- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will hold its first major sportfishing tournament in more than 20 years, the Maryland $1 Million Fishing Challenge, from sunrise Friday, June 3, to sundown Monday, July 18. The event is sponsored by Boater’s World and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

“We thought offering people the chance to win $1 million while doing something as fun and close to home as fishing on the bay would be the perfect way [to] seize the day in Maryland,” DNR secretary C. Ronald Franks said.

The $1 Million Fishing Challenge is free and open to everyone licensed to fish in Maryland, those fishing in one of Maryland’s license-free fishing areas or those fishing during the state’s free fishing days (June 4 and 11 and July 4), when licenses will not be required.

You are encouraged to try to catch one of hundreds of tagged rockfish, croakers, largemouth bass and white perch that will be released into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Anyone who catches one of the specially tagged fish then will be entered into a drawing to play for the $1 million prize July 23, but individual fish also can be worth an immediate prize.

“It’s the fun and excitement that draws fishermen to fishing tournaments, as well as the pride of catching a big fish and the thrill of winning big money. Having a chance to win $1 million is indescribable for a fisherman,” said Jay Jolly, vice president of the Boater’s World Marine Centers. “We are thrilled to be sponsoring such an innovative and unique fishing tournament.”

Check the special content area of the DNR Web site for more details about the contest. Go to dnr.maryland.gov/fish4cash for everything from contest rules to how and where to fish in Maryland.

Boater’s World Marine Centers, headquartered in Beltsville, is the second-largest marine retail chain in the United States with more than 110 locations. Boater’s World specializes in fishing, electronics, water sports and cruising for both small and large boaters.

(RATINGS KEY: ****=EXCELLENT FISHING; ***=GOOD; **=FAIR; *=POOR.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — From the boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road, 202/244-0461), Dan says there are still a few white shad around, as well as keeper stripers. “You’ll catch them if you’re patient and work at it,” he said. Joe Fletcher caught a nice striper on a piece of herring, plenty of which are in the river. Some walleyes also are available and, of course, catfish. The river is a bit murky from all the rain, but by the time it clears, the fishing will perk up nicely. Local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) have found good numbers of bass up and down the river that like scented plastic worms, floating Rat-L-Traps, shallow crankbaits and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits in white/chartreuse. At the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, Md., not much is happening as far as croakers are concerned, and this week we didn’t do any better inside the Wicomico on the St. Mary’s County side despite reports about how great the croaker fishing is. Maybe you can do better. Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) has rental boats. Rockfish and some croakers are in the lower sectors between St. George’s Island and Point Lookout.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Lots of tournament-released bass are seen inside the creek, and some boaters and catwalk fishermen at the state park are cashing in on them using a variety of lures. Plastic worms, especially wacky-rigged Zeros and Senkos, do well over grass patches — sometimes in the spatterdock — anywhere in the creek.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will turn up sunfish for flyrodders or the worm-and-bobber crowd. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road) is low, but when the mud dries, you might be able to push a small johnboat into the water. Don’t try it now; it’s too soft. Crappies and sunfish, as well as some bass, will be hooked.

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) are good for a few fat catch-and-release bass and hefty sunfish and catfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) The bass catches have been fine. Many an angler is praying for June15, when fishermen will be allowed to keep a trophy if they catch one. Right now, try plastic worms, lizards, grubs and jigs that are cast and slowly worked around any lake obstruction, such as rock formations or downed trees. Spinnerbaits retrieved slowly next to brush or fallen trees also do well. Crappies and bluegills are in ample supply.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that the mouth of the river, near the three-legged marker, has seen decent catches of croakers. Bunky’s in Solomons (410/326-3241) also has rental boats, but local anglers report that only the dawn hours have been good for croakers. The upper river is murky and unproductive. As far as the white perch being active in the river, they are if you like 4-inchers. In other words, the big ones haven’t shown up yet.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles(**) — From the Fountainhead Park area (Route 123, Fairfax County), the news could be better. Lots of rain has stained the water and affected the bass fishing, but some of the harder-working boaters can score on crappies in sunken brush uplake from the marina. Catfish like bottom baits, including clam necks and nightcrawlers.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappies are biting if you jig a small shad dart with a bobber around brush piles. Bass like scented worms, and they often hang out in the same brush environs as the bass. Sunfish are plentiful.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*) — A lot of rain has fallen, and we don’t expect great things to happen here until the weather calms down and we get three or four days of dry weather that allows the upper river to clear.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) agrees the best time for big walleyes is after sundown, but if you want some fun fishing for largemouth or smallmouth bass that must be let go, work the shorelines with a hard or soft jerkbait or a tube lure.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — I had a bass outing canceled this week because of strong winds and murky water in the river. Plus, the dam gates were opened to release upper river water, and that made things tough. They won’t be better until calm, dry weather returns. All the same, word has it the bass fishing can be phenomenal.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — In the upper and middle portions of the Maryland sector of the Chesapeake, the big rockfish have disappeared, heading back down and out into the ocean after finishing their reproductive chores. Even in the Southern Maryland parts, the rockfish are quickly leaving, says Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. To be sure, smaller specimens will be hooked by trollers and sight casters. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (www.buzzsmarina.com) in St. Mary’s County saw some big stripers being brought back to her establishment, including several in the 40-inch category. Henderson said some of the captains are going to start chumming now. I bet they wish the water was warmer. But even up around the Bay Bridges, some boaters are chumming and chunking now. Point Lookout State Park fishing pier and surf anglers find some keeper rockfish and croakers.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Rockfish of all sizes, croakers, and scuttlebutt of one fisherman actually hooking a Norfolk spot start the news from the Northern Neck. But where are the bluefish? They should have shown up by now. Down in the lower Chesapeake, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association says the black drum bite picked up a bit this week. Buoy 13 was the hot spot for boaters from Cape Charles and Virginia Beach. A good numbers of small gray sea trout can be hooked at the 12-mile marker and at the high rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but a few large ones were hooked at the third and fourth islands of the bridge-tunnel. Tautogs also continue to bite there as well. Flounder and rockfish hang around the bridge-tunnel, and occasional croaker schools move through in that area and also are available at the Cell.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Upper river bass catches were fair until heavy rain visited. It will take a few days before things get back to normal around Denton and Martinak, but bass are there. Maybe you can get one to bite a bright spinnerbait around sunken wood or spatterdock edges.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Rain hasn’t hurt the water color here. Shallow and medium depth crankbaits will draw strikes from largemouths along sunken wood and channel edges. Plastic worms also work well.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Discolored water is found from Sharptown upstream. Bass catches have suffered some, but fish are available in feeder creeks and main stem wood and spatterdock.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Red Fin lures or jigged Hopkins and Swedish Pimple lures can draw vicious hits from rockfish. Some topwater action was noted by bass fishermen, but colder temperatures will drive them back down around lake points and sunken wood, where soft plastics will do better.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Catfish are busy in tidal water stretches from Hicks Landing downstream to Port Royal and as far as Leedstown. A handful of tidal water bass are hooked, but they are few and far between — especially when muddy water reaches the Fredericksburg sector and heads downstream. Forget the upper river for a few days.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies, bluegills and bass are possible in discolored water. However, this lake can handle various water conditions. Get busy with some minnows under a bobber and see whether the crappies won’t suck them in if you cast around a brushy spot.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The water will be discolored for a while, but some decent catfish and bluegills are possible. Bass catches have slowed.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Dock pilings, creek points and some boathouses are turning up decent numbers of bass for plastic wormers and crankbait casters. Striper catches in the Roanoke River can be great.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Fish around lake and creek points in six to eight feet of water, using Senko or Zero worms in junebug or green watermelon colors, and hang on. The bass fishing has been good. Some locals are using Carolina-rigged worms and lizards with great success. Some bass also can be found in waterlogged shoreline brush, where Zoom Flukes or hard jerkbaits, such as a Rapala, will do well.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles ((**)) — (Williamsburg area) Bass fishing is perking up a bit. Great sunfish catches are possible for bait users or flyrodders.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are available, but not many people are trying right now. The runoff from above Richmond is discoloring the tidal river.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (.) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas have sunfish and bass in a biting mood, but as we said last week, as long as there are dead fish or fish with lesions seen, we will discourage the fishing there temporarily until someone has the guts to say the river might be suffering from a serious pfiesteria attack. There are, after all, lots of chicken operations along the river, and where do you think the refuse goes? Yes, some of it ends up in the water. Is it possible we have something similar happening to what occurred in Maryland’s Pocomoke River two years ago?

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The striper fishing is pretty good at the lower end of the impoundment. Trolled Sassy Shads, some fished on spreader rigs, can draw strikes from the rockfish. Catfish are plentiful, but we can’t get anyone to say the bass fishing has been good.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (*) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) If rains stop and the water clears, there will be good smallmouth bass fishing but not now.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Surf fishing in Ocean City is starting to turn on in a big way, Keith Lockwood says. A 52-pound, 14.4-ounce striped bass hooked by Bishopville’s Allen Sklar on May 16 has been certified as the official state record in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, big bluefish have been hooked in the surf from Ocean City to Assateague. Tautog catches inside the Ocean City Inlet continue, and they’re also found along bulkheads from Second to Fourth streets and from the Oceanic Pier. Offshore weather has been far too windy for fishing.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Sea bass are available over the ocean wrecks, and red rum (channel bass) are hanging around the Eastern Shore’s seaside — some of them coming into channels and ditches between the barrier islands from Cobb Island, north toward Metomkin. The big boats that usually head out to the offshore grounds to hunt for tuna or the first big slammer bluefish of the year have stayed in port. Winds have been atrocious. In not too distant Hatteras, N.C., one wind period up to 80 mph was registered. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

You can e-mail us at gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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