- 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)


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.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Start thinking of crappie fishing. The water is getting cool enough where the speckled fish begin to school up around sunken brush, shoreline ledges and in the backs of coves. The largemouth bass are willing to take a hard look at a shallow- to medium-depth crankbait now. If that doesn’t work, a 4-inch plastic worm will. Think of mixed browns, reds and chartreuse this time of year as far as lures are concerned.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — You’ll catch smallmouth bass from Knoxville to Point of Rocks and onward to Dickerson, White’s Ferry and Edwards Ferry. Small crankbaits, jigs, tubes and spinners always are a good idea. Channel catfish are hungry, and now and then a crankbait or colorful plastic grub will find a walleye or two.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said largemouth bass aren’t all that hard to come by now that the summer boating crowd has departed. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood said he and his son, Kyle, fished the lake during cool, windy, rainy conditions over the past weekend, but found the smallmouth bass to be active along the shore. “We caught about a dozen just fishing medium golden shiners near rocky structures,” Lockwood said. “The highlight of the day was when Kyle thought he hooked into a nice walleye. However, it turned out to be his first northern pike.”

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — If you enjoy hooking and releasing small rockfish, many of them undersized, there are many juvenile stripers close to the mouth of the river. Farther in, the largemouth bass hang around dock pilings, riprap and sunken trees. Spinnerbaits, soft plastics and crankbaits turn the trick.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Good mixed fishing action for bluefish and striped bass can be had from the upper Bay down to the Virginia state line. The problem for many upper Bay trollers now is the sizes of the rockfish. Many are just under the 18-inch limit, but enough keepers are caught to mae outings worthwhile. The Bay Bridges by the way, especially the pilings nearest to the Sandy Point channel rock line, are good for white perch that like anything from bloodworm pieces to artificial FishBites to small spinnerbaits. A lot of the Bay’s trollers are awaiting the arrival of large rockfish from the Atlantic as they enter the Bay to fatten up on schools of alewifes. Although the water temperature has dropped, it is not yet cold enough to expect hordes of trophy-sized stripers to be here. In due time, they’ll arrive.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com or call 804/580-7292) said the recent wind hampered many small-boaters, but the catches will be good.

“Striped bass fishing is showing signs of improvement again this week,” said Pipkin, who reminds anglers that the Virginia striped bass season re-opens Oct. 4. “Both numbers and size appear to be on the rise. The rockfish are running 16 to 20 inches on average, with fluctuation in size from day to day.”

Pipkin said when the season starts up again Sunday, you’ll have a good chance of tying into stripers and bluefish. “Trolling and chumming will be tried as these fish are schooling in the lower rivers, along the channel edges of the Bay and on the flats below Tangier Island,” he added and also pointed out that the mouth of the Rappahannock River held a mix of rockfish, blues and some mackerel this week. Down the Bay, at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, some fat flounder are hooked, and large Norfolk spot are found throughout the Hampton Roads region.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Striped bass catches for trollers and even surface lure casters has been good in the river mouth but now and then also far inside the waterway. The bass catches up around Denton, Martinak and other upper river stretches can be good for crankbait and spinnerbait users.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Dropping tides can bring plenty of hits if you cast medium-diving crankbaits in fire-tiger and rawfish patterns. Most of the bass will be small, but there are some whoppers that live among the waterlocked tree roots on the river’s shores.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Expect fair to good bass fishing in the Marshyhope, but the better catches actually are made up in the Seaford, Del., area and also above the town. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits will do well now.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) October is a great month to fish at Anna. Early mornings might have you run into a school of surface-feeding stripers. Cast plastic swimbaits, RedEye or Rat-L-Trap rattle baits, maybe a topwater Chug Bug. The bass will come into rip-rap shallows, lake points, sunken branches and brush piles to feed on bait. Crankbaits can do the job, but if they don’t, use a plastic worm.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper river, above Fredericksburg, should deliver the smallmouth bass, while the tidal waters between Hicks Landing and Port Royal show bass in shoreline wood where crankbaits or plastic worms will attract strikes.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Expect some of the crappies to start schooling and bass to be more than willing to look at a rattle lure like the Rat-L-Trap, as well as a 1/4-ounce crawfish-color crankbait.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass and crappies will turn on. A live minnow under a “cork” will draw hits from both species. However, the bass also will look at a plastic worm or crankbait.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) The feeder creeks have been good for bass, and the upper end of the lake also has shown decent bass action for topwater and “fat” worm users.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass are active inside the creeks and backs of coves where shallow crankbaits will draw hits. Don’t forget that this is the place for whopper crappies, and the speckled wonders are beginning to school up.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Big blue catfish are always on the menu, but this week there have been no reports of decent bass catches. Downstream areas provide stripers, but the rockfish season won’t open again until Sunday.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Bass, crappies, white perch, catfish and even a few small stripers have been showing up inside the middle to upper parts of the river.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) If further rains stay away, you’ll get into the smallmouth bass this weekend. Zoom Flukes, grubs, small crankbaits and tube lures — all will work.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Water levels are up because of recent heavy rains, but bass and stripers are available. They’re feeding heavily on baitfish, and any lure that fairly imitates a crippled shad or minnow could see action.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The smallmouth bass know cold weather is on its way. Cast and retrieve 1/4-ounce crankbaits, in-line spinners, grubs and tubes and you’ll find smallies that think your lures are food.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore headboaters catch sea bass over artificial reef sites. Many are too small to keep. The surf rod crowd is waiting for the annual run of channel bass (redfish, red drum), but strong east winds have made fishing almost impossible. Out in the deep canyon waters, many catch-and-release white marlin accounts are reaching the shore and if the weather calms down you’ll be able to go after wahoo, dolphin and yellowfin tuna that are still out in the blue water stretches of the Atlantic.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ocean angler Ken Neill said: “When it seemed that the billfish bite could not get any better, it did. An already fantastic bite turned epic last week. Every boat out there had a great catch.”

Neill mentioned that one boat, the Backlash, released a blue marlin and 41 white marlin. Neill said that the only thing that has been able to slow down the billfish anglers was plenty of windy days that kept the boats inside their marinas. The offshore fishing also included dolphinfish and wahoo, while to the south, in North Carolina waters, good catches of yellowfin and blackfin tuna are possible. “A few large amberjack and a good number of jack crevalle are hanging around the Chesapeake Light Tower,” said Neill, who added that oceanfront fishermen have been hooking Spanish mackerel and bluefish. 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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