Not long ago saltwater fans in search of a flounder had to drive to the backwaters and inlets of the Atlantic Ocean. Places like Chincoteague and Wachapreague, Va.; Ocean City; and many portions of Delaware Bay delivered the tasty flatties - and continue to do so. But during these trying times of $4-plus for a gallon of gasoline, a trip to Atlantic flounder hangouts can be costly. Instead, consider the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay and some of its rivers turn up increasing numbers of the brown-mottled bottom dwellers.
For example, in the southernmost part of the Chesapeake, Virginia Beach's Ken Neill fished with his wife and children around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's pilings and rock structures using strip baits or minnows. In no time Neill's son, Cameron, caught a 7 1/4-pounder, followed a flounder caught by his daughter, Casey, that weighed 5 1/2 pounds. Then came Neill's wife, Tricia, who landed an 8-pounder.
As we move up the Bay, flounder have been caught this week from the mouth of the Rappahannock River to the Potomac. Maryland anglers Brian Hagerty and Julie Hartbarger checked in with Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park (St. Mary's County) to show him a selection of flounder the two caught in the lower Potomac. Flounder fishing usually is productive up around Stewart's Pier at Piney Point or in the Cornfield Harbor area close to Point Lookout.
In the Bay itself, flounder can be hooked by drifting live minnows along the Eastern Shore ledges from Hooper's Island Light down to the Kedges Straits, the northern entrance of Tangier Sound. The sound itself is home to good numbers of flounder, while on the western side of the Bay, the mouth and outside flats of little St. Jerome's Creek have been home to flounder, as are a number of spots inside the Patuxent River.
Meanwhile, Lamb says good-sized croakers have taken bottom baits at the Patuxent's Broome's Island Bar, St. Leonard's Lump and at Helen's Bar. In the Potomac, croaker catches are made in Cornfield Harbor, Ragged Point, Piney Point and inside the Wicomico River at Bushwood.
In the Chesapeake Bay, croakers also have been reported from the Middle Grounds clear up to the Bay bridges, especially the dropoff edges at Eastern Bay, Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light.
-The Bay's rockfish now concentrate more on deeper layers of water during the daytime hours. If your depth recorder indicates a presence of stripers, try live-lining a small spot or ladle out some ground chum. Stripers love the soft-finned little spot, which can be caught on tiny pieces of bloodworm bait in most of the Bay's rivers and around the Bay's inshore duckblinds and such. Of course, bluefish also will be around if you drop anything to the bottom that even remotely looks like food.
- Increasing numbers of the upper tidal Potomac's fishermen say the bass fishing so far this year has been the best ever. The feeder creeks between Washington and Stafford County have been outstanding for largemouth bass. To top it off, more anglers than ever now report catching Northern snakeheads. Fishing guide Dale Knupp had two snakeheads on the end of his bass lures late last week, and others are talking about hook-ups with the Asian invader.
- Ranger Smokey Davis reports, "Bass have recovered from their spawning activities and are returning to their normal haunts. Fish were taken off the secondary points of major coves. Texas-rigged plastics and medium-depth shad color crankbaits work well. The crappie bite has picked up as well. Catfish love chicken livers and cutbait, while fly-rodders are cleaning up on the bluegills. The reservoir is slightly stained."
-Marty Magone said topwater lures produce results with the lake's bass.
"The inward side of the many small islands protecting the flats have [a lot of] grassy points, nooks and pockets that hold nice bass willing to strike surface poppers," he says. "Get out early. The bite usually lasts till 9 a.m."
- A 56-pound, 8-ounce golden tilefish caught two weeks ago by Aaron Sledd of Virginia Beach was certified as a Virginia state record for the species. The record-setting tilefish measured 44 inches long and had a 33 1/4-inch girth. Sledd had fished off the Virginia Beach coast near Norfolk Canyon aboard charter captain Steve Wray's Ocean Pearl. He used a double-hook bottom rig tied with 400-pound-test monofilament and two 10/0 hooks, baited with squid and then dropped to a depth of 600 feet. Sledd's reel was a 6/0 high-speed Penn Senator loaded with 80-pound-test braided line.