- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Our annual New Year’s Day outing, a ritual started by bass guide Andy Andrzejewski well over 25 years ago, will go on as scheduled unless horribly windy and wet weather wreck our plans.

The guide and I haven’t completely made up our minds as to the location, but we’ll probably be in a tidal river or creek, although not the Potomac’s waters. The river already gets the lion’s share of attention, and we figured we need to visit a place readers don’t see mentioned as often.

By the way, the Potomac’s Nanjemoy tributary wasn’t kind to me Tuesday. I towed my boat to the Friendship Landing launch ramp and saw nothing but ice. Seagulls were walking about in the middle of the creek, and the boat ramp was slick. Much the same was noted at the Mattawoman Creek’s Slavin Ramp in Indian Head.

The temperatures forecast for today and the rest of the weekend should take care of any ice. With a little luck, we might latch onto tidal bass, as I did before the creeks froze, or find some resident yellow perch.

Virginia’s bay waters produce — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association down around the Virginia Beach and Hampton areas in the lower Chesapeake Bay, reported over the Christmas holidays that big rockfish, some of them approaching 60 pounds, are caught from Cape Henry on north. The Chesapeake side of the Eastern Shore and the ocean fronts also have been good places to find monster rockfish, as have the bridge abutments and island dropoffs at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. There still are schools of open water stripers, mostly in the nearby Atlantic. This kind of action can be red-hot if you locate a group of the fish.

Meanwhile, tautog are available for those looking for something else. Fish the wrecks around Cape Henry for them. If you head into Carolina waters, yellowfin tunas are available out of Oregon Inlet and Hatteras. Bluefin tunas can be caught off the Virginia coast, but the better fishing for bluefins now is east of Morehead City.

Eye problems for bass champ — Although fishing fans were unaware of it, David Fritts, the 1993 BASS Master Classic champion and Bass Angler of the Year from Lexington, N.C., has been battling an eye ailment that threatens a successful professional fishing career.

The disorder first struck Fritts, 49, a week or so after he returned home from practice for the Bassmaster Southern Open at Lake Eufaula in October, and it forced him to pull out of the final two fall tournaments.

“I was out in the field helping my dad pick pumpkins, and I reached down and saw three pumpkins where there was only one,” Fritts said. “I had double and triple vision for a couple of months. It’s been tough. I couldn’t walk. I kept falling down. There was a month or so when I couldn’t drive. About two months ago, I didn’t know if I’d be fishing anymore or not. That’s how bad it was.”

Fritts consulted with five doctors before finding one that diagnosed his problem as a ligament on the side of his left eye that was causing his eyeball to twist and distort his vision. Before resorting to surgery, the doctor prescribed a special pair of glasses.

“They got me glasses with some prisms in them, and it seems to be straightening out some,” he said. “I think it’s getting a little bit better.”

Bass class will cost you — Anglers can find a cure for cabin fever at Bass Class 2005 on Feb. 12, at Chesapeake Bay Memories in Middle River, near Baltimore. A full day of seminars will feature talks by bass fishing pros along with Q&A periods. Outdoors writer Tim Sherman has arranged for five top largemouth bass anglers to talk about techniques and strategies for catching the region’s top gamefish.

Seminars run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Light food and refreshments are included in the $50 admission, a portion of which will benefit Chesapeake Bay Memories, a nonprofit organization that helps children learn about the bay. Call 410/608-5170.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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