- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

In the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay, the rockfish season runs until Dec. 15, and boaters who brave the wind and cold have been cashing in big-time on stripers that come close to the 50-pound mark. Not to worry, though. If you live in Southern Maryland or the Northern Neck, Virginia’s rockfish season continues until Dec. 31, so there’s still time to crank in one of the big visitors from the Atlantic Ocean.

From the Tackle Box in St. Mary’s County’s Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, “The rockfishing is superb.” Lamb agrees with other anglers who have had to work hard for large autumn rockfish over the years, but this fall has seen the best striped bass run in years. Even the lower Potomac River appears to hold large numbers of the fish.

“The key seems to be the baitfish that are abundant all up and down the ship channel,” said Lamb, who points out that hungry stripers are moving along with the swimming smorgasbord. The best fishing comes when the ebb-tide begins. “Trollers brought in fish all week that favored green umbrella rigs and daisy chains,” Lamb added.

Many of the Southern Maryland and Northern Neck Virginia boaters now head south and fish from the Smith Point area down toward the Rappahannock River’s Windmill Point, while Virginia Beach anglers work the waters around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Seagulls and gannets will show the way as they dive into floating bits of torn-up bait. However, plenty of fine rockfish also have been caught in Maryland waters from the HI Buoy to Hooper’s Island Light. A number of Calvert County boaters catch their fish practically in the mouth of the Patuxent River.

Twelve-year-old nails a trophy — Chesapeake Bay charter fishing captain Sonney Forrest (captain@finfinder.com), said Sunday was his final outing for the season. He finished the year up with a bang. Because of strong winds forecast for Saturday, charter client Ben Bennell and friends decided they would fish the following day.

“What they did not expect was that they would watch a small 12-year-old girl catch a fish of a lifetime,” Capt. Forrest said.

The girl, Kelly Manning, waited her turn at reeling in one of the readily biting rockfish when the planerboard rod on the starboard side was struck by something big; she was handed the rod and the fight was on.

“I knew it was big by the way it pulled and sounded deep,” Forrest said. “We slowed the boat, moved other rods [out of the way] and she kept cranking. Her father, James, was standing by, steadying the rod in the rod belt, giving her encouragement but not helping her.”

This little girl did it all to claim the prize — a 48-pound striper that was 41/2 feet long. To be sure, it was worthy of a citation. The Mannings live in Waldorf.

Potomac delivers striped goods — Ask Don Helleu, who lives in Stafford, Va., how good the striper fishing is in the Potomac. Last week he went trolling aboard the private boat, Get Reel, with Charles County’s Keech Edelen. They left Cobb Island and fished near Buoy 9 as Helleu promptly tied into a 46-pound whopper that was 4 feet long and had a 29-inch girth.

“We trolled a green umbrella [rig] and 9-ounce parachute [bucktails] in 80 feet of water when it hit on a line that was 300 feet back,” Helleu said. “We thought we had snagged a crab pot until I felt the fish shake its head. It took nearly 20 minutes to bring it to the side of the boat.”

But where are the crappies? — Every river rat I have talked to in the past 10 days wonders where the crappies are. For sure, they can be found now in Lake Anna and the huge Kerr Reservoir in Virginia, but try as we might we have a tough time in the usual Potomac River haunts. A group of us tried and failed in the Mattawoman, Broad and Swan creeks, but we have not yet tried the Spoils (where I know some bass are biting) and other spots. We’ll check on the speckled fish later this week and next.

Want a mess of white perch? — Perch fishing in the lower Patuxent River is said to be excellent, and I intend to check this out in the next several days. The perch are supposed to hang out in deep holes and will take bloodworms, squid baits or just shad darts that you jig up and down close to the bottom. The Tackle Box store in Lexington Park says the deep spots between the Solomons bridge and Point Patience are loaded with big white perch.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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