Urban Fishing at it's Finest - Chesapeake Striped fish on foot.
Is it just me or do a lot of folks around the DMV just absolutely LOVE trout fishing? I mean like - LETS LOAD UP THE CAR, DRIVE 5 HOURS, CATCH TWO FISH UNDER 14” AND COME HOME HEROES - sort of love. I don’t mean any offense, trout are wonderful little creatures that sometimes get big, are often beautiful, and live in pretty chill places… but during the summer our fishery just isn’t all that great. Terrestrials on spring creeks and tight line nymphing tailwaters are about the only games in town outside of the sporadic hatch…but if folks are willing to drive 1.5hrs from the District for tough trout fishing…let alone 3hrs for decent-good trout fishing…wouldn’t they be willing to drive 45 minutes for good saltwater fishing?
Urban fishing is what it is. We all have horror stories from almost hooking a curious onlooker with our backcast or having someone harass us about why and what we’re fishing for, but Baltimore is different breed of urban fishery. Especially from that of the District. For one, Baltimore isn’t a city that’s in denial of its watery origins or should I say… Baltimoreans aren’t oblivious to the fact that their city is on the water. For example: instead of the comical “are there fish in there?” question that is posed by many a pedestrian in DC (seriously, bro?), Charm City folks ask “catch any good ones?” They know the fish are there. Hell, everyone who stops and chats with you has some sort of story about fishing the harbor or that one time their grampy caught a bull shark (true story). It’s good stuff.
Second, although a major metropolis in its own right, Baltimore does not nearly harbor as many pedestrians…or at least they disappear during daytime. Imagine fishing the Tidal Basin without a soul in sight? Wouldn’t that be great…
Well, during weekdays in the summer and fall, the entire Inner Harbor Promenade is essentially your playground. There’s even a nifty Harbor Commuter boat to take you from one side to the other…which paid big dividends in early September when I found a decent blitz under birds right off of Baltimore light and Pier VII Pavilion…yeah - by the Trash Wheel. But from Mid-July to early November, this is what urban anglers can expect to find. Birds, bait, and bass. Especially at first and last light.
Starting when the thermometer trends upwards, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is absolutely loaded with striped bass. Schoolies from 6-25”, with the average being about 12-16", that for the most part, will destroy a small streamer or popper with reckless abandon from sun up to sun down…or at least when there is a moving tide. While light tackle is the easier path to take due to the sometime tight confines and awkward angles that force anglers and pedestrian to cross paths - fly fishing can be done effectively from a few spots even during the peak of pedestrian rush hour…it’s all about managing that back cast!
This past year I recruited a couple fellow fish freaks to join in the pursuit of urban linesiders. From August through the latter weeks of October, Dan, Charlie, Logan, and I consistently found good fish within steps of our Fed Hill abodes and the topwater bite was par none. If you’ve never seen a spook or popper tossed five feet in the air by a wolf pack of angry stripers…you haven’t lived bro.
Now, let’s get this straight. I am in no way, shape, or form advocating that Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a world class striper fishery. It is very urban. Some days are certainly better than others when it comes to fish catching. Some days the water quality is way off and there is trash everywhere. But I’m not saying anything new here. These are problems we are used to on the Potomac…so if you’re seeking a day of fishing for linesiders next summer and can’t get out on a boat, skip the Gunpowder and give the Inner Harbor a shot. You’ll never know unless you go.
Pretty basic stuff…but see below for what you need to come tight:
Flies: Poppers, crease flies, Clouser minnows, peanut bunker patterns
Gear: 6-7wt fly rod, intermediate or floating line
Time of Year: July-October
Prime Time: September - October (topwater)
Special words about special places from #TheFlyGuys