- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2008

Along with decent catches of striped bass, bluefish, croakers and spot, Chesapeake Bay anglers have been connecting on surprising numbers of flounder. The fish that usually brings visitors to Atlantic flounder hotspots, such as Chincoteague, Wachapreague and Oyster, Va., also Ocean City, Md., hasn’t been bashful about inhaling a drifted minnow or a slice from a bluefish fillet with the skin still attached. (Flounder are fond of the taste of bluefish, but will also nibble on any fresh slab of fish).

The flatties, some running up to eight pounds, are biting in Virginia around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and throughout that general region. Then turn your boat and head north up the Bay and begin to hunt for flounder from the mouth of the Rappahannock River clear to the lower Potomac, especially the Potomac’s Cornfield Harbor and Piney Point sectors. The flat fish are scored inside the Tangier Sound, a stretch of the eastern channel edges between Hooper’s Island Light and the Middle Grounds, but also in the western shore’s St. Jerome’s Creek mouth and the creek’s outside flats. Don’t overlook the Patuxent River from the mouth to the Solomons bridge because it, too, has turned up catches of them.

Local Maryland and Northern Virginia tidal water bass fanatics say this year has been the best in memory. Catches of 30 or more bass per day in some of the Potomac’s feeder creeks are not unusual. Of course there will be the inevitable caller or e-mail writer who’ll say that he hooks 100 bass every day, but that’s stretching it a bit.

On a nonfishing note, if you’d like to have a look at the biggest nontypical whitetailed deer ever shot in Maryland, come to the Guy Brothers Marine store at 23470 Budds Creek Road, in Clements (St. Mary’s County), Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The deer is among the top 20 nontypicals of all time in the U.S. The man who bagged the deer, Bill Crutchfield, will be on hand to talk hunting if you wish. For information, call the Guy Brothers shop, 301/475-9774.

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), you can bet that the catfish and a few bass will cooperate. There’s still a chance of hooking a striper or two. The largemouth bass picture improves greatly as you head downstream. Some bass can be taken on soft plastic worms in the Washington Channel and along the various seawalls in town, but expect multiple hits from bass as you approach grass and rock lines above and below the Wilson Bridge. From the Piscataway south to the Pamunkey and Dogue Creek, the catches of bass on topwater poppers, 4-inch scented worms or various spinnerbaits and shallow crankbaits improve and even get better from the Pohick Bay area to Leesylvania Park, Va., and beyond. Of course that also includes all the Maryland creeks. Croakers catches have been made from below the Route 301 bridge south to Swan Point and toward the Wicomico River mouth. By the way, flounder are caught from Piney Point to the southern deep side of St. George’s Island; also around Tall Timbers and then at Cornfield Harbor, near Point Lookout. The Coan River on the Virginia side of the river also has given up flounder, croakers, spot and a mixed bag of bluefish and stripers.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (***) — The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) has been giving up fair to good numbers of croakers along with small spot. The inside grass lines near shore are good for white perch.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — The mouth of the creek on its southern and northern sides has given up fair numbers of bass, as have the back sides of Marsh Island, Temple’s Turn, also the creek’s marshy shores above Slavins boat ramp on Mattingly Road. Check out the Horstman’s Cut, Hancock’s Cove and marsh edges between Hanock’s and the railroad tracks. Short plastic worms, small buzzbaits and jerkbaits have been effective.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) gave up some nice-sized bass this week to a fellow retrieving a small crankbait near the dam. Sunfish are plentiful. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) you’ll find active bass, crappies and sunfish. Have a ball.

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) are good for a few well-fed bass that like a 4-inch hard jerkbaits, plastic worms or small spinnerbaits. Sunfish and catfish are plentiful.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) should be visited before the heat strikes. Fish early and as late as possible and see if a largemouth bass doesn’t hammer your jerkbait, worm or medium depth crankbait. Crappies and sunfish are in brushy areas inside deep coves or around shoreline obstructions in the main bodies of the two lakes.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The river is home to plenty of small croakers inside the mouth, but larger specimens are found up the river at Broome’s Island Bar, St. Leonard’s Lump and at Helen’s Bar. We fished for white perch in the creeks this week, but must admit that strikes came few and far between. It’ll get better in early July. Rockfish are possible around the Cedar Point lighthouse foundation. If you fish the dark hours, a loud Chugbug topwater lure will be attacked by the stripers. Flounder have been found in the mouth around the long ledge that runs from the 3-legged marker to near the Solomons bridge.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “Bass have recovered from their spawning activities and are returning to their normal haunts. Some good fish were taken off the secondary points of major coves over the weekend. Texas-rigged plastics and medium-running shad color crankbaits worked well. The crappie bite has picked up as well. Medium size minnows under a bobber in deep mainlake blowdowns produced some good limits including two citations. Catfish love chicken livers and cut bait and flyrodders are cleaning up on bluegill. Water surface temperatures is 78 and 82 degrees.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early and latest hours possible are good for bass that like topwater lures and soft plastics. Sunfish continue to delight flyrod users. A small number of crappies has been noted by minnow dunkers.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — Terrific smallmouth bass catches are possible even if you cast only loud, whirring topwater lures that sport a small propeller. Crankbaits, tubes, jigs and grubs also work. Be sure to make extra long casts because the water has been so clear the bass can see you. The Knoxville to Lander area has been wonderful, but Montgomery County anglers aren’t complaining.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says that the smallmouth bass and largemouth bass fishing is really going great guns now. Practice skipping tube baits into the narrow openings under floating docks. The bluegills are turning on and these sunfish can be whoppers.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Keith Lockwood says the fishing in the lower river and the Susquehanna Flats has entered the warm-water summer pattern now. Not that many stripers are still available, but the darker hours of the day can produce a few. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are hooked occasionally around the Port Deposit rocks.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Water temperatures are rising in the upper Bay and dissolved oxygen levels are dropping, which is not good for fishing. All the same, chummers are out giving it a shot and they’re connecting on some bluefish and stripers. Not all upper Bay fishermen are in favor of chumming, believing it to remove even more oxygen. Scattered white perch, croakers and rockfish have made for interesting fishing between the Sandy Point rock jetty and the Bay Bridge itself, as well as the not-too-distant Thomas Point lighthouse. In the middle parts of the Maryland portions of the Bay the croakers have moved into the Eastern Bay, Sharps Island Light and general mouth of the Choptank River. Sight-casting topwater lures or rattle baits to surface eruptions of rockfish and bluefish continues to be great sport. As we head south into Southern Maryland waters, Lexington Park’s Ken Lamb says that chummers caught some stripers and bluefish in the Bay earlier this week, but it was slow going. “However, flounder are now on all the edges and dropoffs in the bay and rivers,” he said. Croakers are possible in the evenings from the Middle Grounds up to the Hooper’s Island area.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Some good topwater rockfish and bluefish action is noted by sportfishing boaters around the Smith Point area and south of there toward the Rappahannock River. Carry a rod with a popping lure wherever you go. Croakers, spot and even odd young redfish bite now and then along the Northumberland County shore. Down the Bay, Ken Neill, of the Pensinsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says the flounder bite has turned on at the Cell (Buoy 42) area, the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and the Back River Reef. “Croakers are everywhere,” he added, “but the Cell/buoy 42 area would be a good place to visit. Spadefish are biting at the Cell and the Bridge-Tunnel.” Neill added. Cobias are chummed uip at Bluefish Rock. Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported, “Black drum hook-ups are coming from the four artificial islands of the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, where casters are picking at fish on bucktails and Storm Lures.” Ball added that a 13 1/4-pound spadefish was landed at the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel. The fish underwent processing at Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle by Ball, who is an International Game Fish Association representative, for consideration as a line class world record.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croakers, perch and spot are all over the wide mouth area of the river. If you use bloodworms you’ll catch all three species. The Cambridge fishing bridge (adjacent to Route 50) is good for spot and perch. Bass catches are meager up around Denton.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) This river probably is the best of the bass rivers on the Eastern Shore. Good action now on short, soft worms, also on shallow-running crankbaits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) From Marshyhope Creek on out into the main stem, there’s a good chance of hooking bass if you can parlay an early morning with an outgoing tide that can activate the feeding urges of bass. Look for early hour striper hits along marsh bank points in the Vienna area.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early and late hours are fine for bass when plastics and topwaters are used around points and brush piles. If you get there before the rooster crows you might hook a couple of feeding stripers above the Splits.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — The upper river has been fine for waders looking for a hit from a smallmouth bass. The Fredericksburg sector delivers catfish and little else, but downstream the bass chances improve as 4-inch plastic worms or Baby 1-Minus lures cast around blowdowns and creek mouths turn the trick.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass catches have been down, but sunfish, catfish and crappies can make up for it.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Early hours have shown some bass activity, with topwater buzzbaits or poppers doing well, but when the sun rises you need to switch to soft plastics and fish deep layers around lake points.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone said, “From the mouth of Great Creek run upriver to the flats between Hawtree and Smith creeks.The inward side of the numerous small islands protecting the flats have plenty of grass points, nooks and pockets that hold nice bass willing to slam Chugbug-type of bait.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish, catfish and more catfish. This lake is becoming a hotspot for flatheads and other bearded critters. Bass chances are pretty good if you fish 4-inch finesse or floating worms around vegetation edges or blowdowns.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The blue catfish bite has lessened a bit, but plenty of action awaits you if you soak a juicy chunk of baitfish on the bottom long enough. Some bass are hooked in the feeder creeks like the Chippokes and Walker.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Recent tournament activity showed that quite a few small bass live here, and they’re not bashful about hitting a lure.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) The river will give up lots of young smallmouth bass this weekend if it doesn’t rain heavily.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Early hours are fine for bass around boat houses and stump fields, with rockfish lately having been active near the dam and at nighttime in the “S” Curve. Deep-water bait dunk dunkers can score.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Fine wading and some john-boating for smallmouth bass that like just about every lure in your tackle box.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Bluewater bots in the offshore waters find dolphinfish and tunas, but more than one visitor has told us that the bluefish schools in the Jackspot and general Hambone region are massive. Wreck fishermen return with sea bass and some tautog, but another reader complained that the fishing ought to be a lot better. In the backwaters of the resort city the flounder fishing can be quite good, but there are many undersized flatties. In the surf, expect to hook sand sharks, kingfish, maybe a bluefish.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill reports that spadefish are biting at the Chesapeake Light Tower and amberjack are hitting baits over ocean wrecks and around the South Towers. Offshore action includes dolphinfish and some decent-sized white and blue marlin. Yellowfin tuna have been hard to find, but bluefin tunas in the 50- to 200-pound range have been hooked on the Fingers. The same area gives up king mackerel and mako sharks. Spanish mackerel are running about all the ocean fronts. For more Virginia saltwater fishing reports go to the IGFA representative Julie Ball’s web site, drjball.com. 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.