- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

The fishing near and far is quickly jumping into high gear. The news from the ocean fronts, rivers and Chesapeake Bay is mostly good. The one downer for weekend anglers is the absence of croakers (hardheads). Maybe they’ll make a grand appearance in the Chesapeake and the tidal rivers this weekend, but I wouldn’t promise anyone a couple of fish for dinner until after you put the croakers into the cooler.

The good news is the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay continues to deliver wonderful catches of striped bass during the current trophy rockfish season, while the lower Virginia parts of the bay give up red drum, a few black drum and scads of flounder and tautogs.

In the tidal rivers — especially the Potomac from the District to Charles County — the fishing for largemouth bass has been exemplary. Of all the bass we’ve seen this week, it appeared that the spawning was still not going great. Not one female with a beaten-up, bloody tail was hooked, which indicates that she’s been clearing a spawning bed. However, soft plastics and shallow crankbaits will get a workout in the feeder creeks and some main-stem spots.

The bass and crappie action in the large Virginia reservoirs has been good, with Kerr and Gaston lakes at the top of the list.

The Atlantic Ocean surf from Delaware into Maryland has been turning up blitzing bluefish and a few large stripers, while the inlets and backwaters deliver the goods as far as school stripers, tautogs and flounder are concerned.

**** = Excellent***= Very Good**= Good*= Poor

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles ([***]) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461), Ray Fletcher says, “You wouldn’t believe the number of herring that are in the river right now. They’re everywhere. Maybe the white perch will come in also this weekend.” The river at Fletcher’s Cove is a little high and discolored, but will be fishable in a day or two. Hickory and American shad are available in good numbers, as are catch-and-release stripers. From the District downstream to Charles and Prince William counties, the bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) have been doing very well on bass with a variety of soft plastics, wacky-rigged or Texas-rigged. I fished with Knupp two days ago and we had a fine day using Yo-Mama and Mann’s Hard-Nose craws in weed pockets where the water went from 3 to 6 feet. If it’s white perch you’re looking for, we have no idea where they are. The usual hangouts, such as Marshall Hall, simply haven’t turned up much of anything. Farther down the river, the croakers still aren’t showing up in strong numbers. To be sure, Quade’s Store, the rental boat and tackle shop operation in Bushwood, in St. Mary’s County, told me that one fellow caught three croakers from the end of the dock Tuesday, but hardly anyone is on the water fishing for them. Could be some croakers are present. I think more warm weather is needed along with fewer pound nets. Call Quade’s for the latest information, 301/769-3903. Down around St. George’s Island and beyond toward Point Lookout, the deeper water layers are giving up a number of trophy keeper stripers for trollers.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles ([***]) — Excellent bass fishing if you work soft plastics with or without slip sinkers in the thousands of grassy pockets up and down the creek, some of them no more than spitting distance from the Smallwood launch ramps. The new Slavins ramp in Indian Head has not yet been poured, but it looks as if it’ll happen any day. I had a fine outing in the creek with a friend and we hooked 18 bass in five hours, all of them on soft plastic worms or on a bronze/red Little “N” crankbait that worked like the dickens when cast just outside the shallow edges of marsh banks and retrieved through the deeper layers of water.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles ([**]) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers a few fat sunfish and more bass than most casual anglers would expect. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), the low water will now slowly rise. My friend James Drake says the process to refill St. Mary’s Lake has begun. The dam safety permit says it will take seven weeks to fill up at the lake at the rate of one foot of water a week.

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) shows good numbers of largemouth bass, sunfish and catfish. Bass have jumped on hard jerkbaits, such as a Rapala, around grassy edges or sunken wood. Plastic worms also work, but think short, something in the 4-inch range and preferably scented.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles ([**]) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia Reservoir is down, way down, and dam repairs are under way. Bass at Rocky Gorge like 4-inch Power Worms, but also will look at a craw or a deep-fished crankbait around lake points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles ([**]) — Slow going in the upper stretches of the river. Everyone in the lower parts expects the croaker fishing to begin. Thus far, there are no catches worth talking about. The rockfish trollers outside the river are kicking butt. Many 33-inch-and-longer stripers are being caught.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles ([***]) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis reports, “Heavy rain late last week has left the reservoir a mess. Water is high, muddy and full of debris. However, if the weather cooperates and things quiet down, the weekend should provide some excellent fishing. The bass want to get on the beds and will be eager to take soft plastics or jigs. The crappies were scattered by the rising water but will return to their favorite spots and the catfish bite should really start to pick up. Bluegills are [preparing] for their spawn in about two weeks or so.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles ([***]) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappie catches are fine. The lake wasn’t as affected by strong rains as other local bodies of water were. Bass are not done with the spawning. Some females have been caught on plastic worms and their bellies with egg sacs were still firm.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles ([**]) — Perhaps the fishing will be OK by the weekend, but when this was written, the water levels are up and discolored, with a swift running river not exactly the best place to be. By the weekend the catfish and some smallmouth bass will be caught.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles ([***]) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) connects on scattered smallmouth and largemouth bass with crankbaits and plastics. The walleyes are done spawning and frequently enter feeding sprees along the lake’s shorelines. If you’re good at jigging a plastic grub over deep weed pockets, you’ll hook one, to be sure.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles ([**]) — The Susquehanna Flats turned off completely when, after heavy rains, a fairly strong run of murky water arrived from Conowingo. Many of the Flats rockfish lure casters are having a tough time. Even the inside of the river, from Havre de Grace to Port Deposit, has largemouth bass anglers scratching their heads. However, the Deer Creek shad fishing continues.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles ([****]) — Christy Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, said, “We had a great week. Even the rain on Saturday didn’t slow anyone down. We had two 50-inch-plus fish caught and too many to count that were in the high 40s. The fishing was good almost anywhere, but on either edge of the channel from 72A on down seem to produce the bigger ones. Off the pier at Point Lookout, fishermen caught some croakers and at least one flounder that we know of.” From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reported, “Great fishing all week for rockfish. Trollers came in with trophy rockfish from Cove Point, the Targets, Point No Point, the HI and HS Buoy, bouys 72 and 72A, Point Lookout, and a respectable number from the lower Potomac off Stewart’s Pier and St. George Island. Most people are trolling umbrella rigs in chartreuse or white. Fred Bowles, who landed a trophy at Buoy 76, reported plenty of sea lice on the big fish, indicating fresh runs of stripers [are coming into the bay] from the Atlantic. Croakers are scarce. There are reports of a handful caught off Point Lookout Pier a couple of evenings last week, and a catch off Coles Point on the Virginia side of the Potomac. The fish are creeping in, but the chilly water is slowing them down.” In the upper reaches of the bay, from Chesapeake Beach and the deeper waters of the eastern side of the bay, steady numbers of trophy rockfish are hooked by trollers.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles ([***]) — From the lower Chesapeake, Ken Neill reports that some flounder fishermen around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel are having surprise hookups with red drum (channel bass). The black drum fishing has been very slow, although it’s time for the big brutes to bite all around the Cape Charles sector. Neill also says some fine gray sea trout were caught in the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel area and he adds that spadefish will be arriving soon in the lower bay. Don’t forget that the striper season begins May 1.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles ([**]) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Spawning bass can make for some difficult fishing because the bass aren’t always interested in the lures you’re throwing, but some are hooked up around Denton, Martinak and Greensboro.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles ([**]) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) This stretch also has a lot of spawning bass that are not necessarily interested in eating, especially not artificial “food.” Sunfish and catfish are willing, however.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles ([**]) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) We don’t have an actual on-the-scene report, but two bass tournament fishermen, who launched at the Federalsburg ramp of the Marshyhope Creek, then went into the main stem of the Nanticoke, said the fishing was poor. They did catch one bass that was almost four pounds on a shallow water crankbait.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles ([***]) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) One reader writes, “Unless you don’t find the practice of jerking an actively spawning bass off its bed repulsive, the bass fishing [stinks] at Anna.” He says there are spawning beds everywhere from Dukes to Plentiful, but the big females are gone, probably sulking a while before they begin to feed again. Still, small weekend tournament anglers have been doing quite well, with one local man last week winning an event with five bass that weighed 18 pounds. The crappie fishing has been great in sunken brush and around beaver huts.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles ([*]) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Waters are still discolored and swift, but as soon as it slows down and clears, there’ll be some shad and herring catches, along with increasing striper and catfish numbers. The upper river will begin to turn up catches of smallmouth bass.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles ([***]) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass, crappies, sunfish and catfish make this lake a fine choice for weekend anglers even if the water color is off.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles ([***]) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass catches can be pretty good, considering this is spawning time. Soft plastics or shallow-water jerkbaits work. Catfish like cut herring or clam necks. Crappies are biting. Live minnows are best.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***]) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake expert Marty Magone says, “Although we have been catching bedding bass up to six pounds in the backs of the creeks (tossing any plastic) there are other options on the main lake. Locate the multitude of shallow grass beds in five to seven feet of water between Holly Grove Creek and the flats going upriver. Start out early with a large topwater bait such as the Zara Spook and hang on because stripers up to 15 pounds have been crushing anything resembling a baitfish. Once the striper bite dies off, throw a spinnerbait, ticking the top of the grass.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles ([***]) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies are said to have finished spawning, so now start hunting them in a little deeper water, say, 10 to 15 feet or so. The bass fishing can be fine as soft craws, worms or grubs will see action in sunken brush, flooded willows and creek points. Striper catches have been slow.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles ([**]) — (Williamsburg area) Crappies and catfish are the main ticket in the river now. Bass fishing has been iffy.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles ([***]) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Large blue catfish and surprising numbers of five- to 10-pound stripers are in the river. The stripers must be released.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles ([*]) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas show raised water levels and discoloration. Not much is happening, but may perk up by Sunday.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles ([**]) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Striped bass take large shiners or plastic Sassy Shads in the “S” Curve and other sharp dropoffs in the lake. Crappie catches are good now, but the bass are playing hard to get.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles ([**]) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Plenty of rain fell and it will impact weekend smallmouth bass catches, but if all goes right, there’ll be some fish caught.

‘AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles ([**]) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Reader Mark Lord writes that he and his family went to Ocean City and because of a recent fishing report in The Times decided to take a rod and reel. “We tried fishing on the beach with no luck. That afternoon, we went to the [Route 50] bridge and I caught a tautog with a bloodworm on a circle hook during the outgoing tide. I released the fish, but was happy that I had read your fishing report.” Thanks, Mark, and continued good luck. Meanwhile, Keith Lockwood of the Maryland DNR says, “Schools of bluefish are moving along the beaches [and] larger striped bass are showing up. Fresh, cut menhaden and river herring have been the baits of choice. The bluefish that are migrating northward have been coming inside the Ocean City Inlet at times and causing a regular melee with fishermen. Big striped bass have also been moving through the inlet and anglers are reporting great fishing at night from the area around the Route 50 Bridge to the inlet. Various types of soft plastic jigs, bucktails and swimming shad lures have been a few of the best choices.” Tautogs and some flounder are also available inside the inlet.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach ([***]) — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association in the Virginia Beach area says, “It’s getting to be that time of the year when deciding what to fish for can be a challenge. Big red and black drum have been added to the mix. Thus far, catches have been sporadic. Big reds have been caught by surf fishermen on the Eastern Shore and in the bay by flounder fishermen.” Neill also reports sea bass being caught from the Tower Reef on out. The flounder drifters from Chincoteague, Metomkin, Wachapreague and Oyster can do quite well some days. If the nearby North Carolina waters interest you, be advised that the tunas are biting for boaters who come out of Oregon and Hatteras inlets and head east. Charter boat captain Richard Bartlett has been fishing out of Hatteras and he says in addition to the tuna a lot of wahoo are being caught. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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

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