Gene Mueller: Fall fishing on its way

When you go outside early in the day, before the sun rises, can you smell the air? Do you get the clear message that autumn is on its way, and yes, even though there still will be some warm days ahead, the nights tell the story? Cooler temperatures after sundown and throughout the night are performing minor miracles in the water. The bass can feel it, as can the rockfish and other species. The air works its magic, rejuvenating and chilling formerly lukewarm layers of salty bays and freshwater lakes or rivers - and the fishing will be quite fine.

In the premier tidal bass fishing waters on the East Coast, the Potomac River, expect a steady increase of largemouth bass catches in the shallows up and down the river’s bass range, which begins in the District and continues downstream to feeder creeks in Stafford County, Va.

Now is a time to start early in the day and vigorously cast loudly splashing, popping and gurgling topwater lures. The bass will do the rest as they continue to hang out in vast weed beds and along marsh banks. Get to these areas while you can. Eventually, a hard frost will arrive, the grass will begin to die off and the bass will flee the then oxygen-depleted water to head for new ambush areas, such as weed-free docks, sunken wood and channel edges.

Meanwhile, if you don’t like a crowd, mark your calendar because the Northeast Division of the Bass Fishing League will conduct its final tournament of the year out of Charles County’s Smallwood State Park on Sept. 27-28. The BFL expects more than 200 participants, and the Potomac will be a busy place that weekend.

Occoquan is turning on - Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said things are perking up in the Occoquan Reservoir.

“The reservoir is at full pool, and the fishing has been very good the last few days. Bass have moved up in the flats,” he said. “Spinnerbaits and medium-running crankbaits have taken some quality fish, including several in the 4- to 5-pound range. The crappie bite has been fine with some 12- to 14-inchers taken off the pier on medium-size minnows under a bobber. Catfish love chicken livers or cut bait, and the bluegills are no problem. The water temperature is between 72 and 74 degrees.”

The Chesapeake is fine - With slowly increasing cooler weather, the fishing in the Chesapeake Bay will get better every day. Yes, some of the hot-weather species, such as the Spanish mackerel, will begin to head south, but you can expect the striper catches to improve with every passing week.

The Bay above the Route 50 bridges continues to deliver stripers of mixed sizes along with bluefish. Trollers are getting them, as are skilled jig fishermen and live-liners who use Norfolk spot on their hooks. The spot, however, soon will disappear.

A good number of Spanish mackerel continue to travel in the midst of bluefish schools, even among striped bass, and trollers who use small silver or iridescent green or red spoons are catching them from the middle Bay parts clear down past the Virginia state line.

From the lower Maryland parts of the Bay, Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina in St. Mary’s County said, “The fishing has been good. The Spanish mackerel are still here and many good-sized. The bluefish are ‘getting shoulders,’ and they’re everywhere.”

The “shoulders” remark, of course, means the blues are getting bigger. Henderson also points out that the various sizes of rockfish are caught.

”The bigger news is that the flounder are abundant again,” she said. “They are in the same places as before, such as the mouth of the St. Jerome’s Creek and the Potomac’s Cornfield Harbor. One [fisherman] got some sea trout in the Mud Leads last weekend, along with croakers, rockfish, mackerel and blues. We’ve had a lot of small craft advisory days, so our customer count is still low.”

Maryland October trout stocking - The Maryland DNR will stock about 19,000 trout in various waters during October. A number of the stocked fish will be brown trout averaging 3 to 5 pounds. The DNR’s trout stocking information phone line is 800/688-3467. It will be updated weekly beginning Oct. 1. Anglers are invited to call and find out whether their favorite area has been stocked.

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