Fishing for bass in Northern Virginia can be a rewarding experience, but it's important to understand the water oxygen levels and other conditions that can affect your success. The waters of Chesapeake Bay are generally warm and cloudy, with air temperatures ranging from 80 to 80 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Salinities are low, usually around 10 percent near the Virginia border. Most fish need at least 5 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved oxygen to be healthy, and oxygen levels below 3 ppm can be fatal.
To ensure that your bass fishing experience is successful, it's essential to know the oxygen levels in the water. In most of the shallower waters of the bay, anglers will find enough oxygen for game fish from the surface to the bottom. However, to avoid low-oxygen conditions in the deep waters of the channel, from the Bay Bridge to the state line and the lower Potomac River, it's best to stay away from fishing deeper than 35 feet. On the east side of the Bay Bridge, with the R78 buoy (near the mouth of Little Choptank) and down along the east side of the Chesapeake and the islands in the center of the bay, it's best to avoid fishing below 20 feet.
To see oxygen levels by depth, check out our online “do not fish” map. The Potomac, at high tide, and other rivers in the bay offer great fishing for largemouth bass early in the morning or late at night near grass beds. To raise awareness of the challenges faced by fish and to provide anglers with more information on how to fish responsibly, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently released an advisory forecast on striped bass fishing. Understanding what constitutes good habitat for largemouth bass is key to becoming a successful structure angler. Black largemouth bass can be found in shallower coves under grass or in fallen tree crowns, while small-mouthed largemouth bass prefer deep grass beds.
To avoid mortality caused by catch-and-release fishing, which is a major health concern for striped bass populations, don't place fish attractors in your pond if sunfish or crappies are overabundant and atrophied. Fishermen fishing in Chesapeake Bay suggest bringing enough bait, as catfish and striped bass have been abundant. Striped bass avoid waters above 84 degrees F, so they must stay close to the surface where there is a large amount of oxygen mixed by wind and waves. A fun northern snakehead fishing derby was held last Saturday at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in lower Dorchester County and was a big success for all attendees. By understanding water oxygen levels and other conditions that affect bass fishing in Northern Virginia, you can make sure that your next fishing trip is a success! Knowing what type of habitat is best for largemouth bass, what bait works best for striped bass, and where to find them can help you catch more fish and have a great time.