Fly Fishing Chesapeake Bay – May

I’ve managed to get out four times in May to fish on the Chesapeake.  Two of those trips were abbreviated:  Doing a sea test after boat repairs and fishing for an hour or two (and did very well), and later taking the family out to see the birds on Barren Island while wetting a line (and got blanked).

The other two trips were all day excursions to the Eastern Shore to chase fish on fly and spinning tackle, and on those trips I and my buddies did well.

Trip #1 was in middle May.  Water temperatures in the bay and the rivers on the Eastern Shore were in the low to mid-70’s, and the fish were hungry.  Due to the wind forecast, we started fishing around noon as the wind died down.  I stopped at the remains of an old light house first, anchored, and we worked flies and jigs along the rocks and current seams.  We caught a few fish, including my buddy’s first striper on a fly rod.

First fly rod striper for this guy.

After trying for 20 minutes, we worked a few drifts elsewhere around the structure, but with the high sun, the fish were not active.

From there, we headed to an Eastern Shore river, fishing a variety of points and grass flats.  The water was crystal clear, and we could see striped bass zipping around chasing our flies and lures in small groups.

Productive water on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At times, and using the boat hook, I poled us quietly along the sod banks.  Everywhere we stopped to fish, we did well:  Striped bass to 25″.

That was great, but the most amazing part of this day was the number of puppy drum we saw in the shallows, which we were able to sight cast to a few times.  The drum were prissy, and wouldn’t look at our flies or lures.  They were traveling alone, or in tightly bunched pods of 2 to 4 fish.  And they were big, with some looking every bit of 28″.  Very cool to see in a foot of clear water.

As 7PM approached, we headed back across the Chesapeake to be positioned for the evening popper bite in Solomons.


I wish I could say we caught dozens of massive fish, but we didn’t.  The fish were small (sub-18″) and while aggressively attacking our fly rod poppers, they had a hard time getting hooked.  That said, I always enjoy watching a fish come completely out of the water to eat a fly.

Sunset popper fishing in Solomons.

Trip #2 was Memorial Day weekend, and had me fishing with a good friend from college.  In one week, the water temperatures had climbed into the upper 70’s and low 80’s in the tidal rivers, and were in the low to mid-70’s in the deeper water of the bay.

Checking out points and creek guts in a tidal river.

As in the weekend before, we caught fish in many of the same places, and the fish were a similar size class:  15″ to 21″.

The water was more stained and murky than the previous weekend, and we struggled to find the pods of red drum that had been plentiful the weekend prior.

The biggest fish of the day was a cow nose ray that I hooked on a scented rubber jig, and gave my buddy the hardest fight of his life.  The rubber landing net barely fit around the ray.

30-40 lb cownose ray that scarfed down a scented jig.  Released back into the river.

The biggest striper of the day was a nice 24″ fish caught in inches of water.  After making a few good runs, he was released.

A colorful ESMD striped bass.

We did observe one red drum during the trip, which was feeding on a sandy bottom along with a couple dozen cownose rays.  We cast jigs (scented and unscented) to the fish, but were ignored.  These Maryland red drum are picky.

One fun aspect of fishing the shore:  You can get out and walk the sod banks and do pretty well.  I nabbed a half dozen fish while walking along the sod banks, and shared the experience with a few dozen diamondback terrapins that were eyeballing me.

Sometimes you gotta walk.

All in all, it was a great couple of days on the Bay, and I’m hoping the shallow water fishery stays strong through June despite the heat and heavy rains.

Pretty shoreline on the ESMD.  A truly beautiful place to spend your time.

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