- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

With a drier and brighter weather picture this weekend, anglers should find good fishing from the Chesapeake Bay to the mountains of western Maryland and Virginia.

It begins in the Bay where flounder, bluefish, croakers, spot and striped bass hold court in the lowest parts at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and even up to Love Point on the Chester River in Kent County, Md.

Live-liners, chummers and trollers score on generally young rockfish and blues just about everywhere in the Bay and inside many of its rivers. Among the top producers are Virginia’s Rappahannock and Maryland’s Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank and Nanticoke.

In the upper tidal Potomac River, expect continued good fishing for largemouth bass in myriad water-logged grass beds and sunken wood or rock piles. Early morning topwater poppers, followed by soft plastics and various swimbaits produce good catches. The mountain rivers, meanwhile, are due to turn on with smallmouth bass action. After weeks of off-and-on rains, the fishing in the upper Potomac, James, Rappahannock and Shenandoah rivers has been put on hold in many instances. Hopefully, that will change now.

(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) Ray Fletcher said the fishing for large blue catfish continues. “The water is very fishable,” he said, “and the ‘cats’ and a few rockfish are willing if you are.”

Fletcher said he doesn’t see many bass anglers up his way, but there are some decent largemouths in the river along shoreline obstructions. In town and below, the bass are taking topwater poppers, buzzbaits, plastic worms and craws, swimbaits and various jerkbaits over weed carpets, in sunken wood, dock pilings and rock piles in the river that were ballast rocks used by sail ships in the olden days. The main stem and all of the creeks deliver the goods. One exception has been the Nanjemoy Creek in western Charles County. It has been as unproductive as I’ve ever seen a body of water. What happened to this once wonderful fish-rich creek? In saltier water, from the Route 301 Bridge down to Point Lookout, there’s a chance for rockfish, snapper blues, croakers, spot and perch. Some decent flounder fishing can come your way from the channel edges at Piney Point downstream to St. George’s Island, but the better fishing is probably found down around Cornfield Harbor and across to the other side, at the Coan River in Virginia. Croakers, spot, bluefish and stripers are all part of the mix in the lowest parts of the Potomac.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) The croaker catches still aren’t up to par, but things are perking up a little. There simply has been too much of a freshwater influx during recent rains and that tends to chase the croakers out of the river and down into the deeper holes of the Potomac. However, white perch are plentiful along the Wicomico’s shores, along grass-bed edges, dock pilings and small channel cuts coming in from the land sides. All you need to catch them is a small inline spinner, a [1/8]-ounce spinnerbait, or a metal blade bait known as a Silver Buddy.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) The creek’s Smallwood State Park continues to be regional headquarters for a variety of bass tournaments, which turns the boat launching and fishing for local homefolks into a real challenge. The bass are there, but so are plenty of out-of-towners who’ll try to intimidate the locals by saying dumb things like, “Do you mind moving? This is where I’m catching my bass and I’m in a tournament.” Do I have to say what my answer would be should that happen to me?

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers mostly sunfish and a few youthful bass. It can get very noisy here when kids show up and decide they want to rent paddleboats. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass and sunfish deliver the goods. The fishing has been outstanding.

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) Quality bass and bluegills are available in either lake. All it takes is a bit of patience. Catfish and crappies add to the mix.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) With better weather for a few days, the fishing will get back into productive patterns. Bass will be caught on plastic worms or craws, as well as spinnerbaits and lipped crankbaits around lake points, rocky outcroppings and between brushy stickups. Crappies and sunfish are always available if you stick to brush piles, sunken wood and such.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) (Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Liberty has been giving up the better bass, especially largemouths as johnboaters fish sunken wood or rock piles with plastic worms and craws, or use jig’n’pigs in brown or blue/black. Prettyboy’s smallmouth bass are showing renewed interest in crawfish-style crankbaits and soft plastics.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that Norfolk spot, perch and croakers are in the mouth of the river and bottom fishermen, using various baits, are scoring. For example, the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek at the Hawk’s Nest has been fine for anglers using bloodworms, peeler crab pieces or squid strips. Ken Lamb says live-liners who have spot on their hooks find rockfish action under the Solomons Bridge around the pilings.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the lake, ranger Smokey Davis said: “The water has cleared up nicely and as a result the bass bite has improved dramatically. Last week’s Fountainhead Bass Club Tournament had 30 boats participating and most of them caught six-fish limits. The winning weight was 16.89 pounds. Buzzbaits produced well early in the morning but [that ended when] the sun came up. A few quality fish were taken on crawdad-color crankbaits. Crappies are still plentiful around beaver dams and blowdowns. Use a medium minnow under a sliding bobber. Catfish prefer chicken livers or cut bait and some fine bluegills are being taken on meal worms or crickets.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good early morning bass, sunfish and crappie chances. Daytime heat will reduce catches, so plan your outings for the “cool” hours of the day.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) The locals bet that the weekend will see the river delivering smallmouth bass, even some scattered walleyes that now will stay in deep holes when the sun bakes the water. Early mornings and late evenings will convince both species to come up into the shallower layers of rock-laden waters where jerkbaits, small crankbaits and various color plastic grubs can draw a strike.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says you need to practice skipping a fringed tube under floating boat docks where the largemouth and even some smallmouth bass hide. The deep-water coves are good for fat yellow perch and the shallower coves and shorelines of the lake will deliver fat sunfish that are beginning to spawn up this way.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) The Maryland Department of Natural Resouces’ Keith Lockwood said the river has received substantial water releases through the Conowingo Dam earlier this week. “The fishing there for striped bass, largemouth bass, white perch and channel catfish has remained rather static this week,” Lockwood said. Whenever cool water charges from the dam into the river, there’s a chance that the rockfish begin to cooperate around the dam’s spillway pool. The Susquehanna Flats grass beds are home to good numbers of largemouth bass.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) Bait chummers, live-liners who use Norfolk spot as bait, or trollers who simple run bucktails, spoons or Sassy Shad lures out past their boats’ transoms score on rockfish and ever increasing numbers of bluefish in practically all parts of the Bay. There’s even a chance for an odd Spanish mackerel here and there in the southern parts. Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box said, “The bay is loaded with oversize croaker for night fishermen at 72A,” then added that live-liners who use small Norfolk spot are catching rockfish at the Targets, the Gas Docks and the outfall at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant, while trollers and lure casters can find occasionally breaking fish above the Gas Docks. But some kind of action is available even in the most northern sectors of the Bay. As concerns rockfish catches now, it’s a game of searching and burning a few extra gallons of fuel.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) From Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) reports that fat croakers are the mainstay in the Northern Neck at this time, with good concentrations of the “hardheads” found from the Rappahannock River’s Windmill Point up to Smith Point on the outside of the Potomac River. “The lower Tangier Sound and east to the RN2 marker are also producing good hauls,” said Pipkin, who pointed out that bluefish have become more abundant with surfacing schools seen in the Rappahannock River mouth and also in an area just south of Tangier Island on the flats, along the channel from Buoy 62 up to Smith Point and on the Southwest Middlegrounds. Pipkin said that a few Spanish mackerel have struck small Drone or Clarke spoons.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The croaker fishing has been fine in the river near buoys 10 and 12 and a mix of snapper bluefish and young stripers is in the mouth.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) You might catch a limit of decent bass on plastic worms, jerkbaits or crankbaits, but the water is kind of discolored as previously high-water swamps and wooded shores are draining into the river.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The best fishing is offered by rockfish, bluefish and croakers down in the mouth of the river, but some good bass and crappies are scored around Sharptown, the Marshyhope and Broad creek feeders, as well as up near Seaford where a lot of shoreline cover near the river channel looks inviting to bass.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) It goes without saying ? now that the days are hotter, you should start fishing when the roosters crow. Loud jerkbaits and poppers might draw a strike from a feeding striper up at the Splits or beyond and the darker it is, the better your chances. The bass fishing is similar, as far as the hours go. Start throwing loud topwater poppers around stickups in the coves and creeks, or around lake points and hang on. You could receive an arm-jolting strike. Soft plastics, many anglers using the Carolina-rigging method, take up the slack during the day.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**)/ With a little luck and no more rain, the upper-river smallmouth bass fishing can resume. The weather simply has been awful in past weeks, so let’s hope good things will happen over the weekend. In the tidal sections below Fredericksburg, even if the river looks a little murky, you’ll find cooperative bass jump on a smartly retrieved Rat-L-Trap or Strike King Red-Eye when cast toward shoreline wood or creek mouths upstream of Port Royal. Plastic worms also draw strikes.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) (Route 793, off Route 29) Let the bream and crappie fishing resume. They’ll bite this weekend. A few bass will also be taken.

]LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappies, sunfish, channel catfish and bass ? all are home in this lake. Go for them. The fishing can be fine, especially if you’re in a johnboat, but some catches are made from the little pier or from shores.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***)/ (Route 46, Gasburg) Wacky-rigged, garlic-flavored Zero worms will be looked at by bass in shoreline shallows of the feeder creeks. Try also a loud popper early in the day, especially around lake and creek points or around brushy spots. The crappie fishing has been only fair.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) (Route 58, Clarksville) Largemouth bass are taking jerkbaits, plastic worms and shallow crankbaits in flooded willow bushes and such. Look for brushy areas and have a ball. Crappies are in 10 to 15 feet of water around lake points and in sunken brush piles. Catfish love a bottom-fished slab of herring or some kind of shad.

AMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish are on the feed. Bottom-fished cut baits will produce from Dutch Gap down to the Appomattox and beyond. The feeder, such as the Chippokes or Walker creeks, have given up some decent bass catches to plastic wormers.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) (Williamsburg area) Bass, some crappies and plenty of channel and blue catfish make this a fine river to visit, but bring a boat. You’ll need it to check out all the good-looking spots.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

]SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said, “River is stained [but] very fishable. By the weekend it should be back to normal and the smallmouth bass bite will be good.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The bass fishing has been fine for boaters who concentrate on boat houses and dock pilings, as well as lake points and flooded stump fields. Soft plastics, shallow and medium crankbaits or Chatterbaits with a plastic swimbait pushed onto the hook can score nicely. Striper fishermen are using the dark hours now to catch a few surfacing, feeding fish.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Pray that the rain stays away. If it stays dry, you’ll catch smallmouth bass. The river is settling down.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***)/ (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said, “We finally were able gather all information from the two large sharks that were caught this past weekend at the Ocean City Shark Tournament. The mako shark caught by Jim Hughes of Ocean City is now recognized as the new official state record at 876 pounds. The pending new state record thresher shark of 672 pounds was caught by Brent Applegite of Golden, Colo., and not by his father, Russell Applegite. Meanwhile, the flounder fishing in the backwaters of the resort city has been quite good, while bluefish and flounder are hanging around the inlet. In the surf you’ll find a few croakers, flounder and kingfish, maybe an odd sand shark now and then.”

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association member, Ken Neill, said, “The fantastic yellowfin tuna bite continues. Fish are being caught around the 100 fathom curve from the Norfolk Canyon on down to east of the Cigar. Boats are coming back with limits of tuna ranging from just legal to pushing 70 pounds.” Neill added that dolphinfish are also hooked, along with a wahoo or a bigeye tuna now and then. “Closer to shore, bluefin tuna have been caught by anglers fishing the 20-fathom curve and some of the inshore hills,” Neill said. By the way, spadefish are hooked at the Chesapeake Light Tower. 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, Mueller’s blogs about outdoors happenings here and elsewhere. Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.

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