- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

The single thing that hampered fishing efforts for most of us this week was the unrelenting wind. That, however, is coming to an end, and even if it’s cold out on the water, the fish are biting. Of course, it all depends which waters you choose.

For starters, it’s not only the big rockfish that are biting in the Chesapeake Bay, but fans of largemouth and smallmouth bass can score as well.

Even though only the die-hards now fish Western Maryland waters, it is a fact that the biggest smallmouth bass of the year are probably caught when it turns truly cold. The upper Potomac River is low and clear with water temperatures in the 40s, but brown-on-brown pig’n’jig combos or slowly worked scented, plastic grubs and tubes in the deeper pools can result in bragging-size smallmouth bass and fat walleyes.

In the tidal waters of the Potomac, a smart fisherman can hook a cornucopia of fish. As you use scented green or perch color drop-shot shiners, as well as avocado color Sting Ray grubs that imitate a fathead minnow, you can find crappies (see Sunday’s Washington Times Outdoors column), largemouth bass, yellow and white perch, catfish, carp and even barely legal rockfish.

The catching can begin in the Washington Channel around Hains Point, continuing downstream to the Spoils Cove, the Fox Ferry rockline, the Belle Haven Marina’s coves, its adjacent backwaters, and all the feeder creeks south of Belle Haven on the Maryland or Virginia side of the river. But by the time you reach the area of the Port Tobacco River, it’s time to switch to slow-trolled bucktails and Sassy Shads in the main stem of the Potomac because the rockfish numbers will begin to get better with every mile you travel south. Not only that, but the sizes of the fish also will increase tremendously.

About those stripers- Trophy rockfish 44 inches and bigger are being taken in all sectors of the Chesapeake, though the best catches have been made in Maryland’s middle and lower parts of the Bay, including the lower Potomac from St. George’s Island to Point Lookout. Even the Virginia waters are turning up fine numbers of striped bass.

The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that trollers using umbrella rigs, tandem bucktails and large parachute bucktails boated large rockfish whenever the weather would permit the boats to get away from their harbors.

“There seems to be no limit to the availability of big fish [in all depths] from 20 to 90 feet,” said Ken Lamb, the shop’s proprietor. He added that more of the large rockfish will arrive from the Atlantic and gather in the mid-Bay portions.

Added Christy Henderson at Buzz’s Marina in St. Jerome’s Creek: “Some of the hotter striper spots were Buoy 72 down to Buoy 70 and the mouth of the Potomac. Several anglers caught their fish in 45 feet of water on the western side. There have been four 50-inch and longer fish checked in so far. Most of the others have been in the 40s.”

Down in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, Julie Ball (drjball.com) said the very biggest stripers haven’t shown up, but “fish to around 45 inches are keeping anglers content in the meantime.”

Is she saying a 45-incher is a small specimen?

Occoquan good till end of month - “If you can stand the surface temperature, you can still catch fish on the reservoir,” said Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis. Local angler Bob Coleman caught a 7 3/4-pound largemouth by flipping a jig’n’pig along the rocky banks at Jacob’s Rock. Fine crappie catches have been made off the pier on white crappie killers tipped with a small minnow. Fountainhead will be open for launches and shore anglers until the end of November.

Lake Gaston bass are willing - Lake Gaston resident Marty Magone says the uplake feeder creeks above the Interstate 85 bridge are turning on for bass and pickerel. Use Shaky Jig worms near 3- to 10-foot drop-offs along creek channels. “Best times have been midmorning to noon with catches of 15 to 20 bass not unusual,” said Magone. Stripers are starting to feed on baitfish in the flats above Hawtree Creek. Magone had an 11-pounder on a topwater popper.

—Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Also check out Gene Mueller’s more detailed Web site weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog on washingtontimes.com/sports.