- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

Surprisingly good fishing can be had throughout the region even though it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

In the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, the fishing starts with roving bands of 18- to 23-inch-long stripers accompanied by youthful bluefish, occasionally even a few Spanish mackerel. The blues and rockfish can be caught live-lining with spot or by trolling small spoons, surgical eels or bucktails. Some boaters chum for their fish with ground menhaden, and others run into a breaking school of bluefish and stripers now and then. That’s when poppers, propeller lures, and subsurface rattle-baits can find action in a hurry. If you’re into trolling, that’s fine, but always have a couple of spinning rods with topwater lures ready to toss at the fish when they rise to the top.

If it’s flounder you’re after, the lower Potomac’s Cornfield Harbor, the mouth of the Patuxent River, many channel ledges on the eastern side of the Bay and large parts of the Tangier Sound are home to excellent numbers of the flat fish, quite a few exceeding the required 16 1/2 inches.

Meanwhile, the largemouths in the upper tidal Potomac continue to delight early-hour casters of topwater poppers, followed by wacky-rigged plastic worms. Just about every grass bed in the main stem and in the feeder creeks holds willing bass. This week, we caught fair-sized bass in Belmont Bay on the Virginia side, then did it again in the Mattawoman and Chicamuxen creeks in Maryland, while friends scored up near Wilson Bridge.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) nothing has changed except that it’s getting hotter during the middle of the day, so start early. Blue catfish like bottom-fished cut baits, and now and then a nice bass is hooked. As far as the largemouth bass are concerned, it is pretty much a fact that every weed bed on the upper tidal river holds bass. That includes the main stem and all of the feeder creeks. If you have an incoming tide flooding the tops of the watery vegetation, cast a Pop’R, Rico or Frenzy Popp’r and let it splash and gurgle. The bass will do the rest. After the sun bakes the water awhile, we cast naturally sinking Zero, Wacky, or Senko plastic worms, rigged wacky-style. Again, there are times when the bass try to rip the rod from your hands. As you enter the tidal areas toward the Route 301 bridge, the bass fishing stops and the stripers, small blues and white perch catches can begin. We’re not saying that the rockfish hookups are guaranteed, but they do occur for some of our local pals down in Charles County. The farther downstream you fish, the better the catches. In fact, from St. George’s Island clear down to Point Lookout (especially the Cornfield Harbor area), there’ll be flounder that like drifted bluefish strips or live minnows. The same occurs on the Virginia side, from the Coan River down to Smith Point.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (***) — Evening hours turn up better croakers numbers, but some hardheads are caught during the day, along with spot and perch.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — The early hours, incoming tides and slowly popped surface lures over submersed grass beds are the right combination to hooking largemouth bass. Channel waters hold catfish. Upper creek’s spatterdock edges can turn up bass that jump on wacky-rigged plastic worms.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is baking in the sun’s heat. A few sunfish, but not much else, are being found by anglers. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) you can do a little better, including hooking a few bass, but arrive early and leave early to escape the sun’s rays.

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) offer sunfish and bass — many of whom are tight-lipped currently. Blame the brutal heat.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Fish early and quit early. Go after bass by slowly, deliberately dragging a pig’n’jig or jig’n’craw combination across the drop-offs adjacent to jutting lake points. Think deep when you’re fishing during the daytime — maybe as deep as 20 feet. But when it’s still reasonably cool in the early hours, the bass are likely to be far shallower and can be caught with plastic worms or shallow crankbaits.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) It all depends on the time of day you arrive to begin fishing. If you get here early, the bass are still along the shoreline shallows, looking for food. So try to “feed” them a Rat-L-Trap, a wacky-rigged plastic worm, or a surface popper or buzzbait. If you decide to fish later, after the sun bakes the water, don’t expect great things to happen unless you’re skilled at fishing in water over 20 feet deep and reading a depth finder that shows bottom structure.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Flounder can be caught at the 3-Legged Marker in the mouth; croakers and spot are also available at various times of the day, as are snapper blues and rockfish. Topwater poppers produce strikes from stripers before the sun rises. White perch like spinners, Beetlespins, small spinnerbaits and tiny spoons if you fish inside the feeder creeks and target sunken trees, boat dock pilings, or grass edges.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Ranger Smokey Davis, at Fountainhead Regional Park, said the fishing is good. “Plenty of 12- to 14-inch-long bass are being taken on 4-inch smoke/pearl Yum Dingers and Senkos on the grass beds near main-lake points,” he said, but added that quality fish of 3 pounds and up are much tougher to come by. “The bigger bass are either suspended in the main-lake channel or are in deep blowdowns,” he said. “Jig’n’pigs, Texas-rigged Brush Hogs or lizards work best in the blowdowns, while jigging spoons or deep dropshot rigs do best on the suspended fish.” The water is slightly stained with surface temperatures in the high 80s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) If at all possible, try fishing the coolest hours of the day, and that alone can be a challenge. However, early birds find willing bass, sunfish and even a few crappies. Catfish like bottom-fished cuts of perch, spot or clam necks.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ upper river manager, biologist John Mullican, said, “Recent thunderstorms have brought much-needed water to the upper Potomac and its tributaries.” Mullican said smallmouth bass and walleyes have taken a variety of lures with consistency. That has included grubs, tubes and crayfish-imitating crankbaits. But Mullican, who is busy with assessing spring spawning successes of the river’s smallmouth bass, said high and muddy water during the spawning season resulted in poor fry survival. “Not surprisingly, this year’s hatch is well below average throughout the Potomac watershed,” he said.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said the boating on the lake gets to be frantic, especially on weekends. However, early morning hours are fine for bass boaters who work the backs of coves or concentrate on the grass bed edges and floating docks where largemouth and smallmouth bass can be caught. Big sunfish and yellow perch are hooked by kids along the various coves’ shorelines. They use pieces of night crawler and fish with a bobber snapped to the line 3 feet above the bait.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said: “Fishing at the Conowingo Dam pool and below has been good for a mix of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and even walleyes recently due to the continuing cool-water releases at the dam for afternoon/evening power generation. Casting a variety of crankbaits, swimming minnow lures and grubs have been favored baits to use recently.”

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Widely scattered schools of rockfish, often accompanied by snapper bluefish, can be found as far up in the Chesapeake Bay as the mouth of the Chester River. From there, head south and much the same is experienced by trollers, chummers, sight casters and live-liners near Bloody Point, Eastern Bay, Thomas Point, the drop-offs east of Deale and Chesapeake Beach, the Calvert Cliffs and Gas Docks area, as well as eastern spots that include the mouth of the Choptank River, the Hooper’s Island Light area, Middlegrounds, Buoys 72 and 72A and the Target Ship, where large redfish (aka red drum or channel bass) are entirely possible some evenings. Imagine live-liners complaining that the only Norfolk spot they can find are too big for live-lining. Some dilemma, eh? Incidentally, if you troll a 3- or 4-inch spoon on a long leader with no more than 4 ounces of in-line sinker, you might get a Spanish mackerel to strike the lure. Flounder drifters use strips of bluefish or live minnows along the Buoy 72 channel edge and also throughout the Tangier Sound, and the flatties like it.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Much the same action as in Maryland. Broadly scattered schools of stripers and bluefish, sometimes even a handful of Spanish mackerel from the state line down to the Rappahannock River mouth. Ken Neill said the cobia fishing is very good, as proved by fisherman Wes Blow, who caught the biggest cobia hooked so far this year in Virginia waters, a 105 1/2-pounder. Neill also said the flounder fishing heated up this week around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reports continued good cobia action for chummers using bunker, live eels and live croaker fished on the bottom around Fisherman’s Island, but also at the Bridge Tunnel as three big cobias were taken by anglers at the Seagull Fishing Pier at the first island of the crossing. “Red drum are also taking cut bunker in these same areas,” she said. “Black drum are still circling the islands of the Bridge-Tunnel.”

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Mixed schools of rockfish and blues are in the mouth now and then, and the fishing can get frantic when they arrive. Pre-sunrise anglers score best if the tides cooperate. Croakers, spot and white perch are possible as well from the mouth up to the Cambridge Fishing Bridge. From Martinak State Park upstream toward Greensboro, there’s a chance of finding decent bass fishing in shoreline wood and spatterdock.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Some people say this river delivers the best bass fishing in the state, though I can’t buy that since it would have to compete with the Potomac River, one of the best bass rivers in the country. However, there’s abundant cover in the upper Pocomoke, and bass can be caught on a variety of lures.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The Marshyhope Creek and nearby Delaware’s Broad Creek have been good for bass during outgoing tides whenever they coincided with the early hours of the day. Soft plastics are always good, and even some topwater action can be had.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Now’s the time to launch your boat at Anna Point or Sturgeon Creek long before daybreak and head slowly up to the Splits — be aware that you might run into a school of feeding rockfish. Throw your topwater poppers or subsurface Zoom flukes and Sassy Shads at them if that develops. Be sure not to run through the school; you’ll spook them, and they’ll dive and swim away. Bass also are in a summer pattern. You might find them in the shallows early in the day, but later on you must fish deep jig’n’pigs or jig’n’craws or Carolina-rigged worms to get a hookup.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper river smallmouth action depends a great deal on heavy rains. As you know that can happen any afternoon this time of year. If the monsoons stay away, you’ll hook smallies on tubes, jigs, grubs, small crankbaits and topwater propeller baits anywhere upstream of Fredericksburg. The tidal parts around Hicks Landing have turned up fair-sized largemouths on 4-inch scented worms and also quarter-ounce crankbaits.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Slow going on bass, but some decent catfish and sunnies are being hooked with bait. The “cats” like clam snouts or liver strips on the bottom; the sunfish go for worm pieces fished under a bobber.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Here, too, the fishing could be better — and it will be better come autumn. Right now the water temperature in the shallows exceeds 80 degrees, which is not exactly helpful when you look for bass. Try fishing worms on the sides of lake points in at least 10 to 12 feet of water. Catfish go for bottom baits.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lakeside resident Marty Magone said upriver areas (above the Interstate 85 bridge) where the grass beds are thick and teem with baitfish, there’ll be bass chasing them. “Just toss a wacky worm along any of the matted edges, but don’t be surprised if a pickerel tries to get in the chow line,” he said. “White perch schools are also active and can be a lot of fun for kids of all ages. Back out on some of the main-river shoals in 4 to 6 feet of water, near the main drop-off, cast a small Roadrunner jig or a spinner and the perch will do the rest,” he added.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Compared with small bodies of water that suffer from summer heat, there are lake spots around long points and creek entrances where the bass lay against a ledge, hoping to ambush bait. Carolina-rigged plastic worms, jig’n’craws and spinnerbaits can score. Catfish, as always, head the list of trophy-size catches.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) It’s mostly catfish and even those are best looked for early or late in the day, when they tend to become more active.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Call River’s Rest, 804/829-2753, for the latest information and water conditions. Things aren’t real productive right now unless you want a catfish.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) There was heavy rain in the Front Royal area, which will hurt the fishing for a day or two, but the weekend should be OK for smallmouth bass.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Get on the water before sunrise and work loud topwater lures around points and stick-ups. You’ll score on bass, maybe even a striper or two. Daytimes are tough on fish and humans, but Carolina-rigged plastic worms will find some bass action along lake point drop-offs..

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Here, too, the rainfall dictates how good the fishing will be. The weekend should be fine for smallmouth bass fans if it doesn’t pour.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Even though the local tourism officials tout the greatness of the flounder fishing, I hear many complaints from vacationers who can’t catch anything over 12 inches or so. There are too many undersized flatties, but occasionally an 18-incher is hooked. Croakers are also in the flounder waters behind the resort city. Surf fishermen connect on sharks, but some small bluefish are available and nighttime anglers find that the croakers come into the surf. In the ocean, sea bass are hooked over the various wrecks, but the fishing should be better. Occasionally, big flounder are found on the wrecks. In the far-off canyon waters, there’ll be a few billfish and perhaps a wahoo and tuna now and then.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Eastern Shore flounder drifters at Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Oyster and Quinby find plenty of bites but not many 19-inch keepers. Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association member Ken Neill, said: “Capt. Jorj Head fished for cobia almost every day last week and scored each day with up to five cobias per day.” Neill’s friend Charles Southall went to the Chesapeake Light Tower and had a big catch of Spanish Mackerel in the 20- to 22-inch range. “We ran offshore and did some bottom fishing, and it was very slow,” Neill said. “We had one nice blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, and snowy grouper.” 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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