- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

Yes, it’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but when it rains 14 out of 18 days don’t expect great things to happen if you hope to visit the freshwater rivers, lakes and reservoirs of our region. Muddy and swiftly moving water is to be expected in the hills and mountains of Virginia and Maryland. Fabled smallmouth bass rivers, such as the James, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Potomac simply won’t be at their best, while quite a few of the small lakes also will be discolored.

Even in the upper tidal parts of the Potomac River, around Washington and the northern parts of Prince George’s County, the water looks like coffee-with-cream. Things improve a bit as you head downstream, but the largemouth bass bite even in some of the dingy waters found in Charles County, Md., and across the river in Virginia’s Prince William County. The largemouth bass have taken a liking to short, soft plastic worms, even soft jerkbaits such as the Zoom Fluke and other brands. Spinnerbaits continue to do the job, finding fish in flooded spatterdock fields and across weed-infested flats on the main stem of the Potomac and most of its tributaries. Meanwhile, forget the upper, tidal Patuxent River. It’s a brown mess, but the lower, salty portions deliver croakers and small rockfish.

Before we forget, the Maryland DNR wants you to know that the minimum sizes for largemouth and smallmouth bass caught in the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries now revert from 15 to 12 inches. It happens every June16, after the bass have had a chance to spawn. Not only that, the two Potomac River tributary coves that were closed during the spawning season now can be fished. They’ll be shut down again next March. The affected areas are the Gumtree Cove in Burgess Creek (in the Nanjemoy system), and the cove north of Linton Point in Chicamuxen Creek.

In the middle to upper Chesapeake Bay, the rockfish bites have been excellent. Occasional snapper bluefish are now seen and dependable numbers of croakers are taking bottom baits in the feeder rivers, creeks and main body of the bay. The action in the lower Virginia areas, around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and vicinity, is astonishing. Redfish (also known as channel bass or red drum) are hooked; so are the first cobias of the year and increasing numbers of spadefish and flounder. Now add many rockfish, sea trout, bluefish and croakers and you will agree that this is a veritable fisherman’s smorgasbord.

Along the Atlantic Ocean, from lower Delaware into Maryland and Virginia, offshore boats find bluefish, slowly increasing schools of tuna and plenty of sharks. In fact, a Maryland record-breaking thresher shark was caught in the state’s ocean waters. Inshore fishing points to sea trout, flounder and some well-fed rockfish.

Gene Mueller’s e-mail is gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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