- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Heavy rains in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland could discolor and raise water levels of smallmouth bass rivers in the mountains, resulting in muddy runoffs for the Washington area and elsewhere. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.

But all is not lost. Even if the high-country rivers aren’t clear enough for fishing by the weekend, there is plenty happening in the tidal streams, freshwater lakes, the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

It begins with good bass fishing in the tidal Potomac, although a rash of complaints has reached us about far too many bass fishing tournaments conducted in weather and water that is too hot to keep fish alive in small aerated livewells. Readers also have noted that quite a few dead bass have been seen around the Smallwood State Park in Maryland and Leesylvania State Park in Virginia — both sites of weekend tournaments.

So don’t pat yourself on the back for carrying a bass around all day in a boat’s livewell, then weighing, having it tallied and releasing it, only to see it die later on. At the rate some tournaments are going, they might as well fillet those bass and donate them to a soup kitchen.

Meanwhile, the bottom fishing for croakers, and the slow start of chumming for rockfish, as well as early arrivals of bluefish in the Chesapeake, make the bay a great choice to drop a line. Add also increasing chances for whopper-size cobias in the lower Virginia parts of the Chesapeake, along with big sea trout and occasional drumfish.

Don’t forget that National Safe Boating Week starts Saturday. This special week highlights the need for boaters to wear life jackets while on the water. The week will kick off with a Saturday event in the District that features a fashion show of the latest life jackets. Celebrity boating safety advocate and Emmy Award-nominated actor John Amos will participate.

According to the Coast Guard, 750 boaters died in 2002. Eighty-five percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets, even though in many cases, life jackets were aboard. For more information, visit safeboatingcampaign.com.

(Ratings key: = excellent fishing; = Good; =Fair; = Poor.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — Ray Fletcher, of Fletcher’s Boat House (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461), says the Potomac is in good shape — so far. “We haven’t seen any muddy water come down from above,” he said yesterday. Fletcher says the fishing is great for catfish, but there are only a few rockfish around and most anglers are now settling in to go after resident species, including bass. Guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) have had outstanding catches of bass, with Knupp scoring mostly on Senko worms from Belle Haven Cove to the insides of the Piscataway Creek. Andrzejewski, who likes fishing with Strike King’s 3X Zero worm or the 3X Craw, has pulled quite a number of bass out of main-stem grass pockets and from the marsh banks in Virginia and Maryland creeks. Yesterday I watched him hook a fine bass on a dark-skirted buzzbait over the tops of submerged water weeds in a Virginia feeder. Pontoon boat captain Steve Riha (804/224-7062) is doing well on river croakers around the Route 301 bridge, and he confirms that boat renters at Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the Wicomico River are scoring. Rockfish catches at the mouth of the river, between Point Lookout, Md., and Smith Point, Va., have been fantastic.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Fish the spatterdock edges and during receding tides especially the tiny rivulets that come out of marsh fields into the big creek. Wacky-rigged fat worms, crawfish, or lizards will do the job as bass are waiting for minnows and other critters to leave the soon-to-be-dry marsh flats. A bottom-rigged clam snout or two will draw catfish strikes.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has spawning bluegills along the shorelines, and a flyrod bug or popper will be struck. A few bass and crappies also oblige. In St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, Camp Cosoma Road), it’s the same story: spawning bluegills, plus bonuses of bass, catfish and crappies.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (…) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) have spawning bluegills, which is great for flyrod poppers. Check out the catch-and-release bass that like jerkbaits early in the morning, then prefer a plastic worm or lizard alongside weed edges or sunken wood.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Now is the time for a tiny bluegill popper or sinking Black Gnat, etc. The sunfish are bedding in the shallows, and they’ll vigorously defend their nests. Bass are all done with spawning, and many of them are cruising the lake points or waiting in ambush around sunken objects. Try lizards, worms, spinnerbaits or early morning topwater buzzbaits and the like.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — From his Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says, “Big croakers abound in the evening hours.” The “hardheads” are everywhere, it seems, once the sun goes down. But even daytime boat renters at Bunky’s on Solomons Island (410/326-3241) are doing well with these fine tasting fish. The river in the Benedict area hasn’t seen much except some white perch.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) to Bull Run section, ranger Smokey Davis reports, “If the rains stay away, the weekend fishing should be great. Water temperatures are in the mid 70s. Nice bass are being caught on Senkos and shallow-running crankbaits. Catfish go for clam snouts, chicken liver and cut baits. The crappies are now in the deeper brush piles.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Sunfish beds are a fine place to drop a flyrod bug. They’re along the lake’s shorelines. Bass haven’t been easy to hook, but some decent largemouths are seen. Crappies have gone deeper into brush.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (.) — Could be a bust if the Tuesday and Wednesday rains mess up water clarity and raise river levels. If not, there will be catches of smallmouth bass that like tube lures in chartreuse/pepper patterns and a host of other lures, but think small if you visit from Dickerson up to Knoxville.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (…) — Plastic tubes, grubs and worms will see bass action around lake points and in the backs of coves where some of them are spawning. Yellow perch and walleyes will bite.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (..) — The Port Deposit to Havre de Grace grass beds and weed patches will deliver some bass, but the numbers aren’t as good as in the Potomac. Grubs, Senko and Zero worms and spinnerbaits will do the job. Some early morning buzzbaiting has worked.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says, “The trollers bade farewell to the majority of the spawning rockfish. These trophy fish are moving down the bay and into the Atlantic as fast as their tails will wag.” Lamb says there will be a few big rockfish around mid-June, but it will require patience to find these strays. One fine place to look is the mouth of the Potomac River, which has been loaded with stripers of all sizes. Don’t forget, you can now keep two rockfish a day of at least 18 inches in length (but only one that measures more than 28 inches). Charter fishing captains say they’ve seen bluefish between the state line and the Patuxent River. The question is whether the big black drum will come up the bay and take up station between Sharps Island Light and a place known as Stone Rock.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Near the mouth of the Chesapeake, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says, cobia should be biting, perhaps by the weekend. Anglers in the know say they’ve been hooked around Oregon Inlet, N.C., and are traveling north. Red and black drum catches haven’t been very good, but some are hooked. Big gray trout are taken at the Chesapeake and the Hampton Roads bridge tunnels where small stripers and bluefish also reside. Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (Ingram Bay Marina, 804/580-7292) says the water temperature stands at 71 degrees and he hasn’t had any trouble finding limits of rockfish for his customers. Trollers are complaining that the chum boats already are stealing fish. Croakers continue to please bottom anglers from the Silver Beach area to Buoy 62. Pipkin says there are a few bluefish, but the main bulk of the blues is coming.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/ MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Cambridge) Rockfish and some croakers will be in the mouth. White perch are a possibility around Cambridge, but given a few more warm days there will be croakers there, too. Bass fishing in Denton and above is fair.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (Snow Hill to Shad Landing) Upper river, from Snow Hill to Milburn and Shad Landing, is good for a few small bass and some fat sunfish and catfish.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) From Sharptown up to Seaford and all the feeder creeks and cuts, marsh banks and backwaters in between, there’s good chance for some nice bass. Use plastic worms on standard Texas rigs or even dropshot rigs. Crankbaits around open pockets or spinnerbaits through the spatterdock can deliver solid hits.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Along Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Try surface lures during the earliest hours, then switch to plastic baits and spinnerbaits anywhere on the lake, wherever some kind of point juts into the water or a brush pile is found. Christopher Run and Hunter Landing have rockfish very early or late in the day. Crappies are everywhere you can locate a beaver hut or brush pile. And don’t be surprised by a 2-pounder.

47-100 miles (…) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Don’t know if rain runoff will mess up the fishing, but at midweek there were plenty of channel catfish hooked in the 3-pound range anywhere between Fredericksburg and Hicks Landing. Bass fishing improved. One tournament was won with five bass weighing nearly 16 pounds. Look for bass anywhere between Hicks Landing and Leedstown and use soft plastic or spinnerbaits.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Plenty of spawning bluegills for flyrodders right now, but the bass and crappie fishing also can be great.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: Darrell Kennedy, 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Fish brush and timber for crappies and bass. Catfish haven’t been bashful about inhaling a clam neck.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass have finished spawning, and many are cruising the lake points and secondary points inside the creeks looking for a snack. Give them a Senko or Zero worm, wacky-rigged, without any slip sinker.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) If you can find deep brush piles in water depths of 12 to 15 feet, you’ll hook fat crappies. Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged lizards or worms find plenty of bass, but they’re not shallow — at least not this week. The bass have been in 12 to 15 feet of water.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (…) — (Williamsburg area) Crappie and bluegill fishing has been fine, and even the bass fishing has improved. Some feisty blue catfish showed up at the docks to be cleaned and eaten.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The blue catfish catch has dropped tremendously but stripers continue to bite. Because the Osborne Landing launch ramp is closed for dredging, crowded conditions are the rule on other ramps.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (.) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch might turn ugly from heavy rain runoffs, but if that doesn’t happen, expect great wade or drift fishing for smallmouth bass, even some fat largemouths.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Striper fishing has been fair, even good at times. Crappies are cooperating in brush piles, but the bass catches aren’t what they should be.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (.) — (Route 6, Scottsville, south of Charlottesville) Recent heavy rain might affect weekend fishing. Before the rain the bass catches were only fair.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

8:MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (..) — (Ocean City) Some flounder, rockfish and tog fishing in the inlet and behind the ocean fronts in the back bays. Offshore boats find sea bass and tautogs. There will be bluefish coming north any day. The headboats: Bill Bunting Dock, 410/289-7424; Miss Ocean City, 410/213-0489.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (..) — Various sized bluefish are coming into Virginia waters from North Carolina. Windy conditions along the Eastern Shore last weekend canceled flounder fishing, but at midweek some fat flatties were caught. By the way, don’t overlook the black drum chances in the Wachapreague and Oyster areas close to or in the inlet waters. For charter information, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

EVENTS

Sporting Clays Classic — Tomorrow and Saturday, Pintail Point, Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Benefits the National Kidney Foundation. Tomorrow, 5 to 8p.m., sponsors party at Pintail Point’s Manor House. Saturday, 10a.m., registration, beginners clinic and shooting lessons, followed by lunch and entertainment. Competitive shooting starts at 1:30p.m. Four-shooter team, $1,000; individual entry, $250. Registration: Claudia Hartmann, 202/244-7900, ext. 18; hartmannkidneywdc.org

Freestate Fly Fishers spring outing — Saturday, Trappe Pond State Park, Laurel, Del. Information: Don Fitzhugh at fitzbag@aol.com or 301/261-5799.

Surf fishing school — Sept.9-12, Oct.21-24, Nags Head, N.C. Pro guides Joe Malat and Mac Currin are instructors. Cost: $250. Contact Malat, 252/441-4767; joe@joemalat.com.

Our e-mail address is gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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