- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Here’s a sure-fire way to get much needed rain to take care of drought conditions. No, it’s not washing the family sedan; it’s me saying that water levels in the mountain rivers are dangerously low because of the lengthy drought the middle Atlantic states have seen. Already, certain trout stockings in small Maryland and western Virginia streams might have to be delayed. There simply isn’t enough water in the creeks to keep the hatchery fish alive and happy.

Having said that, now it will rain.

Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay provides a wonderful variety, from bluefish and stripers to Spanish mackerel and red drum, along with the smaller species: the Norfolk spot, white perch and juvenile sea trout. Trollers and chummers score, but so do lure casters who chase surface-erupting schools of often undersized stripers and well-fed bluefish. Some days the fishermen are smiling from ear to ear. The fishing for rockfish is now legal in Virginia waters and just in time, too. The stripers are available in steadily increasing numbers and the fishing will get better every day through the first days of a hard frost.

Ocean fishing, according to our friend Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, is wonderful. Spanish mackerel and king mackerel are at the Chesapeake Light Tower, just east of Virginia Beach. Red drum (also known as channel bass or redfish) are available from Virginia’s barrier island chain down to Sandbridge, south of the Chesapeake’s mouth.

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

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461) the water is slowly getting cooler, but a good, long rain would help. Catfish and a few bass are hooked. River bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) report: “Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s and fishing had slowed a bit, but we still found decent bass by working the deeper edges of the grass beds in creeks with brown crawfish color crankbaits and red shad color worms. Trees, leading out to the edges of the grass, are a good place to find more than one bass. The bass are on a big crawfish feed and the grass beds are loaded with crawfish. You will see them swimming around in the clearer water areas. These crawfish are a dark brown with some orange and chartreuse on their claws. They average three to four inches in size.” Downriver, trollers and casters score on small rockfish from below the Route 301 bridge clear down to Point Lookout, but this is not very predictable fishing. A lot of it is hit or miss. In the Cobb Island and Bushwood area of the Wicomico River, rental boaters from Quade’s Store (Bushwood, 301/769-3903) find mostly perch. Crab trotliners are doing very well in that part of the Wicomico.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Fish the marsh drops with lightly weighted plastic worms, or try small crankbaits or worms in crawfish colors around fallen trees and grass edges. The bass should do the rest.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has plenty of sunfish and some decent catch-and-release bass. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) offers unusually good fishing for bass now if you can find some underwater hiding spot with your 4-inch plastic worm or a small spinnerbait. Sunfish are active. Water continues to be low.

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 great for sunnies and average size bass. The fish sense cooler weather coming. Catfish are also active.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) It doesn’t matter what the daytime temperatures are. The bass can feel the night temperatures changing, the water cooling, and are likely to be more cooperative when it comes to looking at a plastic worm, a jig ‘n’ craw lure combination or a crankbait.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, reports: “Dicky Wose and Terry Thompson of the Tackle Box left the launch ramp at Solomons in the mouth of the river before daylight Sunday morning and headed up river to catch spot. They found small spot eager to take bits of fresh bloodworm just below Point Patience and at the Hawk’s Nest at the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek, then headed out to Cedar Point. The rockfish were breaking on the rip and lots of boats were casting Sassy Shads, bucktails, surface plugs and spoons. The two began drifting across the rip using a 1/4-ounce egg sinker stopped with a barrel swivel attached to an 18-inch leader, tipped with a 4/0 circle hook and a live spot hooked through the spine. Rockfish of good size immediately pounced on the bait when the spot sunk below the smaller stripers who were feeding on bay anchovies. A limit of two rockfish per person was filled in a couple of drifts. They also caught several bluefish, including one of nearly 8 pounds.” Upstream, small-boaters continue to find spot and white perch, but watch the water temperatures now. As soon as they really dip, the perch will go deep and the spot will leave.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, park ranger Smokey Davis reports: “Warm weather and low water has made the bass bite tough, but some nice fish are being caught on jig ‘n’ pigs in deep blowdowns and Carolina-rigged worms at main lake points. However, the bass are far from being aggressive. Catfish are really biting well. Channel catfish up to 9 pounds have been taken in the channel off the Fountainhead pier on large minnows fished on the bottom. The crappie bite has been only fair but the bluegills are up shallow in the creeks and are biting well on meal worms. A good rain and some cool nights will improve the bass fishing greatly.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good chances for a whopper bass now. The largemouths are cruising about, looking to feed in anticipation of oncoming colder weather. They know lean times are coming. Crankbaits and soft plastics are your best bet.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — Extremely low water conditions are seen from Montgomery County upstream to Washington County. If you want to catch a bass, better be quiet when you wade. Make long casts and hope you find a deep pool where the smallmouths are waiting in ambush for bait. Spinners, small grubs, tubes and streamers can do the job.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, fishdeepcreek.com) and other lake anglers agree that water temperatures are slowly falling, but the general fishing patterns for bass haven’t changed. Use 4-inch worms along weedbed edges or boat docks. They do the job, although a crankbait and spinnerbait can also score.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Low, clear water is seen from Conowingo Dam to Havre de Grace. Catfish, bass and even a few stripers are hooked, with the rockfish showing up pretty predictably on the Susquehanna Flats.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek, St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson reports: “During the past week the fishing was great. Weekend action was a lot slower possibly because of the heavy boat traffic that was out there. [However] there were plenty of large schools of small rockfish, with some keepers mixed in. Bluefish have been in the 4- to 5-pound range. Most of the bluefish schools were seen from Buoy 72 to the Target ship on the channel’s edge. The Mud Leads produced some really nice flounder, but the only croakers we saw were from a night fishing trip and they were caught along with a nice red drum south of the Mud Leads. Point No Point Lighthouse was hit or miss for rockfish. Live-lined spot are the best rockfish producers.” Meanwhile, Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box said, “Rockfish are infesting the bay. The trick is to catch a couple of 18-inch rockfish to take home. Captain Greg Buckner on the Miss Susie (301/873-1327), using live spot as bait, got into 22- to 30-inch rockfish for his customers, then went trolling for Spanish mackerel, landing a solid dozen along with some fine bluefish. Trollers using spoons, bucktails, parachutes, umbrella rigs and surgical tubing are getting rockfish, bluefish and red drum all up and down the ship’s channel. The breaking rockfish and blues stretch from the HI Buoy to Hooper’s Island light every day. Early is excellent, but this action is strong all day now, and will continue until the rockfish season ends” on Dec. 15. Heading up the bay, north of the Patuxent River mouth, you are likely to encounter large schools of surface-feeding rockfish and bluefish. Few of the stripers are keepers, but talk about fun, this is it if you cast a small Rat-L-Trap or topwater chug lure into the fray. Trollers and bait drifters connect on better fish from the eastern side of the ships channel across to the western shore and up toward the Magothy, Pooles Island, as well as the Chester River’s Love Point.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (captbillyscharters.com, 804/580-7292) reports: “Striped bass have drawn the lion’s share of attention this week as the Virginia fall season began on Tuesday [it ends Dec. 31]. Anglers have been chumming at the Asphalt Pile reef located Southeast of Dameron’s Marsh and at the Northern Neck Reef located six miles east of Ingram Bay. Both locations have offered rockfish this week, yet bluefish are making up the greatest percentage of the catch. Casting and jigging provides good action as fish have been found outside of Windmill Point both on the surface and schooled up on the bottom. Although sparse in numbers, small gray sea trout are moving along the western channel edges from Smith Point down to the Cut Channel. Speckled sea trout action has been mixed. Some are caught in and around the mouth of the Great Wicomico River, Gwynn’s Island and the Piankatank River.” Down the bay, Ken Neill of the Pensinsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “Striped bass are back in season and they are here in numbers.” Neill says any of the bridge-tunnels down his way, such as the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, are great especially at night. Norfolk spot are everywhere down there and some are whoppers.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river is home to a variety of bluefish and barely legal rockfish, plus spot and perch. The perch bite and some bluefish can be had up in Cambridge from the fishing bridge adjacent to Route 50. Above Denton the bass like plastic worms and shallow jerkbaits and crankbaits around spatterdock fields and sunken wood.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Good bass chances, although finding bragging-size can be a chore. Try shallow crankbaits and jointed jerkbaits in crawfish or perch patterns. Plastic worms are good up and down the bass parts of the river, from Snow Hill to beyond Pocomoke City.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Upper river around Seaford and the railroad bridge above Seaford has been good for bass that like plastic worms and small spinnerbaits. The Marshyhope Creek hasn’t delivered the bass as it should. Things will perk up with cooler weather.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Those who fish early and watch for eruptions by surface-feeding rockfish can score with Rat-L-Traps and various hard or soft jerkbaits. The rip-rap walls and lake points are great for casting short plastic worms on light slip sinkers. Bass will come along and sample your offerings.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Young bass are biting on 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits and short plastic worms. Rat-L-Trap lures also work in creek junctions above Port Royal. Upper river is extremely shallow. Smallmouth bass waders have a heck of a time, but the fish are there.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Lots of sunfish, catfish and some surpisingly well-fed bass. Use plastic worms on the bass.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) A few crappie are biting in some of the blowdowns. Bluegills and channel catfish are active, says lake regular Darryl White.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (..) — (Route 46, Gasburg) A bit of striper action is noted in the lake, but the overall fishing isn’t red-hot. Weedbed edges deliver some fat bass to plastic wormers.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (..) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Very low water. In fact, no water in upper lake reaches. Catfish, crappies and a few bass are hooked in lower end toward Clarksville.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Just like in the tidal Potomac, red shad color plastic worms have done well on bass. Catfish have been feeding actively on bottom-bounced cut fish baits.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Don’t forget that rockfish season is open. Many catfish fanciers will switch to stripers now, although the blue cats are biting very well.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas continue to suffer from a lack of rain. There’s some bass fishing to be had, though. Plenty of undersized smallmouths are available.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Rockfish are possible, as are bass. But overall catch rates aren’t as good as they should be.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Rain is needed — lots of it to bring life back to the river. A few smallmouth bass are hooked, but the fishing could be a lot better.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood reports: “Boats that have been venturing offshore in the past few days are really making up for lost time, reporting double digit catches of yellowfin tunas in the past few days and some impressive bigeye tuna. The catches have been coming from the Washington Canyon area. Boaters are also catching a mix of dolphin and wahoo at these locations as well as at the Hot Dog and Ham Bone, along with some substantial catch and release reports of bluefin tuna and a scattering of blue marlin. Headboats locate sea bass and tautog on the nearby offshore wrecks. A few big flounder are there, as well. Surf stickers are finding taylor blues on mullet baits from Ocean City to Assateague. Ocean City Inlet and the Route 50 bridge sector anglers are hooking tautog and sheepshead from the jetties.”

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association reports: “Big redfish are available along the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore and a run of reds continues down at Sandbridge. Spanish mackerel can be found mixed in with the king mackerel around the Chesapeake Light Tower and over the nearby wrecks. This a good time to try for a monster amberjack around the legs of the Chesapeake Light Tower. If you drop [lures or baits] down past the king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and false albacore over the wrecks you will find plenty of life on the bottom. Sea bass, triggerfish, sheepshead, red drum, black drum, and flounder call these wrecks home. Offshore fishing is nothing short of fantastic. There is a lot of grass out there and a lot of dolphin. Wahoo fishing is very good. Tuna fishing is great all along the mid-Atlantic. Bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, true albacore, and even blackfin are available.” For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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