- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

Many reports have come in this week, and they all agree: The Chesapeake Bay is loaded with Spanish mackerel.

“The whole Bay has erupted with the mackerel,” said Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box store.

At Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson echoed Lamb.

“I saw so many mackerel come in, it was crazy,” she said.

Meanwhile, throughout the southern Maryland and middle Bay waters, bluefish often can be found swimming with the mackerel, and of course there will be a few rockfish in the mix.

Fairfax County angler Rich Carter said, “It was so hot out on the Potomac yesterday that I hooked more than one bass that appeared to be sweating.” Yes, he’s kidding, but in spite of the tremendous heat you can find exceptional numbers of willing bass.

Julie Ball from Virginia Beach caught a 14-pound, 13-ounce tautog in Virginia’s offshore waters back in the spring. She now has been notified by the International Game Fish Association that the huge ‘tog was approved as a world record for the women’s 16-pound-test line class.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) the usual catches will occur. Big, fat catfish will inhale bottom-fished cuts of herring and other species. If you can stand the heat and find a moving tide between first light of day and 10 or 11 a.m., you’ll find willing largemouth bass along the weed bed edges and in open grassy pockets, as well as some sunken wood and stone piles from the District down to the Blue Banks, Wade’s Bay and Arkindale Flats sections of the river.

I’ve been using wacky-rigged sinking Zero and Senko worms (no weight added), also quarter-ounce Rat-L-Traps, Sugar Shads and Frenzy Rattl’rs. My favorite, the 2-inch Berkley PowerBait minnow on a 1/16-ounce jig hook sees plenty of action from bass, perch and sunfish. As you head past the Port Tobacco River and begin looking for perch, spot or croakers, too many boaters are complaining about a lack of action. However, things improve south of St. Clements, especially from the Piney Point to Cornfield Harbor area of the river where croakers, white perch and flounder are more plentiful, but the best flounder fishing is found especially along the drop-off ledges at Cornfield Harbor, not far north of Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — Peter Malnati fished inside and outside the river mouth, looking for croakers and once again coming in bitterly disappointed. “We had a few small ones and some little white perch,” he said, pointing out that the friends he fishes with are all old-time river fishermen who know their business. It’s not like they’re raw recruits.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — If you start at daybreak and quit before 11 a.m. during this heat wave you’ll score on more bass than you ever thought possible. A moving tide is necessary; that and wacky-rigged sinking fat worms in junebug or green pumpkin colors. Along the marsh and weed bed edges a quarter-ounce Rat-L-Trap or Frenzy Ratt’lr will work; so will small finesse worms.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) isn’t showing much of anything right now. Blame the heat. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass might strike a 4-inch PowerWorm in blue or green pumpkin colors, but get there as early as possible and quit before the sun bakes your brain to a crisp.

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 give up a few catfish and bass; certainly some sunfish. But cooler weather is needed to put the fish in a better biting mood.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Slow going for all species right now. “Come on, autumn” is the battle cry among local johnboaters here.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (**) — (Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Not much happening for most anglers, except those who know how to work a jig’n’pig or jig’n’craw in 20 or more feet of water around lake points and channels where the bass are laying, preferring the cooler water.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park says Norfolk spot that weigh up to 1 pound are on the drop-off at Green Holly in 30 feet of water. In fact, the tasty spot are hooked in all areas of the lower Patuxent and there are plenty of croakers and white perch, while flounder are caught between the Nos. 5 and 3 markers, along the drop-off edges. If it’s rockfish you want, they’re up in the river and if you fish in the earliest morning hours, you can find them hunting food close to shore and around all the river points. Rat-L-Trap, bucktails and Sassy Shad lures can produce catches for spinning rod casters.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Fountainhead Regional Park ranger Smokey Davis said: “Several quality bass have been brought to the scales. Texas-rigged lizards and plastic worms, fished off deep points, did the trick. The crappie bite picked up as well. Ron Lucini of Woodbridge caught two citation crappies off the pier on medium minnows in addition to many smaller ones. Some nice channel catfish were taken on chicken liver baits and the kids had a blast with bluegills off the boardwalk. They used meal worms. The reservoir has dropped about two feet, but the water is clear with surface temperatures topping out at 89 degrees.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early and late hours can give up bass and plenty of sunfish. The largemouths will definitely look at a smartly fished plastic worm. Work your baits around lake points and among the sunken brush piles that some people think is good only for crappies. That’s not always so.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — Low, weedy water is found in many parts of the upper river, but smallmouth bass can be caught from Little Orleans down to White’s Ferry and Edwards Ferry. One-eighth-ounce tube jigs in chartreuse or regular green color will see action when they’re hopped among rock beds and shoreline ledges. Early hour topwater lures work well; so does a smartly zigzagged Zoom Fluke in white or light blue.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds bass for his clients in the backs of coves, at main-lake floating docks where he skips fringed tubes in root beer or junebug colors under the platforms. Large bluegills and yellow perch will take worm-baited hooks under bobbers for vacationers young and old.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — The Susquehanna Flats can produce strikes from bass, even small rockfish now and then. The bass fishing inside the river, from Havre de Grace to Port Deposit, is good one day, lousy the next. I guess it all depends on water releases from Conowingo Dam.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — The whole Bay is loaded with Spanish Mackerel, said Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, and he’s not exaggerating. They’re found from the Virginia state line up toward the Bay Bridge in Annapolis.

“Trollers are using planers to drop small Clark and Drone spoons, and they’re catching these tasty fish that invade the bay in late summer in great numbers,” he said, adding that bluefish are mixed in with the “Spanish,” as well as a small number of stripers.

If you’ve never hooked a big red drum (also known as redfish or channel bass), now is the time to drag a large Tony Acetta spoon over the humps and dips found on the Middlegrounds.

“The vast majority of the drum are over the slot maximum of 27 inches, so carefully release them,” Lamb said.

Large croakers have also been caught by twilight fishermen on the Middlegrounds, Hooper’s Island Light, Choptank River mouth, Eastern Bay and other places that offer bottom structure by way of bottom depressions, holes, dips and rises.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com) points out that the creeks and tributaries in his Northern Neck portion of the Bay have been good for plenty of fishing action.

“Our rental boat fleet at Ingram Bay Marina has been landing a wide variety of fish in the Great Wicomico River and its tributaries. Among the catches are speckled trout, flounder, croaker, spot and taylor blues,” he said.

If it’s croakers you want, the evening hours produce catches along the edges from the Cut Channel up to Smith Point. The spot are in the same waters, only not as deep. Pipkin is correct when he says that some of the fish in the daytime heat will go down to 70 feet or more.

“Bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been scattered throughout the region,” Pipkin said. “We continue to find schooling fish outside of the Rappahannock River mouth and at the Smith Point bar, where some mackerel and blues hang out.”

Did you know that tackle-busting cobia now are a possibility at the Rappahannock River mouth? Near the very end of the Bay, there are good flounder, spadefish and sheepshead catches in the waters around the stone-laden islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Ken Neill reports.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth shows some decent croakers and bluefish, even Spanish mackerel, while the Bill Burton fishing bridge in Cambridge turns up a few fat spot and perch. Crabs are taken in small baited traps from the bridge. We have no word of any decent bass caught up around Denton and beyond.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Perhaps the bass are suffering from heat stroke because not many are being caught right now.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) During the day, a few largemouth bass are taken with plastic worms and early morning topwater poppers anywhere from the Marshyhope Creek mouth up toward Seaford, Del. Seek out sunken shoreline wood or flooded spatterdock fields.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) If it’s bass you’re after, arrive early and before sunrise fish the shallow, rocky spots and riprap in the main lake or in the creeks, but when the sun begins to bake the water you’d better drop your plastic worms into the deeper ledges around lake points and such. The bass don’t care for the current heat wave and head for deep, cool layers shortly after sunrise. Trollers find stripers in the main lake, but as far as sight casting for them goes, that normally happens before sunup and after sundown.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upstream of Port Royal, the bass have been looking at 4-inch finesse worms cast into shoreline wood, or rattle baits aimed at the mouths of feeder creeks above Hicks Landing. The smallmouth bass above Fredericksburg aren’t exactly jumping on the lure hooks, but some can be caught. Water is lower than it has been in the past several weeks.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Slow going for bass and such, but the sunfish like worm baits under bobbers, which is fine for the kids.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The daytime heat isn’t helping the bass fishing. Some catfish can be taken on bottom-fished clam necks.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Various feeder creeks have been treated with a herbicide to kill the weeds that waterfront homeowners object to, so the bass have been leaving for main-lake shallows, drops and channels. The fishing can actually be good, but it’s mostly in the lake itself.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Early-hour bass hounds can score in the creeks and on the main steam of the lake. Plastic worms, some of them Carolina-rigged along jutting lake points, have done well considering the heat. The catfish are willing if you are.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Even the catfish catches slowed down this week. You must fish during the low-light hours of the day.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) A few bass, but the fishing isn’t setting the world on fire. Cooler weather is needed. Some catfish and perch are being hooked.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said if lures are cast into the darker, shaded waters and the smallmouth bass will strike. The river is low, and wading can be a good way to fish now.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Start fishing early and quit early. Shoreline drops, boat houses and sunken rock beds hold bass. Carolina-rigged plastics will catch them; that, or crankbaits and pig’n’jigs.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Wading is fine and casting fringed tube jigs around the rock beds will result in smallmouth bass. Sunfish are everywhere, and some decent channel catfish are hooked.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore boats find billfish and some decent tuna and dolphinfish from Baltimore to D.C. canyons. Inshore catches include flounder and a few fair-sized sea bass taken by headboat fishermen. The surf has the usual kingfish, snapper blues, sand sharks and occasional croakers, while the backwaters of Ocean City deliver some keeper flounder, croakers and unpredictable bluefish and stripers.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — The Eastern Shore’s flounder drifters are not doing great, but most of the ones that are caught do not meet the 19-inch required minimum. From Virginia Beach, Ken Neill reports: “The in-shore ocean hills, like the Southeast Lumps and 26-Mile Hill, are loaded with false albacore, bluefish, king and Spanish mackerel, and some bluefin tuna. The South Tower [continues to offer] large amberjack. Offshore action is centered around a very good billfish bite between 40 and 100 fathoms. Dolphin, wahoo, and some yellowfin tuna are around, but white marlin, good numbers of blue marlin and a great sailfish bite have most [boaters] out there looking for the next billfish.” For charter bookings, check with 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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