- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fine autumn fishing for blues and stripers can be yours from the lowest portions of the Chesapeake Bay to the northern parts, especially around the Chester River and other areas in Kent County waters. In Southern Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia, expect excellent bluefish and increasing rockfish activity along with some flounder and redfish hookups.

In tidal rivers, the boss of them all, the Potomac, shows stripers and blues from Point Lookout clear up to the Route 301 Bridge in Charles County. Most of the river markers and buoys that have protective rock piles around them also hold stripers that can be caught by small-boaters using nothing more than lipless rattle lures or, but when the fish go deep, white or chartreuse Sassy Shads pierced onto quarter-ounce or half-ounce jig hooks will work.

Fresh- and brackish-water bass fishing is solid. As always, it begins with the upper tidal Potomac, where largemouth bass of various sizes attack shallow to medium-depth crankbaits, especially if they’re retrieved in an erratic stop-and-go fashion. Good smallmouth bass catches are made in the upper mountain rivers, while small lakes and reservoirs in the metropolitan area are always good for largemouth bass, catfish or crappies this time of year.

Along the oceanfronts, expect a mixed bag of red drum (redfish), bluefish, flounder and croaker, while offshore boats connect on tunas, some king mackerel and dolphinfish, as well as sharks.

Here is this week’s outlook:

(Ratings key: ****=excellent fishing; ***=Good; **=Fair; *=Poor.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — Around the Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) you’ll hook catfish, carp, and maybe even a bass or two. The fishing can be very good some days. If it’s largemouth bass you’re after, all the feeder creeks from the Broad to the Aquia produce. We’ve had our best days in the Mattawoman and Chicamuxen in recent days. In saltier water, down around the mouth and slowly heading upstream to Tall Timbers, you’ll catch a mix of stripers and bluefish. For some, it’s mostly bluefish. The river from St. Clements Island to St. George’s Island has active rockfish for trollers and lure casters, said the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb. Bluefish can be hooked as far north as the Route 301 Bridge, while rockfish have been at Swan Point just before the sun rises and as it sets.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — White perch and catfish are taken inside the river, with rockfish and a few snapper blues hanging around outside the mouth where bucktail or spoon trollers connect some days

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — The slow stop-and-go retrieval of medium-diving crankbaits has been super-effective along flooded shorelines where grasses, open water pockets and some wood are seen. If that doesn’t produce, start throwing spinnerbaits or slowly work a 4-inch finesse worm along the marsh bank ledges up and down the creek. You’ll score.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**)Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is good for a few bass, sunfish and even a crappie now and then. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) we are repeating that the water will be drawn down to make repairs on the dam and the boat ramp will be closed down. Despite that, some nice bass, pickerel, crappie and sunfish have been hooked. If you care to carry a cartopper or canoe through the exposed mud shore, you can do so.

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) will turn up fat channel catfish, some chunky largemouth bass and a crappie or two.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) We repeat that repair work is being done at Rocky Gorge’s dam, resulting in a drawdown. Expect closed boat ramps, but shore walkers or cartoppers who carry their little boats across muddy shores, can do so. At Triadelphia Lake there have been catches of crappies in flooded brush and in the backs of deep-water coves, and the bass fishing is picking up steam. Use crankbaits, spinnerbaits or plastic worms around any waterlogged structure, be it wood or stone.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park said: “The Patuxent has hefty rockfish in the shallows from Sheridan Point to Point Patience. Breaking fish are not uncommon anywhere from Cape St. Mary’s to St. Leonard’s Creek.”

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said: “The backs of long, deep creeks, such as Three Fingers, Little Beaver and Hoos Run, provides bass anglers with plenty of action. Topwater baits and shallow to medium-running crankbaits account for most of the fish. The crappie bite was slower this week, but a beautiful 19-inch, 3-pounder was caught off the pier on a minnow fished under a bobber. Catfish still like chicken livers or clam snouts and bluegills are readily available. The reservoir is clear with surface temperatures in the low to mid-60s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The crappies have been biting better this week; so have the bass. Fall is in the air and the fish know it. Take advantage of their willingness to be fooled by artificial lures or real food, such as minnows.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***)The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood said that the grass in the upper river is beginning to break up. “Recent rains had the river up for a while and some of the heavy grass has flushed out making for better fishing conditions,” he said, “[but] the water levels are down once again and fishing for smallmouth bass has been good.” Bass and even some walleyes are hooked on tubes, soft plastic jigs and small crankbaits.”

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said, “Start working your lures in the shallows, especially around grass.” Everybody up here knows that the smallmouth and largemouth bass are now getting ready for winter and they’re feeding frequently. Various crankbaits, grubs, jigs and spinnerbaits work well. Don’t overlook the large yellow perch that call this lake home.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***)Fair striper chances inside the river and around the Conowingo Dam. Jerkbaits and bucktails can connect even when fished by shoreline anglers. The bass fishing has perked up a bit, with marina docks and pilings, as well as the main river’s shoreline wood giving up largemouths — some of them pretty hefty specimens.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) From St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson reports: “Fishing really turned on this weekend. We finally saw a good number of rockfish, and they had some pretty good size to them. The bluefish got a lot bigger this weekend as well. It was this time last year when the big ones moved in, so hopefully this will be a repeat. They ranged from 3 to 10 pounds yesterday with more in the 5- to 10-pound range than we’ve seen. About two miles southeast of Buoy 72 seemed to be one of the hotter spots. Today a few flounder and sea bass were caught at Butler’s rock. People fished a variety of ways. They chummed, live-lined, jigged and trolled, and it didn’t seem to matter which way you chose, the fish responded.”

Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box said: “Blues are everywhere. The rockfish are getting bigger and more plentiful, and there are still some Spanish mackerel. Croakers and spot are still taking bloodworm baits. Flounder are solid along the ship channel and on the [feeder] river dropoffs, and the red drum are in the bay and in the shallows. The mouth of St. Jerome’s Creek has excellent rockfish for lure casters using both surface poppers and bucktails, spoons, and jigs. The stripers turn on from the channel out to the Point No Point lighthouse as the sun is rising. Bluefish start breaking as the sun gets up, and they are getting bigger, many ranging from 20 to 26 inches. The Bay shore from Cedar Point to Cove Point is awash with bluefish and rockfish at dusk and dawn. Trollers using small umbrella rigs with small lures have done well.” Much the same action awaits trollers and casters over the rest of the Bay, from Calvert Cliffs up to the Bay Bridge and beyond. The fishing is fine.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) finds good rockfish action during this first week of the reopened Virginia season. “It has been fine along the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and on the waterways between them,” said Pipkin. “Chumming is picking up steam with more anglers dropping anchor on the reefs this week. Striped bass up to 22 inches in length are available on structure, yet there are not enough to fill the coolers when a crowd of boats is present. In Virginia waters, anglers have been chumming at the Asphalt Pile reef located Southeast of Dameron´s Marsh and at the Northern Neck reef located six miles due east of Ingram Bay Marina. Check out the deep water ramp at the marina located at the end of Route 609 in Wicomico Church for easy access to the best fishing grounds in the region. There’s a mix of rockfish and blues at all the locations.” Pipkin said casting and jigging has provided good action this week as fish have been found outside the Rappahannock’s Windmill Point. Smith Point, Buoy 62 and the western channel edges from GW1 off the Great Wicomico down to Bluff Point have all produced good numbers this week. In the lowest portions of the Bay, Julie Ball reports that big croakers are hanging around on the Hampton Bar and the deeper holes around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. A Virginia Beach anglers caught 4-pound, 14-ounce “hardhead.” That’s a monster. The bridge-tunnel islands also attract some large red drum.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Besides the standard chance of hooking bluefish and small stripers in the mouth, the Choptank Fishing Pier — parallel to Route 50 as you enter Cambridge — has been good to fishermen hoping to hook spot, white perch and rockfish. Upper river, from Martina State Park to Denton, delivers the goods as far as bass are concerned. Fish spatterdock edges and sunken wood with soft plastics or medium depth crankbaits.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass are fairly active from Snow Hill to Shad Landing. Crankbaits and small spinnerbaits are the ticket in waterlogged wood.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Crappies have been taking minnows or small shad darts under a bobber inside the pilings of the Federalsburg ramp, not to mention some of the sunken brush and old pilings in the Marshyhope Creek. The main stem and their creeks give up some nice bass. Crankbaits or hard and soft jerkbaits also can produce when cast around sunken wood or edges of spatterdock.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***)(Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Crappies, bass and stripers — all three are possible. As the water has cooled down quite a bit, the bass are coming into shallows adjacent to the many riprap sections in the lake, especially those along the dikes below the power plant.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) Catfish are a sure bet from Fredericksburg to Leedstown, but the bass fishing has its ups and downs. Still, 4-inch scented worms and quarter-ounce Little Deep “N” crankbaits can draw bass from Hicks Landing upstream for a mile or two.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The crappie fishing is getting better for sure. Bass and catfish catches round out some pretty decent outings at this beautiful impoundment.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish and bass are on the prowl. They know colder weather is on the way. The crappie bite is pretty good in flooded timber and around brushy spots if you have small live minnows and fish them a couple of feet below a cork.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***)(Route 46, Gasburg) Now is a great time to visit this fine lake. Bass and surprising numbers of stripers — even a walleye now and then — await you in the creeks and on the main stem. Crappie fishermen drop live minnows around bridge abutments in the backs of creeks.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie and bass fishermen have done well in the past week. Brushy lake spots hold both species but aren’t always caught on the same lures. Little minnows under a bobber, however, can catch both species.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***)(Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The stripers continue to hang out at the mouth and some distance inside the river. Bass fishing has been fair in the feeder creeks, such as the Chippokes and Walker, but it can’t touch the Potomac as far as numbers are concerned. Blue cats are active just south of the Richmond fall line.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**)— (Williamsburg area) The catfish catches often are better than bass hookups, especially if you’re looking for a good-size largemouth.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) From the Front Royal area, Dick Fox reports: “Just got off the river and the smallmouth bass bite was not as strong with the east wind, but we did catch a few nice fish. Tubes are working well. The grass is starting to break up, and the leaves are changing. Water temperature was 64 degrees with a slight stain. It’s in great shape.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The bass fishing has improved as jerkbaits and medium-diving crankbaits have connected on willing largemouths inside boat houses, around dock pilings and long lake points.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***)(Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Waders can do well with short plastic worms, grubs, fringed tubes, spinners or flyrod streamers and poppers. The smallmouth bass are not picky.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND:153-175 miles (***) (Route 50 to Ocean City) The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood said better weather this week is sure to see improved fishing. Flounder catches near the Ocean City inlet has been good this week, and there are some larger tautogs, along with striped bass, bluefish and puppy drum are being caught in the inlet area at night. Surf fishermen find a few small bluefish and a mix of large red drum, sharks, even trophy rockfish. The boats that went offshore to the wrecks found sea bass, tautog, flounder, bluefish and croakers. The more-distant offshore canyon waters delivered good numbers of wahoos and fine mix of yellowfin tuna, dolphin and white marlin.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said the red drum run is continuing off the ocean front. Multiple redfish up to 50 inches are coming from the Little Island Fishing Pier on cut spot. Boats anchored close to shore can also get in on the action, with cobia and sharks also a possibility. “The Eastern Shore’s barrier islands are still producing good numbers of big reds,” she said. “Offshore and inshore wrecks are covered with decent flounder, along with some big sea bass and lots of aggressive triggerfish. The Rudee Angler out of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, had a great catch of jumbo sea bass and triggerfish to over 4 pounds while fishing choice inshore wrecks this week.” King mackerel have been biting for trollers who work around the Chesapeake Light Tower and down to False Cape. A few Spanish mackerel are available, and false albacore will stat to show up closer to shore and around the tower. In the more distant ocean waters, yellowfin tuna on the prowl and wahoo are taking trolled baits north of Norfolk Canyon. White and blue marlin, dolphinfish and nighttime catches of swordfish reported. 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. Also check out Inside Outside, Gene Mueller’s blogs about outdoors happenings here and elsewhere. Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.

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