports of success on the troll in Eastern Bay, including over last weekend when it was gusty. Contributor David Rudow reported in after finding a red-hot rockfish bite while night fishing near the Choptank River. He and another angler combined to catch over 60 fish up to 30 inches. The fish were loving the Old Skool Tackle Company purple paddletails.

Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing report, October 20 Update:

There was some great fishing this week all over the Middle Bay. It’s a great time of year to be on the water as “fair weather” anglers are starting to hang gear up for the season, which means less boat pressure. Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow says the sea bass are still biting strong at the wreck and reef sites with 15 or more feet of water, though he’s had some days where good numbers did not translate into good quality and all the bass came up short of legal. That said the number of bass in the cooler has generally ranged from two to five with the fish taking one-ounce jigging spoons baited with Fishbites crab flavor. Slowly jigging at bottom and occasionally hovering the spoon a foot or two off bottom has been proving effective. He also said the stripers in the shallows off the West River went bananas during last light one evening this week when the sun hit the horizon, with fish up to 26” striking pearl and chartreuse five-inch paddletails. Then two mornings later, in the same spot they were few and far between. We heard from another angler who went out for the sea bass but did not disclose their specific location. They did tell us they they caught close to 70 fish, but again, most were just under legal size. All of the Middle Bay wrecks and reef sites seem to be holding sea bass right now and more may show up (hopefully more keepers) as water temperatures drop throughout the fall. Note: The AIC wanted to point out that sea bass have very tough, rubbery jaws, and treble hooks can be very difficult and harmful to remove from small fish. There are also many small flounder at some of the reef sites. Since there are so many throwbacks it’s critical we all use spoons with single hooks (or snip two tines off trebles with a pair of dykes). With this style of fishing you really won’t miss any bites at all as a result, but you will harm far fewer fish.

red drum in the choptank
Herb proved that those reds haven't yet left the Middle Bay zone.

We had a couple of good reports from the Choptank this week from readers. One casting five-inch paddletails caught a bunch of small stripers and a pretty puppy drum. Another fishing the shallows in the mouth of the river reported a red-hot striper bite on fish to 23” during the last couple hours of daylight with the bite getting better and better as the sun went down. Another angler fishing near Thomas Point was out last weekend and found a good class of rockfish. They said the bite was nonexistent until the last 45 minutes of light when birds started working and fish started feeding. Bottom bouncing soft plastic jigs on quarter ounce jigheads caught about 15 fish between 18 and 30 inches. Most of the anglers we have talked to are saying that the outgoing tide has been producing more fish compared to the incoming. The rockfish bite should continue to get better, especially in open water as more fish school up and chase bait. Look for birds and bait along channel edges. If you find both, there’s likely rockfish nearby.

Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing report, October 13 Update:

The chill of fall is on the air as Rocktober commences across the Chesapeake Bay. Last weekend’s unsettled weather made for mixed reports, with an angler fishing from Tolly Point to Franklin Manor and another fishing the mouth of the South and West rivers reporting a few dinks but empty coolers. A reader fishing the same general zone reported encountering working birds with rockfish between 18” and 22” hitting Stingsilvers and BKDs on one-ounce heads. Another fishing in Eastern Bay was in the right place at the right time and said birds were working over 18” to 22” bluefish. We also had a report of some nice mid-20s rockfish hitting paddletails in the shallows of the Choptank. And a reader fishing near Tilghman found some working birds and a chunky 36” redfish sticking around despite the chill and chasing bait under them, but surprisingly, didn’t get any blues nor rockfish out of the fray, while another was chasing birds and blues when a mega-drum popped up.

red drum in middle chesapeake bay
Nate encountered a nice surprise surprise south of Sharps Island.

Angler in Chief Lenny Rudow adds that sea bass are snapping on jigging spoons tipped with Fishbites crab flavor at the Stone Rock, including keepers, with about a seven-to-one ratio of throwbacks. There are also lots of flounder (mostly small) grabbing at the Fishbites bits. However, there were a lot of boats going for them and even midweek there was a crowd. You may want to try some different spots because they can be found on structure in 15’ to 25’ of water just about anywhere in the mid Bay zone right now and some (including keepers) are even being caught up as far as the Bay Bridge. He also said a run to the power plant resulted in less than spectacular results, with just a small puppy drum, a small sea bass, and a couple of rockfish in attendance.

Many of the mid Bay charter captains and guides have been catching rockfish active at the surface on popular locations like Eastern Bay, Blood Point, Poplar Island, and the mouths of most of the tidal rivers. Many of the schools of fish have been fast moving and hard to stay on, especially when there are other boats in the area running as fast as they can to any sign of bird action. Most of these blitzes have been quick to rise, and just as quick to scatter. By the time you get to them, the action has often stopped. When this is the pattern, it is best to drift and jig or troll, in the area where birds are sitting instead of running and gunning around.

The shallows have also been providing their fair share of action when conditions are right. I was able to get out for an evening trip on the West River this week and found hungry fish in the shallows near the mouth of the river. The bite got better as the sun got lower and I caught around a dozen rockfish up to 21 inches while throwing three-inch Z-Man Diezel Minnowz on quarter ounce jigheads to nearshore structure. I also landed a chunky 12-inch white perch. The bigger fish that I caught seemed to move in as the sun was setting. I have noticed the shallow water bite has been better during the first half of the outgoing tide so keep that in mind.

Crazy Catch Alert: We received a reader report this week with photo evidence of 4” to 6” shrimp (not grass shrimp — the real thing!) caught in a cast net all the way up near Herring Bay. There were enough hauled in “for a nice shrimp cocktail.”

Crabbing report: Just because there’s a chill in the air doesn’t mean the crabs are done just yet, folks! We heard about solid crabbing in the South River and in Eastern Bay, with trot lines producing limit catches in eight to 10 feet of water. It was mentioned that there are five-to-one females in the South but enough big males that it’s worth weeding through them to get your keepers.

Middle Chesapeake Bay fishing report, October 5 Update:

AIC Lenny Rudow reports that the big tides early in the week seemed to have the fish confused, and while there were some rockfish to 22” and perch in the shallows of the South and along the western shore shoreline down past Franklin Manor, the numbers have been lackluster at best. He did find a school of rockfish between 18” and 24” breaking water near the green #1 last Friday evening, but the fish were moving fast and up and down quite a bit. Another angler fishing out of Deale reported that the shallows have provided slim pickings with one morning producing a hand full of perch along nearshore rock jetties and one 19-inch rockfish. An evening trip in the same area's only produced three small rockfish. The cooler weather forecasted to arrive this weekend should get things back on track for the fall bite that so many of us anticipate. Rockfish have been starting to school up and open water jigging will be a good option moving forward.

middle bay red drum
Ian was jigging for two to three pound blues when this big feller interrupted his expected action.

The lower sections of the region’s tidal rivers including the Severn, South, West, and Choptank, plus Eastern Bay, are providing decent fishing this week. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of boats on the water which can break up schools of fish quick and turn off the bite with all the traffic. In this case, it is usually best to stay away from the fleet and search for fish that aren’t being pressured. Bite windows have been quick for the most part this week likely due to the warmer air temperatures. We had a reader report from the east side of no joy working from Poplar to the Choptank despite seeing some bird action, and a one of good but short-lived topwater at Poplar right at daybreak. And, there were two reports of redfish caught near the mouth of the Choptank; one was by a chummer and the other by a jigger, both of whom were catching bluefish when they had the unexpected surprise.

In the cool catch department, a reader bottom fishing for bait at the mouth of the South River caught two unusual species for the area: a kingfish and a silver perch. Meanwhile, another reported catching a cutlassfish straggler while fishing near Poplar Island.