Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report- December 14, 2023

Sea bass and triggerfish are caught around reef sites, white perch and blue catfish transition to deep holes in the Bay, and catch-and-release striper fishing is productive in the lower Bay after the keeper-season closer on 12/10.

Maryland & Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report

Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD

The Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report is written and compiled by writer and media professional, James Houck. Find the full report and more at

Last weekend was above-average warm. Then things got frigid. But still fun. There’s great fishing right now throughout the middle Chesapeake Bay region. Temperatures overnight have dropped to below-freezing, so we’re starting to see some skim ice in the skinny water of creeks and coves of many tributaries. Not much, but some. Daytime temps have hovered near the 40-degree mark, so if you’re going after chain pickerel, yellow perch, and other river-specific species, then the afternoons may be the best time to target them, as the sun has had a chance to warm the water slightly on southern facing shorelines. Try 3 to 4-inch jerkbaits, small inline spinners, or 2 to 3-inch soft plastics on 1/8-ounce jigheads to get these fish. The colder the water gets, anglers may want to try a live minnow under a bobber to entice the pickerel.

Perch should be starting to school up ahead of their winter spawn and if you hook into one, keep throwing in the general area. You should find more. My best perch outing ever was at this exact time last December in a small cove of the Severn River. Other hot rivers include the Magothy, Patapsco, South, Choptank, Nanticoke, and to a lesser degree, the Chester and West/Rhode.

December is a prime month to target yellow perch in many of the Chesapeake tributaries noted for their populations of the species.

Even though December 10th marked the official close of keeper-season for striped bass and the unofficial end to fishing season for many anglers, die-hards are still hitting open water for a great catch-and-release bite. There are big fish to be caught. And this week, most of the action seemed to be in water south of Annapolis. Between Franklin Point on the western side of the shipping channel and Poplar Island on the eastern side, anglers have found a nice grade of fish up to 30 inches hugging bottom. Snap-jigging or gently bottom bouncing large plastics on heavy jigheads up to 2 or 3 ounces works well. Dab some Pro-Cure gel on the plastic to enhance your offering. Heavy spoons also work well to get down to the fish.

A few reports of 40 to 45-inch stripers came from a few charters this week. And these fish appear to be coming from waters even further south, from Cove Point to Cedar (outside of Solomons), and down to Point Lookout, to where some captains have shifted their winter operations. With winter ahead, warm water discharges will become go-to places to jig for big fish (Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant for example).

Anglers in the lower-to-middle Potomac and Patuxent watersheds that are targeting blue catfish have reported mixed outings. Success but not the same numbers seen in autumn. The fish seem to be transitioning to their winter holes and hunkering down deep. That’s the shared consensus. To get them, you’ll want to find the deepest holes and bends. Soaking chunk bait on bottom rigs will still get hit once you locate prime, deep habitat.

Now is a great time to dust off your fly rod and try for a mix of rainbow, golden, brown, and brook trout. Maryland Department of Natural Resources is actively pre-season stocking the first three species into ponds, creeks, and rivers throughout the state. Check DNR’s trout stocking page for daily updates. Anglers are reporting catches of native brookies in Western Maryland watersheds, but also the Gunpowder River in the Baltimore region. Good luck!

View the Reel Chesapeake Fishing Report, written and compiled by writer and media professional James Houck, at

Out of West Ocean City, Captain Monty Hawkins of Morning Star Fishing Charters reported more boat limits of sea bass this week. On Tuesday 12/12, they battled a near 20-knot northwest wind, but that didn’t hinder the fishing. The skipper reported their anglers catching quick limits of sea bass, with plenty of double-headers of keepers and a few triggerfish still in the mix.

Triggerfish are still hitting the deck with black sea bass on Morning Star Charters.

The fishing was so good that the skipper even managed to catch 13 keeper sea bass on completely bare 13/0 circle hooks. At times, he said, the fish seemed more interested in biting a bare hook than taking a jig! A few days prior, they managed to land a handful of bluefish, which the crew kept and donated to the captain’s friend for the smoker. The reef and wreck sites are producing plenty of meat for the table, so get out now while the action is good!

Anglers aboard Morning Star Charters are pulling up easy limits of sea bass this week.

Angler’s Sport Center Fishing Report – Annapolis, MD 

The Angler’s Sport Center fishing report is compiled and written by Anglers Team Member, A.J. Lewis. 

Upper and Middle Bay

White perch are plentiful in deeper waters, especially inside channels or around hard-bottom areas. As these fish seek refuge in deeper waters to evade the dropping surface temperatures, anglers are finding success with bottom rigs, particularly the Chesapeake Sabiki Rig, tipped with live or artificial bait. The schooling nature of white perch means that once you hook one, there’s a good chance you’ll be in for a productive fishing session. Get ready to enjoy the thrill of reeling in these spirited panfish!

Winter fishing in the Susquehanna is providing an exciting mix of species, with blue catfish taking the spotlight as the favored catch. Anglers are witnessing a rise in their activity as the water temperature drops, making both shallow and deeper waters viable locations for angling success. A variety of baits and lures are proving effective in attracting these winter catfish. Notably, cut soft crabs are emerging as the favored bait, while cut alewife follows closely as the second favorite. It’s worth noting that there’s no creel limit on these invasive blue catfish, offering anglers the opportunity to reel in as many as they desire. Beyond the thrill of the catch, these catfish also provide a generous amount of tasty meat, allowing anglers to stock up their freezers for winter feasts!

As striped bass migrate deeper and further south to escape the cooling waters of the Chesapeake Bay, anglers are employing various methods to target these prized sport fish. Trolling, particularly with an umbrella or tandem rig rigged with swimshads, has emerged as the favored and most successful method at present. The enticing movement of swimshads proves irresistible to striped bass, leading to fruitful catches. Additionally, jigging and following birds have proven to be almost equally successful methods for anglers seeking the thrill of catching striped bass in these changing conditions. Whether trolling or jigging, the key is adapting to the movements of these fish as they navigate the bay’s shifting temperatures and locations.

Winter fishing provides prime opportunities for pickerel, with these fish becoming more aggressive and active during the colder months. Pickerel can be found in various locations, including almost every tidal river and numerous freshwater ponds in Maryland. Anglers are discovering that chain pickerel make an excellent alternative when the usual targets, like migrating white perch and striped bass, become less active. A tried-and-true method for targeting pickerel in winter is using a standard willow vibe rigged on a 3.75-inch soft plastic. Casting this setup around shallow water structures or grass proves to be perfect for enticing these lively fish. Winter pickerel fishing is an exciting venture for anglers looking to make the most of the season!

South Bay

In the lower Chesapeake Bay area, white perch are congregating around 30 feet of water near the mouths of tidal rivers and along channel edges. Seeking refuge in deeper waters helps them evade the cooling surface temperatures as winter approaches. Anglers are finding success in targeting these deeper-water perch using bottom rigs, particularly the Chesapeake Sabiki Rig. A crucial reminder for anglers is to adhere to regulations, as no more than 2 hooks per rig are allowed. This ensures responsible and sustainable fishing practices while enjoying the excitement of pursuing white perch in their winter habitats.

Striped bass anglers are reporting success in key locations, including the Potomac’s channel edges, the lower Patuxent River, and the channel from Cedar Point to Cove Point. Trolling swimshads under either an umbrella or tandem rig, at around 30 feet deep, has proven to be a favored and effective technique. For anglers targeting striped bass holding in specific areas, jigging is another highly successful method. Additionally, being on the lookout for active flocking birds chasing a bait ball provides an exciting opportunity to get on a productive topwater bite for these prized sport fish!

For anglers facing challenges in finding striped bass, there’s an excellent substitute to consider—targeting blue catfish! These robust fish are abundantly present in various tidal rivers, including the mouth of the Potomac, Jug Bay, and the Nanticoke River. Blue catfish are known for their formidable fights, with some fish reaching impressive sizes well above 40 pounds! Anglers have found success using a variety of baits, but cut soft crab and cut alewife seem to be the favored choices. The resilience of blue catfish to cooling water temperatures means they remain active during the winter months.

The Angler’s Sport Center fishing report is compiled and written by Anglers Team Member, A.J. Lewis. 

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