From the mouth of the Patapsco River to Chesapeake Bay's confluence with the Potomac River, fishing has been superb during the past week, and indications are that it will be hotter by the weekend.
Rockfish, spot, croaker, perch, catfish, sea trout, flounder and increasing numbers of bluefish are available to anglers in the right locations at the right times.
For upper bay anglers, rockfish catches continue to be very good for chummers from Belvedere Shoals to Snake Reef and along the edges near Poole's Island.
Martin L. Gary, of the state's Fisheries Service, reported this week that for several days large concentrations of rockfish have been holding in 25- to 35-foot depth off Sandy Point, a short run from the public launch at Sandy Point State Park.
Love Point and Swan Point also continue to produce excellent rockfish catches.
Catches of rockfish to 38 inches still are fairly frequent -- and occasionally bluefish to 12 pounds have been taken from the chum lines. From the Bay Bridge pilings and over the lumpy bottom north along the Western Shore to the mouth of the Patapsco, bottom fishermen have been on white perch. Spot have moved in above the bridge to the oyster bottoms off Gibson Island.
Timing seems to be the key for anglers seeking croakers, which remain abundant in the Love Point and Podickory Point areas but seem to bite best at dusk.
Also in the upper bay, catfish to 8 pounds appear to be numerous on shallow bars and humps, where clam snouts or cut baits fished on the bottom will work well.
In the middle and lower bay, fishing might be even better.
"Spot fishing is as hot as a firecracker here," said Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. "The spot have moved in with magnitude. At night, the croaker join with the spot, making bottom fishing as good as it gets. Some nice trout and flounder are added as a bonus.
"If you are waiting for the fishing to get right, this it it."
Circle hooks are working
Aerial surveys of Chesapeake Bay show far fewer dead rockfish than during last year's June-July portion of the recreational rockfish season.
DNR biologists said the increased use of circle hooks while chumming could be largely responsible. Circle hooks almost always result in lip-hooked fish, which means release of under-sized or unwanted fish is quick, easy and less injurious.
Middle Chesapeake Bay -- The mouth of the West River, Summer Gooses, Gas Docks, The Hill and the Diamonds have been very good for chummers after rockfish, with plenty of 20-24-inchers being taken along with decent numbers or biggers stripers to 36 inches and occasional big bluefish.
Lamb reported schools of rockfish breaking through the day. In the evenings, Cedar Point Rip has been turning up stripers to 40 inches. Evening or nighttime fishing for croaker has picked up rapidly over the past week, with the mouths of the Choptank and Patuxent rivers, the Chinese Muds, James Island and Holland Point Bar excellent locations.
Croaker bite has been on and off at Hackett's and in Eastern Bay. Spot often have been mixed with croaker in the same locations. Spot sizes range from medium to large. From Tolley Point to Hackett's white perch and spot are mixed in and holding on the deeper edges of oyster bars. False Channel, below the mouth of the Choptank River, continues to produce good flounder catches.
Lower Chesapeake Bay -- The eastern edge of the ship channel from the HS buoy south to buoy 76, the Southwest Middle Grounds and Point No Point Light are good chumming locations for rockfish, although DNR reported fewer large rockfish there than farther north.
Good numbers of bluefish to 4 pounds are in on the Middle Grounds and at the Triangle. Beneath the bluefish are sea trout in the 18-22-inch class.
Hooper Island Light, the Northwest Middle Grounds and Honga River are good choices for big croaker with sea trout mixed in. Tangier Sound, too, has been good for croaker and sea trout, along with increasing numbers of spot.
Susquehanna River -- Old bridge pilings and rock ledges will turn up good rockfish catcheson poppers and jointed baits. Smallmouth bass are a good bet around islands and the river banks. There also are good walleye and catfish catches.
Ocean City -- Inshore, the flounder fishing has improved over the past few days, especially behind Assateague Island from Buoys 10 to 13. The south jetty at the inlet and the U.S. 50 bridge are good for sea trout over 20 inches, and the inlet piers are good for sea trout, small bluefish and mostly sub-legal rockfish. Croakers are moving into the back bays, and kingfish are numerous in the surf.
Offshore, the season's first white marlin have been caught, with most of the best fishing at Washington Canyon. Yellowfin tuna are reported plentiful at Washington Canyon along with mako sharks. Best concentrations of sharks, however, are from the Jackspot to the Hambone.