Snakeheads are here to stay in the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries and evidence of their proliferation can be found through media sources and natural resources reports. A partnership overseeing fish passage at Conowingo Dam recently reported that 81 northern snakeheads were caught in the dam’s fish lift this spring, a dramatic increase after only one snakehead was found there the past two years.

While all known snakeheads were stopped and dispatched before reaching the dam’s reservoir, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and partners warn of a possible northern expansion by the aggressively invasive species into the Susquehanna River.

Two fish lifts were installed on the east and west sides of the Conowingo Dam decades ago to allow passage of migratory fish such as American shad and river herring. The fish lifts are critical for migratory species restoration and a requirement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

These fish lifts operate during the spring migration, which is also when snakeheads are known to travel longer distances in the watershed. All snakeheads captured this year were in the western side of the dam.

In 2017, one snakehead was observed passing from the lower Susquehanna River and upstream to Conowingo Pond through the east fish lift. An agreement was established in 2018 between the Conowingo Dam’s owner, Exelon, and the Susquehanna River Anadromous Fish Restoration Cooperative (SRAFRC) to implement practices that reduce the spread of snakeheads while still allowing migratory fish passage.

Maryland’s DNR is increasing its efforts to educate the public about the northern snakehead, having introduced several videos, fact sheets, and an updated webpage.

Judging from angler posts on social media, it’s nice to have a fish in which the DNR hasn’t placed burdensome restrictions on their catch. Anglers like the taste of snakeheads and often share recipes. I’m looking forward to catching my first one. One planned trip to try my luck in the shallow waters of Blackwater National Wildlife refuge got crushed, but I hope to get there soon with my kayak.

Snakeheads were first observed in Maryland waters in 2002, and shortly after their discovery in Potomac River in 2004 the species gained a foothold in tidal waters. Since then they have spread to every major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

Anglers can catch and keep any size and any number of snakeheads year-round to help reduce the population. Anglers are also asked to report snakeheads caught in Maryland to fishingreports.dnr@maryland.gov or 410-260-8300.

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Elks Youth Fishing Derby

Now’s a good time to register and place this year’s Elks Youth Fishing Derby on your calendar. This year’s derby is from 8 a.m. to noon, rain or shine, July 13 at the Bay Street ponds in Easton. It’s free, including lunch, for youth ages 5 to 13 residing in Caroline and Talbot counties. An average of over 100 young anglers have attended past events and organizers are preparing for 120 this year. Pre-registration is requested by visiting elks1622.org/fishingderby.html.

Awards will be presented for the largest and most fish in three different age groups. In addition to fishing, there will be nature exhibits, metal detecting, face painting, and more. Volunteers will serve hotdogs, chips, and sodas at noon.

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Fishing report

Chummers continue to see striped bass action at Swan, Love, and Podickory points along the channel edges. Plenty of bait is necessary since the ratio of catfish to striped bass has been high. Our eastern side of the Bay Bridge from the sewer pipe to the bridge pylons seems to be holding the best concentration of stripers in the region.

Oxygen depletion is moving stripers closer to the surface, where there is plenty of oxygen mixing from the action of wind and waves. Anglers are having success in waters less than 30 feet deep along channel edges and rock piles. The inside edge of Bloody Point — known as the Wild Grounds — along with Hollicutts Noose and the Gum Thickets to the north have been popular places to troll. Red hoses are effective to drag as well as swimshads and bucktails behind umbrella rigs. Spoons behind inline weights have also been a part of trolling spreads.

Jigging around the Bay Bridge pylons offers the ability to target larger striped bass with soft plastic jigs in the 6-inch to 8-inch range. Some anglers have had luck drifting soft crab baits back to the bases while others are using live eels with similarly good results.

Fishing for white perch remains productive. Dangling pieces of bloodworm or grass shrimp on bottom rigs in deeper waters, along with dropper fly rigs, is a good way to attract them. Casting beetle spins, small spinners, Rat-L-Traps, or jigs around shoreline structure will also work.

The shallow water striped bass fishery has been disappointing in areas like the lower Choptank River, with limited action casting topwater lures and swimshads at the rocks at Poplar Island and Thomas Point during the early morning and late evening hours.

Low salinity values are allowing channel catfish to move freely throughout the bay and lower sections of tidal rivers. Blue catfish are also becoming part of the mix now and most likely will become more common.

On the Atlantic Coast, surf anglers are catching kings and blues. Kingfish are biting pieces of bloodworms or Fishbites on a bottom rig. Bluefish are being caught on cut baits of menhaden or mullet or finger mullet. Casting metal or plugs is also a fun way to catch blues. Those casting large cut baits are also catching cownose rays and the occasional inshore shark and cobia.

Anglers targeting the near shore shoal areas and farther out have been catching bluefish, Atlantic bonito, false albacore, and some Spanish mackerel. Sea bass fishing has been good at the wreck and reef sites and flounder are becoming a more common catch. Offshore anglers will welcome calmer seas. Trollers have been catching a mix of Bluefin, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna between Poorman’s and Baltimore canyons when the weather allows.

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Duck blind know-it-all

Eastern purple martin colonies are almost 100 percent dependent on human-supplied housing, which started with native Americans.

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

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