- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

Trophy striper fishing seasons are under way in the Maryland and Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay, but catch reports are beginning to fluctuate between great and only fair.

In the upper and middle portions of Maryland’s Chesapeake, the fishing can be good one day, poor the next. But good numbers of trophy rockfish continue to be seen as you head toward Southern Maryland, the lower Eastern Shore, as well as the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Don’t worry about the biggest stripers being around. When they finish spawning, they head south. It’s a normal occurrence. Smaller specimens will take their place, but rest assured that there are plenty of fish out there.

The upper tidal Potomac River once again will be a busy place this weekend as the New Jersey State Bass Federation is holding its championship tournament. Expect to see many bass boats come out of Smallwood State Park in Charles County. That’s not counting all the many little club tournaments that will be held. Hoo boy!

Virginia’s freshwater fisheries and environmental departments are investigating findings of dead fish and fish with lesions in a 50-mile stretch of the South Fork Shenandoah River. For nearly a month now the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has received reports from river anglers about seeing some dead fish. These reports ranged from upstream of Elkton almost to Front Royal.

Though healthy populations of fish were observed, there were about 20 dead bass and sunfish. Many of the live fish captured had sores, parasites, lesions or fin rot. Roughly half of the 50 smallmouth bass collected had sores or injuries. The cause of the fish sores and deaths remains unknown.

The DEQ says the distribution and timing are not consistent with a spill, a single discharge or an incident involving a toxic chemical. The agency’s preliminary determination is that the symptoms are consistent with disease or infection. There is no information to determine whether there is a connection between these incidents and similar occurrences in April and May 2004 in the North Fork Shenandoah area.

To me, it appears that someone, somewhere, is dumping a harmful substance into the river. The investigation continues.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — In the Fletcher’s Boat House area (Georgetown, off Canal Road) there will be plenty of hickory and some American shad, a good number of rockfish (two a day of at least 18 inches are legal), some white perch, many catfish and maybe a bass or two. Call Ray, Dan or Duncan at the facility at 202/244-0461 for rental boat or bait availability and the latest fishing updates. Bass hounds are wise to check out the Washington Channel around the corner of Hains Point before the grass gets too thick. Medium-diving firetiger color crankbaits have been luring bass of good sizes. Actually, the entire river has been giving up fair to good numbers of bass, but tournament anglers need 15-inchers, and they’re not always readily available in great quantities. Local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are fishing from the Broad Creek area downstream clear to the Aquia Creek and are finding some kind of bass action in all of the feeders in between. Much depends on a proper receding of the tide and the right lures. For example, scented Power Worms or Strike King’s Zero worm can deliver the goods in sunken wood or clumps of coontail and hydrilla water weeds. But there are days when you need a shallow running crankbait or a tiny 3-inch Senko worm to draw a strike. Some of the bass boaters also find nibbles, tucks and bites from white and yellow perch, catfish and bluegills. Occasionally, stripers show up. Croaker fishermen continue to visit the Wicomico River at Bushwood. However, with cold nighttime temperatures chilling down the water, the catches simply aren’t as good as they will be next week, when 80-degree weather is forecast. Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side of the Wicomico has boat rentals, snacks, bait — you name it. Rockfish have been hooked by trollers from the river mouth in the mid-channel buoy clear up to St. George’s Island. Last week, sizes averaged 15 pounds or more.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Forget fishing around Marsh Island. The DNR shocked up a bunch of roe-bearing bass there last week to replace egg stocks at the Cedarville Hatchery. As soon as the biologists finish with the bass, they will be released, very much alive, but right now, the fishing there is less than stellar. However, we found bass on short plastic worms and rattle baits along marsh edges above the slow zone and down near the mouth. Some boaters are finding slab crappies now in sunken trees and brush.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will show a catch-and-release bass now and again and some fat bluegills. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road) is still not useable because of repairs being made to the dam. The lake is 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) are ripe for the picking. Bluegills, catfish, bass — they all are available. But it’s not so easy if you’re looking for a tiger muskie.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Catch-and-release bass are on their beds or are already coming off them. Plastic lizards fished Texas-style or on a Carolina rig will result in bites around channel drops near points or in backwater coves. Crappies are schooling. A small white shad dart or marabou jig some three feet under a bobber will be snatched up if you fish around a waterlogged brushpile or stickups.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Croakers are in the river, but catch numbers vary from day to day because of cold snaps and constantly changing weather patterns. Rockfish of various sizes have been hanging around Cedar Point and the Cedar Point Rip, where Sassy Shads and bucktails can produce smaller specimens that have to released. White perch will begin to move into the feeder creeks now, and spinners, grubs, spinnerbaits or real worm baits will catch them any day now. Upper river bass fishing is slow, but some decent crappies and spawned-out yellow perch are possible.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis says, ?Reservoir is full, water slightly stained, with water temperatures ranging from 62 to 65 degrees. Bass catches have been excellent. Male bass are on the beds, with larger females [nearby] hanging in deeper water, waiting to move up. A 61/4-pounder was caught Wednesday.? Buzzbaits, Senkos or medium running crankbaits work well. Crappies are biting, and catfish are going for bottom-fished livers or clam snouts. Bluegills are plentiful.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass are off the beds in many cases, and some will look at soft plastics or crankbaits now. Sunfish and crappies are active.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — DNR biologist John Mullican says that despite the rain, the river is in good shape, but water temperatures are still in the 50s. Smallmouth bass up and down the river are found in shoreline eddys; behind large, flow-reducing mid-river rocks; and over emerging water grasses. Spinners, tubes, grubs, small spinnerbaits and crankbaits work nicely.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) quickly will tell you this place hasn’t resembled a tropical paradise recently. In fact, snow threatened Sunday night. But the fish don’t seem to care, and things are looking up temperature-wise. Smallmouths, largemouths, walleyes and crappies are biting.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — The DNR’s Keith Lockwood says shad and carp are backed up at Conwingo Dam, and anglers are loving it. Hickory shad continue to cooperate in Deer Creek, and while some of the fishermen are casting darts for the shad, they’re also hooking smallmouth bass. White perch are everywhere throughout the river. But it’s the Susquehanna Flats that have been red-hot with striper action. Soft jerkbaits like Zoom Flukes and Sassy Shads are drawing strikes from rockfish.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Upper bay fishing has seen its ups and downs, but we had a party of 11 fishermen out of Tilghman Island late last week, and everybody got a trophy rockfish — everybody. It didn’t take much time either. Capt. Buddy Harrison found beautiful rockfish in quick succession around the CP and CR buoys and areas west of there. Heading down the bay, Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says the fishing is red-hot in Southern Maryland waters, including Little Cove Point, the HI and PR buoys east of Cedar Point and the Point No Point lighthouse. ?We measured and photographed fish all week from both trollers and surf fishermen,? Lamb said. Imagine, even surf fishermen using bloodworms and some using artificials, such as the Sassy Shad, hooking large rockfish from land at Point Lookout State Park. Inside the Potomac, by the way, large rockfsh have been taken just off Stewart’s Pier and St. George’s Island by trollers using parachute bucktails and umbrella rigs.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Trophy rockfish season is under way through June 15. Capt. Billy Pipkin (Ingram Bay Marina, Heathsville, 804/580-7292) reports that the best striper action in Virginia waters is the Northern Neck Reef and Smith Point’s mid-channel area. The east side of the channel north of Buoy 1 off the Great Wicomico River also has been producing well. Croaker fishing is coming into the Northern Neck, but the best catches are still confined to the Rappahannock River’s mouth and from the bridge at White Stone up to the power lines near Tappahannock. Some croakers have been hitting baits in the lower Potomac’s Lewisetta area. Black drum fishing near Cape Charles is slowly getting under way.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) White perch are taken off the Route 50 fishing bridge in Cambridge. Upper river bass fishing has improved a bit but could be better.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Good bass chances if you use 3-inch senkos or small shallow-running crankbaits. Almost the entire upper river from Shad Landing upstream to Snow Hill shows thousands of flooded roots, spatterdock and fallen trees. Good targets for bass lures.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass boaters have done fairly well from just above Vienna’s marshy banks clear to Seaford, Del. The Marshyhope tributary sees a lot of bass boat traffic.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Many of the lake’s bass have finished spawning and are cruising about. They soon will enter a feeding spree, and if you’re casting soft plastics or spinnerbaits, you will cash in on their hunger. Crappies are tight in the bushes, beaver huts and brush piles.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Shad and perch chances are good in the Fredericksburg waters and slightly above. Smallmouth bass action is getting better every day from the Rapidan clear toward Remington. Haven’t heard of any bass catches in the tidal waters below Fredericksburg, not even down toward Leedstown and the general vicinity.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass are off the beds in some cases, but a few are still on the nests. Soft plastics, such as a Zero or Senko worm, can be effective. A few bass hounds have mentioned topwater lures already doing the trick. Crappie and bluegill fishermen aren’t complaining.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Some of the bass are off the beds and will strike a slowly retrieved spinnerbait or a smartly fished lizard or plastic worm. Crappies are active, as are sunfish.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass catches are OK, but this lake has seen better bass days. Still, it’s worth a shot. Any of the creeks will do and Carolina-rigged plastic lizards and worms will do the job around creek points, boat houses and creek channel drops and ledges.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie and bass fishing can be very good now. A Raleigh, N.C., visitor had two bass more than six pounds and also found crappies to cooperate on small tubes and jigs. Catfish are hungry.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Still slow going on bass, but some decent crappies are possible in upper river. Channel catfish are biting.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Slow going if you want a big blue catfish. Some bass are found with plastics in coves, back bays like the barge cemetery and other places, including feeder creeks.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas show some decent catches, but in the North Fork, the state is investigating why so many smallmouth bass are showing skin lesions.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Fair bass and striper fishing. Crappies are schooling heavily in brushy spots and around boat house pilings.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass catches are slowly returning after recent rains and high, muddy water.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Surf anglers scored nicely as bluefish wandered into the shallows in Ocean City. Some of these blues weighed more than 10 pounds. A few large rockfish were landed by Assateague surf anglers. The Ocean City Inlet’s waters continue to deliver bites from hungry tautogs. ?Togs? also bit along the Second to Fourth streets bulkheads. Stripers and flounder are in the back bay waters around the Route 90 bridge. Offshore seabass bites are way down, but that will perk up soon.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Eastern Shore flounder drifters find some decent action whenever the wind doesn’t blow in places like Chincoteague, Metomkin, Wachapreague and Oyster. Coastal wrecks are good for tautogs and the beginnings of seabass fishing. Close to North Carolina, the offshore boats find tuna action. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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

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