- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

After strong winds and cold nights last weekend, there’s nothing but good news for the area’s fishermen in the days to come.

It begins with the apparent arrival of croakers (hardheads) inside the Patuxent River, around the Chesapeake Bay’s Point Lookout fishing pier and in the Virginia side of the lower Potomac River. Not much action is had just yet in Bushwood in the Potomac’s Wicomico River feeder, but if the hardheads are in the Patuxent, they should arrive in the St. Mary’s and Charles counties’ parts of the Wicomico momentarily.

Then there’s Fletcher’s Cove in the Georgetown portion of the Potomac, where Ray Fletcher said, “The white perch finally arrived. We’re getting some nice, fat perch all of a sudden.” In addition to the late-arriving white perch, the Fletcher’s part of the river also sees continued shad, herring and striper catches.

White perch are showing up in the upper Patuxent and the Choptank and Pocomoke.

The trophy rockfish season continues to see good hookups up and down the Chesapeake Bay, but the big breeder cows have left the Susquehanna Flats, where the catch-and-release season is now officially closed. It was closed out of fear that the water temperatures were climbing too quickly, which can be stressful for the stripers that had been hanging around in only four to eight feet of water.

Meanwhile, the tidal Potomac and its tributaries deliver largemouth bass by the numbers, and weekends prove to be busy at local boat launch ramps.

(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) Ray Fletcher says, “The white perch have finally arrived. Some of our people are catching plenty of them, and these perch are of good size.” The big American shad are still biting, and herring are flitting about everywhere. Some fat catch-and-release rockfish also are available. Meanwhile, river bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are finding action with soft craws, 4-inch plastic worms, spinnerbaits and lipless rattle baits from around the main stem grass beds into the feeder creeks up and down the waterway from the District clear down to Virginia’s Aquia Creek and the main stem’s Arkindale Flats. White perch are now in the river, and catches should be possible around Marshall Hall, where some of the shoreliners connect on fat catfish as they use bottom rigs baited with herring chunks or clam snouts. Even though the croakers apparently arrived in the Chesapeake around Point Lookout, the fishing for them in the Wicomico River at Bushwood near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) still isn’t up to par. Perhaps by the weekend a big change can be noted. As far as rockfish are concerned, Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) in St. Jerome’s Creek said, “The mouth of the Potomac River produced lots of nice fish. On Sunday the wind picked up, but it didn’t stop anybody. They all fished the Potomac between Buoy 7 and Buoy 9 in 35 to 40 feet of water.”

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — An easy creek to find bass in. Locate a large patch of marine grass and start casting wacky-rigged or Texas-rigged plastic worms. Think short worms and light slip-sinkers when you work the grass. In fact, I prefer a sinking Zero worm in green pumpkin that requires no slip-sinker. Channel waters deliver catfish if you use herring chunks or clam snouts.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) gave up a 4-pound (or thereabouts) bass for Tim Rigas. He let it go, but he sent a photo of it via e-mail. Sunfish will be on the beds any day now if they haven’t already. That’s when I like to visit, fly-rod and tiny poppers at the ready. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is being refilled now. A few fish are taken by shore walkers.

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 seeing bedding bass that some days are not interested in anything but occasionally hammer a plastic worm or lizard. Sunfish and catfish are taking worm baits almost anywhere in the lakes.

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 water levels are down, but Rocky Gorge bass have nailed soft plastics around lake points and in the coves. Crappies are crazy about a small minnow under a bobber.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — The Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb, from his Lexington Park store, reports that catches of 20 or more croakers an angler have been made by nighttime fishermen off the Naval Air Station’s Goose Creek and Hog Point even though it has been cold and windy. Lamb also pointed out that some small boats that anchored in six feet of water found croakers along the shoreline from the West Basin to the mouth of Town Creek in the Patuxent River. Apparently, the fish come ashore at sunset and bite all night on bloodworms, squid, and clam snouts.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis reports: “Although cool mornings have lowered the water temperature to the low to mid 60s, the reservoir has cleared up nicely and the bass fishing is very good. The bass are in all three modes now (pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn) and can be taken with a variety of lures from jigs to topwaters. The crappie bite, especially from Turtle Cove to the Splits, has been strong. Small minnows under a bobber around blow-downs produce some nice catches. Catfish are hitting chicken livers or clam snouts, and bluegill are caught off the pier and boardwalk on wax worms and small pieces of nightcrawlers.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Hate to say it over and over, but crappies are biting nicely now. Look for sunken brush piles. The bass are on the beds, but some of the females are done, and they’re leaving them after spawning. Shallow-to-medium depth crankbaits can do the job around lake points. If that doesn’t work, switch to a plastic worms.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — A few smallmouths are jumping on tubes, jigs and crankbaits from Washington County down to Montgomery County. Catfish and red-breasted sunfish also are perking up the fishing trips. All the western Maryland trout waters are stocked.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) says largemouth and smallmouth bass are biting, and if you work at it, the walleyes are waiting for you.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (..) — Hickory shad continue to jump on shad darts in Deer Creek, but that won’t last much longer as the spawning is just about over. The DNR says water flow conditions in the lower Susquehanna are so minimal now that water is only being released from Conowingo Dam in the mornings. The DNR’s Keith Lockwood reports that anglers are catching American and hickory shad at the dam and white perch throughout the river. Bass guide Karl Bunch (410/459-7445) said he’s finding good action on largemouths around the general Havre de Grace area.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (….) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reported, “Great news for bottom fishermen this week as solid catches of croakers began coming in from Point Lookout Pier, as well as various spots in the Patuxent River very close to the bay.” (See Patuxent River report above.) Lamb said local angler Jorge Ochoa hooked 22 croakers while fishing from the Point Lookout Pier. Lamb also pointed out that the chilly nights had a good effect on the trophy rockfish season with tons of big, healthy rockfish continuing their spawning run. “The trollers are getting their daily limit of one quickly most everywhere,” said Lamb, who believes that spawned-out fish on their way back to the Atlantic are immediately replaced by fresh spawners working their way up the bay. Lamb added that crabs have yet to invade the shallow waters because of the cold. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “The fishing was really hot again around Point No Point lighthouse, buoys 72 and 72A. The dredging of [the mouth area of] St. Jerome’s Creek starts next Tuesday. It should be a two- to three-week-long process. The channel will remain open, and all the dredging equipment will be well-marked. After completion it will be eight feet deep at mean low tide and 100 feet wide.” Elsewhere, in the northern sector of the bay, the Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release striper fishery is now closed. The fishing for keepers there will begin June1. In the middle parts of the Chesapeake good catches of trophy rockfish are possible, but that will slow quickly if many of the big females finish spawning and begin to leave. The big rockfish will begin to be tough to find, but some will be taken.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Virginia boats are working to hook striped bass, and most of them are successful from near the Rappahannock River north to Smith Point around the corner from the lower Potomac River. From the lower Chesapeake, Ken Neill says that red drum, black drum, and some gray trout will be available in the bay when things settle down as far as the wind is concerned. Speckled trout are in the river mouths that empty into Mobjack Bay. Croaker catches continued right on through the blow, up in the rivers, where you could find some protection from the wind. It should not take the flounder fleet too long to round up the flatfish as the waters clear. The area off Cape Charles would be a good place to try. Tautog will continue to be available along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Spawning continues for the bass and now some white perch have arrived in the upper waters. The bass can be enticed to strike soft plastics anywhere between Denton and Greensboro. With a little luck there might be some croakers caught by the weekend at night from the Cambridge fishing bridge. Perch are pretty much assured.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass fishing has been slow. Some perch and catfish are hooked on worm baits in Snow Hill.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Bass are slowly coming off the beds from the Marshyhope Creek up to Seaford, Del. However, more than a few are still spawning. Catches have been tough to come by.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk has great news for fans of the lake. He points out that the state has done electro-shocking surveys since 1993, and he says that largemouth bass are now more abundant and larger (in nearly all size categories) than at any time in recent history. “Catch rate of fingerling fish [eight an hour] remained nearly unchanged and equal to the long-term average, with very low variability, suggesting consistent spawning and survival within the population. Catch rates of most other size categories were at record levels including catch of ‘preferred bass’ [fish more than 15 inches] at 29 per hour. The previous record for this category was 26 per hour in 2005. In addition, total catch rate of bass was 86 per hour — an incredible increase over last year’s record-breaking 74 per hour.” Odenkirk says the middle portion of the reservoir again was the most productive with incredible bass abundance along water willow beds near the splits.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Weekend shad, herring and perch catches are possible, but recent temperature fluctuations, rain and wind haven’t helped anglers. Downriver tidal bass hunters catch a few, but it can’t compare to the Potomac.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappie and bream fishing has been fine and now the bass catches are perking up. Try a plastic craw and see whether a bass will snatch it from around a sunken brushpile.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) One of our readers checked out last week’s report and promptly went crappie fishing on a windy day. He caught 20, using small, live minnows. Bass are coming off the beds now.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass are taking jerkbaits and soft plastics around creek points and in the ever-growing weed carpets toward the I-85 area of the lake.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass and crappie catches are perking up nicely. Even the catfish are quick to inhale a piece of herring or cut sunfish bait.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (..) — (Williamsburg area) Bass are small and not very willing, but upper river crappie should oblige, especially if you’re using small, live minnows.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish are a cinch for bottom fishermen, but rockfish and white perch are in the river as well.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas are showing action, Front Royal angler Dick Fox says. “Although not great, plenty of smallmouth bass can be caught,” he said. “Most are little specimens but a few of over 15 inches can be had. Tubes and small crankbaits have been working best for us.” Fox even sent us several photos that showed him with several of his smallmouth bass. By the way, the channel catfish are biting big-time.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Rockfish catches are down a bit, but it’s the bass most boaters are after now. Most of the largemouth bass are still on the beds, but a few can be hooked over stump fields, boat house pilings and creek points. Plastic lizards, craws, worms and tubes will do the job, with slow-rolled spinnerbaits also doing well now and then.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (..) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass are taking tubes and grubs, as well as 1/4-ounce crankbaits in red or shad colors. Numbers still leave a bit to be desired, but fish are caught.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (..) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The Ocean City area endured strong northeast winds earlier this week, and that put a crimp into the fishing. But things are back to normal now, and wreck fishermen not too far from land are finding tautog and sea bass. Surf fishermen haven’t been doing well because of the wind and roiled waters, but northward-moving stripers and bluefish will be hooked when the weather cooperates. Big stripers that are leaving the Chesapeake Bay will come right past the Ocean City beaches.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (..) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association in the Virginia Beach area said, “Everything starts to break loose, and a northeast blow shuts everything down, [but] look for catches to pick back up this week as the wind lets up and we get some warmer weather. There have been a few tuna caught by boats running out of Rudee Inlet [Virginia Beach] but Hatteras looks like the inlet to fish offshore out of this week.” The flounder fishing on the Eastern Shore died during the strong winds, but it should pick up again this weekend. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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

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