- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chesapeake Bay boaters who know how, when and where to go after quality striped bass are beginning to salivate in anticipation of the arrival of ocean rockfish — and that’s where the fun begins. There are fishing insiders who swear that the only way to tell a new rockfish that has come in from the Atlantic is to check for the presence of sea lice in the gills, but marine biologists don’t always agree with that.

Gill lice are a common parasite among coastal and inland striped bass, but the scientists say the presence of this parasite actually decreases if the fish lives in waters that reach salinity levels of 32 parts per thousand or more. In other words, ocean stripers actually should not play host to those critters. Either way, local striper fishermen now talk about sea lice.

Meanwhile, 40-inch-plus trophy specimens are not yet in the Maryland waters, but plenty of good-sized rockfish are found at the Cedar Point rock pile (around the old lighthouse foundation) and many other spots. Our friend Ken Lamb said boaters and even some shoreline anglers hook stripers up and down the Patuxent and Potomac rivers. The same goes for the Choptank River mouth and the False Channel. From the upper Bay down to the Calvert Cliffs sector, expect a good mix of bluefish and 18- to 20-inch stripers.

Just in time for the reopening of the Virginia striper season Sunday, the waters of the Northern Neck are showing good numbers of rockfish, as is true also of the mouth of the Rappahannock River.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — The fishing begins at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) where blue catfish and a fair number of smallmouth and largemouth bass are being hooked, then continues into town around the Columbia Island Yacht Basin, Hains Point and on to the Fox Ferry rock line. As the water cools, largemouth bass are taken on crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics in good numbers, many of them on sunken wood. The same holds for the Spoils Cove, parts of the Belle Haven coves, Hunting Creek, Broad Creek and Piscataway Creek. Bass have also been hooked on underwater rock piles just inside the mouth of Dogue Creek. Now move into Pohick Bay or Pomonkey Creek, the Bitter’s Rock area and down to Occoquan Bay and the river. Ditto for Belmont Bay, where early morning topwater poppers can score heavily. The stretch along the Leesylvania bulkheads and down inside the Potomac and Aquia creeks also produces. In the more saline waters, say from Buoy 8 downstream past the Port Tobacco River and Buoy 5 (Mathias Point) into the river parts around the Route 301 bridge and beyond, rockfish oblige to trollers and casters using small bucktails, dressed with a strip of pork rind or a plastic worm in light colors. Rockfish trollers also find action from St. Clements to St. George’s islands, the mouth of the St. Mary’s River and down toward Smith Creek and Cornfield Harbor, but also check out the Virginia sides of the river in all instances.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — Some trollers and lure casters score on stripers at the buoy rocks at the river’s mouth.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — We’ve noticed a definite trend of bass moving from dense grass beds to wooded shorelines. Not that the grass and marsh edges didn’t give up bass — they did. But the sizes of the fish appeared to increase quite a lot when the focus shifted to sunken trees and wood of all kinds, using brown plastic worms, crawfish-pattern crankbaits and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for sunfish and maybe a bass or two. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the crappies are beginning to school, a reader said. Look for them in flooded timber and around brushy points by simply fishing a 1/16-ounce white/red shad dart under a bobber. The bass like small crankbaits, 4-inch PowerWorms and early morning poppers.

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) The bass and catfish are on the feed. They know cold days are coming and now are reacting to it. Try for bass with medium-depth 1/4-ounce crankbaits in brown/red or fire-tiger colors.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Crappies are beginning to become more cooperative. Tiny darts and jigs 2 or 3 feet under a bobber can turn the trick if you cast toward sunken brush. Crankbaits and jig’n’craws in brown/red or junebug will be looked at by the bass.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Smallmouth bass have jumped on crawfish crankbaits along rocky drop-offs around lake points. The largemouth bass aren’t bashful either now that they’re feeling cooler water temperatures. Soft plastics and crankbaits are recommended when looking at stick-ups and brushy areas in the backs of coves and around lake points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park said there are still plenty of Norfolk spot in the mouth of the river. “I caught a fine mess of white perch in the creeks using a Beetlespin on Sunday afternoon,” Lamb said. Rockfish are all up and down the river, and some of them are truly good-sized specimens.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Ranger Smokey Davis of Fountainhead Regional Park said a Fountainhead Bass Club tournament was won with six bass weighing 20 1/2 pounds. “The fish were caught in the Bull Run arm of the reservoir on Shaky-Head jig worms,” Davis said. “The biggest fish weighed 5.92 pounds.” Davis said as the weather cools the bass are moving into the creeks such as Wolf Run, Ax Handle and Little Beaver. Shallow running crankbaits have worked, as have spinnerbaits and Senko worms. “The fall crappie bite is just beginning,” Davis added.

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