- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Much is happening on the fishing grounds.

For starters, the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay will have the start of the spring trophy rockfish season Saturday. It will continue through May 15. Anyone — recreational and charterboat fishermen alike — who intends to keep a rockfish must observe a 33-inch minimum.

Next comes word that croakers (hardheads) have been caught in the Wicomico River at Bushwood. One angler left word that he had a number of 16-inchers, all caught on strips of squid. Here’s hoping this will turn out to be a better croaker season than last year’s. To add to the good news, Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, sent this message: “Local angler Keith Looney claimed the Tackle Box prize for the first croaker of the year. The croaker was 131/2 inches long and was caught from the public Point Lookout State Park pier in lower St. Mary’s County. Keith also landed two big rockfish, one of 36 inches and one 37-incher. He released both.”

If you prefer largemouth bass fishing in a tidal river, you couldn’t be in a better place right now than the Potomac. A local fishing guide we spoke with yesterday said he and a friend had 48 catch-and-release bass. Most of them were under the desired 15-inch length, but he managed to hook at least five that went well over that limit, including several 4-pounders.

Maryland freshwater fisheries boss Bob Lunsford joined river guide Dale Knupp and I and we had more than 50 bass, all of them released. They were caught on lipless rattle lures, medium-depth crankbaits or plastic crawfish imitations, such as Mann’s Craw or the Yo-Mama Craw, while fishing over and through the tops of emerging aquatic grass.

Saltwater fans will be pleased to know flounder fishing has been fine in the usual hangouts on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, from Chincoteague to Oyster and also on the eastern side of the lower Chesapeake Bay.

(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; call 202/244-0461), the catch-and-release rockfish and shad are still the ticket, but a few white perch are now hooked, including some truly nice specimens. You can fish from a rental boat or from the shoreline rip-rap. In the tidal river from Washington downstream to the Nanjemoy Creek in Maryland and the Aquia Creek on the Virginia side, bass are hooked in wonderful numbers, especially in some of the pockets and bays on the main stem of the river where milfoil, hydrilla and wild celery are growing like wildfire. Bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062), as well as many other river anglers, have been hooking dozens of largemouth bass as they use green pumpkin color crawfish imitations, rattle baits, spinnerbaits and shallow crankbaits with great success. A mixed bag of catfish, stripers, crappies, white perch and yellow perch is also available but many fishermen are griping about not seeing enough white perch when there should be strong runs by them occurring now. Expect croakers to show up in the Port Tobacco River this weekend if all goes right. We do know that some persistent fishermen in the Wicomico River between Cobb Island and Bushwood have scored on enough eating-size croakers to make more than one dinner. Check with the Quade’s Store rental boat and tackle shop operation in Bushwood, which is in St. Mary’s County. Call 301/769-3903.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Find an emerging aquatic grass bed and you’ve found the bass. Jerkbaits, plastics “craws,” 4-inch scented worms, Baby One-Minus lures, Rat-L-Traps and Frenzy Rattl’rs — all can deliver the goods. Even wacky-rigged plastic worms without added weight are working already. Catfish are beginning to get active in the creek channel and cut herring or pieces of clam snouts will work on a weighted bottom rig.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will give up some nice catch-and-release bass that like soft plastics now in the upper lake where they’ll build spawning nests. Sunfish are active especially if you let the kids cast a gardenworm-baited hook into drops near shoreline. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) all you’ll have is low water and a few chances to cast for the catfish, bass and crappies that are inside whatever water is left. Dam repairs are not even close to being completed. The boat launch sits high and dry.

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 some catch-and-release bass activity. Use 4-inch plastic worms, crawfish imitations, medium-depth crankbaits or 1/4-ounce white/chartreuse spinnerbaits. Sunfish and catfish are available on worm baits.

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 available in fair to good numbers. Soft, scented plastics can be deadly, but slow-rolled spinnerbaits and medium to deep 1/4-ounce crankbaits (such as the Deep Little-N in shad or sunfish colors) also will be looked at around sunken wood, brush piles, lake points and emerging underwater grass. Crappies like a white hair or feather jig under a bobber, with or without a small, live minnow.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (..) — Upper Patuxent anglers find a few white perch, but in the lower river you might get some croakers this weekend.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis says, “With the reservoir clear and water temperatures in the low 60s, the bass fishing has really picked up. This was evident when [local anglers] Jay Buckley and Andy Blase teamed up last Sunday to set a new 6-bass Fountainhead Bass Club record of 271/4 pounds. They also took big fish honors with a 6-pounder. The lures of choice included jig’n’pigs and suspended stickbaits. The crappie bite is also coming on stronger and some nice bluegill have been taken. No word yet on what catfish are doing but chicken livers or cutbaits should see some takers.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) If the crappie aren’t biting I’ll be surprised. They should love to snatch up a live minnow or a smartly jigged dart, grub or bucktail in the 1/16-ounce and 1/8-ounce sizes around waterlogged wood and sunken brushpiles. The bass are in less than 5 feet of water and they’ll take scented plastic worms and lizards around lake points and sunken wood.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — Even with the rain that fell recently the water levels are still way down in Washington and Frederick Counties. In the deeper pockets you’ll get a smallmouth bass to strike a grub or a jig’n’pig. Spinners will also work. Haven’t heard of any catfish catches, but they’re here, too.,

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) says smallmouth and largemouth bass, as well as walleyes and stocked trout are possible. In the backs of coves, expect to hook sunfish and as always, some yellow perch.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (….) — Outstanding catches of rockfish are made on the Susquehanna Flats, says light tackle charter captain Jeff Popp.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (.) — Charter fishing captain Sonney Forrest (Fin Finder, Solomons, 410/326-6464) says fellow captain Joe Tippett will work with him this season. Tippett is well-known in Southern Maryland waters. He’ll be a big help to Forrest. The charter captain, who has been checking on the stripers for Saturday’s opener of the trophy season, says that on Sunday he was out and managed to hook 38 catch-and-release fish, landed 29 and only six measured less than 33 inches, which is required during the trophy season. Forrest went out for a half day and tied into 22 rockfish, including a 40-inch, 29-pounder. “The season looks strong,” Forrest says. “The fish are here, they are big and very healthy. The baits we are dragging are making them bite well. Parachutes or bucktails seem to do more then the umbrella rigs, at this time. The fish are up higher now [in the water column, at around 18 to 24 feet].” Forrest says white lures have done well, but in the bright sun yellow also did well. Much the same type of practice fishing is heard by the boaters out of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek, St. Mary’s County, where Christy Henderson says everybody is raring to go.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association down around Virginia Beach and Norfolk, said, “Flounder have been the fish of the day. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Buoy 36A area have been particularly good, as are all of the normal, summertime flounder spots. Tautog continue to be active along the Bridge-Tunnel and big croakers are available in the rivers.” Meanwhile, closer to the Maryland line, the charter captains are out catching and releasing stripers. Some croakers are caught down around Smith Point, but things have not yet gone into full swing.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Rockfish are caught and released near the mouth, but come Saturday you’ll be allowed to keep one 33-inch-and-above rockfish a day. Look for croakers to arrive this weekend, certainly no later than Monday. The upper river’s bass fishing is not the best, but from Denton to Greensboro, there’s a chance of hooking one now and then.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Snow Hill to Shad Landing portions are good for largemouth bass that like small spinnerbaits, Man n’s Baby One-Minus lures and 4-inch plastic worms in red shad or junebug.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope and Broad creeks show some good bass catches to plastic wormers and spinnerbait casters. Expect to find a few largemouths up toward Seaford, especially in the spatterdock pockets and the protected sides of bridge abutments.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) You won’t catch 50 bass a day as you might in the Potomac, but many of the fish you do hook are of good quality. Plastic lizards, tubes and craws — many of them with tiny feet dyed chartreuse — work well. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits do, too.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) A few smallmouth bass are hooked in low waters above Fredericksburg, while tidal sections below town give up a mixed bag of perch, shad, rockfish and catfish. Some days are total stinkers, while others can be quite productive.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies, sunfish and bass have turned on. Catfish will get busy any day. Small jigs and worms do well on bass and crappies.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) It was slow last week, but by the weekend some bass were hooked on 4-inch Berkley Power Worms. Crappies take small white jigs under a bobber or with live minnows wherever you see brush or standing timber.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Largemouth bass have taken up residence in the backs of creeks, sitting on beds and the catching can be, oh, so fine some days. Crappies are bunching up around bridge abutments and in creek brush. Stripers are in the Roanoke River.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies, bass, some stripers and more than a few big catfish are hooked. The fishing is very good now. Get going.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (..) — (Williamsburg area) Small bass, plenty of crappies and plenty of catfish are taken. Many locals prefer live minnows instead of artificials.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Shallow water is seen below and above Richmond, but in the tidal stretches you’ll hook big blue catfish and more than a few catch-and-release stripers.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (..) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas show low water, but a few bass can be taken in the deeper holes. Jigs and grubs do well, as will inline spinners or small crankbaits. Sunfish and catfish are active.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Bass are looking for bedding sites in stump fields and the backs of creeks and coves where scented plastic worms and lizards will get them.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (..) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Low water continues, but a bass will bite now and then if you flick a tube jig or spinner into the few remaining deep holes.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (..) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The backwaters of Ocean City are beginning to turn up flounder, with additional tautogs and some stripers available in the inlet. Not much happening in the surf, but rockfish should be caught if the weather cooperates.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Flounder catches have been very good whenever the wind allowed lazy drifts anywhere in the backwaters of Chincoteague down to Wachapreague and Oyster. Offshore, large seabass are hooked at the Tower Reef and if the charter or private boats head due south they’ll be catching yellowfin tunas and wahoos in North Carolina waters. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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

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