The big story for anyone watching for the window of opportunity to be able to fish the anticipated spawning runs of white perch, is the fluctuating water temperatures. Water temperatures in the tidal rivers recently took a nose dive due to chilly weather and the tidal rivers and are barely holding at 50ºF today. Warmer weather is in the forecast for the rest of the week and a few sunny days will help a lot. Water temperatures at the mouth of the Susquehanna are a finger numbing 40ºF. A few folks have been out trying some catch and release fishing for striped bass around the flats but there have been no takers and the large females might not even be there yet since the bay water temperatures are not much warmer. There are some yellow perch being caught in the deeper waters of the lower Susquehanna River and a little bit of action in the Northeast River. Other tidal rivers in the upper bay such as the Sassafras and Chester can provide some good fishing action for post spawn yellow perch in the upper sections and the vanguard of the white perch spawning run may also be experienced.
Farther down the bay; the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant warm water discharge seems to be the only show in town when it comes to catch and release action for striped bass. Bouncing soft plastic jigs or metal in the wash of the discharge in a drifting boat has been providing some rod bending catch and release action.
Since fall/winter 2014, Fisheries Service has been taking steps to assure recreational anglers are aware of recreational and commercial striped bass fishery management rule changes necessary to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) approval of Addendum IV to the Interstate Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. Addendum IV required a 25% reduction in the coastal fisheries and a 20.5% reduction in the Chesapeake Bay fisheries.
After public input and lengthy discussions with the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission (SFAC) of several different options to achieve the mandated reduction, the Department proposed the option which best meets the diversity of interests among Maryland’s anglers. It continues to provide an opportunity for a trophy fish (>40″) while also providing an opportunity to those which would like to have a better chance to bring a fish home. It also provides increased protection to the female spawning stock which is an objective of ASMFC’s recent management action. In mid-March we learned that the ASMFC Striped Bass Technical Committee had approved Maryland’s proposal. Therefore, regulations for this year are as follows:
A person may only take or possess:
One striped bass between 28 inches and 36 inches or one striped bass larger than 40 inches from April 18, 2015 to May 15, 2015.
Two striped bass larger than 20 inches, only one of which may be larger than 28 inches, from May 16, 2015 to December 15, 2015.
EXCEPTION: A person may only keep one striped bass between 20 inches and 26 inches in the Susquehanna Flats and the Northeast River, as described in COMAR 08.02.15.09A(3), from May 16, 2015 through May 31, 2015.
Maryland has submitted an appeal to the ASMFC concerning the 20″ minimum for striped bass in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
There are white perch staged in just about every tidal river in the middle and lower regions of the bay. Cold water temperatures have most of the white perch holding in deeper water a few miles downriver from the spawning areas. Fisheries biologist Butch Webb has been monitoring the white perch spawning run in the Choptank River recently and offered us these observations. We are seeing a lot of smaller white perch this year. There hasn’t been a run of big perch to this point and they are starting to spawn so we may not get a run of good ones further up the river. The water temps have been variable from 47º to 50º depending on night time air temperature. We have caught at least one blue catfish a day for the past four days.
Although rain is predicted towards the end of the week; warm air temperatures and plenty of sun penetration into the waters of the tidal rivers should spur the white perch runs this coming weekend which will fit nicely into folk’s schedules. Small shad darts tipped with a piece of minnow or other favorite baits will be a good choice for weeding through the surge of small white perch in the upper reaches of the tidal rivers. The throwback ratio is usually high on spawning white perch runs so lures such as shad darts get you back into the action faster than the classic grass shrimp bait under a bobber.
There seems to be a bit of a shortage in the bloodworm market so far this season. Cold temperatures and heavy snow in Maine have made it difficult for diggers to supply enough bloodworms to go around. Apparently European buyers are also purchasing as many bloodworms as they can for their fishermen. Hopefully the market will ease up as we get farther along into spring.