- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

The 26th annual Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermens Association spring tournament on the Chesapeake Bay ended Sunday with 560 boats and nearly 3,000 anglers participating. The first big fish was landed Friday and ultimately was the winner, a 47.2-pound striped bass caught by Chuck Falter of Middle River, Md. Falter hooked the big rockfish just west of Sharps Island in 55 feet of water. He used tandem chartreuse parachute bucktails.

From Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson said: “The weekend was busy because of the MSSA tournament; even Friday’s wind didnt stop the fishermen. This week, as we predicted, the rockfish are flying out of the rivers looking for bait. [The western Chesapeake] seemed to be better for catching them. The fish were in 40 to 80 feet of water, from Buoys 68 to 72 on the channel edge. The Triangle seemed particularly good.”

Christy also said the croakers are making a better showing for those who fish at Point Lookout and in the Potomac’s Cornfield harbor, and she predicted that the coming week will bring in the flounder.

As far as the weekend fishing is concerned, blame the heavy rains if you’re opportunities are reduced. Some waters are altogether off-limits, and others present only iffy chances for fish. The most reliable for the next several days will be the Chesapeake even though strong runoffs from the rivers in the upper Bay will discolor the water in many areas. However, rockfish catches cannot be denied. The big brood fish have spawned, and now they’re looking for an easy snack before again heading down the Bay and into the Atlantic.

For those who want to cast their lures into the upper Potomac, Susquehanna, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and James rivers — don’t plan on it in the next several days. The Maryland Natural Resources Police said boating and other recreational uses of the Upper Potomac River, including creeks and streams, should be avoided at this time. Because of the recent precipitation, the agency said, “River levels are hazardous for recreational use on the main stem of the upper Potomac from Cumberland to Little Falls.” This advisory will last at least until Friday but may be continued if necessary. Meanwhile, for the latest information on Potomac River conditions, call the National Weather Service at 703/260-0305.

(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) the main stem of the river will see plenty of murky runoff from up above after all the heavy rains we’ve had. The fishing most likely will not be good after muddy, high water spills over Great Falls and Little Falls and comes into the District. However, if further rains stay away, things might improve by Sunday. In the tidal parts below town, the bass fishing will continue with lures that skim over the submersed vegetation that is found from below Wison Bridge to western Charles County and over on the Virginia side. Chatterbaits and Senko or Zero worms have done very well, even during the rains earlier this week. There’ll be increasing numbers of white perch noted in shoreline riprap and along the channel edges of weed carpets below Charles County’s Marshall Hall and into portions of King George County, Va. Big blue catfish continue to take bottom baits in most of the deep drops of the river, from the Piscataway to the Greenway Flats. If it’s rockfish you want, start hunting for them beyond St. Clements and head downriver, but many say the bigger stripers are heading out now, aiming at the Chesapeake Bay. Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park said plenty of trophy rockfish still are in the river.

“The shallower regions in the 20- to 40-foot depths were best in the Potomac,” he said. Umbrella rigs and parachute bucktails have done particularly well on the bottom of the river or close to the surface, “but not in the middle of the water column,” he said.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (***) — We’re crossing our fingers, hoping that by Saturday things have calmed down enough to once again show newly arriving schools of croakers between Bushwood and Cobb Island. The rain didn’t help, because croakers don’t like fresh water; they want it salty, and there’ll be discolored water from upriver rain runoff. However, I’m the eternal optimist. Things have to turn around, and the fishing will get much better.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Even if the water is discolored, a buzzbait or a Chatterbait with a plastic trailer on the hook will draw strikes from largemouths if you concentrate on submersed vegetation. Fat worms, such as the Senko and Zero, fished without a slip-sinker, also do the job.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) and St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) will turn up sunfish and a few decent bass, but St. Mary’s is the place to be if you want crappies. Look for them in the flooded timber. Rain doesn’t nearly affect these two lakes as much as it does some other impoundments and rivers.

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) There’ll be discolored water, but by the weekend the bass, sunfish and catfish will be awaiting.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Expect muddy conditions in the upper reaches of the reservoirs, but a few bass and crappies will be hooked by Saturday.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — (A lake guide is available by calling the Baltimore City’s reservoir office at 410-795-6151. A $50 annual permit is required from the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Rain or no rain, the fishing for bass will be good this weekend; so will your chances at getting crappies and sunfish.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (**) — Lamb, of the Tackle Box, said he had reports of good croaker catches in the mouth of the river and on the bay side of Naval Air Station, “where surfcasters did very well at night on bloodworms and squid,” he added, then mentioned that a 40-inch rockfish was caught on a Rat-L-Trap lure in the mouth of Goose Creek, just south of Cedar Point.

“The big fish was landed by a surfcaster after a 15-minute battle,” he said. Meanwhile, the upper river above Patuxent River Park and Hill’s Bridge is a mess.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the reservoir, the water surely has changed color by now because of the recent rains. In fact, murky conditions should be present in the uplake waters. Fountainhead ranger Smokey Davis said: “It kept many fishermen indoors over the weekend, but those who braved the elements caught some nice bass. Trick worms fished on a shaky-head jig did very well, as did Senkos and crawdad-pattern crankbaits.” Smokey also said that the catfish bite was great, with cut fish bait and chicken livers being preferred. The reservoir currently is stained and rising. The water surface temperature is 64 to 67 degrees.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) You’ll have good crappie, sunfish and largemouth bass opporunities this weekend. Burke isn’t as quickly affected by downpours as other waters are.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*) — Don’t plan on fishing in the upper river the next several days. The state Natural Resources Police said boating and other recreational uses of the river, including creeks and streams, should be avoided at this time. Because of the recent precipitation, the NRP said, “River levels are hazardous for recreational use on the main stem of the upper Potomac from Cumberland to Little Falls.” This advisory will last at least until Friday but may be continued if necessary. Meanwhile, for the latest information on Potomac River conditions, call the National Weather Service at 703/260-0305.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said to look for shallow water in coves and you’ll find bass there. Nelson prefers finesse worms and spinnerbaits, but we’ll bet a shallow crankbaits like the Mann’s Baby 1-Minus also will do the job. The state report said the smallmouth bass are staging to spawn on rocky flats and main lake points. Use red crankbaits or any lure that kind of resembles a crawfish. By the way, crankbaits around rocky shorelines and poits also has resulted in walleyes.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said: “Despite all the rain, water releases at the Conowingo Dam are within the normal range for this time of the year. It is possible that rains in the upper watershed of the Susquehanna could create a different situation later on this week.” With a little luck, there’ll be shad catches in the river and in Deer Creek areas, maybe even some white shad, but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it. I’m betting that muddy water will come from the Conowingo Dam and screw things up for anglers. We’ll see.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Rain or not, there’ll be a ton of striped bass caught this weekend with trollers scoring from the Bloody Point area near Bay Bridge south to the St. Mary’s County parts of the Chesapeake Bay. Parachute bucktails or umbrella rigs loaded with white or chartreuse Sassy Shads will see action along the ship channel edge from Hoopers Island Light and the H.I. Buoy outside of Solomons Island up the western side of the Bay to Chesapeake Beach. Even the northern stretches of the bay above South River continue to hold fish. Then along came Christy Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina in St. Mary’s County, who said, “The weekend was pretty busy because of the MSSA tournament. Even the wind on Friday didnt stop them. This week as we predicted, the rockfish are flying out of the rivers looking for bait. Our side (the western shore) seemed to be better for catching them. They were were found in 40 to 80 feet of water from Buoys 68 to 72 on the channel edge. The Triangle seemed particularly good.” Henderson also said there have been no flounder to speak of but she believes the flatties will be biting in St. Mary’s County by next week.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) said: “The Virginia trophy season began last Friday with scattered results. The weekend offered breezy conditions and threats of rain, yet many anglers found their efforts productive.” Pipkin said the best waters in his state thus far have pointed to an area between the Cut Channel and Smith Point’s midchannel area. “The east side of the channel north of Buoy 1 off the Great Wicomico River has been yielding a few fish, as has the eastern channel above the Northern Neck Reef,” he said, adding that the minimum size for rockfish in Virginia waters is 32 inches. Pipkin also pointed out that the croaker fishing is gaining momentum in the lower and middle Rappahannock River.

“Sizes average 10 inches with larger 16-inch specimens in the mix,” he said. Catches are spread out with reports from the bridge at White Stone up to the power lines below Tappahannock. On the Potomac river there are reports of these hardheads bending poles outside of Lewisetta this week.

From the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, master angler Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported that the flounder bite wasn’t all it should have been, but the tautogs were biting. “Excellent catches are coming from the structure and pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the lower Bay wrecks,” she said. “Anglers using fiddlers and crabs are experiencing steady action with fish ranging from 4 to 6 pounds.” Several trophy catches with fish up to 17 pounds have come these areas.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The upper river is a mess after heavy rains visited here, but by the time you reach Cambridge and the general mouth area you should find a few rockfish — most are throwbacks — and perhaps a croaker or two and plenty of white perch that like to hang in stone riprap stretches.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) It rained, but this river can take it. Even though there’s some discoloration and higher water, the bass in the upper river continue to smack the daylights out of shallow-running crankbaits among waterlogged tree roots and such.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The mouth of the river sees rockfish action, but not much has happened in the upper river stretches as far as bass are concerned.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Jim Hemby of the Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (www.jimhemby.com) said the striped bass fishing has been excellent. “Limits are common with most fish averaging 8 to 10 pounds, although on the days the [females] feed, the averages go way up.” Hemby recommends that rockfish fans should concentrate on early or late hours, working in low-light conditions over shallows flats and on main lake points and shallow humps that are close to deep water. For anglers casting artificial baits, Redfins, Chuggers and Spooks are the lures that can do the job over shallow points and flats. As the fish move deeper, go for Sea Shads, Sassy Shads, or Berkley’s 5-inch Power Mullets. But Hermby said the biggest stripers will come on live gizzard shads. May also is a super month for largemouth bass. “Water temperatures are more stable,” said Hemby. “Bass are in a post-spawn mode downlake and [some are still] spawning in the mid- and uplake areas, and they’re hungry.” The guide recommended tube baits, Senkos, Carolina-rigged lizards and willowleaf-bladed spinnerbaits for various conditions.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (*) — The river was a mess after the heavy rains. It probably will not be good and fishable by the weekend. If it is, some shad are cavorting about in the Fredericksburg sector.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Even when it’s discolored, the catfish, bass and crappies will bite. Don’t ever give up on this lake.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappie and bass, as well as fat channel catfish, will be available by the weekend. As of Wednesday, the lake looked way off-color, but the fish here are used to it.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Murky water, but bass and stripers are possible, with crappies jumping on minnows, held off the bottom by bobbers, around bridge pilings in the feeder creeks.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) High water and not the best-looking ever, but the big catfish like bottom-fished cut baits anyway. They don’t care if it rains.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Flow is swift directly below Richmond, but some large blue catfish can be caught around the Dutch Gap area.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) A few bass, crappies and fat catfish aree available, no matter what the rain does.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said: “Forget it right now, but by the weekend it might be fishable. Before the rains came, we caught some very nice smallmouth bass on spinnerbaits.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Boat docks, brushy spots, rock piles — all hold largemouth bass and occasionally also some smallmouths of note. Senko worms have done a nice job on the bass.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (*) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) I’d say forget it for a few days, but if rains stay away now, the fishing for smallmouth bass will be very good next week.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Sue Foster of the Oyster Bay Tackle Shop in Ocen City said the water temperature is only 51.3 degrees. She said last weekend wasn’t much to cheer about what with overcast skies and occasional rain. However, some visitors caught flounder in the back bay. “Some dog sharks, skates and a few stripers were caught in the surf [and] tautogs were pretty active along the bayside and offshore,” she said.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Flounder will bite again this weekend at Wachapreague, Oyster and Quinby, but strong wind can ruin a proper boat drift. Master angler Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said some recreational and commercial black drum catches have been made in the seaside inlets near Quinby. The black drum will bite in the ocean inlets and in the lower bay this weekend. “Visions of blueline tilefish continue to lure boats over the 50-fathom curve to check out the scene first hand. Nice black sea bass are available on deepwater wrecks, where limits of big fish are the norm right now,” she said. Captain Wes Feller, skipper of the Rudee Mariner, out of the Fishing Center, put his crew on excellent sea bass action at the Triangle Wrecks last week. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

• 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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