- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2008

Although autumn has not yet arrived, we enjoyed unusually pleasant weather for days on end this week, and many anglers were able to cash in on rather spectacular fishing.

I cannot overstate the fine bass fishing we’ve been having in the tidal Potomac River and its feeder creeks from Charles County up toward the Wilson Bridge. It’s not unusual to hook well over 25 largemouths — some of them fairly hefty — when the tide is ebbing strongly. We find them in weed pockets and along marsh banks up and down the river, but the feeder creeks have been best.

In the Chesapeake Bay, stripers and bluefish, accompanied by fine numbers of Spanish mackerel, have made boaters who troll with small spoons, bucktails and short surgical tubing smile from ear to ear, while flounder, spadefish and black drum bite along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel down near the Atlantic Ocean. The fishing can be terrific some days.

Seaside anglers score on small and large stripers in the inlet at Ocean City, and in Virginia the light towers and various underwater wrecks deliver amberjacks, jack crevalle and various other fish species.

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 (★★★) — In the waters outside Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) you’ll find a few hungry catfish and some surprisingly well-fed bass. Downstream, from Hains Point to Broad Creek, expect bass bites inside grassy pockets, weed edges, various rock formations, and discarded shoreline metal pieces will hold largemouth bass. The same goes for the little tree-laden islands across from Fort Washington marina, inside Piscataway Creek. Move downstream some more and fish the Pomonkey or when the tide is ebbing, portions of Fenwick (Greenway Flats), boat docks and weed beds.

The fishing can be very good when the water drops. That includes all the Virginia feeder creeks and parts of Pohick Bay. We’ve done exceptionally well with wacky-rigged garlic-scented Zero worms in green pumpkin or junebug colors. Overcast days or early hours of the day are good for topwater poppers, but spinnerbaits have come on lately. In the saltier parts of the river below Virginia’s Aquia Creek and subsequently the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, the fishing can be fair for shoreline white perch, but croaker bites haven’t been all that great. All the same, a trio of Cobb Island fishing pals went out to the St. Clements Island dropoffs and fished with shrimp and squid and came home with 32 fat hardheads, none of them longer than 14 inches. Trollers in the main stem of the river pick up a keeper rockfish now and then, with hookups for the stripers, bluefish, even Spanish mackerel possible as you near Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (★★) — There are scattered croakers, plenty of small white perch, and occasional catches of rockfish at the buoy rocks in the mouth.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — We had another wonderfully productive bass outing in the creek, fishing wacky-rigged Zero and Senko worms on the marsh bank dropoffs during an outgoing tide. Shallow-running crankbaits and topwater poppers also found action.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is good for a bass or two and plenty of sunfish. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the fishing is fine for bass, sunfish, pickerel and catfish. There have been warnings about some more leakage occurring in the lake’s dam, which could mean another drawdown to allow repairs.

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) have shown good bass, sunfish and catfish action since the water cooled a bit and days were pleasant.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Our usual sources have found the bass catching a bit tedious this week, plus the wind has blown enough to make john boat owners unhappy.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — White perch are everywhere along shallow and deep shorelines, but if it’s croakers you want you’ll have to work at it. Many are heading out, but some are caught even from the Solomons Pier. Small rockfish, flounder and snapper blues are in the mouth of the river.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “Bass are slowly moving up from their summertime deep-water haunts onto rock walls, shallower points, and the secondary points in major creeks. Medium running crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors accounted for some quality fish being taken this past week. The crappie bite has slowed, but catfish are readily caught on clam snouts and chicken livers. The reservoir remains at full pool, clear, with surface temperatures in the low 80s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) One of our fishing pals spent a morning here earlier this week and a 3½-pound bass jumping on a soft jerkbait on a lake point not far from the lake concession building. Bass like soft plastics; crappies prefer live minnows.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — Cool nights have helped, but we need some rain up this way. Deep-water pockets can be found by johnboaters and waders from Taylor’s Landing down to the Monocacy and the smallmouth bass will jump on black-flecked chartreuse tubes — pepper tubes we call them. The Montgomery County portion also delivers some action. Don’t overlook the many catfish and redbreasted sunfish.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) starts early, casts topwater lures, soft and hard jerkbaits around weed beds for his bass, then skips tubes under boat docks and tries to be off the water before the jet skiers show up.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★) — Low water and no outlook for more releases from Conowingo Dam have put a crimp into consistent bass or striper fishing, although some rockfish are near the mouth and on the Flats.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — The Chesapeake Bay will provide plenty of fish for weekend anglers. From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said that the Spanish mackerel show no sign of a letup. Along with rockfish and blues, the “Spanish” are caught from the mouth of the Potomac River up to and beyond the Gas Docks in Calvert County.

“Trollers using tiny Drone, Pet, and Clark spoons with in-line sinkers or planers (Sea Striker number 1 or 2) are getting plenty and some are pretty big,” Lamb said.

But the fishing can be good all over. It can be productive as far up as Pooles Island and the mouth of the Chester River where, by the way, a 39-inch striper was caught the other day. Rockfish and blues are taken with live-lined spot or on trolled spoons and bucktails from north to south, including the Bay bridges, Gum Thickets, Diamonds, Sharps Island Light, Chesapeake Beach and Herring Bay areas, clear down to Calvert Cliffs and across the Bay to Hooper’s Island Light. Rockfish are breaking, too, and trollers and live-liners are doing well, mostly from above the Targets to the Gas Docks.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) says trolling continues to provide consistent action.

“Spanish mackerel have made a strong showing from the Rappahannock River mouth up to the lower Potomac River,” he said.

Many schools hold mackerel only, but others have a mix of bluefish, as well. Some of the most consistent locations for trolling action this week have been off Dividing Creek, the channel edge from Buoy 62 up to Smith Point, outside the Great Wicomico River, the lower Potomac river from Vir-Mar Beach up to Lewisetta, and northward to Point Lookout. These schools most often are mixed fish with the mackerel averaging 20 inches, blues running 2 to 3 pounds and the rockfish ranging from 14 to 20 inches. Pipkin also said that the flounder catches have slowed but continue to be a viable option at the Cell and Buoy 42 areas.

Although many are below the [minimum] 19 inches, flatties are being landed in the RN2, Buoy 62 and Smith Point bar sectors. In the lowest part of the Chesapeake, Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said the water temperatures are close to 80 and the flounder action is hit-and-miss. Ball said the larger flatfish are responding to live baits along the entire span of the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, with the third and fourth islands turning up fish, but larger flounder are showing up around the first island of the Bridge-Tunnel. Spadefish are hooked around the pilings of the Bridge-Tunnel, with some sheepshead hanging out beneath the currently small-bodied spadefish.

“The Spanish mackerel action is still off the charts,” Ball said.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Good numbers of white perch and increasing hookups of barely legal rockfish are noted inside the river. Cooler nights have helped the bass catches up around Denton and upstream from there.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) One reader camped at Shad Landing State Park and took his cartopper boat upstream of the park. He caught a good number of largemouth bass on red-shad color 4-inch Culprit worms as he flipped the Texas-rigged plastics into waterlogged brush and tree roots, as well as spatterdock pockets.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Upstream of the Marshyhope, crankbaits retrieved along the drops shown by channel markers have resulted in fair-sized bass. Some bass are found along outer bridge abutments as you come near Seaford, Del.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Earlybirds continue to do well on bass, sometimes even stripers. The cooler days and nights have helped a great deal. Bass now look at spinnerbaits and early morning topwater lures, but soft plastics are still the best bet after the sun rises.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — Downtown Fredericksburg delivers some catfish and small perch, with tidal portions below town best for largemouths that like finesse worms or small spinnerbaits. The upper river’s smallmouth bass have been fairly cooperative, but access and shallow water hamper even canoeists.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good catches of sunfish and catfish are possible. Bass fishing isn’t red-hot, but a few largemouths are possible if you use short, fat worms around sunken brush or edges of points. The Senko or Zero worms have been productive.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish, sunfish and bass are biting, but crappies have been elusive. That word about crappies comes from guys who use only artificials. Try small, live minnows under a bobber and see what happens.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake-shore resident Marty Magone has been scoring nicely on 2- to 4-pound bass, using soft or hard jerkbaits, but also some shallow-running crankbaits and Texas-rigged, 4-inch-long plastic worms above Eaton’s Ferry Bridge.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Low water shows some exposed brush and bass-holding cover. Wacky-rigged plastic worms can do the job. The crappies are in deep pockets next to points and fallen timber, but fishing for them — even with live minnows — has not been easy. Catfish are big and hungry for bottom baits.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish, a few stripers and largemouth bass are possible in the waters downstream of Richmond. Walkers Creek and Chippokes Creek have been best for bass.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★★) — (Williamsburg area) Early hours have delivered good bass bites. Topwater lures, shallow crankbaits and -ounce chartreuse/white spinnerbaits do the job. Yes, plastic worms are still the top choice among bassboaters.

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 [is] very low and clear; wading is your best bet. Plenty of smallmouth bass are to be had with in-line spinners and Senko-type plastic baits.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttimes finds some boaters in the “S” Curve, live-lining sunfish for stripers. Some days it works; some days it doesn’t. Bass catches are good between various dock pilings and shorelines.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) It’s wading time in the upper James. The water is very low, but smallmouths can be found in various deep-water pockets. Jigs, grubs and tubes are good, as are various spinners.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood reports that flounder are possible in the back-waters behind Ocean City and Assateague Island. Gotcha lures are responsible for bluefish in the Ocean City inlet area where a few rockfish also hang out. The surf turns up some kingfish and sand sharks, occasionally also a bluefish or flounder. In the offshore ocean waters bluefin tuna have been scored along the 20- to 30-fathom curve in the usual places, including the Hot Dog and the Hambone. In the distant canyon waters white marlin, dolphin, tunas and wahoos are possible.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said, “The good run of king mackerel off Virginia Beach is still going on. [The] fish are falling mostly for trolled live bait, with menhaden the top performer lately. Several smokers over 30 pounds were boated from Sandbridge to False Cape this week.”

Ball also noted that tarpon — not your typical Virginia species — are still active in the backwaters of the Eastern Shore, with the town of Oyster a favorite starting location. The inside waters at Oyster are giving up good croaker numbers if you use squid or shrimp. The Chesapeake Light Tower continues to turn up fat amberjacks and some jack crevalle. Ball also reported that offshore the billfish are spread out. Tuna catches can improve, she says, with reports of scattered yellowfin to 60 pounds and a few bigeye tuna around. Plenty of dolphin are available, including some big “gaffers,” and wahoos are available in about 30 fathoms of water. 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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