Despite some grumbling from Chesapeake Bay and tidal river croaker fanatics, read what our St. Mary's County friend Ken Lamb of Lexington Park's Tackle Box passed along. "The bottom fishing is terrific for croakers, spot and perch," he said. "The croakers are super-hot on the Middle Grounds, where night fishermen are getting their 25-fish limits."
This is not happy news for anglers who confine their fishing to the middle and northern parts of the Bay. Although some croakers can be found clear to the mouth of the Chester River, the catches are not memorable. In Southern Maryland, however. there are croakers in the Potomac and the Patuxent rivers, including the Potomac's Wicomico tributary, the main stem's Piney Point, St. George's Island and Cornfield Harbor on the Maryland side and from Ragged Point south to Smith Point on the Virginia shore.
Several readers have left messages asking about the croaker fishing between the western shore's Rhode River and Chesapeake Beach. The news is not great, but white perch, spot and some croakers are possible close to shore. It's best to be in at least 15 feet of water for the croakers, but even deeper ledges are recommended for peeler crab, squid, bloodworm or shrimp dunkers.
Better croaker chances are reported if you're in the mouth of the Choptank River on the eastern side of the Bay. The DNR's Keith Lockwood reported he had a fun trip to the Choptank, fishing near Castle Haven at sunset.
"We found [a mess of croakers] on the 21-foot edge of the channel," he said.
Meanwhile, rockfish catches have been seesawing all week. Anglers with fast, 21-foot center-console boats and such are now watching the water to look for surface eruptions by the stripers. Breaking rockfish and bluefish have been seen and hooked on topwater lures or fast-retrieved spoons and Rat-L-Trap lures from Cove Point to the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant and over other Bay areas. Start early for good results.
Striped bass chumming is under way from Virginia's Rappahannock clear up to Maryland's Chester River mouth. Success rates vary greatly, but some fish are caught.
-Largemouth bass are caught in nearly all of the upper parts of tidal rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay. The best location continues to be the Potomac, where soft plastics and early morning topwater lures can result in 30 and 40 bass a day if you fish just about any tidal tributary south of Wilson Bridge. Others that have given up fair to good catches include the Rappahannock upstream of Port Royal, Va., the Pocomoke between Snow Hill and Shad Landing, the Nanticoke upstream of Sharptown and the Susquehanna in the Havre de Grace to Port Deposit stretch.
- The upper Potomac's chief biologist, John Mullican, reported that the river is in great shape and fishing for smallmouth bass can be super.
"Water temperatures have now climbed above 80 degrees," he said and recommended the use of topwater lures during the morning and evening hours. During the day, use grubs, tubes, crankbaits and jerkbaits.
- From Fountainhead Regional Park at Occoquan Reservoir, ranger Smokey Davis said a variety of topwater lures and soft jerkbaits have turned up quality bass during the morning hours.
"However, when the sun rose to tree-top levels, the bite was over and deep-running crankbaits, fished along the sides of long points, became the baits of choice," he said. "The crappies are still inconsistent, but catfish love cut baits. Bluegills are in the middle of their spawn and are readily available."
- Front Royal's Dick Fox reports, "The fishing for smallmouth bass has been great. Fish the fast water and ledges with 3-inch 'fat' worms in pumkinseed color or use small crankbaits. You'll catch fish."
- Lake Gaston specialist Marty Magone called to say a 15-pound garfish slammed his Chatterbait lure.
"It tore the heck out of it," he said. "I went upriver and found 68-degree water [and] bass along the grass edges above the Interstate 85 bridge. Was throwing the Chatterbait into five feet of water and brought it out to the 12-foot dropoff where most of the bass strikes occurred. Pickerel and gar have been a nuisance, but they still put up a scrap."