The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has launched a new awareness campaign to reduce striped bass (rockfish) mortality during the summer fishing season.

High water and air temperatures as well as low oxygen can cause fish to become sensitive and stressed, with increased mortality during catch-and-release fishing. Larger striped bass (24 inches or larger) have the most difficulty surviving with these conditions.

A color-coded recommendation system will now advise anglers of fishing conditions, helping them plan fishing trips up to seven days in advance.

Any day you can fish is a good day in my opinion. The best way to reduce latent mortality of stressed out fish, other than catching only keepers, is to reel in fish quickly to limit their struggles. If you reach your rockfish limit, there are plenty of catfish and snakeheads to keep you active. They both fight just as hard or better than rockfish.

It’s also best to keep fish in the water at all times and handle them as little as possible to protect their protective slime coat. If the hook is deep and not easily removed, cut the line and leave the hook in the fish. The less time the fish is on the line, the better its chance for survival.

The DNR will monitor temperature forecasts and announce a general recommendation each day during the months of July and August, using the following advisory system:

Red: Air temperatures are forecast at 95 degrees or higher. Anglers are encouraged not to fish for striped bass after 10 a.m. and should target other species of fish.

Yellow: Air temperatures are forecast at 90-94 degrees. Anglers should use extreme care when fishing for striped bass; fish should be kept in the water when caught and released on these days.

Green: Fishing conditions are normal. Proper catch-and-release practices are encouraged.

Announcements will be sent through department emails, social media postings, and other informational media.

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CCA news

The Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland has organized its first Chesapeake Clean-Up Week for July 7-13 in the form of a photo iAngler tournament. The event will run like a fishing tournament, but instead of submitting fish, participants will submit a photo of their catch of trash. The more photos that are submitted via iAngler, the more chances to win a pair of Costa Sunglasses, Engel coolers, and other prizes. Registration is free via the iAngler.com app.

John Page Williams, a senior naturalist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will talk about expanding fish habitats and bay grasses on Thursday, July 11 at the Kent Narrows Chapter meeting of CCA at Fisherman’s Inn in Grasonville. The meeting, open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m.

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Fishing report

The best fishing areas in the Chesapeake Bay now are cool, oxygenated areas with underwater points, hard bottom, drop-offs, and schools of baitfish. Because of low oxygen conditions in the deep channel waters from the Bay Bridge down to the state line, it’s probably best to avoid fishing deeper than 30 feet. On our east side from the Bay Bridge south to near Hooper’s Island, avoid fishing deeper than 20 feet.

Anglers are having success drifting bait, such as soft crab or cut menhaden, back to striped bass suspended near Bay Bridge pylons and also jigging near the structure. Live-lining small white perch has also produced good results. Jigging with a variety of soft plastics often works in tight to the bridge. Six-to eight-inch lures in pearl, chartreuse, or white tend to be good choices. Other locations to check out are Baltimore Light and some of the knolls and shoal areas as well as Swan and Love points. A falling tide presents some of the best fishing options when drifting and jigging.

Stripers are also holding in relatively shallow water on the outside edges of Hacketts, the Gum Thickets area, Thomas Point, Bloody Point, Eastern Bay, and the Breezy Point area. Rockfish can be found suspended in about 25 feet of water. Many anglers are jigging at these and other locations with good success, while chumming is also a popular option.

Trolling will catch fish that are on the move and scattered. Spoons and red hoses pulled behind planers or inline weights will attract them. A mix of bucktails dressed with sassy shads and Storm type swimshads are also a good choice when trailing behind an umbrella rig.

Schools of white perch can be found holding over shoals and knolls like in the region of Love and Swan points.

The shallow-water fishery for stripers is worth the effort to get up at dawn or linger in the evening hours to fish topwater lures. Casting topwater lures over grass and shoreline structure often brings explosive surface strikes. Where grass is not a problem, casting swimshads, crankbaits, and jerkbaits will lure fish. Casting these lures at rock piles such as Thomas Point Light and the rocks along Poplar Island can offer some exciting results.

Farther south, stripers are biting along the channel edge off Cove Point and the east side of the shipping channel from Buoy 76 down to 72. Reports of large red drum and cobia are becoming more common in the area below the Target Ship, but the best reports continue to come from Virginia.

Prospects for good catches of blue crabs are improving in the middle and lower bay regions. The best opportunities for catching a bushel of crabs per outing are coming from the lower bay region’s tidal rivers and creeks.

On the Atlantic Coast, surf anglers are enjoying good fishing for kingfish, using pieces of bloodworms or Fishbites. Finger mullet baits are enticing small bluefish. Using larger baits of cut menhaden or mullet may draw inshore sharks and cownose rays. Flounder are traveling through inlet areas and can be caught from shore by casting white Gulp baits slightly up-current and jigging them as the current sweeps them along the bottom.

Offshore, anglers trolling from shoal areas out to the 30 fathom lumps are catching a mix of bluefish, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and Atlantic bonito. Silver spoons and small plastic skirted lures make up a good trolling spread.

Double-digit catches of yellowfin tuna in the 30-pound range have been common at the Wilmington Canyon. Washington, Poormans, and Baltimore canyons are also producing yellowfin along with a mix of dolphin-fish, bigeye tuna, and a Bluefin now and then.

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Duck blind know-it-all

The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest.

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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