- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2008

Just hear what awaits Chesapeake Bay anglers this weekend. Christy Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina, along St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, said that there has been a tremendous change in the fishing.

“It has gotten so much better. The rockfish showed back up [and] the mackerel are out of control,” she reported.

Henderson said just about everybody who’s trolling small Clarke spoons and the like can return to port with well more than a dozen Spanish mackerel. She added that bluefish continue to get bigger and are still all over the place and even some day-time bait dunkers have gotten jumbo croakers. Much the same kind of enthusiastic talk is heard up and down the Bay, although the better fishing right now is found in lower Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland Bay waters.

If it’s croakers you’re after in the upper Bay, be reminded that the time has come when many of them are beginning to think of heading south. More than one Bay fan has said that the croakers now are tough to come by. But from the uppermost bay parts down to and beyond the Bay bridges, toward Chesapeake Beach and the Eastern Shore’s Tilghman Island, trollers, surface lure casters and live-liners find juvenile bluefish and keeper rockfish add a nice mix of small bluefish and striped bass from the Brewerton Channel south to the Bay Bridge. Spanish mackerel have been hooked in fine numbers around the Sharps Island area.

Elsewhere, the Atlantic Ocean east of North Carolina’s Outer Banks produced a whopping 1,228-pound blue marlin, which is a pending North Carolina blue marlin record. The huge billfish was caught during a Pirate’s Cove, N.C., tournament by angler Trey Irvine, of Weston, Fla., while fishing competitively aboard the “Mimi.” All the same, Irvine’s trophy still is quite a bit shy of the world record Atlantic blue marlin that weighed 1,402.20 pounds. It was caught in Brazil in 1992.

Here is this week’s fishing outlook:

(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 normal summertime fare can be expected. Catfish and a handful of bass make up the majority of catches. Downstream, the bass boaters score nicely early and late in the day whenever falling tides coincide with the cool hours. The fishing has been good from the Fox Ferry rock line down to the Piscataway Creek and onward toward the Mattawoman and the Virginia creeks on the opposing shore.

Falling water has been crucial to bass catches. One day last week we had no bass as the tide began to drop, but in the last two hours of ebbtide the largemouths went nuts, inhaling every type of soft plastic bait we threw, but also crankbaits (if the weed beds allowed it), and also surface poppers when cloud cover kept the water shaded. The lures that seem to have lost their appeal to bass are the weedless grass frogs or grass rats. More than one boater said that the fish aren’t interested in them, but they were effective a couple of weeks ago.

Downstream, past the Port Tobacco River, Anthony Lee says he has had excellent catches of various fish species within sight of the Route 301 bridge in Charles County. “During an outgoing tide I caught 76 white perch, 22 stripers (all undersized), bluefish up to 12 inches, 35 yellow perch up to 11 inches, and 15 puppy drum (under 18 inches) — all on a [1/8]-ounce Beetlespin lure or a lime-color Mister Twister.”

No, Lee didn’t keep all those fish; he just wanted to pass along the word that the fishing was fine. Good trolling for small rockfish, blues, even a few Spanish mackerel, is had up and down the river, especially as you approach the mouth near Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (★★) — Increasing numbers of anglers say the croaker fishing has taken a serious dip, but white perch and small stripers are inside the river. Check for the latest with Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) in Bushwood. Some rockfish are hooked just outside the mouth of the river.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — The state warned of a serious algae bloom inside the creek, but we’ve been catching bass and haven’t noticed anything terribly wrong in the parts we’ve fished in.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) turns up surprisingly large bass now and then. Give it a try. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass fishing during overcast or early hours of sunny days can be remarkably good. Use small plastic worms on the lightest slip sinkers possible, or small shallow-running crankbaits. Bluegills, pickerel and crappies are taken as well.

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) delivers plenty of panfish and occasionally hefty bass, but most of the largemouths are in the 12-inch range.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Good bass catches are made in both lakes. Soft plastics, hard and soft jerkbaits, or smartly cast topwater poppers during the early hours will produce for patient lake anglers. Remember, these old reservoirs are never easy to fish, but there are bass in both bodies of water that are dying of old age, so don’t give up.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park passed along that trollers around the shoreline who use small white bucktails find rockfish up to 6 pounds. Store proprietor Ken Lamb said, “Cast poppers along the rocky outcroppings. These fish are in 18 inches of water or less.”

Lamb also said that puppy drum from 12 to 16 inches are in the creeks, but they must at least measure 18 inches to be legal.

“Some big red drum have been caught near the mouth of the river in the bay, but they are like flying saucers, you see them once and then never again,” he added.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “Jason and Cathy Tibbetts, a husband/wife team from Centreville, won last week’s Fountainhead Bass Tournament with a 6-fish limit weighing 19.2 pounds. All of the fish were taken on soft plastics pitched into deep blowdowns in the river arm of the reservoir. Crappies continue to hit medium minnows under a bobber with several nice catches hooked off the pier and boardwalk. Catfish like clam snouts and chicken livers. Bluegills are easy to come by for fly-rodders. The reservoir is clear with surface temperatures in the mid-80s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass and catfish catches improved steadily in the past week as the water temperature actually fell a bit. Even an odd walleye is hooked now and then.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — Upper river DNR biologist and fishing phenom John Mullican says the river is low and clear with average flows for this time of year. The catfish are biting and so are the smallmouth bass. Fishing guide Dan Hodkinson said he could even hook a tiger muskie or two but won’t go after them now because the fish would be too stressed in the currently warm water, but he’ll target them in the fall.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds fair to good action on smallmouth and largemouth bass in the gin-clear waters of a popular Garrett County lake that sees far too many jet-skis and runabouts with people that are not fishing. “It gets hectic here on weekends,” Nelson said.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★★) — The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said, “Water releases from the Conowingo Dam continue to be limited to late day; recently there have been days where there has been no water release at all. Local fishermen fish at the dam by casting swim-shad lures into the turbulent water of the dam pool during water releases with limited results for striped bass. Fishing in the lower Susquehanna River tend to be limited to fishing for channel catfish and white perch, which there certainly are plenty of.”

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek and Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box (both in St. Mary’s County) agree that the fishing has been outstanding.

Lamb said, “Fishing is truly superb. Rockfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and trout are plentiful for trollers and lure casters. A good friend told me of launching out of St. Jerome’s Creek Saturday in the early afternoon, and he caught 19 croakers between 16 and 17 inches approximately halfway from the Point No Point lighthouse and the Targets, in about 30 feet of water.”

Henderson and Lamb also pass along news that the Middle Grounds continue to turn up fine catches of croakers, but a lot of pier and boat fishermen now complain that the croaker catch in the Chesapeake Bay, especially the upper parts, has slowed considerably. Live-liners, trollers and surface lure casters connect on barely legal rockfish and many small blues from Calvert County up to and beyond the Bay Bridges. In fact, bluefish and lightweight stripers are possible clear to the Chester River’s Love Point.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) has no trouble finding Spanish mackerel, rockfish and bluefish of various sizes from his Great Wicomico River area up to the Smith Point Light and down to the mouth of the Rappahannock River, where croakers, bluefish and rockfish hold court. In the lowest portions of the Bay, Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said that flounder are still the main attraction with “doormats” jumping on drifted live baits around structures in the lower Bay.

“The Cell area, as well as the first and fourth islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel are producing,” Ball said. “On windy days, Lynnhaven Inlet is providing good catches of decent fish lately.”

Ball also said that red drum are schooling around the lower Bay shoals and near the third and fourth islands of the Bridge-Tunnel.

“Black drum are still meandering around the four artificial islands of the Bridge-Tunnel,” she added.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croaker catches have eased up quite a lot; so have the spot, but perch are available. Upper river bass boaters around Denton and Martinak find a few largemouths, but the fishing is nothing to write home about.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Pretty much the same story as last week. The bass like to hang out in flooded tree roots and fallen timber. Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lures or soft, short plastic worms will draw them out. Don’t overlook the spatterdock edges.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The Vienna stretch of the river has seen some rockfish in the 18- to 22-inch class hooked early in the day. We’re talking about boaters casting Rat-L-Traps or surface poppers and connecting. The bass fishing hasn’t been very good. OK, so a few are taken in the Marshyhope Creek and above the mouth of the Marshyhope in the spatterdock fields, but autumn time will see a marked improvement.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) If you arrive long before sunup and quietly motor up to the Splits and keep your ears perked, you’ll often hear a surface feeding commotion as the stripers in the lake go onto a feeding rampage. Start throwing topwater or jerkbait lures and hang on. These rockfish are tough. The bass bite can be quite good during overcast or very early and late hours. Fish deepwater coves and sunken brush or docks, but also rocky main-lake points with soft plastics, Carolina-rigged worms and slow-rolled spinnerbaits.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — If it doesn’t rain this weekend, which can quickly raise and muddy the water here, you’ll find willing smallmouth bass above Fredericksburg. Tidal water bass have been finicky, but main-river blowdowns hold some good specimens. Plastic worms are best.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) A few bass, plenty of sunfish, and ever-present catfish are available, just don’t expect earthshaking catches.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Decent numbers of bass were hooked this week and most of them came either on live minnows, fished under a cork, or by slowly dragging a plastic worm around an underwater obstacle, like a brush pile or lake points.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Marty Magone said the bass will bite along the grass beds above the I-85 bridge. Work the edges of the vegetation where the water drops to as much as 10 feet. “As a bonus, schools of small stripers wander up and down these grass beds waiting for a topwater presentation. Catfish anglers score well in the flats with 30-pounders not unusual,” he said.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The lake is nearly five feet below normal pool, but that didn’t stop North Carolina angler Mike Fuller from breaking the Virginia state record for freshwater drum. His drumfish weighed 22 pounds. It struck a Laser Eye jigging spoon. Catfish and bass are quite willing to bite, so come and give them a shot.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish around the Richmond to Dutch Gap area, with some visiting stripers noted below the Appomattox River. Bass are mostly confined to shoreline blowdowns and flooded tree roots.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★★) — (Williamsburg area) A few bass are falling for 4-inch finesse worms in the upper river’s blowdowns and boat docks. Catfish are always willing if you bring some cut-up spot or perch to be used as bait.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Dick Fox, of Front Royal, said, “River still low and clear. Plenty of smallmouth bass can be caught with inline spinners, or topwater lures and {Zoom] flukes.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The bass fishing can be good if you cast plastic worms or topwater baits before the sun bakes the water. This lake has a number of steady nighttime bass and striper anglers — and they’re doing quite well.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Warm, low water, but this river has enough deep pockets and pools that provide good hiding spots for smallmouth bass. Cast spinners, tube jigs, small crankbaits, or fly-rod popping bugs and streamers past the rocks where the deep pockets are.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) A mix of small bluefish and occasional keeper rockfish has been noted inside the Ocean City Inlet up to the Route 50 bridge. The headboat customers find small sea bass that often can’t be kept, they’re that little. The resort city’s surf waters give up a smattering of kingfish, flounder and snapper blues. In the offshore waters expect a variety of action, from large and small dolphin (fish) to white marlin. However, with the high price of marine fuel, not enough boaters can afford to long runs to the canyon waters. That’s a shame because the fishing can be very good.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported that the king mackerel bite continues at a steady pace. With cooler air temperatures, the kings should become more active along the shoreline, especially if an easterly direction is mixed in. “Trollers are reporting scattered catches of fish ranging to about 20 pounds by live-baiting and fast trolling south of Rudee Inlet in about 20 to 60 feet of water,” she said. Julie also said that the Spanish mackerel fishing along Virginia Beach is some of the best in years.

Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, added, “Besides the [current] billfish action, a very good dolphin bite continues off the Virginia coast. Some yellowfin tuna have made a showing and a few large wahoo have been caught.”

Neill said bigeye tuna have made a showing in the Norfolk Canyon and that swordfish are a possible catch for overnighters. Offshore bottom fishermen hook snowy and yellowedge grouper, wreckfish, blueline and golden tilefish. Offshore wrecks hold numbers of large sea bass. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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

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