- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The lowest parts of the Chesapeake are delivering the finest fishing in the middle Atlantic. Flounder that won’t even cause a raised eyebrow if they weigh less than nine pounds, large sheepshead and spadefish are taken in the waters around the wide Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that connects Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore with the Norfolk area. The fishing simply has been outstanding.

Farther up the bay, around the Maryland/Virginia state line, bluefish and striped bass provide the bulk of the catches, but some boaters have noticed slowly increasing numbers of Spanish mackerel.

In the feeder rivers of the Chesapeake, white perch and Norfolk spot are possible, with snapper bluefish and stripers always possible. Only croaker fishing is way down in the rivers.

In the Atlantic, from Virginia Beach to Ocean City, Md., the offshore waters deliver bluefish, some king mackerel and wahoos, and increasing numbers of blue and white marlin, with Virginians hooking scattered sailfish now and then.

Tidal water bass hunters continue to score, but they’ll readily admit the best fishing takes place before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. It has been brutal on the Potomac during the heat wave.

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — In the area of the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown off Canal Road, 202/244-0461), expect typical hot summer fishing. You’ll hook a few bass, catfish, maybe a walleye toward the rocky water near the bridge. These are not eye-popping catches like the ones we see in spring when the shad and rockfish visit. The same goes for the waters toward downtown. There’ll be early-morning and late-hour bass coming to smartly fished topwater lures, plastic worms and spinnerbaits, but you won’t set the world on fire with your catches. Charles County bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are working weedbeds and some sunken wood before the sun really has a chance to bake the water. They’re doing well on Rico topwater poppers, small spinnerbaits and assorted, soft plastics. The guys who fish with bait from shorelines along the Marshall Hall or George Washington Parkway sector of the river find catfish and white perch. Downstream, around Aqualand Marina, it’s mostly white perch and catfish for bottom anglers. South of the Route 301 Bridge, you’ll score on perch, scattered spot and croakers. Some of the river trollers say they get a rockfish to strike a bucktail now and then. Croakers, white perch, spot and a mix of rockfish and snapper blues are available from St. George’s Island south to Point Lookout. Those who like to fish the Wicomico River between Cobb Island and Bushwood should know the croaker fishing hasn’t been very good but white perch are available, and some of them are large. On the St. Mary’s County side of the Wicomico, Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) has rental boats and bait.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Some of the anglers walking along the docks in Smallwood State Park’s marina catch bass by slowly dragging a plastic worm or spinnerbait around the pilings. In the creek, find a grass bed and work weedless topwater lures early or late in the day and bass will strike. Plastic worms do quite well up and down the creek along marsh bank drops or sunken wood. Catfish are in the deeper channel waters. Liver or clam neck baits on bottom rigs will do the job.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — At Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) the heat hasn’t helped. Things are also slow at St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road), though shore walkers can find some bass and sunfish.

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) are showing effects of the heat, but if you arrive as early as possible and diligently work soft, scented plastic worms across bottom structure or along edges of weeds, you’ll hook a bass.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Expect hot, humid conditions if you wait until midday to go fishing. But if you start at daybreak at fish stickups and lake points with loud surface poppers, then slowly switch to soft, scented plastic worms, you’ll find willing bass.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — White perch are everywhere. We’ve had an absolute ball this week casting 1/8-ounce white/chartreuse spinnerbaits to blowdowns, river points, grass edges and duck blinds, hooking fat perch. Also, lower parts of the river show some spot, bluefish, rockfish and evening croakers, but some days are productive and others are stinkers. To rent a boat on Solomons Island, call or visit Bunky’s (410/326-3241).

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — From the Fountainhead Regional Park, Route 123, Fairfax County) area, park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “Fishing has been slow this past week. Bass are possible on topwater baits early in the day if you fish on flats that have deep water nearby. After sunup, Carolina-rigged plastic worms fished on main lake points can do well. Crappies are in deep water on blowdowns. Bluegill have also gone deeper. The channel catfish continue to be caught on chicken livers and clam snouts in the lake’s channel water.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass enjoy scented plastic worms if you use Senko or Zero worms. I prefer a watermelon seed-color Zero because it reeks of garlic (that bass love) and sinks fairly fast without any slip sinker. Fish found in blowdowns, points and sunken brush.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — The water from Washington County to Montgomery County is warm and fairly low in spots, but tube jigs, spinners or small plastic worms will draw hits from smallmouth bass. Red-breasted sunfish and channel catfish are available in fine numbers.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) has been throwing topwater buzzbaits and poppers with fair success. Largemouth and smallmouth bass don’t mind a noisy, splashy lure early in the morning. Cast it around lake points and stickups, even floating docks. As the sun warms the surface water, switch to tubes, jig’n’craws, or small plastic worms. Angler Jasper Oakum connected on a few walleyes while trying for bass with deep-fished tube baits.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — The tidal portions of this river have turned into one of the premier bass fishing grounds in the Middle Atlantic States. From Port Deposit to Havre de Grace to the Susquehanna Flats, you’ll find bass, perch, even a few stripers.

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, reports, “An angler trolling over the Mud Leads caught the first Spanish mackerel we’ve seen. The rest is pretty much the same as last week. Jumbo croakers are caught drifting from the Target Ship to the Middle Grounds. On our way in [from the bay two nights ago] breaking rockfish and blues were everywhere, from Point Lookout to Point No Point. Chummers are taking plenty of keeper rockfish and blues with a smattering of larger blues in the eight-pound range seen around the Point No Point lighthouse, the Southwest Middle Grounds and Buoys 72 and 72A. The later bite seems to be working the best, although the mackerel was caught in the morning. We had a few waterspouts this week that cut some people’s fishing a little shorter than they probably planned. Unpredictable weather is keeping a lot of people from coming out and enjoying the fishing.” Moving up the bay, the fishing centers mostly around chumming for rockfish in the general Gooses area, while trollers concentrate on the channel edges, where it’s possible to hook bluefish and stripers. This also is a time of year when early-birds show up inside the Kent Narrows and around Eastern Bay to cast to breaking rockfish, or bottom fishing for perch, spot and hardheads. Striped bass fishing in the upper bay remains very good at Love Point, the Triple Buoys and Baltimore Light.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com, 804/580-7292) reports flounder are hooked in the Buoys 41 and 42 area and in the mouth of the Rappahannock River, outside of Bluff Point and along the eastern shipping channel edges above Buoy 62. Long strips of squid behind a white or pink skirt will entice bites. A large bull minnow adds extra attraction. Bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been slow to migrate northward into our region. The Virginia side of the lower Potomac River has offered a few mackerel, but schools are scattered. Croaker fishing remains good in most areas, but you might have to fish in 65 to 70 feet of water along the shipping channel outside Ingram Bay. Bottom fishing in the lower Potomac is going well outside of the Coan River. Farther down the bay, Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association, says, “What a flounder season we are having. It has gotten to the point where it takes one weighing double digits to raise eyebrows.” Many of the larger fish are being caught by fishing live bait on hard structure such as wrecks and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Cobia fishing is good, with both chumming and site casting producing fish and some cobia hunters also score on red drum. Neill also says that spadefish and big sheepshead can be found on wrecks and the bridge-tunnel’s structure.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Good bottom fishing is reported as anglers find spot, white perch, small blues and rockfish. The croaker fishing is not very good, however. Upper river at Cambridge shows a few perch and spot, while Denton area and above holds a couple of worthwhile bass, but overall numbers haven’t been impressive.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill to Shad Landing) Bass like 4-inch Rib Worms and the like. Blue fleck or junebug colors have been fine when fished with the lightest slip sinker possible. Work the myriad sunken wood and spatterdock pockets.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass catches continue to suffer, but early-hour topwater lure casters have found some willing stripers around river points surrounded by marshes.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) The weather dictates your movements here. Arrive before dawn, launch your boat and slowly make your way to the main lake points and drops. If it’s quiet and early enough, a topwater Pop-R might hook a bass or two. But don’t leave your plastic worms at home. The bass love them later on in 15 to 20 feet of water.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) A reader sent the following: “I floated the [upper river] Saturday and Sunday; put in at Ely’s Ford on Saturday and floated to Richardsville. I caught a lot of smallmouth bass, rock bass and bream using Harry’s Blue Shenandoah Popper, brown helgrammite, chartreuse tubes and crawfish patterns. Sunday’s trip was from Scott’s Dam to Clore Brothers Outfitters. I caught a large bream [sunfish] that had a very noticeable red spot on it, and the person who went with me on Sunday caught a large bream with a same condition. The sores were not open but red, about the size of an eraser located near the anal fin. I just hope it is not the same thing that we experienced on the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River.” Meanwhile, in tidal water, the bass fishing is very slow. Catfish provide most of the fun.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (..) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Heat is taking its toll, but early-birds can connect on bluegills, catfish and a few hefty bass.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Anglers Landing: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Don’t expect great things right now, but channel catfish love a strip of liver or a clam neck. The bass will cooperate if you fish as early as possible and use slow-rolled spinnerbaits or scented plastic worms.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass expert Marty Magone reports, “Grass patterns seem to be locked in now until late fall. Stripers and bass are venturing into the large grass-covered flats away from the river channel near Smith Creek but if you look on the map you will see small feeder arms penetrating these flats. Topwater lures and any weightless worm will fit the bill.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Early and late hours can provide a good striper bite, with largemouth bass jumping on soft plastic worms and jerkbaits around stickups and creek entrance points. Try early-hour Pop-R surface lures.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) A few small bass and plenty of catfish. Not much to brag about, is it?

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish are the big attraction, and we’re talking about heavy-duty specimens. Blue catfish and flathead catfish are available if you use bottom-fished herring or bream baits.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch gives up sunfish, catfish and quite a few juvenile bass. Government, conservation organizations and academia have formed a task force to investigate the recent outbreak of dead and ailing fish on the South Fork Shenandoah River. The Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, led by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), met for the first time July 28. The group brings together watershed stakeholders representing anglers, property owners, citizen monitoring groups, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies to identify possible causes of this year’s fish deaths.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Better bass catches are reported this week, but it’s still not up to par. Things will get much better when autumn arrives.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Only heavy thunderstorms can ruin the fine catches of smallmouth bass that are made right now. Tubes, spinners, crankbaits, topwater lures, streamers — all work.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Keith Lockwood of the Maryland DNR says, “Oceanside anglers are catching flounder in the Back Bays, [but] with a high throwback ratio. Croakers have done much to fill in the action and to help fill up ice chests. Sea bass fishing remains fair to good over offshore wrecks. Many fishermen are finding big flounder around these wrecks and in the slough areas off the beaches. Offshore anglers also are finding a mix of large bluefish, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and king mackerel along the 20-fathom line. Boats venturing farther out to the Poorman’s, Washington and Baltimore canyons are finding a mix of white marlin, blue marlin, dolphin, yellowfin tuna and wahoo.”

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association says Spanish mackerel are plentiful along the Virginia Beach ocean front. Offshore, tuna action remains good. Action remains hot from the Fingers on out to the 30-fathom line. More wahoo are being caught, and the big news is the number of billfish being encountered. A lot of whites, some blues, and even some sailfish are being encountered by the Virginia fleet. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center (757/422-5700).

Gene Mueller can be reached at gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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