Way North Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 2022

Way North Chesapeake Fishing Report, December 30 Update:

We hope that everyone had a great Christmas holiday and got all the new fishing gear they asked Santa for. Unfortunately, the arctic blast from old man winter has left many of our local ponds, creeks, and other waterways covered in ice. Fishing has been difficult to say the least, but the extended forecast shows warmer weather moving into the region which should melt the ice and keep water open for the start of the new year. Fishing options are limited this time of year but fisherman who need to scratch the itch should be able to find a few fish willing to bite.

iced over pond
This is the scene greeting anglers in many areas in recent days.

As always, catfish are plentiful in the upper Bay and remain active through the colder months. Blue catfish are the most widespread and can be found in all tidal waterways. This time of year, it is best to target them in deeper holes or along channels. On days warmer days, they may move up onto shallower flats in the afternoon to feed once the sun has warmed the water a few degrees. Channel catfish will be more concentrated inside the tidal rivers and flathead catfish can be found at the Conowingo Dam pool. Fresh cut bait is always best for the cats so throw out menhaden, shad, or chicken liver to attract them.

Walleye are also available at the Conowingo Dam this time of year but they will take some patience to find. It will be best to start fishing early in the morning and focus on calmer water eddies near rock structure. They can be caught on methodically retrieved jerkbaits and jigs. A subtle presentation will produce more bites than a fast aggressive retrieve.

It has been a great year of fishing with lots of cherished memories made along the way. As we enter the new year let’s hope 2023 brings plenty of catches, new PBs, and exciting adventures.

Way North Chesapeake Fishing Report, December 23 Update:

Winter has officially started with the passing of the solstice this Wednesday and it looks like old man winter isn’t wasting any time bringing on the season, as our region is expected to get a blast of arctic air starting Friday and continuing into the weekend. Strong winds and bitter temperatures will make fishing difficult. And, other than our whiskered bottom dwellers, there isn’t a whole lot of action going on in the northern reaches of the Bay.

big catfish northern bay
Big cats are always a possibility up north on the Bay! (Last year's photo).

Herbs Tackle Shop let us know that the creeks in the tidal rivers are holding some yellow perch and crappie that are willing to bite. The yellow perch are in the deeper holes and can be caught on live minnows either on bottom rigs or floated deep under a slip bobber. The crappie prefer to hold close to structure like sunken wood, bridges, and deep rock piles. Live minnows work great for them too, but they can also be caught on a variety of small jigs. At the Conowingo Dam, some walleye have been caught below the dam. They will be in the eddies outside the fast-moving water and holding close to rocks. Slowly retrieved jerkbaits and paddletails will be your best bet to use. As always, catfish are plentiful. Flatheads can be caught just below the dam in the turbine wash, blue cats will be in all tidal waters, and channel catfish will be more concentrated in the deeper holes of the rivers. The catfish love fresh cut bait, so menhaden or chicken liver works great for them.

Santa is coming to town this weekend so let’s hope for lots of new fishing gear under the tree to try out in the new year. Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us at FishTalk Magazine!

Way North Chesapeake Fishing Report, December 16 Update:

Rockfish season has officially closed and won't open back up in Maryland waters until the May 1 trophy season. Anglers can still target rockfish for catch and release fishing but the larger schools of fish are pushing further south each week. Over the winter, catfish will offer the most opportunities for anglers in the northern reaches of the Bay. The Conowingo Dam pool has plenty of flathead catfish that hang out in the wash below the turbines. Anglers looking to target them should make sure to have waders and heavy-duty rods and line for casting into the current. Fresh cut bait like gizzard shad or menhaden are the more popular baits to use. The flatheads are mainly found just below the dam but other catfish can be found all over the northern Bay and its tributaries.

fishing for yellow perch in the susquehanna
One of our favorite area winter species, the yellow perch, has entered the building.

On the Susquehanna River, the cold weather has the yellow perch staging in the deeper holes for the winter before their spawning runs in the spring. A common tactic this time of year is to drop down bottom rigs baited with small minnows. The cold weather also has the walleye more active and they can be caught in the Susquehanna River or just below the dam. Jerkbaits or jigs retrieved slowly in the current work best in the colder water. The walleye will often be found in shoreline eddies, out of the main current. Make sure to target these fish with patience in mind as they are not the easiest fish to target.

Blue catfish will be found below the Dam, on the flats, and in all of the tidal rivers in this region. During the winter months they will be in deeper water so anglers should target them in deeper holes or along channel edges. Channel catfish will be more restricted to the tidal rivers and will also be found in deep holes and channel edges. Just like the flatheads, fresh cut bait works great for these species of cats as well.

Way North Chesapeake Fishing Report, December 9 Update:

Water temperatures in the northernmost reaches of the Bay are in the 40s and have pushed most of the rockfish into deeper water and south. There are still a few rockfish around but you won’t find the numbers that are being caught below the Bridge and down to the Potomac. Herb’s Tackle Shop let us know that the anglers who are still targeting rockfish are catching some in the Northeast and Elk Rivers. The channel edges at the mouth of the Elk have had a few schools of fish but it takes some searching on the meter to locate them. One angler reported catching a few rockfish in the 17- to 20-inch range in the Northeast while casting and retrieving jigs. Rockfish season will close after December 10 in Maryland waters so the opportunity for that last keeper rock of the season is winding down.

walleye in the river
The cool weather may drive off most of the rock, but walleye are now a better bet. (Photo not current, courtesy of Eric Packard). 

Colder water presents the opportunity for anglers to target walleye in the pool below the Conowingo Dam. Targeting these fish requires a good amount of patience and technique to get a bite. You are going to want to fish baits very slow and methodical for the walleye. The wash at the dam pool and the shorelines at the Conowingo Fisherman’s Park have been productive areas during the colder months. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and jigs will be the best artificial baits to throw for the walleye but live minnows or shiners are always a good bet.

The flathead and blue catfish bite never seems to slow down despite the colder temperatures. The dam pool, river channels, or deep holes are where you can find these fish during the winter. Fresh menhaden, gizzard shad, or chicken liver work well to catch them. Channel catfish can be found in the upper Bay tidal rivers and will also be in deeper waters this time of year.

Way North Chesapeake Fishing Report, December 1 Update:

We didn’t hear much of anything from the flats or surrounding rivers this week but we do know that most of the rockfish action has been pushing further south. Water temperatures in the Bay have been dropping steadily as we enter December which is making the fish school up in deeper water. Water temperatures near the flats have been hovering around the low to mid 40s. The bigger schools of fish have been below the Bay Bridge and are gradually making their way farther south each week.

northern bass
Kenny tied into this monster bass while targeting crappie in one of the rivers – now that’s what we call a cool surprise!

One fishery that doesn’t seem to mind the cold are the abundant catfish that are all over the Bay, flats, and tidal rivers. Blue cats are especially widespread and active this time of year. The Susquehanna Flats is a prime spot to target them and any fresh cut bait will work well. Menhaden and chicken liver seem to work the best however and anglers often add scents or flavors to their baits to entice a bite. Channel catfish will be more restricted to the waters in the tidal rivers but are just as willing to bite. Flathead catfish can be found in the turbine wash below the dam and also in the Susquehanna River itself. Both the blue cats and the flatheads are invasive species and local agencies recommend removing them from waterways if caught.

Yellow perch should be holding in the deeper holes on the upper extents of rivers like the North East and Elk. Bottom rigs baited with bloodworms or nightcrawler usually does the trick for them. Hopefully we get some more intel from our fishermen and women in the northern Bay this week but until then, tight lines and happy fishing!