As we celebrate National Fishing and Boating week through Sunday, remember that this Saturday and June 14 are free fishing days in Maryland. No licenses are needed, so take a newcomer fishing; make a convert.
Striped bass and bluefish outings for many now mean ladling chum into the water and dropping a baited hook into the middle of the gooey, ground-up menhaden. The chummers are doing well especially in the lower Maryland portions of the Chesapeake, including the Middlegrounds and Target Ship areas.
Meanwhile, the upper Chesapeake's Susquehanna Flats are alive with rockfish in the 20- to 26-inch class. Boaters cast to them with weedless topwater poppers, Zoom Flukes and Bass Kandy lures.
The black drum fishing is getting under way in the Chesapeake's Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light sector, but getting one to take a crab-baited hook can be a chore.
Largemouth bass fishing fans have been striking paydirt in almost every one of the tidal Potomac's feeder creeks. If you can catch a receding tide and the sun isn't too bright, use topwater lures, short plastic worms and shallow-running crankbaits. You'll score from the Piscataway down to the Aquia creeks.
Here's this week's 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), Ray Fletcher said that blue catfish, stripers and even a few bass are available in a fishable river. "The thunderstorms Tuesday night didn't change water conditions here," he said. Downstream, bass fanatics are finding action in most of the feeder creeks. Mann's Baby 1-Minus lures, topwater poppers and short "fat" worms do well along marsh edges, in grass beds and on shoreline wood. Surprising numbers of Northern snakeheads are seen, most of them small, but certainly indicative of the further expansion of this invasive species. In the lower Potomac River, the croaker fishing isn't as good as it should be. In fact, some anglers who hoped to find croakers in the Route 301 bridge area are complaining about a lack of action. However, as you head toward Point Lookout, there's a better chance to locate a school of them here and there " along with small, roving bands of snapper bluefish and 18-inch stripers.
WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (**) - The Bushwood area up to Chaptico Wharf hasn't been the best for croakers, but some are available, which is better than other areas.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) - The DNR electro-shock boat was in the creek Tuesday, shocking up snakeheads. This Chinese invader of our waters has been seen increasingly in the creek. In fact, one shock survey found a dozen or so, all of them 12 to 14 inches long, which means a spawn might have taken place in the creek some time ago. The bass fishing, by the way, can be very good as marsh banks and spatterdock edges turn up decent fish to casters of Senkos, poppers and small crankbaits.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) -Gilbert Run Park's Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is good for sunfish, some small bass and a few leftover trout, if you're lucky. At St. Mary's Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) it's fly-rod popper time for the fattest bluegills. The crappies and bass also cooperate.
LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (***) - Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) has been fine for bluegills on fly-rod bugs, but the bass would rather see a short finesse worms or tube. At nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) much the same action is available as you'll find at Black Hill.
WSSC RESERVOIRS:20-30 miles (***) -(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) The catch-and-release bass like 4-inch pumpkinseed worms, crawfish color Little N crankbaits and early morning topwater poppers cast to sunken wood and lake points early in the day.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) - Flounder have been caught in 21 feet of water close to Solomons Bridge during a rising tide, reported the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. Live minnows were the preferred baits. White perch are increasing in the feeder creeks and the weekend might see a few upriver rockfish caught by trollers.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) -From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis says that the grass is up on main-lake points and the mouths of major coves and that late-spawning bass have moved in. Crappies like small minnows under a bobber. Look for blowdowns and beaver dams on the main lake. Popping bug fly-rodders score on bluegills that are just beginning to spawn.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) - (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Oddly, not all the bass have finished spawning, so prepare for vicious strikes if a plastic lizard or worms falls onto a spawning bed. Crappies are active in brush piles and the bluegills are wild about a fly-rod spider, black ant or popping bug.
AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) -DNR biologist John Mullican says the smallmouth bass fishing can be excellent right now. Various types of spinners, small crankbaits, tubes, jigs and grubs will find action from Knoxville down to Edwards Ferry in Montgomery County.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) - Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says tubes work well with smallmouth bass anywhere you see a rocky point or underwater pile of stones. The largemouth bass, however, like to see a tube or plastic worm skipped under a floating dock. Remember, Deep Creek Lake is home to some of the biggest bluegills anywhere, so don't overlook them when you come to Garrett County.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) -Good striper fishing is reported on the Flats, but the largemouth bass chances are only so-so inside the river.
AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) " Striped bass of keeper size, a few left-over trophy specimens, and increasing numbers of bluefish are found by trollers in the upper and middle Bay, including the Gum Thickets, Bloody Point, Hacketts and general area, but for many boaters " especially those in the lower Maryland portions " the chumming for the rockfish and blues has started generally anywhere below Hooper's Island Light, with top spots again pointing to the underwater humps at the Middlegrounds. Black drum fishing has also gone into overdrive. There are drum at the Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light, but not everybody is coming home with the roly-poly fish. The St. Mary's County parts of the Bay have been alive with rockfish and blues.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) - Virginia Beach's Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said summer fishing is on target with the arrival of the cobias. Surprisingly, not all the black drum have departed. "The drum action has returned to a more normal pattern, which is still very good." Black drum are still showing along the shoals near buoys 10, 13, and 16 where chowder clams and sea clams are the top baits. Huge red drum are on the nine foot shoal near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Blue crab has worked well all season. Blues and rockfish are hanging around the islands at the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. From the Northern Neck waters down to the Rappahannock River, expect good striper and bluefish bites while trolling and chumming. The croakers have taken shrimp or squid baits just outside the Great Wicomico River.
AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND
CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (**) - (Route 50 east to Cambridge) A few croakers are inside the mouth, along with small stripers and occasional snapper bluefish, but not much catching of anything is reported from the Cambridge fishing bridge. Upper river bass have not been abundant.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) - (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Fine bass chances now in flooded wood and along spatterdock edges. Use Baby 1-Minus lures, along with 4-inch Power Worms.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) - (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) On-and-off days for bass and although a lot of boaters stick to the Marshyhope Creek for their fishing, I prefer the upper river, near Seaford.
AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) -(Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Fine crappie and bass opportunities now, although I talked to two good anglers who visited "Anna" this week and couldn't buy a hit from a bass. All the same, some nice largemouths are taken on plastic worms, jerkbaits and early hour poppers. Crappie chances are good in beaver huts and sunken brush piles.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) -The upper river turns up smallmouth bass in fair numbers, and the waters below Fredericksburg have mostly been good for catfish, some perch, but very few bass. The tidal water bass catches improve a bit by the time you reach Port Royal.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) - (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies are biting; so are the bluegills. Bass numbers aren't the best.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) - (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish are taking bottom-fished clam necks or nightcrawlers, while the fly-rod poppers are scoring on fat bluegills that are spawning. Bass numbers could be better.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) -(Route 46, Gasburg) Lake and creek rip-rap delivers well-fed bass, as do the grass beds up-lake.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) - (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish love bottom-fished bluegills or cut fish slabs. Bass and crappies are in shoreline brush.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) -(Tidal Richmond area and downstream) This is the top place in the middle Atlantic region for blue catfish up to 60 pounds. Bottom-fished slabs of herring or menhaden do the job. The mouth of the river has lots of fat croakers.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**)- (Williamsburg area) On June 14 this will be a busy place as the WalMart Bass Fishing League's Piedmont Division holds its bass tournament.
AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) - (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal's Dick Fox says the smallmouth bass are little, but very willing. "They'll look at anything you throw," he said.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) - (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Many bass are either still spawning, or just now leaving the beds. The fishing is good, including nighttime boaters who jig lures and baits in the "S" Curve.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) -(Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Fine catches of smallmouth bass are possible. Use spinners, streamers, tubes, grubs or small crankbaits.
AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) -(Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR's Keith Lockwood says the head boats are finding sea bass and tautogs on the offshore wrecks and the catches have been good. Offshore tuna catches are bound to pick up steam after wind and rain and cooler night temperatures. The Jackspot, Hambone and Hot Dog areas show chopper bluefish roaming about. Inshore surf anglers find sharks and a scattered bluefish now and then.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) - Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reports fine bluefin and yellowfin catches in the far offshore waters. Inshore catches include newly arrived spadefish, with some wreck anglers continuing to find tilefish and groupers. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.