- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

With predictions of a change in weather, including the possibility of strong rain and wind, the fishing outlook for the weekend isn’t rosy. This is one time when I’d actually be glad to be proved wrong, however, because from the Chesapeake Bay into the area’s tidal and freshwater rivers, the fish might be feeding actively. They know lean winter months aren’t far away.

As far as the tidal Potomac’s bass chances are concerned, they could be good, but annoying hordes of out-of-town tournament bass fishermen will again be on the river this weekend.

“They’re beating this river to death with these never-ending bass contests,” said a Charles County boater at Smallwood State Park who had a tough time finding a space for his vehicle and trailer in the faciltiy’s parking lot — and it was only Tuesday.

Apparently, the tournament fishermen had arrived early to practice for the weekend event.

One thing is certain: After a conversation with a state official who works on tidal bass programs, don’t look for any relief. The state apparently believes these endless fishing competitions do no harm. All this despite the recent 600-plus dead bass that were found after they were released “alive” by a tournament group. When will the bureaucrats who make the rules begin to believe that delayed mortality of bass — after poorly oxygenated fish are kept in tight confinement nearly all day — is real?

Chesapeake Bay boaters who rely on live Norfolk spot to attract bites from stripers that can measure 30 inches or longer are having a dilemma. As water temperatures dropped, their favorite bait has disappeared into deep ledges that are found in the mouths of rivers.

“They’re hard to catch now, and that presents a problem for live-liners who need bait,” said Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box. But he said plenty of areas near the Gas Docks, Little Cove Point, Second Beach and the nuclear power plant all have loads of rockfish that will gobble up any live spot offered. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood says the Bay’s fishermen have no trouble finding bluefish and stripers from the upper portions in Kent County down to the Bay bridges and on to the middle and lower parts of Bay.

(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, “Some of our people here are catching a few smallmouth and largemouth bass and, of course, the always present blue catfish. ” Boat rentals will remain open at least until the end of the month. The bass fishing picture on the upper parts of the tidal river is promising. Only bad weather and yet another large bass tournament (one of them is coming out of Smallwood State Park this weekend) can ruin it. We’ve caught bass on shallow crankbaits or green pumpkin Berkley jigger craws, cast toward marsh bank edges, open pockets in the milfoil beds, and around sunken shoreline wood.

In the saltier water below Wade’s Bay, Buoys 11, 8 and 5 have given up keeper rockfish, but it’s an up-and-down fishery. One day the stripers strike trolled or cast lures; another day you could swear there were no fish in the river. In the very lowest parts of the river, near the Bay, trollers find a good mix of bluefish and keeper stripers.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — It has been slow going for rockfish trollers outside the mouth, but some keepers are found with cast-and-retrieved Rat-L-Trap or Sassy Shad lures at the buoy rocks in the river mouth. White perch are available inside the river around boat docks, duck blinds and grass-bed edges, where a small Beetlespin lure will draw strikes.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Because of the large bass tournament at Smallwood State Park, the place will be overrun with boaters. However, if you can find a quiet spot along a marsh edge or some sunken wood, small craws cast into drop-off water, or shallow and medium crankbaits, will get bass. Most are small, however.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) offers sunfish and some bass. But it’s not my favorite. However, at St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass, pickerel and fat sunfish have been biting. Not only that, slowly but surely the crappies will begin to school up and the fun will begin for jig-and-bobber fishermen.

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 fishing hasn’t been all that good, but panfish and channel catfish are willing if you are.

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