- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Talk about a fishing dilemma — so much is happening all at once, we don’t know what to mention first.

Let’s begin with Maryland’s trophy striped bass season. It’s difficult to find a hard-working troller on the Chesapeake Bay who has not caught a rockfish of at least 33 inches in length. That’s the required minimum for the time. Whether you fish in the St. Mary’s County waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Bay Bridges in Anne Arundel County or the waters of the Eastern Shore, scads of big stripers are caught.

On Tuesday, a small group of us trolled near Point Lookout, using huge parachute bucktails and umbrella rigs. By 8 a.m., all hands aboard had a striper that measured at least 33 inches. We even had to release large rockfish that struck the lures while we reeled in the lines to call it a day.

Wonderful catches of shad and herring abound from the Rappahannock River in Virginia clear up to the Susquehanna River’s Deer Creek and vicinity in Maryland. Add to that huge numbers of spawning white perch in the James River in Richmond, plus slowly increasing numbers of perch finally in the tidal Potomac in Washington. As far as bass fishing, there’s no better place in the Middle Atlantic states than the Potomac from Washington south to Charles County, Md.

Meanwhile, the Potomac-Patuxent Chapter of Trout Unlimited will have a Kids’ Fishing Day, a free event for children under 16, from 8 to 11 a.m. on April 29, rain or shine, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Jackson Road in the White Oak area of Silver Spring. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission are helping to make this a successful day.

Chapter volunteers will provide bait, hooks and fishing guidance. Children should bring fishing rods and reels, warm clothing, rain gear, drinks and snacks. The younger ones will need an adult to supervise them. For details, call Paul Vicenzi, 301/650-2087.

E-mail Gene Mueller 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), Ray Fletcher says the white perch bite simply hasn’t gotten under way. “There are a few in the deeper water,” he said, “but overall, the numbers are poor.” Catch-and-release shad and rockfish, however, are available, and they’re biting. Just below the District line, bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) found quite a few bass that left the newly growing weed pockets and began to hide along the edges of drops near the grass where they picked up a smartly presented Wacky Worm or Hardnose Craw. The Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lure in blue/chrome also scored as the bass began to divide their time between vegetation and dropoffs. The fishing has been fine from the District down to Charles County in main-stem or feeder creek weeds. Farther down the river, the news is not good as far as croaker fishing is concerned. A check with the Quade’s Store rental boat and tackle shop operation in Bushwood in St. Mary’s County revealed that although some of the croakers can be marked by good depth locators, they simply aren’t biting. “The water is still too cold,” said one of the folks at Quade’s, noting that croakers have been found in commercial nets, but sport fishermen have had a terrible time. Perhaps this weekend will mark the change. Meanwhile, call Quade’s before heading to the popular boat rental and bait place, 301/769-3903.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Good bass catches can be made on plastic worms, craws, lizards and the like if you fish with 1/16-ounce slipsinkers and target emerging grass beds. You also can begin to wacky-rig your worms and fish them without the sliding weights. Medium- and shallow-depth crankbaits can score along weed edges and in open pockets. Some crappies are taken in the barge area upstream of Slavins, and catfish are stirring better now.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for some fat sunfish, a few catch-and-release bass and the chance for a crappie here and there. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), the low water surely will hamper boaters, but shore walkers find a bass, pickerel or crappie often enough to keep on trying.

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 turning on with increasing catches of panfish and bass, as well as catfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass-keeping can’t start until after June 15, but they’re biting, and you can always release a nice largemouth after you snap a photo. Look to the backs of coves and sunken brush, where you also run into good numbers of crappies now.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Upper Patuxent waters give up scattered white perch and surprising numbers of resident yellow perch and a few chunky bass. Downstream, however, is where all the action is, and it belongs primarily to boaters who are heading out to the nearby Chesapeake to catch a trophy striped bass. Haven’t heard of any predictable numbers of croakers in the Solomons stretch.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis says, “Now is the time to go after trophy fish at Fountainhead. Several beautiful fish were weighed over the weekend, including a 6½-pound largemouth bass, a 3½-pound smallmouth and a citation crappie of 21/4 pounds. The recent cold rain may [have]slowed things up a bit, but most species of fish continue to be active. Threadfin shad are getting ready to spawn along rocky bluffs, and the bass will be waiting for them. Crappies are biting well now, and the catfish and bluegill are also beginning to stir.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappies have been jumping on white jigs with or without a live minnow on the hook. Use a bobber some three feet above the lure and seek flooded brush or sunken tree branches. The bass are either on beds or looking for a perfect site. Plastic worms and lizards work.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — The DNR continues to caution about low water conditions in the river, but Washington County and vicinity biologist John Mullican recommends checking out the trout for Saturday’s second “opener.” Friends, Owens and Fishing creeks in Frederick County are said to be heavily stocked.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or www.fishdeepcreek.com) and friends are finding fair to good action largemouth bass, sunfish and pickerel in the coves. Since the lake’s walleye season opened last weekend, the DNR says you will find plenty of ‘eyes in the state park shoreline area, the section near the dam breast and the Route 219 bridge sector.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Charter fishing captain Jeff Popp said the rockfish on the Flats seem to have disappeared (see Bay report below). Meanwhile, bass fishing in the river around Havre de Grace and Port Deposit can be pretty good with plastic worms and craws, as well as spinnerbaits. The shad fishing in Deer Creek is outstanding.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (….) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) had this to say about St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County: “Opening weekend was a great success. On the eastern side of the channel edge from the HS Buoy to the Target Ship in 45 to 50 feet of water seemed to be where the most trophy rockfish were caught. So far there are no crab pots in your way yet at that location. If you want to make a quick run, there appeared to be plenty of fish at the Point No Point Lighthouse as well. Everyone was using umbrella rigs and daisy chains. Most of the fish we saw were in the high 30-inch range with the occasional 40-incher.” From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reported, “There were plenty of rockfish for everyone on opening day. Trollers caught their limits of beautiful, sleek, healthy stripers most anywhere they chose to drag a lure. The most popular lures are umbrella rigs both white and chartreuse with a parachute [bucktail] tipped with a stinger hook. The Tackle Box checked in rockfish from all areas of the bay and Potomac. Trollers also scored on big spoons and double bucktail lure presentations. There were large schools of big rockfish located inside the Gas Docks in 28 feet of water. One troller found them there and landed about 20 [of all sizes, large and small].” The downside of the rockfish story probably belongs to the Susquehanna Flats, where small boat specialist Jeff Popp (410/790-2015), said, “The fish seem to have left us for a while. We had a fine bite and a great spawn, then it kind of stopped.” But he’s sure the rockfish will turn on again. Currently, Popp is zapping the big stripers in Southern Maryland, but he will run back up the bay soon.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association down around Virginia Beach says that flounder catches are fine around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, with croakers available in all the lower bay’s rivers. Commercial netters have caught some black drum, but no sport catches have been made. Expect most Virginia boaters to come into Maryland waters to hook a 33-inch-and-over striper during that state’s season. The Virginia trophy season begins May 1.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Boaters out of the mouth of the river and those who troll the nearby bay waters find some beautiful rockfish. What bothers most locals is the absence of truly good numbers of white perch. They’re either real late this year or there aren’t many left to fish for. Upper river bass fishing is fair. Not bad but nothing to brag about.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Snow Hill to Shad Landing stretch saw a lot of rain recently, but it didn’t hurt the bass fishing. Already some bass hounds score with topwater lures in the spatterdock fields, but short plastic worms fished around tree roots and blowdowns can be far more productive.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope Creek has been good for bass, as have dozens of main-stem pockets and coves clear up to Seaford, Del. Don’t be surprised if your Baby 1-Minus lure, when fished around a marsh bank, gets attacked by a river rockfish.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Big-time bass spawning activity is happening here, but some of the boaters who know the coves and midlake shallow-to-deep ledges use lizards, craws and worms to find some hefty specimens. Rockfish have been caught around and above the Splits.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Bunches of herring and shad have arrived in the river, and the rockfish and big catfish also are here. Freshly cut, bottom-fished herring chunks will catch stripers and cats, but the rockfish must be let go for the time being. I have not heard of any smallmouth bass catches above Fredericksburg, but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be some hooked on tubes, grubs or spinners.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) It’s crappie time, and they will bite even a plain little shad dart fished three or four feet under a bobber. Find some brushy water or sunken trees and go for it. Bass are on the beds, and only repeated casts with plastic lizards and such eventually will draw them into a fight.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Big catfish, some decent bass and plenty of crappies and sunfish. Locate timber or sunken brush and you will find the crappies.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Crappies, crappies everywhere. Look for the speckled characters in the backs of creeks around any kind of vegetation or sunken brush. The same areas also hold bedding bass. Haven’t heard of any decent bass catches.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie numbers are fine, and some of the sizes are outstanding. A 2-pounder down this way isn’t a shock. The landlocked rockfish are moving up-lake, and there are catfish galore. The bass are on the beds, and some are playing awfully hard to get.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (..) — (Williamsburg area) Pretty good fishing for crappies, catfish and even bass. One angler came in and had bass up to 3 pounds each, all caught on plastic worms around sunken trees and duckblinds.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish and throw-back stripers are pretty much everywhere, especially upstream of the Appomattox. The blue catfish population in this river is astonishing. White perch are thick at the Richmond fall line, and one angler said the hickory shad in the Appomattox were thick as fleas.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (..) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas have not given up much by way of bass catches. Things have been slow.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Good crappie fishing in brushy waters and around boat docks. Stripers bite early and late but don’t promise any fish dinners until after you have caught them. A fair number of bass are taken on soft plastics in the backs of coves.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (..) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) We were wrong about the water being low last week. Lake Moomaw water releases raised the levels. Of course, we couldn’t know about it at the time. Fishing for bass has been slow.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (..) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Freshly caught and cut-up menhaden or herring chunks are responsible for striper catches in the surf at Assateague and Ocean City. The DNR’s Keith Lockwood says the bluefish are not far from land now. In fact, a few have been inside the Ocean City Inlet. Boat drifters continue to go after flounder with only fair success.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Many Virginia offshore boaters are fishing adjacent North Carolina waters for tuna and the first arrivals of billfish. In Virginia, seabass are on the offshore wrecks, some bluefish are starting to show and Eastern Shore flounder drifters can do quite well some days, poorly on others. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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