- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2008

From blue catfish that can weigh up to 40 pounds to largemouth bass and the occasional striper, the Potomac around the Fletcher’s Cove in Georgetown promises better than average summertime fishing. It gets even better as you head downstream through the District and into the various tributaries on the Maryland and Virginia side of the river. Largemouth bass have been very cooperative for boaters, even shoreline walkers from the Spoils Cove down to the Piscataway, and from the main stem of the Potomac into Virginia’s Pohick Bay and south to Leesylvania, Quantico, Potomac and Aquia creeks, as well as all the feeders on the opposite shore. However, a new twist has been added. Dozens of bass fishermen report hooking northern snakeheads on the same lures that the largemouths prefer. If you catch a snakehead, don’t forget to kill it. It’s the law. Please, don’t throw it ino the water. It must be disposed of on land — preferably in a frying pan. It’s supposed to be delicious.

In the saltier waters of the Chesapeake Bay, croakers, spot, perch, bluefish and striped bass are holding court from above the Bay bridges, near Annapolis, down to Southern Maryland’s Point Lookout and across to the Eastern Shore’s Tangier Sound.

The upper parts of local and distant freshwater rivers are alive with smallmouth bass that like small tube jigs, crankbaits, spinners and topwater poppers. Included in the list are the far upstream portions of the James, Rappahannock, all of the Shenandoah, Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. What can possibly ruin this good fishing? Prolonged, heavy downpours.

Now here’s this week’s fishing outlook:

(Ratings key: ****=excellent fishing; ***;=Good; **Fair; *;=Poor.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: **** — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461), Ray Fletcher said, “It’s more of the same, just like last week. Plenty of big catfish, also largemouth bass and an occasional striper. The river is in good shape for fishing.” Downstream an increasing number of bass fishermen report excellent bass catches, but some are alarmed about a steady increase of Chinese northern snakeheads, the foreign invaders with a sharp set of teeth. The snakeheads like the same lures the bass go for and we receive catch reports from the Piscataway down to Dogue Creek, Pohick Bay, Pomonkey, Mattawoman, Chicamuxen, Quantico, Potomac and Aquia creeks. The bass fishing has been very good with fallen trees, weed bed edges and marsh edges turning up fine catches mostly on soft plastics, but also on shallow crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater frogs and poppers. Downstream, from the Route 301 bridge clear to Point Lookout, including the Virginia shore from Ragged Point to nearly Smith Point, slow-trollers find some keeper rockfish and snapper blues, but stationary fishermen locate schools of hardheads, lots of spot and white perch. For example, rockfish have been caught trolling small, white bucktails around Blackistone Island, to name one place. Croaker, spot and perch will take bloodworms and squid baits at Ragged Point. And don’t forget Cornfield Harbor on the Maryland side where flounder, croakers, spot and perch bite for bottom fishermen.

WICOMICO RIVER:*** — The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) delivers big white perch that are found on the edges of the oyster bars. “There are plenty of spot and croakers, too, but the perch fishing is really good,” Ken Lamb said.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: *** — Fine catches of bass can be made during strong, ebbing tides from Burn Point and Deep Point clear up the creek toward Hancock Cove. Yes, some snakeheads are caught along with the bass. Catfish are hungry in the creek’s channel waters. Use clam necks or strips of liver.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: ***Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) Things have been slow, save perhaps for plenty of sunfish, which is good for flyrod popping. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) largemouth bass, sunfish, bluegills and chain pickerel are awaiting your visits.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: *** — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) are turning up good numbers of bass that like 4-inch finesse worms, or small crankbaits, even early morning poppers. Sunfish and catfish action is good.

WSSC RESERVOIRS:***(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Once again, the earliest hours of the morning are likely to turn up the best bass catches. Use poppers and buzzbaits at first, then switch to soft plastics, even pig’n’jig combinations along sharp dropoffs around lake points. Sunfish and a few crappies are hooked.

PATUXENT RIVER: *** — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports croakers are plentiful in the river from Kingston Hollow clear to Benedict. Large schools of spot are found inside the mouth and around Solomons, with occasional flounder and stripers scored by minnow dunkers.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: ***From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “The fishing has been excellent at Fountainhead Park this past week. The early morning bass bite was very good with topwater baits and crankbaits. Senkos and swimbaits have worked well after sunup. I don’t recall a better week for crappie in several years. Medium and large minnows, fished 6 to 8 feet under a bobber, have taken big crappie all week off the pier and boardwalk. Several 3- to 5-pound channel catfish were caught as well. The reservoir is at full pool, clear, with surface temperatures between 78-83 degrees.”

BURKE LAKE: *** — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The early bird not gets the worm, he or she also gets the largemouth bass. Soft, scented plastic worms can score nicely around lake points and stickups. Catfish and sunfish are hungry, but crappies are not heavily concentrated in any one area.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: ***From Knoxville to Brunswick and on to Montgomery County’s Dickerson and Edwards Ferry, the smallmouth bass fishing can be quite good if you iuse small jerkbaits or topwater poppers, also jigs and grubs and spinners. Meanwhile, the DNR passes along word that the North Branch of the Potomac in the Barnum and Piedmont Areas was stocked with more than 2,000 rainbow trout, some as heavy as 4 pounds.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: *** — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says smallmouth bass continue to hang out around and under the many floating docks of the lake and if you can skip a fringed tube in watermelon seed color under the docks, chances are you’ll hook a smallie. Fat bluegills and yellow perch hang out in the backs of coves, while largemouth bass and a few walleyes can be scored around lake points.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: ***Keith Lockwood, of the Maryland DNR, says there are very low flow conditions in the river and that a number of fishermen are getting out of their boats to wade in the shallower areas. Largemouth bass tend to be the main target, they also catch white perch, channel catfish and a few walleyes.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: ***The rockfish picture now confusing. Certain spots, such as the Gas Docks in Calvert County, are loaded with fish for anglers who live-line Norfolk spot for best results, but trollers in other parts of the Bay have to spend precious fuel to find one or two keepers. However, large schools of young stripers and blues can suddenly be seen erupting on the surface almost anywhere on the Bay. Have a popping rod ready for such occasions. Rockfish have been caught from as far north as Love Point and as far south as the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship and the waters in between. Chummers generally do better in Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore sectors. If you head to the Middle Grounds and general area during the evening, expect fat croakers to bite on bottom rigs.

VIRGINIA: **** — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) says the mouth of the Rappahannock River continues to hold a mix of quality spot and croakers. From the mouth of the river up to the White Stone bridge has been the most productive area. Anglers fishing from the western shores are opting to save fuel and stay closer to home. During the evening hours, large croaker make their way into the shallow water of creeks, oyster reefs and other structures. Rockfish and bluefish are fouind from the Rappahannok’s Windmill Point up to Smith Point. Meanwhile, in the lowest parts of the Bay, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association said the flounder fishing has really turned on, but the season will be closed from July 21 through July 30. “The largest fish are being caught at buoy 42, the Cape Henry Wreck and of course, at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel,” he said. Large croakers are caught at the Cell, the Buoy 42 area. Some nice spot are showing up in the catches of bottom fishermen. Spadefish can be found over the inshore wrecks, at the Bridge-Tunnel and the Cell. Spanish mackerel are being caught along the oceanfront and in the lower bay up to Windmill Point.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:*** — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Hardheads, spot, white perch, snapper blues and rockfish — all have been hooked in the mouth area of the river, with some decent catches coming also at the Route 50 Cambridge fishing bridge. A few bass are taken on soft plastics around Denton.

POCOMOKE RIVER: ** — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The current hot weather is doing nothing to improve the bass fishing. Few decent catches are made.

NANTICOKE RIVER: *** — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Bass can be hooked along marsh and spatterdock field edges. Use shallow crankbaits and soft plastic worms. Some early morning stripers are possible from Vienna downstream. Have a surface popper at the ready.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: ***(Route 208, Spotsylvania County) If you arrive around dawn and head up to the Splits and beyond, you could run into a feeding shcool of stripers. Topwater stick baits, Rat-L-Traps, hard jerkbaits or soft Sassy Shad lures will work when it happens. The largemouth bass like Carolina-rigged plastic worms in deep coves near structure or main lake points. Bring a loud topwater lure for early morning casting at rip-raps and rocky points.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: ***The upper river sees waders successfully going after smallmouth bass. The area below Remington to the Rapidan and below has been fine. In the Fredericksburg sector you’ll hook a blue catfish now and then, while the bass take a look at a soft worm or a shallow crankbait around blowdowns from Fredericksburg down toward Port Royal.

LAKE BRITTLE: *** — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass catches have perked up a bit, with catfish, crappies and sunnies not far behind. A fine place to visit..

LAKE ORANGE: *** — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish are the best bet, but some fat bass, crappies and bluegills are available.

LAKE GASTON: ***(Route 46, Gasburg) Early and late hours are the best times to find a fat bass looking for food along the edges of grass beds and rip-rap. Loud topwater lures, soft, scented plastic worms and a few jerkbaits will serve you well.

KERR RESERVOIR: *** — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish rate as the best catches now, but bass and crappies are available throughout the lake. Check out occasional stripers up around Nutbush Creek.

JAMES RIVER: **(Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish catches and, yes, we know this sounds like a broken record, but that’s the best fishing here.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: **— (Williamsburg area) Bass are taken on worms and spinnerbaits in sunken brush and fallen trees, as well as marsh bank edges.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: *** — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said that the state has been checking the smallmouth bass and found them a lot healthier this year than in the past. The fishing has been excellent, said Fox, who uses tubes, grubs and small worms for his “brown” fish.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: *** — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Earlybird fishermen find bass around stgone formations and stump-filled areas with topwater lures and plastic baits, but striper fans do better at night down toward the dam.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: ***(Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) If the rain stays away, the smallmouth bass catches will be excellent this weekend. Small plastic grubs and jigs can score nicely.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: ***(Route 50 to Ocean City) You’ll find a few bluefin and yellowfin tunas, dolphin (fish), along with increasing numbers of wahoos and king mackerel in the offshore region along the 20-fathom curve. The headboats work the wrecks a little closer in and they return with sometimes meager number of tautogs and sea bass. In the backwaters behind Ocean City, expect to get some bites while drifting minnows and squid strips for flounder, but most are throwbacks. The surf is good mostly for kingfish, sand sharks and a few small bluefish.

VIRGINIA: *** — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (drjball.com) says amberjacks are a good bet at the southern towers and offshore wrecks such as the Triangles, Ricks and Hanks. Live bait is working well, while jigs are a good alternative bait. Deep droppers are finding plenty of nice tilefish, wreckfish, and blackbelly rosefish, which can offer a break during slow trolling days. The offshore region turns up billfish near the Triple 0´s and the Cigar, where a few sailfish releases were made last week. “Although yellowfin tuna are scarce, bluefin tuna ranging from 50 to over 100 pounds are biting on the inshore lumps, with the Hot dog and 26-Mile Hill providing the best action,” she said. Big gaffer dolphin to over 50 pounds are also possible. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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