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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

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After the rainy days that visited the Washington area recently, we're happy to report that good fishing finally has returned. As long as the wind doesn't blow too hard, you'll catch striped bass and some bluefish in the Chesapeake Bay this weekend. If it's the upper tidal rivers you like, the bass and catfish are turned on, and if there's farm pond available to you or you visit a local public lake, rest assured that the bluegills and crappies will cooperate.

Among the best catches this week was Ivan Erhardt's 51-pound flathead catfish taken on bottom bait in the Occoquan Reservoir. What a fish! Erhardt, who lives in Manassas, Va., let it go after snapping a few photos.

Along the Atlantic Ocean front from Virginia into Maryland, headboats find sea bass and tautogs, while there are fast moving hordes of bluefin and yellowfin tunas and a few dolphinfish. Both states have boaters who've found bluefish that have been cavorting around an offshore area known as the Hambone, as well as other hangouts inside the 30-fathom line.

Virginia wreck fishermen also score on snowy grouper and tilefish, and the latest reports say that good marlin fishing will reach Virginia waters with increasing warm weather.

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 the river levels dropped and there is decent fishing for stripers, late-staying American shad, a few bass and fat catfish. As you head downstream, the bass are waiting. Chatterbaits, finesse worms, topwater poppers and buzzbaits, as well as shallow-running Baby 1-Minus lures can find fish in the weedy pockets, sunken metal or fallen trees of Broad and Piscataway creeks, also in Dogue Creek and Pohick Bay, Pomonkey, Powell, Neabsco, Quantico, Chicamuxen, Potomac and Aquia creeks. Only the Nanjemoy has been a disappointment. Blue and channel catfish are taken on bottom baits throughout the main stem. Below the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, trollers head downstream, and they find some keeper stripers from St. Clements to Tall Timbers and onward to Point Lookout. Snapper blues are seen now and then.

WICOMICO RIVER:** — In the Bushwood sector up to Chaptico Wharf's deeper waters, croakers will take shrimp, bloodworm or squid baits. Some white perch are available. Remember, the fish in this river received a serious shake-up during the recent rains and subsequent water temperature changes. Warm weather will bring them back big-time.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: *** — Chatterbaits in white/chartreuse have been deadly on bass in the various weed-choked coves. Also try buzzbaits, then finish up with Strike King Zero or Senko worms in pumpkinseed colors.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: ***Gilbert Run Park's Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows fly-rod bluegills now. Small bass are also possible. At St. Mary's Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the sunfish are bedding, which is ideal for popping bugs and various flies. Crappies take a small jig under a bobber and the bass are hungry in the stickups.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: *** — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) shows bass, sunfish galore and catfish. At nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) you'll find good fly-rodding for sunfish, plenty of crappies, bass and catfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS:***(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Good catch-and-release bass chances along lake points and sunken brush. Don't forget, the bass-keeping season doesn't open until June 16. Crappies are in brushpiles and all the shorelines are generally good for fly-rodding if you're after sunfish.

PATUXENT RIVER: *** — Scattered 18-inch-and-over rockfish are in the mouth, with some white perch coming into the creeks between Solomons and Sheridan Point. Here's hoping for hardheads will again be in the drops in front of Solomons Fishing Pier.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: ***From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) comes word of Ivan Erhardt's 51-pound flathead catfish caught on a bottom bait. Meanwhile, Smokey Davis, the park ranger, says a 19-pound, 6-bass stringer won the Fountainhead Bass Club's latest tournament. In addition, crappies and fat bluegills are biting nicely.

BURKE LAKE: *** — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good bass, crappie and sunfish catches are made. Catfish add to the lake experience. Try fly-rod poppers and sinking Black Gnat bugs for the bluegills.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: ***DNR biologist John Mullican says the river from Washington to Montgomery counties is in decent fishing shape and the smallmouth bass have jumped on fringed tubes, grubs, small crankbaits and occasionally a surface popper.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: *** — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says the water has been slow to warm, but the largemouths are spawning and the crappies are in some of the brushier coves where they can be caught on jig-and-bobber combos. Smallmouth bass catches are said to be excellent, said the DNR's Keith Lockwood.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: ***Catch-and-release striper fishing has turned on again onn the Flats. Many fish in the 18 to 26-inch class are hooked on Striper Kandy and Zoom Fluke lures.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: *** Rockfish and ever increasing numbers of young bluefish are showing up over wide areas of the Chesapeake Bay, starting with St. Mary's County and lower Eastern Shore waters, including the lower Potomac River around Point Lookout, then moving up toward the Hooper's Island Light and PR Buoy as well as the Patuxent's Cedar Point. Rockfish also have been trolled up from the Sharps Island and Stone Rock sector to the Poplar Island area. The trouble has been a general lack of croakers, but the catches will perk up as the water warms a little more. Black drum are due to arrive around Stone Rock, but I have not yet had any reports of a confirmed catch.

VIRGINIA: *** — Virginia Beach's Ken Neill said, “Cobias have arrived in the bay and the first fish have been caught by anglers targeting drum. Both red and black drum continue to be caught in good numbers and sizes. The run of big black drum seems to have slowed a little, but action is still very good. A few large gray trout are around. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel [is] best for large tide-runner sea trout.” Meanwhile, keeper-sized rockfish are available from the Bridge-Tunnel to the Maryland state line. Croakers are hooked along the drops between the Rappahannock River mouth and the Great Wicomico, as well as Smith Point Light.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:*** — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Look for white perch and some decent bass around Denton. One reader said he had caught a hardhead from the Cambridge Fishing Bridge, but that was it. White perch, however, should take FishBites or the real thing: bloodworms.

POCOMOKE RIVER: *** — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass are nipping at 4-inch finesse worms, even some whacky-rigged worms and Mann's Baby 1-Minus crankbaits in flooded timber and spatterdock.

NANTICOKE RIVER: ** — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The river is still murky, but when you use dark tubes, jigs and such the bass might have a look at such offerings. In the upper river, Seaford area anglers report fair bass fishing along the edges of spatterdock.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: ***(Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Good bass chances are now on soft plastics, spinnerbaits and early day topwater lures. Fish the Duke's Creek area with Carolina-rigged worms anywhere you see a dropoff on your depth finder. The insides of Sturgeon Creek have been good for bass and crappies. Above the Splits, there is a possibility of seeing early morning surface eruptions by stripers. Keep a hard or soft jerkbait at the ready.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: ***The upper river is much better now and a few of the river waders around the Rapidan and above are finding good smallmouth bass action with tubes and grubs hopped among the river rocks. Below Fredericksburg, expect catfish and a fair number of largemouth bass down toward Hicks Landing. Fish blowdowns and creek junctions.

LAKE BRITTLE: ** — (Route 793, off Route 29) Not the best for bass, according to bass electro-shock studies, but some can be caught on scented worms or spinnerbaits. However, the crappie fishing can be quite good.

LAKE ORANGE: *** — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Get your fly-rod out of mothballs and search for your popping bugs. The bluegills are sitting on the beds. Fat catfish and a few bass are hooked as well.

LAKE GASTON: ***(Route 46, Gasburg) Marty Magone recommends Chatterbaits and various soft baits to lure bass around creek points, creek rip-rap and weedy areas.

KERR RESERVOIR: *** — (Route 58, Clarksville) Good bass, crappie and catfish catches are made right now. I'll take the crappies in the brushy areas around lake and creek points.

JAMES RIVER: ***(Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are definitely turned on to bottom-fished herring baits, but the bass catches are way down.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: **— (Williamsburg area) The bass fishing simply hasn't been what it should be, but crappies, catfish and white perch make up for it.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: ** — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) The river is clearing and it has dropped. Fair to good smallmouth catches should be made this weekend, says Front Royal river specialist Dick Fox.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: *** — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Bass are hooked, but many are still on the spawning beds. Check out quiet deep-water coves and stump fields.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: ***(Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass are willing. Use tubes, spinners, streamers and such among the boulders, riffles and quiet waters.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: ***(Route 50 to Ocean City) Ed Richardson and family caught bluefish, a 250-pound mako shark and a blue shark in offshore waters at the Jackspot. Other boaters connected on bluefish as well, but the Richardsons did best, by far. Closer in catches include seabass and tautogs, with Ocean City's backwaters, including the Sinepuxent Bay, turning up good numbers of flounder.

VIRGINIA: * * * — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman's Association, says warm water pushed in just south of the Norfolk Canyon and it has provided some excellent tuna and dolphin fishing for Virginia's anglers. A bit to our south, there have been some impressive bigeye tuna catches out of Oregon Inlet. If all of the tuna and dolphin are not providing enough action for you, the offshore bottom fish are there to provide some exercise. Tilefish and grouper are biting well off of Virginia and North Carolina. Spadefish are biting at the Chesapeake Light Tower and nearby wrecks. Eastern Shore flounder catches are fair to good in Wachapreague and Chincoteague. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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