Freshwater Fishing Reports

Freshwater Fishing Report, March 31 Update:

Longer days and warmer temperatures have increased fish activity in the region this week. There are many exciting bites to take advantage of as we head into April. Contributor Eric Packard reports that the shad fishing is on in full force and casting tandem rigs with darts and spoons into a creek off the Potomac he caught them at a rate of over a dozen per hour early this week. One of the shad even topped 18 inches, and white and chartreuse darts and silver spoons were top producers. However, later in the week Packard tried the Potomac near fletcher’s but rain had the water high and muddy and the fish were not in a biting mood. Shad are being caught in many other areas including the Rappahannock, Occoquan, and upper Potomac, but a shot of rain that muddies up the water can always be problematic.

young angler with his catch
Nice crappie, Young Buck!!

We had a couple of readers let us know the crappie and bass both were biting well in recent days, including the whopper pictured above which Young Buck reeled up at the North Shore Campground in Virginia Beach—despite a broken arm! Awesome effort and dedication Young Buck, we love it. Another angler mentioned catching several bass alongside the crappie, while casting Beetle Spins in a central Maryland lake. He noted the fish were still holding five to 10 feet deep and to reach them a couple of split-shot were added to the line. A few anglers fishing a southern Maryland lake reported a slow but steady bite on both crappie and bass. Large paddletail swimbaits thrown off shoreline structure and at cove mouths got the bass biting while small Rat-L-Traps enticed the crappie. Their biggest bass weighed in just over four pounds.

The Angler in Chief reports a complete bust on a snakehead trip to the Eastern Shore midweek. Even with a number of anglers tossing both lures and minnow, only bass, a blue cat, and a crappie were willing to bite. Contributor Eric Packard fished the Blackwater midweek and gave a similar report with the snakeheads evidently taking a break from feeding for some strange reason.

It was a successful start to trout season as many anglers reaped the benefits of the hard-working DNR and DWR stocking crews. More stockings have taken place this week in Western Maryland and throughout Virginia. Check out the Maryland DNR trout stocking website and the Virginia DWR trout stocking website for all information regarding stocking schedules and area regulations.

Freshwater Fishing Report, March 24 Update:

Many of our freshwater species are becoming more active now that spring is here, and we can expect the bite to only improve as we move towards the end of the month. Contributor Eric Packard fished multiple locations on the Pocomoke River early this week and reported steady action on bass plus some pickerel. Red/orange crankbaits were what got ‘em biting. Up at Deep Creek Lake and the upper Potomac, smallmouth bass and walleye are providing a steady bite for anglers. Crappie are very active in local reservoirs, ponds, and tidal rivers this week as we approach the start of their spawn. The crappie are often found schooled up near structure in moderately deep water. Any type of structure like submerged stumps or fallen trees are good places to fish for them. Live minnows usually work best but small marabou jigs or soft plastics often get them biting as well.

youth angler with a catch of trout
Ike got into some beautiful rainbow trout - WTG, Ike!

This Saturday March 25 is the official start of trout season in Maryland, although many areas are already stocked and open. Waters that have been closed to trout fishing will open at 5:30 a.m. Stocking crews in both Maryland and Virginia have been hard at work to make sure many bodies of water have an abundance of trout for anglers to try their hand at. Check out the Maryland DNR trout stocking website and the Virginia DWR trout stocking website for all information regarding stockings and regulations. One reader targeting stocked trout at some Southern Maryland locations reported a hit or miss bite depending on the location. A trip out to Melwod Pond and Hutchins Pond earlier in the week only produced one fish each. They did note that the bluegill at Melwood pond were active and willing to take a small nymph on his flyrod. Meanwhile, he and another angler went to Cosca Lake and found the trout were willing to bite on a variety of different colored mouse tails. They even landed a nice golden trout, and each caught their limit to round out a fun day of fishing.

Contributor Packard also tried his hand at shad fishing in the Potomac above DC this week. He reported catching 16 hickories in just a couple hours of fishing, with a tandem rig combining a dart and a small silver spoon. This fishery should be hot and heavy for a few weeks so get in on the action while you can, and if you need a refresher on how to make it happen you can check out our Spring Shad Fishing guide and video.

Snakeheads are waking up for spring, too! We had four different reader reports of action this week. None of the catches were huge numbers and they ranged from one to four fish, but those who targeted them on the Eastern Shore were finding a fair amount of success. One noted a jerkbait did the catching and another said he got them on a while fluke, so the bites we heard of were all subsurface baits. One of them was chunky, too, hitting the 29-inch mark. We've got a refresher for you there, as well, in the form of our Snakehead Fishing in the Blackwater guide and video.

Freshwater Fishing Report, March 17 Update:

Many freshwater fish are becoming more active as we near the start of spring. Rising water temperatures this time of year tend to put crappie into feeding mode and now is a great time to fish for them. Unfortunately, erratic weather and gusty conditions have put a crimp in recent fishing plans for many anglers over the past week, but Contributor Eric Packard said a short trip to a local lake did prove there was still a solid crappie bite, with a three-inch green/brown Wacky Worm doing most of the catching followed by a watermelon Wacky. Only one bass was willing to come out and play, but once the weather stabilizes a bit, they should be singing a different tune. He also noted that in areas with big bluegill, they were biting strong on redworms. Another afternoon he hit Tridelphia and reported a strike-out, mentioning that the temperature in the bigger body of water was still in the mid-40s. Largemouth bass will often be found on the sunny and shallower sides of ponds, lakes, and rivers in the afternoons this time of year. Sun throughout the day warms these areas and attracts bass who are looking to feed. Jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are good lures to throw to cover a lot of water when searching for bass.

big bluegill caught by an angler
That's one chunky bluegill. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

The traditional start of trout season will commence on March 25th but there are plenty of places to get in on some trout action before then. Up in the mountains, Mossy Creek reports that brook trout fishing slowed down a bit over the past week as water temps dropped off significantly. Quill gordons and caddis will be the dominant bugs once waters warm up again. They recommend having plenty of copper Johns, psycho prince, bloody Marys, and other attractor nymphs handy while water temps stay cool. Dry fly fishing up in the mountain will peak April into June. Maryland DNR has been busy with stockings this week in many southern and western Maryland counties including Allegany, Calvert, Charles, Prince Georges, and Washington counties. The Virginia DWR has been just as busy with numerous trout stockings taking place throughout the state this week. Trout stocking information can be found on the Maryland DNR Trout Stocking page and the Virginia DWR Trout Stocking page. There’s plenty of opportunities out there folks, so grab a rod and get to fishing.

Freshwater Fishing Report, March 10 Update:

Spring is right around the corner and the first signs of its arrival are beginning to show. The return of warmer weather has many anglers excited for more abundant fishing opportunities. Perch anglers hitting the upper tribs have experienced mixed results depending on location. Reports have ranged from skunks to epic with everything in-between so we’re going to stick with individual area reports by zone rather than lumping them all together. The most consistent white perch bites are coming out of the Manokin and Nanticoke, but these fish should become active in other tributaries soon. We had the first reader reports trickle in of shad being caught in the upper southern tribs, from the Potomac south. These are exceptionally early fish and everything we heard about was onsies-twosies, but it looks like the run could come ahead of schedule this year.

kid caught a big bass!
Maverick caught a beast of a bass - WTG, Maverick!

Largemouth bass are becoming more active, especially on days where the temperature is above average. Many of these fish are feeling the urge to feed more aggressively and anglers are enjoying action in waters ranging from small farm ponds to larger reservoirs. Warm, sunny afternoons will bring bass up to shallower flats to feed. Targeting them with spinnerbaits, lipless cranks, and paddletails in these areas are good options. One reader wrote in to report an excellent day of bass and crappie fishing on a private southern Maryland pond. A few hours of work produced around 20 bass and five crappie. The fish were caught on a few different baits including live minnows floated under a bobber, red lipless crankbaits, and a spinner paired with a four-inch white paddletail. Most of the bass were in the three-to-five-pound range and the crappie were all around 12 inches. They noted that the bass took a particular liking to the red lipless crankbait and many of the bass had red lips as well. In the spring, red colored baits can work particularly well as they mimic the emerging crawfish from their winter burrows.

Freshwater Fishing Report, March 3 Update:

FishTalk’s own Zach Ditmars reports a so-so bite on pickerel in a Salisbury millpond last weekend, but he was dedicated to catching the fish with fly gear so there may have been better action with bait or conventional lures. In any case he did score four fish, including a 24.5-inch citation-sized pickerel. Contributor Eric Packard made it out on a small southern Maryland lake during one of the warmer afternoons early this week and enjoyed some excellent bass action. He says the fish were in three to four feet of water, and most hit a wacky rig but a stickbait also got some bites.

fly fishing for pickerel
Zach got a citation-sized pickerel on fly gear.

We have multiple indications this week that crappie fishing is picking up as temperatures continue to trend milder. Anglers in the Pocomoke, Potomac, and at many lakes are having success. Captain Brian from Apex Predators Guide Service reported catching his first crappie of the year at a creek off the Potomac using small jigheads and minnows. Small soft plastic jigs work well when fished under a bobber or jigged off the bottom but minnows tend to work best to get the crappie biting. We also had a reader report from a farm pond this week confirming the hungriness of the crappie, with a dozen of them plus a bass slamming small chartreuse twister tails on an eighth-ounce head.

Maryland and Virginia fisheries agencies have been busy with stockings throughout most of the winter and now through spring is a great time to target both wild and stocked trout in our region’s rivers, creeks, and lakes. Many areas will still have holdover fish and up in the mountains, spring hatches will have the fish ready to eat. Mossy Creek reports that little black stones, some quill gordons, and black caddis have been spotted hatching in the mountains. Dry fly fishing has been decent and will improve as temperatures warm up and hatches become more significant. They noted that over the weekend anglers caught a few more fish on nymphs than dry flies but late afternoon dry fly fishing really picked up nicely. Maryland stocking information can be found at the Maryland DNR website while Virginia trout stocking information can be found at the Virginia DWR website.

February 3, 2023
Freshwater Fishing Report, February 24 Update: We had a catch of note this week from an undisclosed Maryland freshwater location: a 28-inch pickerel, which tipped the scales at seven pounds and even ounces. That’s the second at or over 28 inches… Read more...
January 6, 2023
Freshwater Fishing Report, January 27 Update: Contributor Eric Packard reports that the winter trout stocking locations continue to be productive. Along with the nymph with a bead head dropper that proved so productive last week, he’s tried using a… Read more...
December 1, 2022
Freshwater Fishing Report, December 30 Update: The recent arctic blast has iced over many local ponds and lakes which has made fishing difficult for our freshwater anglers. Luckily, a warmup is on the way this weekend and will likely melt the ice… Read more...