- 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.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) The fishing can be fine now if only the weather will cooperate. If it rains strongly, the upper ends of the reservoirs will take on a discolored look. If not, fish the drops alongside rock beds and lake points with deep crankbaits or jig’n’craw lures. The bass are there. Crappies will begin to take small darts, jigs or live minnows, usually fished under a bobber around any kind of brush or fallen shoreline trees.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (**) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County) The bass fishing has been slow for some reason, although this is the time of year for good catches of smallmouths and largemouths. On top of all that, the predicted weekend weather might not help matters.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — White perch are very active in the creeks, said Ken Lamb, who should know. He lives along on of them and often casts his Beetlespin lures and other attractors for the tasty perch. But larger fish also beckon. The river is full of stripers that go after topwater plugs and most any other lure. “Trollers have found some trout mixed with rockfish,” Lamb said.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (**) — We had a wind-blown, rainy day on the lake Saturday. Few fish were hooked, especially not the crappies we were after. However, largemouth bass weren’t tough to find. Small and large spinnerbaits work, as will short “fat” worms, like the Senko, also crappie jigs under a bobber. The bass apparently like them better than the species they’re intended for.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappies should be on the menu this weekend, but we don’t know what the weather will do. Bass have gone after rattle baits and medium to deep-diving Little “N” crankbaits in crawfish colors.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — Weather forecasters predict rain this week, and the very low river could really use it. Smallmouth bass, walleyes and plenty of redbreast sunfish await you from above Knoxville down to Montgomery County’s Seneca Breaks. Small grubs, tubes and crankbaits will do the job on bass and walleyes.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said the water is chilling down considerably. He’s fishing rocky points for largemouth and smallmouth bass, but if it’s walleyes you’re after, work the sharply declining rocky drops alongside lake points.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Inside the river, the rocky shores at Port Deposit hold a few fat bass, as do the dock pilings, bulkheads and shorelines down around Havre de Grace’s Tydings Marina. Slowly fished spinnerbaits, plastic worms and shallow crankbaits now do the job. A few keeper rockfish are available on the Flats outside the mouth.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND:45-75 miles (***) — If wind and rain don’t interfere a boater could run along and have a ball chasing breaking rockfish and blues from the upper Bay near the Chester River mouth down to the Virginia state line. Of course, there are many more fish under the surfacing schools, so lure trollers can also score. The liveliners, who depend on live spot to attract bites from stripers that can measure up to 30 inches, are complaining that their favorite baitfish is disappearing as the water chills. However, some are found in the Patuxent River mouth and the captains working the Gas Dock, Cove Point, Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and other waters can connect on some nice specimens. If it’s croakers you’re after, it’s time to hang it up. Most of them are heading out. The bluefish will be next, but they’re still hanging around.

VIRGINIA:75-150 miles (***) — Around the Northern Neck waters, a lot of stripers and bluefish have made their presence known, but with weather changes on the way, things are uncertain. Farther down the Bay, Ken Neill reports that large Norfolk spot are still biting, but they have become harder to find and this latest blow may put an end to this fishery. “Speckled trout are being caught in the inlets and up on Poquoson Flats,” Neill said. “Trollers have been successful in the Elizabeth River [and] red drum fishing has been very good. Puppy drum are being caught in the inlets, around Goodwin Island, in the Elizabeth River, and really, in the shallows everywhere.” Neill also told us that medium-sized redfish are being caught around the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and few large rockfish are being hooked by bait chunkers and by anglers live-lining their baitfish over the tubes of the Bridge-Tunnel.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 East to Cambridge) There could be plenty of bluefish and rockfish action in the greater mouth of the river, but what will the wind do? It all hinges on the weather this weekend. Upstream, from Denton to Greensboro, some bass are hooked on crankbaits dragged through shoreline wood and spatterdock.

POCOMOKE RIVER:140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Crankbaits and scented PowerWorms turn up a few nice bass in the upper river. The good part about the upper Pocomoke is that it is rarely affected when strong winds arrive.

NANTICOKE RIVER:120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Still not the best place for bass this week. A few are taken on 4-inch finesse worms, especially inside Marshyhope Creek. But that’s pretty much it.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA:82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Arrive in the dark hours and slowly motor up to the splits where rockfish have been surfacing, feeding and chasing bait. Carry a spinning rod with a rattle bait, a jerkbait, a topwater popper — all will work as long as you don’t run through the stripers and make them dive. The bass fishing has been quite good, with plastic worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits doing a good job inside the deeper coves, around lake points and anywhere where shallow water meets the deep. That means look for channels inside the creeks where the bass sometimes stack up.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER:47-100 miles (***) — Keep your fingers crossed for the weekend. If heavy rains arrive, it will ruin the smallmouth bass fishing pretty fast. Tidal water bass catches have only been fair.

LAKE BRITTLE:59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The bass and the crappies will look at a 1/8-ounce tube jig, as well as small Beetlespin spinnerbaits. Catfish and sunfish are available in good numbers.

LAKE ORANGE:75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) A few fat bass have been hooked on crankbaits and the catfish and crappie chances are good.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) “Get into the creeks and start throwing crankbaits and Senko-style worms now,” lake resident Marty Magone said. The bass are flocking to the lake’s upper feeder creeks.

KERR RESERVOIR:185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Large catfish, fat crappies and plenty of bass make this an outstanding choice for the weekend — unless it rains and the wind blows. That can ruin an outing.

JAMES RIVER:115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish at Dutch Gap. I know, this is beginning to sound like a broken record. But also start going into the feeder creeks, such as Walker’s Creek, and pitch soft plastics into the shoreline wood. If that doesn’t work, fire a few rattle baits toward stickups.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER:135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) The bass have shown a liking for Rat-L-Traps, shallow running Baby 1-Minus lures and, as always, plastic worms. Upper river’s brushy areas hold plenty of crappies.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER:75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal angler Dick Fox said the smallmouth bass are slowly heading to deeper water. Small crankbaits and tubes are the ticket, he added. “Bluegills are everywhere and they’re attacking just about everything you throw at them,” Fox said.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Docks, bulkheads, boat houses and lake points are holding good numbers of largemouth bass, sometimes even a fat smallmouth. Lipless rattle baits, crankbaits and soft plastic worms will draw hits.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) It all depends on the weather. If it pours buckets, it will eventually affect the fishing in a negative way if the water becomes stained. But if it doesn’t, watch out. The smallmouth bass will inhale nearly everything you cast toward rocky pools, riffles and some of the shoreline trees that have fallen.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND:153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Forget it if it blows. But if it doesn’t, the surf might turn up a bluefish or maybe a skate or redfish. Some visitors are hooking tautogs around the inlet where bluefish and stripers also show up now and then. The far offshore canyon waters deliver a fine mix of dolphinfish, white marlin and fat yellowfin tuna. However, so awful much depends on the weather.

VIRGINIA:210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From Virginia’s part of the Atlantic, angler Ken Neill said, “Some large red drum have been caught along the ocean front at Sandbridge. Flounder are active along drop-offs in the lower bay and around the coastal wrecks.” Apparently, small bluefish are all over the place and large chopper blues should begin to show at the Triangle Wrecks over the next few weeks. “Offshore, tuna fishing is excellent if you can find a day calm enough to get out there,” said Neill, who pointed out that the best hookups for tuna come from the Triple 0’s on down to the point. “Yellowfin, blackfin, and bigeye are all being caught,” he added. 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. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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