The summer heat has not put a serious crimp into the catches of largemouth bass in certain tidal rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. The leader of the pack, as always, is the Potomac River between Washington and western Charles County, Md., where early mornings coupled to receding tides can deliver the goods for casters of topwater poppers, buzzbaits, weed-crazling “frogs” and such. To a lesser extent, but occasionally worth a try, the tidal Rappahannock upstream of Port Royal, Va., can give up some decent catches, as can the Susquehanna and upper Choptank in Maryland.
If it’s smallmouth bass you prefer, slip on a pair of wading shoes and a life vest with pockets that can hold your lures, even a sandwich. Why a life vest? Should you wade along in what you believe is shallow water, there’ll be the occasional surprise when you step into a deep hole. The vest let’s you float about until you once again get firm footing. Currently, all the mountain rivers are very low, but enough smallmouth bass are caught to make an outing to the upper Potomac, Shenandoah, Rappahannock or Susquehanna worthwhile.
In the Chesapeake Bay, expect good catches of bluefish and Spanish mackerel if you troll along with a lightly weighted, short chrome or silver spoon. Rockfish also show up on the trolled lines now and then, and in the southern parts of the Maryland parts of the Bay, some night fishermen looking for croakers over the Middle Grounds, now occasionally get hooked up with fighting redfish.
Before we get to this week’s fishing outlook, a note: Be sure to check out my new blog on all things outdoors, “Inside Outside,” on washingtontimes.com/sports.
(Ratings key: ★★★★=excellent fishing; ★★★=Good; ★★=Fair; ★=Poor.)
AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (★★★) — John at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) said there are still a few stripers in that part of the river in addition to plenty of catfish and a chunky bass now and then. Bass and sunfish on occasion are hooked in the adjacent C&O Canal. The water is in perfect condition for fishing. In town and below the District, the bass fishing points mostly to casting topwater lures or soft scented plastics to weed beds, underwater rock formations, rip-rap, docks and creeks that offer marsh edges where bass often lurk. The fishing can be good in the mornings if a tide is receding, and of course pretty good all day when it’s overcast. In the saltier parts of the river, the best fishing is well below the Route 301 bridge, say from St. Clements down to St. George’s Island as slow-trolled bucktails and spoons attract a fair number of bluefish and stripers. Cornfield Harbor, near Point Lookout, has been good for a mixed bag of flounder and sea trout. Mid-river trollers around the wide mouth of the river score with roving bands of bluefish, but also some rockfish and Spanish mackerel.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (★★) — Several of our steady fishing reporters said the fishing hasn’t been the best. “We couldn’t find any croakers and we also tried for rockfish, but they didn’t care to bite, either,” said Bob Greer, who lives in McConchie, near La Plata. Others echo his report. One fellow fished all day near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) in Bushwood and never had a croaker, which is what he was looking for, but white perch and some Norfolk spot were willing.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — Weekdays have been good to bass hunters who cast grass “rats” and frogs across dense weed carpets. The bass sometimes rise and slam into the rubbery, hopping fakes. Senko or Zero worms, rigged wacky style, attract bass in marsh bank areas of the creek even after sunup.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) had a bit of a fish kill, apparently caused by an oxygen-robbing algae bloom. Most of the dead fish were little shad and bluegills. Word has it that a near 9-pound largemouth bass was hooked here recently. St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) shows decent bass fishing, lots of bluegills, and scattered chain pickerel.
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) delivers lots of sunfish for flyrodders and some fair chances for bass if you use scented plastics. Catfish are almost guaranteed if you stick a clam neck or piece of liver on the hook.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass can be found alongside fallen tree trunks and rock formations. Jigs, grubs and plastic worms are best, but an early morning jerkbait, such as a broken-back Rapala, can be deadly. Flyrodders score nicely on bluegills.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — Reader Andy Croley said, “I went fishing Monday night, caught my limit of bluefish before dark. The spot were running great. As soon as you cast out, they would bite. I spent more time rebaiting the hook than fishing. One nice bluefish even grabbed the old bait as I was reeling in to put on fresh bait. The blues I kept measured 14 to 16 inches; released another 10 to 15.” At the river mouth you’ll find rockfish at dawn around the old Cedar Point lighthouse footers, White perch are in all the creeks. Croakers are hanging out in deep holes.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “The big news this past week was the strong catfish bite. Channel ‘cats’ up to 8 pounds were brought in. Clam snouts and chicken livers were the best baits. Bass are suspended and are tougher to catch. Early morning or late evening topwater lures work well but finding fish in the middle of the day is a challenge. The crappie bite remains very good and flyrodders clean up on bluegill. The reservoir remains at full pool, slightly stained with surface temperatures in the mid-80s.”
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) In answer to several readers who’ve asked whatever happened to the court case involving a non-fisherman who parked in the fishing access parking lot (which is a posted no-no) and the judge decided to hand out a small fine. End of story. The fishing, meanwhile, points mostly to catfish, but a few keeper bass are possible. Bluegills are in good supply.