Step 6 – In the remaining area, identify preferred habitat
Now take your chart that has been marked to exclude areas that don't meet salinity, oxygen and temperature preferences for your target fish, using the information you gathered in Step 1. In addition, your chart will be marked to eliminate areas with very poor water clarity from suspended sediments and algal blooms. In the chart area remaining, begin highlighting the preferred habitat areas for your target fish using the information you gathered in Step 1A. Such areas could be channel edges, current breaks, flats, humps, points, rock piles, bridge pilings, etc. These will be the areas where you will focus your fishing.
- The potential for some of these spots to hold fish can be greatly improved if they are located on or near any or several of these great fish-attracting habitat areas including artificial reefs, oyster bars, underwater grass beds, etc.
- If your target fish can be found nearshore, check out the satellite maps provided on the main Eyes on the Bay station map, the base map used for Eyes on the Bay. Satellite maps can often show nearshore details very useful for finding fish including channel edges, flats, piers, ambush points, submerged objects, etc. In addition to Google maps, both Bing and Mapquest also provide satellite maps so check these resources to help find the places your target fish will prefer. These mapping services will often use different satellite maps so check them all out to find the one that works best for you.
Maryland Bay Bottom Habitat Mapper (Maryland Department of Natural Resources) -
This mapper identifies critical fish habitat areas, overlayed on the NOAA Depth/Navigation charts so you can see their relationship with nearby channel edges, points, humps, flats or other key contour features. The Maryland Bay Bottom Habitat Mapper is composed of the following layers which can be selected to provide more information, or turned on or off to allow better control of quantity of screen information:
- Maryland Artificial Reefs (Maryland Department of Natural Resources [MARI]) –
This layer shows the location (with coordinates) of Maryland's artificial reefs. It describes the type of reef, the depth, size and also includes nearby bottom type. Pay attention to the depth of these reefs since some will be located in poorly oxygenated areas during the warmer months. However, the reefs may become fish magnets during spring and fall periods when oxygen conditions improve.
- Popular Fishing Areas -
This layer shows popular recreational fishing spots in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, derived from the publication "Anglers' Guide to the United State Atlantic Coast, Fish, Fishing Grounds & Fishing Facilities" and from personal communication with Keith Lockwood, MD DNR, Fisheries Service in June of 2000.
- Bottom Types –
This layer identifies sand and mud bottom types, based on Maryland DNR bottom mapping surveys in the 1970s and 1980s. If there is adequate oxygen, these habitats can hold a variety of food for hungry gamefish.
- Submerged Aquatic Vegetation –
This layer shows the location of recent underwater grass beds, a key nursery area for juvenile fish and crabs and a popular hunting ground for gamefish. This information is provided by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).
- Oyster Plantings -
This layer shows the location of recent oyster plantings and reef balls (2009 through 2018). Often referred to as "live bottom," these are are fish magnets because they provide shelter for numerous other fish and crabs.
Take your map showing prime fishing areas and mark nearby underwater grass beds green, oyster bars yellow, artificial reefs purple (or any color you like.) You now have a fishing map that shows potentially good spots and great spots to focus your fishing!
Finding your prime fishing spots from your boat - Once you have identified the specific areas you would like to fish, click the ruler icon. A flyout menu will appear and then select the location icon. Once this icon is selected, move your cursor to your prime fishing areas and the coordinates will appear on the screen. Copy these coordinates to your GPS and once you are on the water, you can go directly to all the prime fishing locations you have selected!
Now that you have identified your fishing hotspots, there is one more important step to maximize your potential to catch fish. You are ready to move on to: Go To Step 7 – Find moving water.