- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Spring is busting out all over, and local anglers are taking full advantage of a variety of fishing opportunities.

It begins with the start of Maryland’s trophy striped bass season Saturday. Although you’ll only be allowed to catch one fish per day and it has to be 28 inches or longer, the chance of that happening is very good indeed.

Charter captain Sonny Forrest, whose boat comes out of Solomons in Calvert County, did a bit of practice fishing some days ago. In the area of the Chesapeake Bay’s buoy 77, Forrest and guests caught and released 19 rockfish that measured from 32 to 42 inches in length. Starting Saturday, it will begin in earnest, and reports from all over indicate a good presence of large soon-to-spawn females.

Largemouth bass fans can score in the tidal Potomac River from the District down to western Charles County. Bass have been caught on lipless rattle baits, spinnerbaits or plastic worms in the main stem of the river, particularly on gravel bars found around some of the river points as well as the feeder creeks. Most of the hookups happened on sunken wood, but increasing catches are noted over emerging aquatic grasses.

In the upper, tidal reaches of rivers and creeks, hickory shad are making their presence felt. Shad are hooked and released in the Fredericksburg sector of the Rappahannock, as well as in the Potomac around the Fletcher’s Boat House area; also they are in the upper Patuxent, above Hill’s Bridge, where white perch are still taken, and in Deer Creek, a popular feeder to the Susquehanna River in the upper Chesapeake Bay.

Now add a fair share of herring that are dipped, even hooked on tiny shad darts, in the Mason Springs sector of Mattawoman Creek. Herring also can be found in Virginia’s Rappahannock, Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers.

On the croaker watch, the word is that they’re slowly moving up the Chesapeake, but none have been caught by sport anglers. Commercial netters are finding some, but not large numbers, in their mesh. Water temperature needs to climb more.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — In the District, look for perch, shad, herring and some early stripers in the Fletcher’s Boat House stretch. A few catfish, bass and perch have been hooked by bulkhead anglers at Hains Point. Largemouth bass are possible in the Columbia Island yacht basin, and some of the Kennedy Center’s shoreline bulkheads and Washington Channel portions where submersed vegetation is slowly coming up. Bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) find a mix of bass and spawned-out yellow perch on the same spinnerbaits and rattle baits from Belle Haven Marina cove down to the Piscataway and all other Maryland and Virginia feeder creeks. We hooked a good number of bass Tuesday on chartreuse/white spinnerbaits and also on finesse worms and Frenzy Rat’lers. The hottest bass producer in the Potomac River system has been Chicamuxen Creek, where many are taken over now emerging aquatic vegetation, but never ignore sunken wood. The two disappointments this week were the Nanjemoy and Port Tobacco creeks. Few bass, if any, are hooked. However, the Aquia Creek on the Virginia side has been very good. Saturday will be busy on the river with a 200-boat Championship Teams tournament scheduled out of Leesylvania State Park on the Virginia shore. The Route 301 bridge and vicinity, where croakers should be biting now, is still not delivering the goods. The same goes for the Wicomico River around Bushwood. But perhaps they’ll show up this weekend.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Bass, crappies and small white perch are in the area of the mouth, from near its junction with the Potomac up into the creek at the slow zone marker and the big bend to the right, where the spatterdock is coming up slowly. Locals call the area Temple’s Turn. The wood-filled shoreline behind Marsh Island has been giving up bass. Use spinnerbaits, 4-inch plastic worms or shallow-running crankbaits. Way up the creek, in Mason Springs (Route 225), herring are dipped and even hooked on small shad darts.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) supposedly turned up two largemouth bass, each weighing 7 pounds. They had to be released, we’re told, because the bass-keeping season is still a few months away. Other than that, expect some sunfish and a few crappies. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) still isn’t ready because of repairs being made to the dam. The lake water is way down, not suitable for boat launching.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (**) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) show some decent bass and sunfish activity. Catfish can be big in these lakes. Go for it.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass can be found in the backs of deepwater coves, some of them looking to build nests. A smartly cast plastic worm or lizard can draw vicious hits. Crappies and bluegills are willing around sunken brush or in coves where some green willow growth pokes from the water. Bass have to be released.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Reader Ruby Johnson reports white perch anglers doing well up around the Route 3 bridge in Crofton. White perch are also hooked at Hill’s Bridge in Wayson’s Corner and beyond. Some fine catfish and occasional shad are found, as well. Upriver from Wayson’s, local angler Bill Gertz said he and his wife caught several shad that were released, and they got enough white perch to make for a fine dinner. Some crappies and young bass are taken in Western Branch during receding tides.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, ranger Smokey Davis says the reservoir “is clearing up nicely and the fishing is really picking up.” Davis recalled a local bass buddy tournament that was won with six bass weighing 171/2 pounds. The winning total included a 6-pounds-plus beauty. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, hard jerkbaits — all have done well. Crappies are now shallow and can be on white or yellow hair jigs under a bobber. Weekend fishing should be very good.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Remember us urging crappie fishermen to try a small shad dart no bigger than 1/16-ounce some 21/2 to 3 feet under a bobber, to be cast to brush piles and sunken tree branches? Dan Turbeville said he tried it and caught a mess. Bass are cruising shorelines and backs of coves, looking for nesting sites.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — Water conditions have greatly improved, but walleyes and muskies are into a spawning mode and aren’t likely to be fooled by lures right now. Smallmouth bass catches could be fine between Knoxville and Montgomery County’s Seneca Breaks. Haven’t heard from anybody doing any bass catching, but the water is right.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) says the water temperature reaches 50 degrees on warm afternoons. Big spinnerbaits find bass in coves and around wood. Rat-L-Traps and jerkbaits also do the job. Pickerel are plentiful and like jerkbaits, while crappies are taken around some of the boat docks in the North Glade and Sky Valley sections of the lake. Large, free-lined shiners, says Nelson, will find some large northern pike in the backs of coves as they prepare to spawn.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — Water is in better shape now, and some decent bass are hooked inside the river. Outside, on the Susquehanna Flats, stripers are showing up better each day. The Deer Creek feeder has hickory shad galore.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — From his Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports umbrella rigs loaded with Sassy Shad teasers and one lure that has a hook are finding plenty of stripers. The same goes for Parachute bucktails. The season opens Saturday, and it appears there’ll be plenty of action to go around. Lamb, while a guest on charter captain Sonny Forrest’s Fin Finder boat, attests to the hooking and releasing of 19 rockfish up to 42 inches long. They fished in the area of Buoy 77. Other Chesapeake spots are doing well also, with some sizable fish seen as far north as the Bay bridge and south to the Virginia state line. The only sad note concerns the lack of croakers (hardheads), but that might change this weekend.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (*) — Virginian’s trophy season doesn’t begin until May 1 and runs through June15. Minimum size limit is 32 inches, with one fish allowed per day for each angler, but no striper 32 inches or larger can be kept in the upper spawning reaches of Virginia’s tidal waters. Croakers are seen in Rappahannock River nets, but old-timers say warmer water temperatures are necessary for them to really invade the Northern Neck and Potomac River waters. Meanwhile, sport catches are made in the lower James and York rivers. Lower Chesapeake wrecks show tautogs, but wind has been a huge problem for boaters.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Upper river electro-fishing crews from the DNR found large female rockfish about to enter their spawning days. Bass fishing has been slow in the Denton and Martinak area.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass fishing will be fine this weekend. Use shallow-running lipped lures in water-covered roots and around freshly emerging spatterdock. Plastic worms and small spinnerbaits will work, too.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) The Marshyhope Creek area, as well as Delaware’s Broad Creek, will turn up bass this weekend. Main river boaters have had to contend with a lot of wind. Use soft plastics, crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Wind can be a problem for the lake’s boaters, but upper lake largemouth bass are willing if you are. Try hard and soft jerkbaits and spinnerbaits, as well as dark lizards with bright chartreuse feet. Some bedding will take place very quickly now, so don’t be upset if usually productive areas slow down a bit. Crappies are definitely in a feeding mode. Find brushy spots (often around boat dock ends) and you’ll hook a bunch if you use minnows under a bobber, but even a small white shad dart or marabou jig will work.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says his guess is that right now is a prime time to hook hickory shad. The areas upstream of the Route 1 bridge have seen good action for shad dart casters. Herring and white perch also will be available. It’s just that now the fish are traveling farther up; they used to pretty much stay around Route 1 before the dam was demolished. We’ve had no reports of smallmouth bass catches, but there’s no reason to believe you won’t find any above town toward the Rapidan and even up toward Remington.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies, sunfish and some decent bass are taken. Brushy spots and the backs of coves are good starting points, with small grubs, spinners and short plastic worms.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappies are jumping on small, live minnows as well as 1/16-ounce shad darts fished under a bobber. Sunfish are looking for spawning beds so many are cruising shorelines — along with surprisingly nice bass.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Good bass fishing now in the backs of coves and around boat docks and lake points. Slowly retrieved spinnerbaits and 4-inch scented worms are all you need.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie fishermen aren’t complaining as they find action throughout the lake. The bass have shown a liking for wide-wobbling, shallow-running Strike King pro Model or Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lures in flooded brush, but plastic worms and lizards also get fish around drops and points in creeks and the main lake.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Some perch and increasing channel catfish, also some small blue catfish action. Bass fishermen aren’t happy with the numbers of fish they find and they’re usually young largemouths.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Some blue catfish and stripers are found up toward the Appomattox and Dutch Gap. The boat graveyard near Deep Bottom gives up a few bass to plastic wormers.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas are good for smallmouth and largemouth bass. Short plastics, such as a 3-inch Senko, will do the job. Spinners and 1/4-ounce crankbaits also produce.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Stripers are hooked now and then, but most boaters now are hunting bass in flooded stump fields and around lake points and in the deeper coves. Crappies are biting around sunken brush.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass will take grubs, tubes and spinners this weekend. Water conditions have been good.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (*) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore fishing has been all but impossible with the wind blowing all week long. Nothing doing around the beaches either, but if you drop a piece of green crab bait into the Ocean City Inlet waters, you might come up with a fine-tasting tautog.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Claude Bain of the Virginia Saltwater Sport Fishing Tournament said it has been too windy for decent inshore or offshore fishing. Even the flounder boaters in Wachapreague have been complaining about the wind because the fish are there, but they can’t hold a decent drift. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

Want to reach us via e-mail? It’s gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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