- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

Before beginning with a promise of wonderful Independence Day weekend fishing, I’m sad to report that the waters of the tidal Mattawoman Creek around Smallwood State Park’s launch ramps have been littered with dead largemouth bass for a number of days.

These are bass that were part of the “live release” program by the FLW tournament group that conducted a large bass fishing tournament last weekend. There is no doubt that many of the bass that are caught in near 80-degree water, kept in confinement in a bass boat’s livewell, later weighed and then released may look like they’re fine after being turned loose, but there is such a thing as delayed mortality. When fish are severely stressed, they will succumb within a day or two.

Worse yet, there is a silly rumor floating about that the bass didn’t die from the stress of a hot-water tournament but rather were killed by Chinese snakehead fish. How strange to suggest that the snakeheads come into the Mattawoman only during a tournament weekend to kill bass but not any other day of the week.

Now to the fishing:

If it’s Norfolk spot and white perch you like, they’re thick as fleas in the lower parts of the Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank, Nanticoke, South, West and Magothy rivers in Maryland and the Coan, Great Wicomico, Rappahannock and James rivers in Virginia. The number of croakers in these waterways is steadily increasing, but the best “hardhead” catches continue to be made after sundown in the main Chesapeake Bay, around the lower Maryland buoys and various underwater humps, channels and ditches, such as those found on the Middle Grounds.

Rockfish, also known as striped bass, are being hooked by trollers, chummers and lure casters from as far up as the Chester River south to the Point Lookout area of the lower Potomac. Bluefish and slowly increasing numbers of Spanish mackerel are making their presence felt in southern Maryland and the Northern Neck waters of Virginia. Surfacing rockfish that boaters to which can cast a topwater popper have been noted at sunrise from Little Cove Point north to Cove Point and at the Gas Docks north to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

Tidal river fishing fabulous - In the upper tidal Potomac, find a grass bed’s open pockets, drop a greenish plastic craw into it, run a loud surface lure across the top or even cast and retrieve shallow crankbaits along marsh bank edges, then hold on. You’ll find willing largemouth bass and even an occasional snakehead if you’re in shallow water.

Occoquan Reservoir good to go - Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said: “Plenty of 12- to 14-inch bass are taken on small Texas-rigged soft plastics, fished in the grass beds in the main lake. The larger bass are in their full summer mode and are harder to come by. Now is the time to fish long, deep points with a Carolina-rigged lizard or creature baits. Black/blue jig’n’pigs, pitched into deep laydowns, are also a good choice. Crappies have moved a little deeper, and fly-rodders are having great success with the bluegills.”

Virginia bay and ocean - Virginia Beach’s Ken Neill reports that the offshore fishing remains good.

“It has shifted a bit in that the numbers of yellowfin tuna have decreased, but they have gotten larger,” he said, adding that the dolphin catches have picked up, billfish bites are now more common and a few wahoos are caught. Some bigeye tuna are hanging around the Norfolk Canyon. Neill also said bluefin tunas are being caught around the Fingers and on the inshore hills.

“King mackerel and bluefish are found in these same areas,” he said. “It is a great time to get offshore. Let’s not forget that tough amberjacks are available around the southern towers, while spadefish are hooked at the Chesapeake Light Tower, as well as the inshore wrecks and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

“Cobia remain the hot catch in the Bay,” Neill said. “Sight-casting has been productive near the mouth of the Bay. Latimer Shoal and the Inner Middle Ground have been good areas to set up a chum slick.”

c 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 Mueller’s detailed weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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