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Click Before You Cast:
using online fishing resources to catch more fish

"Where are the fish?"  It is an age-old question Chesapeake Bay anglers ask when searching countless tidal creeks, rivers and bays stretching over 4,500 square miles and averaging 21 feet deep. We all understand that fish are influenced by food, shelter, and water conditions. So where do we find this information?

The answer is just a few mouse clicks away. Maryland, Virginia and the federal government collect and post online a variety of environmental monitoring data to help us better understand our waters so we can protect and restore our critical natural resources. This goldmine of monitoring information can also provide you with powerful tools that can help you eliminate unproductive waters, save you fuel, and up your chances of fishing success.

forecast icon Our Weekly Fishing Conditions Forecast gives an overview of how current water conditions may affect your fishing, but for detailed and up-to-date fishing conditions in your area of the bay, be sure to fully explore the steps below down arrow:

Follow these steps to find where fish are likely to be present on your next fishing trip:


Click on each step below to view information and links. Follow the 'How To' tutorials in each step to learn how to put all this information into practice and find your best fishing locations:

  • There is a wealth of information available in books or on-line about all Chesapeake Bay gamefish that will teach you where, when and how to find and catch them. Once you understand their favorite seasonal haunts, pull out your charts and get ready to start zooming in on productive spots for your next fishing trip.

    Follow the 'How To' tutorials in each step to learn how to put this knowledge into practice:

    >> How To Think Like a Fish <<
    Think like a fish Rockfish Jimmy Whipple

    Think like a fish links:

    Step 1A - Understand your fish:
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Nautical Charts:
  • Fish need places to live, eat, and reproduce. Due to constantly changing Chesapeake Bay conditions, preferred fish habitat for any type of fish can vary greatly throughout the year. Experienced anglers know that gamefish will often congregate on or near areas where relatively deep water is near shallow water or habitat edges. Typical areas include points, drop-offs, channel edges, flats, grass beds, and oyster bars. In the remaining areas on your chart, mark areas with these types of features. The best fishing areas often include a combination of several key habitats, such as oyster bars or grass beds near channel edges, etc.

    >> How To: Identify preferred habitat <<

  • Summer flounder, MD Fisheries

    Habitat Links:

  • Maryland Bay Bottom Habitat Mapper - Maryland Department of Natural Resources

  • Dive Deeper:

      • For more background on submerged aquatic vegetation, click here.
      • To identify the types of submerged aquatic vegetation in your area, click here.
  • Once you have identified your fishing spots, find moving water by checking the on-line streamflow, wind, wave conditions and tide charts. Finding moving water is important because it can funnel baitfish and crabs through the prime habitat areas where gamefish feed. Rising tides can move fish into shallower areas while falling tides can pull prey out of the shallower areas into deeper channels where gamefish will feed. Some areas fish better on falling water and others fish better on rising water.

    Wind direction, duration and speed can mean a big difference to your fishing day. Not only does wind oxygenate the water, but winds blowing against the tide can often produce larger waves than normal and can slow tidal flushing. Winds blowing in the same direction of the tide can speed up tidal flushing.

    Increased flows can improve fishing by cooling and oxygenating the water and dislodging food, but when flows get too high, they can quickly alter conditions by decreasing water clarity and salinity.

    >> How To: Find Moving Water <<

  • Bluefish, MD Fisheries Service

    Moving Water Links:

  • Tide Predictions Map - Eyes on the Bay
      • Use 'Filter station' dropdown to select 'Tide predictions'
  • Maryland Tides - Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Wind & Wave Conditions - Chesapeake Bay Observing Network
  • Marine Forecast - National Weather Service
  • Streamflow stations - United States Geological Survey   (real-time)

This is a new feature on Eyes on the Bay, if you have comments or suggestions drop us a line!