- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2008

It seems that half the saltwater anglers in the Maryland/Virginia area want to know where croakers can be caught, and there is good news, for the most part.

The delectable “hardheads” are found in large numbers if you use peeler crab, bloodworm, shrimp or squid baits throughout the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers in Southern Maryland, and also in increasing portions in the middle and upper Chesapeake Bay, including the mouth of the Choptank River, and in Eastern Bay and the Bloody Point area. Sadly, the reports of catches from the upper western shore generally are meager; they include stretches from below the South River toward Chesapeake Beach, but some hardheads are caught along with Norfolk spot and white perch. Of course, Virginia’s Northern Neck and Bay areas clear down to the Rappahannock and James rivers deliver plenty of the tasty croakers.

If heavy rains stay away over the next four days, you’ll have superb smallmouth bass fishing in the upper Susquehanna, Potomac, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and James rivers where the “brown fish” attack small plastic worms, grubs, tubes, spinners and topwater lures, but also fly-rod streamers and poppers.

However, the best fishing for us over the past two weeks came courtesy of the tidal Potomac River where largemouth bass have been wonderfully cooperative, striking with abandon just about any soft plastic or surface lure, even small crankbaits. The river’s main stem grass beds will hold bass, but the feeder creeks have been even better for us so far.

Here’s this week’s 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 that rockfish continue to be caught by those anglers who are serious and skilled fishermen. “Of course, there are the blue and channel catfish and some bass, not to mention a snakehead that was caught recently. Downstream, largemouth bass and fine catfish numbers are possible from Columbia Island to Hains Point, and then on toward the Wilson Bridge area and Fox Ferry rock line, some of the edges of Smoot Bay and then on to Broad, Piscataway, Hunting and Dogue creeks, as well as all the Charles County and Prince William County feeder creeks, and don’t overlook the Aquia in Stafford County. Four-inch finesse worms, weedless lures like the Chatterbait, topwater poppers and small crankbaits (In occasional pockets of open water) will be all you need. Farther downstream, from the Route 301 bridge south, croakers were biting especially after sundown around Swan Point, but also at Ragged Point, Piney Point, Kitts Point, St. George Island, Cornfield Harbor and of course the Point Lookout river and Bay sides. Schools of Norfolk spot are also available.

WICOMICO RIVER:*** — The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) shows croakers, spot and white perch. Some days the croaker fishing can be frantic.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: *** — Slither a whacky-rigged worm across dense grass mats in this creek and you’re likely to have a bass rise and strike. The bass fishing, in spite of one tournament after another being launched in the creek’s Smallwood State Park, can be very productive. Catfish are biting; they like cut-up herring or perch.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: ***Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has been fine for fly-rodders who use popping bugs on bedding bluegils. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) do the fly-rod popping thing, too. Then switch over to catching bass with lightly rigged 4-inch plastic worms or early morning topwater lures.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: *** — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) show fine numbers of bluegills that are on the beds. Get out the fly-rod and a small popper or Black Gnat and catch a mess. Bass have been going after small finesse worms or 4-inch-long hard or soft jerkbaits.

WSSC RESERVOIRS:***(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Now that the bass keeper season is open, see if you can’t find a wall-hanger largemouth here. Both lakes have them. Use early morning surface lures, plastic worms, hard jerkbaits, such as the Rapala, and also spinnerbaits.

PATUXENT RIVER: *** — Big croakers have been caught on peeler crabs, bloodworms or squid at Broome’s Island, St. Leonard Bar, Greenwell State Park and the Hawk’s Nest. “Those concentrating on spot find them at Sandy Point, Green Holly, the mouth of Town Creek, Kingston Hollow, Drum Point and Fishing Point. Spot love bloodworms,” Ken Lamb said. Flounder have been hooked at Marker 5 (Fishing Point) and Buoy 3, the 3-legged marker near the mouth. The waters under the Solomons bridge also have turned up flounder. White perch are in the feeder creeks, and they’ll strike small white spinnerbaits or chrome/blue Tiny Traps.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: ***From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “Buzzbaits, topwater plugs and flukes produced quality bass during the early morning hours this past week. However, when the sun rose to tree-top levels that bite was over and deep- running crankbaits, fished along the sides of long points, became the bait of choice. Some nice fish were also caught on jig’n’pigs pitched into deep mainlake blowdowns. Crappies are still inconsistent, but catfish love cut baits. Bluegills are in the middle of their spawn and are readily available.”

BURKE LAKE: *** — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good bluegill popping continues and more than one bass and crappie has been lured to the hook. This is a fine lake, worthy of your visits.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: ***DNR biologist John Mullican said the smallmouth bass fishing has been great. The water temperature is nearing 80 and every kind of spinner, tube, jig, small crankbait and topwater popper can be struck anywhere from Knoxville downstream to the Seneca area in Montgomery County. Catfish are jumping on liver baits or the new Gulp “Bloody-Blood” Gulp bait from Berkley.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: *** — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says to skip a tube in electric blue or green pumpkin color under any of the lake’s myriad floating docks and see whether a smallmouth bass, maybe even a largemouth, won’t grab a hold. Some evening and night anglers have found willing walleyes that liked minnow- or nightcrawler-baited hooks.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: ***The bass fishing has improved between Port Deposit and Havre de Grace. Docks, rocks and blowdowns hold good numbers of fish that like 4-inch “fat” worms or spinnerbaits. The Flats offer some fair rockfish chances to anglers using white Zoom Flukes, or pink Bass Kandy lures.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: *** Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said that the fishing last weekend was slow. “A few of our people caught nice croakers, small blues and a striper here and there, but a lot of others only got a tan. Things started picking up on Tuesday, especially near the oyster sanctuary behind Buoy 72 where rockfish, blues and croakers were stacked top to bottom,” she said. Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park reported terrific fishing for spot, croaker and perch. “The croakers are super hot on the Middle Grounds where night fishermen are getting their limits (25 per person). The rockfish are playing hide and seek from Cove Point to the Power Plant. Breaking fish can be found at dawn somewhere in this area and also show up inside the Targets. There are some fine bluefish mixed in with the rockfish.” he said. Lamb also added that chummers are getting rockfish and blues on the Middle Grounds, but they are not reliable at the moment. The middle Bay portions show increasing numbers of breaking blues and rockfish with lure casters scoring occasionally. However, catch rates of the mostly barely legal stripers vary greatly. Chummers and trollers might fare a little better, even as far up as the Chester River at Love Point.

VIRGINIA: *** — In the upper Virginia part of the Chesapeake Bay, breaking rockfish and blues are seen especially during early and late hours from the mouth of the Rappahannock River up toward the Smith Point Light area. Inshore catches around the Northumberland County shores include croakers, spot and white perch. Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said, “Anglers are turning most efforts towards the abundant cobia, which are now available all over the lower bay and inshore waters. Boats using the chumming technique are having excellent success from the Rock Pile to the Buckroe area, and Latimer Shoals. The drum bite is still good, as big reds continue to bite on the shoals and in the surf near Fisherman´s Island, as well as the Nine-foot Shoals and Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel area. The black drum action is shifting more to the islands of the Bridge-Tunnel, which is common for this time of year. Schools of spadefish are available around the islands of the Bridge-Tunnel. Small bluefish and croaker are available all over the lower bay.” Ball added that some flounder are hooked, but 19-inch keeper fish are hard to come by.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:*** — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Good croaker fishing, especially near Castle Haven. was reported by a number of bottom bait bouncers, but stripers are also possible during the earliest hours of the morning, or later in the evening. Topwater lures and Rat-L-Traps have worked well. There’s no word of croaker catches at the Cambridge Fishing Bridge, but bet on seeing some, along with perch, this weekend.

POCOMOKE RIVER: *** — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) There are fine bass chances early and late in the day. The water has warmed quite a bit, but plastic worms will work in flooded wood and in spatterdock fields.

NANTICOKE RIVER: ** — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The main river above the Marshyhope Creek has turned up bass , especially along spatterdock edges and fallen wood in small eddys and coves where the tidal pull is not as strong.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: ***(Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Good bass, crappie and striper catches are possible if you’re there when the lake is not crowded and the sun hasn’t baked the water. Lake points have been good for casting Carolina-rigged worms or simply zipping a 4-inch PowerBait worm into the shallows and working it down into deeper water.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: ***The upper river is good for smallmouth bass nearly as far up as Remington. Tubes, grubs and spinners do well. In the tidal water, the area between Port Royal and a mile or so above Hicks Landing will give up bass in sunken wood. Use scented plastics. The mouth of the river and the general Deltaville area is home to croakers, spot, stripers and bluefish.

LAKE BRITTLE: ** — (Route 793, off Route 29) Use your fly-rod and a small popper to catch a bluegill dinner. The sunnies are plentiful, but not the bass. Crappies are possible.

LAKE ORANGE: *** — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Some decent catfish and well-fed crappies have been caught. The bass fishing leaves a lot to be desired.

LAKE GASTON: ***(Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident and fishing expert Marty Magone has been doing well on largemouths along the grassbed edges above the I-85 bridge. He’s using Chatterbaits and even catches garfish and pickerel on the same lure.

KERR RESERVOIR: *** — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish are guaranteed if you use herring or sunfish chunks on the bottom rigs. Some nice bass have been boated in the upper lake around sunken wood.

JAMES RIVER: ***(Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Big blue catfish and some remnant rockfish are taken on reasonably fresh cut herring. Bass catches are nothing to write home about. Fat croakers and a few sea trout are at the mouth.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: **— (Williamsburg area) Scattered crappies, perch and a fair number of tidal largemouth bass are possible. Boat traffic from tournament anglers has been awful.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: *** — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox says the smallmouth bass like 3-inch-long “fat” worms in fast water and behind river rock formations.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: *** — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Early risers will find bass looking at surface poppers and the like, but soft plastic baits are the way to go after the sun gets up.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: ***(Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) If it doesn’t rain this weekend, this river will be the smallmouth bass place to be. The fish are cooperating.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: ***(Route 50 to Ocean City) Bluefish and stripers are possible inside the Ocean City Inlet, as well as the Indian River Inlet, north of Ocean City. The sheepshead fishing is slowly increasing, and even some sea trout are hooked. The flounder fishing in Sinepuxent Bay and all the backwaters clear down to Assateague can be good, but keeper-size flounder are tough to find. The Ocean City surf promises a chance of hooking rockfish, blues and kingfish.Sea bass catches are said to be good, but one headboat customer told me that he never saw great catches. The bluewater deep-sea boats find sharks out on the Hambone, with bluefish supplementing some of the hook-ups. Bluefin and yellowfin tunas are possible out in the offshore canyon waters.

VIRGINIA: *** — Ken Neill reports that offshore action has been very good. “The tuna [catch] has been sporadic, but the dolphin bite has been very good with a lot of large gaffers being caught. Blue marlin fishing is as good as it gets with boats getting two or three shots a day on blue marlin averaging 400 to 500 pounds. Add in some white marlin, a few sailfish, wahoo, and even some swordfish and you have a good mixed-bag offshore bite going on.” Nell adds that offshore bottom fishing is still good for tilefish, grouper and wreckfish. Amberjack are thick at the southern towers. Some large amberjack have shown at the Chesapeake Light Tower and over some of the wrecks like the Gulf Hustler, Ricks and Hanks. Julie Ball says that reports of speckled trout and puppy drum are still coming from within Rudee Inlet. Spanish mackerel are providing lots of action along the Virginia Beach ocean front to anglers trolling small Drone and Clark spoons. For more information, go to www.drjball.com. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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