- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

The weekend promises unsettled weather, perhaps strong, cooling thundershowers or nothing more than continued humid, sweltering conditions, which our local corps of meteorologists seems to particularly enjoy. Have you noticed how some of them smile a lot when they tell us it’s going to be very hot and sticky and that we should drink lots of fluids? Duh! l Like we’re idiots who don’t know this already?

Either way, there are fish to be caught in the Chesapeake Bay, the ocean and in local or distant lakes and rivers. Only extremely strong rains can mess things up for our friends who prefer to fish in the mountain rivers.

In the Chesapeake, increasing numbers of sea trout are seen from the Northern Neck of Virginia up to the Southern Maryland waters, including the mouth of the Patuxent River. Rockfish and blues are taken by live-liners and trollers, chummers and sight-casters from Virginia clear up to the Bay Bridges and beyond.

One of the nation’s top tidal rivers for largemouth bass fanatics, the Potomac, does not disappoint. Every bass hound I’ve talked to this week has agreed that the river and its tributaries upstream of the Port Tobacco will deliver very good catches of largemouths — and as a by-product, the fish known as the Chinese snakehead.

Now here’s 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 river shows good catfish action, but also surprising numbers of bass. The same is true as you head downriver where every weedbed edge, fallen wood, rockwall and marsh edge can give up bass. The easiest way this summer has been a loudly splashing surface popper early in the day, or during heavily overcast periods, followed by wacky-rigged plastic worms that do particularly well if the fake worm sinks without any added weight. Senko and Strike King’s Zero worms do just that. Catfish, by the way, can be hooked on bottom-fished cut baits along the channel edges and in the deep drops from near Wilson Bridge down to the Port Tobacco River. In the saltier portions, from the Route 301 Bridge to Swan Point, St. Clements, Piney Point, Tall Timbers and south toward Point Lookout, there’s a mix of action. In the bridge area you might hook a croaker or two, but don’t promise fish to the neighborhood until after you’ve caught them. The croaker chances improve as you head downstream. Trollers using small bucktails with a strip of porkrind on the hook can find occasional rockfish (even bluefish) hookups from around Colonial Beach and the Buoy 33 area of the river clear down to Point Lookout. In the lower river, bottom baits produce such as peeler crabs or bloodworms can deliver croakers, sea trout, spot and perch, not to mention rockfish and blues.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (★★★) — The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) The mouth of the river around the mouth’s entrance buoy has been fair for croakers, also some rockfish. Inside the Wicomico, expect white perch along the shoreline grass edges and croakers or spot on the channel drops.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — What’s up with these snakeheads? Readers have called and sent e-mails talking about catching Chinese snakeheads from the front of the creek up to and well past the Slavins boat ramp on Mattingly Ave. Meanwhile, the bass fishing can be super when tides are dropping. Use wacky-rigged plastic worms without any added weight or 4-inch finesse worms with 1/16-ounce slip sinker.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has been suffering from heat stroke. Not much is happening, but at St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) at least some morning bass and sunfish activity is noted.

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) have warmed to the 80-degree mark, but some bass and catfish hookups are possible.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Earlybirds find bass action with topwater poppers and buzzbaits, followed by plastic worms that are fished in deeper layers of water after the sun climbs high. Try the edges of lake points and fish the worm from very shallow edges out to some 10 or 15 foot depths.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — Gray trout are in the mouth of the river at Point Patience, where some nice rockfish also hang out. Trollers who use small white bucktails discovered the trout late last week, said the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb. “The lures must be presented directly on the bottom in about 40 feet of water,” said Lamb. White perch are plentiful in the feeder creeks, but the biggest ones have come from the Kingston Hollow area. The mouth of Cuckold’s Creek has been good for croakers up to 16 inches, but the darker hours are best for this kind of fishing. Lamb also mentioned that Norfolk spot are scattered all around in the river from Little Cove Point to Cedar Point.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “A six fish limit weighing 16.8 lbs. won last weeks FTHD Bass Club tournament. Big fish was 4.9 lbs. The majority of fish were taken on brush hogs or creature baits pitched into deep main-lake blowdowns. The hot weather has made channel catfish more active with chicken livers and clam snouts the prime baits. The crappie bite has slowed some but pier anglers are having some success with small minnows fished under a bobber.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The heat has taken its toll, but if the weather forecasters are correct, the weekend might be a little cooler and the bass and sunfish at least will show up on lures and baits.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — A lot depends on very strong thundershowers. If it rains hard and long, it’ll mess up water color and flow. Until then, however, go wade the shallows and cast grubs, jigs, short worms or spinners and crankbaits into deep rock-sheltered pockets.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) catches bass by skipping tubes under floating boat docks almost anywhere on the lake. The worm-and-bobber bluegill fishing is especially good for vacationing children. Nighttimers catch a few walleyes on drifted shiners or nightcrawlers.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★) — Warm water and traditional shallow, sandy shores outside Havre de Grace have made bass fishing very tough.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, says, “There have been breaking rockfish outside Point Lookout — nice schools of them [and] 16-inch keeper flounder have reappeared in the same area. The Mud Leads are fantastic with jumbo croaker at night. They measure 16 inches and up. We’ve also had reports catches of red drum. The bluefish are everywhere and we get reports of trout, as well.” Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park echoes Henderson’s report and adds, “Both speckled and gray seatrout have been responding to trolled bucktails this week.”

Speckled trout have been mixed in with rockfish from the Point No Point Light to the Targets on the 40 foot ledge of the western shore. “The trout are 18 to 27 inches and the rockfish are up to 32 inches. Small bucktails trolled slowly right on the bottom is the key,” said Lamb, who added that the stripers are plentiful at the Gas Docks. Anglers are getting their limits every day. Elsewhere in the Bay, rockfish and blues are hooked by trollers, chummers ad live-liners from above the Gas Docks across the Bay to Boody Point and above the Bay Bridges to Love Point, but the fishing is not as good as it has been in the lower Maryland parts of the Bay. Incidentally, white perch and some croakers have been caught off the rock jetty at Sandy Point and by boaters around the various bridge abutments.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) said the croaker fishing has been picking up steam especially along the main shipping channel east of the Northern Neck land. Pipkin says the best hauls have come from 45 to 50 feet of water. Locations holding grasses have yielded greater catches in both size and number. “Trolling action is going well along the western shoreline. From the Piankatank River up to Windmill Point, there have been schools of mixed blues and Spanish mackerel. The fish are relatively small with some larger specimens hitting the rails at the mouth of the Potomac river from Smith Point up to Point Lookout,” Pipkin said. As far as sea trout are concerned, the mouth of the Rappahannock River has been a little more consistent this week for the weakfish, but many of the trout are undersized. Speckled trout are active in the Mobjack Bay area and there has been increased trout activity between Indian Creek and the Great Wicomico river. Meanwhile, from the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said that red drum continue to provide good topwater action as they school around lower bay shoals and structure. “Ben Shepherd and Rudy Levasseur, both of Chesapeake, had a good day when they released six bull reds hooked from a school they spotted while flounder fishing this week,” she said. Black drum are available around the third and fourth islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Spadefish are schooled around the buoys and bridge-tunnel where trigger fish and sheepshead also are possible.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) A few bassboaters score up around Denton and general area, but most river boaters prefer the saltier water from Cambridge down to the mouth. Croakers, spot and white perch are pretty much a sure thing, with rockfish and blues also showing up now and then.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) No improvement in the bass numbers. It simply has been too hot, and the river is known for its lower-than-normal oxygen levels in summer.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Slow going for bass in all sectors.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) If you arrive before sunup to launch your boat at Anna Point or Sturgeon Creek, to name two popular areas, there’s a fair chance you’ll run into a school of feeding stripers. Have a hard jerkbait tied to a good casting outfit. As the day begins, throw topwater lures around any obstacle, anywhere, and see if a bass won’t rise to the surface lure. After strong sun hits the water, switch to soft plastics.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★) — The overall tidal bass fishing has slowed down quite a lot. Some catches are made on 4-inch finesse worms and Baby 1-Minus lures among the blowdowns on the shorelines or in the mouths of feeder creeks. Upper freshwater parts above Fredericksburg deliver a few smallmouths, but we’ve seen better fishing.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The current heat hasn’t helped the fishing, but a few bass, sunfish and catfish are hooked. It’s not a bad place to spend a morning.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The bass catches have not improved. Blame the hot weather, but catfish, sunfish and some crappies are possible.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone says Songbird Creek has been hot, if it’s bass you want: “The mouth of the creek — next to the Eatons Ferry Bridge — has shown large schools of baitfish moving up on the points and bars. Get out early. The topwater action usually lasts two hours with 20- to 30 bass not unusual during that time period. Chug Bugs and Rico poppers have been productive.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Deep water delivers huge flathead or blue catfish that love juicy cut baits. Bass catches actually are pretty good for earlybirds.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Slow going for everything right now. Even the big blue catfish haven’t been jumping onto the hooks.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★) — (Williamsburg area) Some bass, sunfish, perch and catfish are taken, but fishing boat traffic is down. People aren’t visiting in the big numbers anymore. Blame gas costs.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Continued good smallmouth bass fishing, if you’re on the river before the heat gets you.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The bass fishing is holding up quite well, thank you. Soft plastics, crankbaits and topwater baits can do a good job around lake points, boat houses and stump fields early and late in the day.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) At the risk of sounding like a broken record: This place is fine for smallmouth bass, but if heavy, prolonged rains come, forget it.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore billfish action is getting better every day. Of course, some decent dolphin fish, king mackerel and sharks are taken, with large bluefish decked in the Jackspot and Bassgrounds areas. Headboats find some sea bass, but it’s not the best fishery in the world. In the backwaters behind Ocean City, small flounder are typical, but some keepers are found by minnow drifters. The surf shows typical summer fare: kingfish, sand sharks, snapper blues.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said Eastern Shore small-boaters continue to get excited over sightings, even hookups, of tarpon. Yes, tarpon. “Amberjacks are taking live bait and jigs at the Southern Towers, as well as several offshore wrecks,” she said. Offshore billfish action is on the rise as more white and blue marlin are hooked. Some yellowfin tunas are caught, but most of the tunas are of the 100-pound bluefin variety. Quite a few dolphin fish, king mackerel and wahoos are boated. 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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