- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

The upper tidal Potomac between Washington and Prince William or Charles counties might be a good place to stay away from this weekend. The $6.24 million EverStart Series bass tournament is being held. With the exception of Saturday, when the field is narrowed down to those who made the cut, some 200 boats — 400 anglers — will beat the Potomac’s waters to a froth.

Then comes the Northeast Division of the $8.4 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, which will visit the Potomac in Charles County on Aug. 27. Up to 200 boaters and 200 co-anglers are expected to compete in the tournament, which will award as much as $39,000 in cash, including as much as $5,500 to the Boater Division winner.

I don’t know where you stand on bass tournaments, but I think it’s unconscionable to conduct a bass tournament in water that has reached temperatures of up to 90 degrees in the past weeks. If you keep a five-bass limit in a relatively small, aerated livewell that circulates 90-degree water, what shape do you think these bass will be in when they turn them loose in the shallows of Leesylvania State Park? With just a minimum of research about such things, you will come upon a natural occurrence called delayed mortality. Expect that to happen this week.

The jurisdictions that govern various parts of the Potomac River, especially Maryland, which owns the river, should never allow such a tournament to be held this time of year.

Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay and offshore Atlantic waters have been turning up excellent numbers of various fish species.

In the Chesapeake, stripers, bluefish and surprising catches of red drum (redfish) are made, along with wonderful perch and Norfolk spot fishing in the lower parts of tidal rivers. The ocean from Maryland to Virginia is giving up bluefin and yellowfin tuna, wahoos, dolphinfish, amberjacks and bluefish. Scattered billfish catches round out the weekend outlook.

• E-mail Gene Mueller at gmueller@washingtontimes.com

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles () — The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) saw some rain, but it shouldn’t affect the catfish, bass and occasional walleye catches in the uppermost tidal parts of the Potomac. Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509), who fishes most all of the creeks from Prince George’s to Charles counties and those on the Virginia side, says, “The bottom portion of the outgoing tide and beginning of the incoming tide is producing best. Four-inch soft stickbaits in basic pumpkin colors are our most productive lures. In water more than a couple of feet, we have been adding a 1/16-ounce bullet weight to the bait to get it down quicker, although the small weight allows the bait to fall slowly. In creeks with water depths ranging from four to six feet, a Norman’s Deep Baby N or Deep Tiny N in baby bass or shad colors works well, especially in front of marsh guts with water receding from the marsh, which causes some current. Quarter-ounce spinnerbaits work well around milfoil and on the outer edges of hydrilla beds. The key is to let the spinnerbait flutter just out of sight before retrieving it. Bass, large white perch, yellow perch and even catfish have been striking crankbaits and spinnerbaits. The milfoil beds still produce. The thickest portions of the milfoil during high tides and the outer milfoil clumps on low tide are good places to catch a large bass. Ricos or other surface poppers work well during low light and low tide periods, especially around the edges of hydrilla.” Bass guide Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) has been whacking bass in the creeks by fishing a 4-inch finesse worm in blue fleck or black with red fleck along marsh edges. He concentrates on the brief time the worm slithers from shallow to suddenly deep water. Suddenly, the line jerks or moves sideways, he sets the hook and a bass is on. Boat renters at Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) are hooking spot and perch but not many croakers. The river’s Ragged Point has Norfolk spot biting on an ebb tide and perch biting during flood tide. The Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb says, “How they know when to switch places is one of life’s mysteries.” The spot are mixed in size — jumbos and tiny fish side by side. The big spot are turning a summer yellow.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles () — This will be a busy place because of the EverStart bass tournament now under way, but largemouths are biting in the creek if you pay attention to falling tides and start working finesse worms with super light slipsinkers from shallow to a 5- or 6-foot drop. Early hour topwater catches are possible in flooded spatterdock and weed patches. We had to shout at two of the EverStart tournament anglers on the creek when they paid no attention to the “No Wake” slow-down zone in the creek, running around as if it were OK to speed.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) should be fine for fly-rod or worm-and-bobber sunfish and maybe a bass or two. Bass need to be released, however. The shallow St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road) isn’t suitable for boat launchings, but shorewalkers catch sunfish, catfish and bass.

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) have seen a lot of heated water, but if you start early and finish early, you will catch sunfish, catfish and surprising numbers of bass. The bass like small, scented, plastic worms.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles () — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) We know this is beginning to sound like a broken record, but this time of year you need to be there as early as possible, around daybreak, and fish for bass with loud poppers or Zara Spooks, then switch to soft plastic worms and work around any waterlogged obstacle — a tree or a rock formation — a bass might hide in. Sunfish, meanwhile, like small fly-fishing poppers. When the little ones are along, use a tiny piece of nightcrawler on a size 8 or 10 hook and fish the baited hook under a bobber. The sunnies will do the rest.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles () — The Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb says the best fishing is delivered by the Norfolk spot in the mouth of the river, as well as at the Hawk’s Nest, Kingston Hollow and Second Beach. He also says — and I agree completely — that this is the best season for white perch in the last decade. “These tasty creatures are everywhere in the creeks and the river, and they are eager to take bait or lures on moving tides.” Early hours of the day sometimes find rockfish around river points. A Rat-L-Trap lure will do the job as you cast and retrieve.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles () — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The hot, humid weather has given the bass a severe case of lockjaw. A few bank runners can be caught, but the bigger fish are suspended and are tough to catch. The catfish bite has been good with chicken livers and cut bait doing the job in the main river channel. Crappies continue to be caught off our pier and boardwalk on small minnows under a bobber. Bluegills are readily available if you use bits of nightcrawlers or mealworms.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles () — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Sunfish, catfish and bass — pretty much in that order, too. Small fly-rod poppers will see action on the bream, as Southerners call them. Cut fish or clam necks will find catfish, but the bass prefer a smartly fished scented worm around sunken brush or lake points.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the river is low and clear and the water is hot at 87 degrees. Smallmouth bass successes have been mediocre. Whatever bass you hook likely will be hanging out in river current or riffles.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles () — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) recommends early or late hours for successful fishing. His favorite bass hangouts are found under floating docks and jutting lake points, where his fringed tube baits and spinnerbaits see action.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (..) — Little moving water is seen coming from Conowingo Dam. Bass, and striper fishing has suffered because of it. A few quality largemouths are hooked outside of Havre de Grace toward Apartment Cove and the like. Soft plastics are best.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles () — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) in St. Jerome’s Creek (St. Mary’s County) says, “Some nice keeper rockfish were taken from the Point No Point Lighthouse live-lining this week. Below Buoy 72 in 20 feet of water, some big red drum were hooked in the chum slick. Big bluefish are being chummed up between buoys 70 and 68 on the ledge. From Tangier Sound, charter captain Walleye Pete Dahlberg is bringing in limits of flounder in the 22- to 23-inch range.” Christy also said large schools of baitfish have been spotted between Point No Point Lighthouse and Point Lookout and the bait schools are worked over by stripers. One of Dahlberg’s parties this week caught 74 rockfish in a matter of two hours. Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s The Tackle Box reports chummers, live-liners using whole spot and trollers are doing well. The bucktail and spoon trollers find plenty of keepers on the western side of the bay from the Calvert Cliffs power plant down to Point No Point with pockets of fish in all the old familiar places, including Buoy 77, Cedar Point, Cedar Point Hollow, the Targets and Tippets. Chummers and live-liners are doing well also from Buoy 72A to the Target Ship. Big red drum are cruising around now and then. Trollers using Tony spoons in sizes 19 and 21 could catch them with a little bit of luck. Great schools of croakers are below the Target Ship, but they don’t always cooperate. Night fishing for croakers on the Middle Grounds and on the Mud Leads can be good one day, poor the next. In the upper Chesapeake, live eel drifters, chummers and trollers have been doing well on rockfish. The catches are made from Poole’s Island down to the Bay bridges. Expect a lot of under-sized fish, but 18-inch keepers are found eventually. The same holds for the trollers from south of the Herring Bay area down to Parker’s Creek and the general Gooses. Now and then bluefish strike trolled lures or drifted baits.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles () — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com or call 804/580-7292) says, “Bottom fishing continues to go well. The mouth of the Rappahannock River is full of croakers and fair numbers of Norfolk spot.” Rental boats out of Pipkin’s Ingram Bay Marina are finding speckled trout, croakers, spot and small bluefish right there in the Great Wicomico River. Large croakers are coming from the Northern Neck Reef and Buoy 62 area, while bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel are caught almost anywhere you troll a small spoon, starting with the Smith Point area down to Blackberry Hang. In the lowest sectors of the Chesapeake around the Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s islands and abutments, flounder catches are fine. If it’s Spanish mackerel you want, they’re seen all over the area of the Bridge-Tunnel and over to Virginia Beach.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES () — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river, including Buoy 12A inside the Choptank, offers fine numbers of spot, perch and occasional snapper bluefish mixed with undersized rockfish. Similar fishing is experienced during the dark hours in Cambridge off the fishing bridge. The upper river, around Denton, has not been good to bass anglers, but the fish are there. They’re simply not biting.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Four-inch Wacko or Power worms in green pumpkin or blue fleck have been good for small bass. Haven’t heard of anyone hooking a real trophy. The catfish are hungry.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles () — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Marshyhope Creek, Broad Creek and upriver bridge abutments and pad edges have given up good numbers of bass during falling tides. Most of the bass like early hour topwater baits followed by scented plastics as the sun climbs into the sky.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles () — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) While Potomac River anglers find bass in less than four feet of water, at this lake you need to learn how to fish jig’n’craws and plastic worms in up to 20-foot depths. Catches can be pretty good if you fish early or late and always check around lake points, rock piles and weed edges.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Smallmouth bass catches are better in the upper river than the largemouth bass hookups you will get in the tidal river below Fredericksburg. Catfish are taken in tidal water down to and past Leedstown.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles () — (Route 793, off Route 29) A short plastic worm, fished on a 1/16-ounce slip sinker around sunken brush or dropoffs along a lake point will find some action from bass. Sunfish and catfish are always available.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass are said to be uncooperative, but that could be because so few real bass fanatics are trying. I’ll bet that the lake’s bass will suck in a Power Worm or jump on a Pop’R topwater lure when skies are overcast.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles () — (Route 46, Gasburg) The upper lake areas are still good for topwater bass catches, but some of the creek entrances and points downlake also turn up bass for plastic wormers and casters of spinnerbaits. Catfish like cut baits in the creeks’ channels.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles () — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish galore all over the lake for bottom bait dunkers, but some fat rockfish also are taken by Redfin lure trollers around Nutbush Creek. The bass will cooperate along lake points and creek entrances. Plastic worms, dabbed with a little fish attractant like Smelly Jelly’s Bass Feast will do the job.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Not much is happening unless you’re looking for catfish.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles () — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are turning on a little better now, and cut-bait users score at Dutch Gap and elsewhere on the river. Bass fishing has been kind of slow, but some anglers apparently scored at Chippokes Creek and Walkers Creek.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles () — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch continues to deliver bites from small bass and sunfish. No real lunker stories are heard from anybody. Channel catfish are in good supply.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Rockfish anglers are starting to fish at night, dropping live shiners into 20- to 30-foot holes but also keeping a casting rod with a topwater popper ready. These rockfish surface when least expected, and the lure comes in handy when they do. Bass fishing with soft plastics has been fair.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles () — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Good smallmouth bass catches are made on chartreuse/pepper and root-beer color tubes. Some decent streamer fly action can be had as well.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles () — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Keith Lockwood of the Maryland DNR says flounder fishing in the backwaters of Ocean City has been fair with mostly throwbacks seen, but a few bigger flounder are hooked in the inlet area. In fact, some good flounder catches are made outside the inlet in the ocean. Croakers and fair-sized stripers are taken at nighttime from the Ocean City inlet into the Route 50 bridge area and beyond. Offshore catches include dolphinfish (including one of 50 pounds last week), some billfish, albacore and bluefin tunas, not to mention bluefish and scattered sharks.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach () — Offshore catches include bluefin and yellowfin tunas, wahoos, dolphinfish and increasing numbers of marlin. The ocean wrecks and offshore towers are home to fat, powerful amberjacks. Closer to shore, expect roving bands of bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The flounder fishing from Chincoteague to Wachapreague on the Eastern Shore hasn’t been good, but some sea trout are possible in each town’s ocean inlet. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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