- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Maryland and Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay will provide the best weekend fishing, but a couple of “ifs” enter the picture that can quickly alter the outlook.

If it gets rather windy, it will not be good for boaters trying to find slowly but steadily arriving ocean-size striped bass. If it doesn’t howl, you might be able to copy what one lower Potomac River troller reportedly did. I don’t have a name, but the word is out that a 49-inch-long, 52-pound rockfish was caught near St. George Island.

That fish could be the vanguard of hordes of large stripers that should begin to show up in Maryland waters as they leave the Atlantic, enter the Chesapeake to fatten up on baitfish, in the process delivering memorable trolling and lure jigging trips that can last until mid-December.

My St. Mary’s County contact, Ken Lamb, said rockfish abound in the Bay and in the rivers. Even the shallow parts where shoreline anglers can cast a bucktail, trimmed with a wiggly trailer, deliver the goods.

“The bay has breaking fish all up and down the ship channel with most measuring 20 inches or better, and some are up in the mid-30s,” said Lamb, the proprietor of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park.

Schools of legal rockfish and some bluefish continue to roam practically all of the Chesapeake, from its upper ends near the Susquehanna Flats down to Virginia’s Northen Neck. Many are surfacing now and then chasing bait. If the weather is kind, this will be a super weekend for the Bay’s anglers.

(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) there’ll be hungry blue and channel catfish, even some bass. After a wild week of rainy, sunny, windy weather the river’s largemouth bass population wasn’t always in the mood to look at an artificial lure. We caught some on Rattlin’ Thin Fin crankbaits, various soft plastics, even a Mann’s Sting Ray grub, but the fishing has seen better days. That will change, however, as more settled weather is forecast for the weekend. Slowly dying marine grasses can make lure retrieval a chore now and then.

In the more saline waters below the Route 301 bridge in Charles and King George counties, some of the local trollers have done well on 18- to 23-inch stripers, but few as good as one boater who reportedly caught a 49-inch-long, 52-pound rockfish near St. George Island this week.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — There are a few legal 18-inch stripers in the river close to the mouth, but the fishing has been slow.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (**) — The creek was an absolute stinker this week, but that should change as the weather settles down. Still, some bass were caught on spinnerbaits, Rattlin’ Thin Fin crankbaits and small craw tails.

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) didn’t show any action earlier this week as far as I can determine. The rain is to blame.

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) also suffered from people staying away because of the cold rain. Things will perk up for bass and catfish anglers this weekend.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Start seriously hunting for slowly schooling crappies. They’ve been widely scattered, but it’s time. When the deer enter the rut, it’s time to look for the crappies with small darts and jigs, maybe some tipped with a tiny minnow and fished under a bobber. I have not heard of any decent size bass that were caught, but that will change soon.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (**) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Slow going for all species right now, but smallmouths, largemouths and crappies will be on the prowl this weekend. Bad weather has given them lockjaw.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Because of recent rain storms, not many boaters tried, but keeper-size rockfish are in the river, and I mean anywhere from the mouth clear up to within sight of the Benedict bridge. The white perch now are reported to be in deep water, some of them in 70 feet, near Solomons.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (**) — Fountainhead Regional Park ranger Smokey Davis said the Fountainhead Bass Club held its Tom Mutton Memorial Fall Classic, a two-day, end-of-the-year tournament. Springfield’s Mike Keller, along with John Dillenger of Manassas, won with a 12-fish limit that weighed 42.73 pounds. “The winners caught all their fish in the river arm of the reservoir, primarily using spinnerbaits and shad or crawdad-color crankbaits in deep river bends that contained blowdowns or stump fields,” said Davis. “The crappie bite continues to be spotty, and no word on catfish,” he added. The reservoir is at full pool, slightly stained, with water temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Last week’s optimistic crappie outlook was cancelled by the rain, but try for the “specks” this weekend. Bass will go for a slow-rolled spinnerbait or a Shaky-Head worm.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ regional fisheries manager, Alan Klotz, surveyed the North Branch of the river’s Black Bass Catch-and-Release Area near Cumberland. “The river is loaded with scrappy 8- to 10-inch smallmouth bass, with plenty of chunky 12- to 15-inch smallies to bend your rod,” he said. Klotz also passed along word that the bass appeared to be close to shore, hanging around wood debris and submerged tree branches. The river between Knoxville and Dickerson needed some of the rain, but lots of floating grass can make smallmouth bass fishing difficult now.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) echoed the DNR’s Keith Lockwood, who reported that the water temperature at this impoundment dropped into the 40s. That, however, will spur on bass, pike and perch to fatten up because winter is coming. Regional fisheries manager Alan Klotz said: “We have been surveying Deep Creek Lake this past week as part of the annual comprehensive fish community study. Based on our observations, don’t store your fishing rods just yet. Most game fish species are in shallow shoreline areas around the grass beds, feeding heavily on juvenile panfish. Largemouth bass, chain pickerel, northern pike, walleye, and jumbo yellow perch can be found in abundance in this type of habitat right up until ice-up. We also observed schools of smallmouth bass in shallow near rocky points, probably foraging for crayfish.”

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — The Susquehanna Flats and the river mouth area shows water temperatures in the mid-50s. Fair to good striper fishing is reported from the mouth clear up to the Conowingo Dam. Swimbaits, crankbaits, bucktails and Striper Kandy lures can do the job. And how about Herbert Ferguson, who was fishing in the Port Deposit area last Friday when he tied into a 40 1/2-inch-long striped bass, according to the DNR.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Widely scattered schools of rockfish, many still traveling with 2- to 4-pound blues, are noted from the upper Bay near the Susquehanna River mouth down to the Bay Bridges, the Choptank area and across to the Calvert Cliffs and beyond. The recent wind and rainy weather has kept most boaters indoors, but here’s hoping the trollers and bottom bait bouncers can score again maybe Thursday, certainly by Friday. Brothers Joe and Bob Greer have been slow-trolling regular Red-Eye rattle lures like the kind bass fishermen use, and they’ve scored on stripers right outside the mouth of St. Jerome’s Creek. Similar catches are made in the Bay Bridge area — in shallow water during low-light hours. Bucktail and rattle lure casters also have caught rockfish from the Point Lookout State Park pier, but it’s no use when the sun is high and bright. You have to do this at dawn or dusk.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (804/580-7292; www.ingrambaymarina.com) from his Northern Neck marina, reported: “Cool nights have brought the Bay water temperature down to 60 degrees, with slightly lower temperatures in [the rivers.] Striped bass fishing continues to improve in our waters as large concentrations of fish are moving down the Bay.”

Pipkin pointed out that southern Maryland waters have filled with rockfish who have left the northern parts of the Bay, and they are coming into the Northern Neck waters and provide great action. Pipkin said there have been schooling fish at Smith Point and from outside of Ingram Bay down to the Dividing Creek area.

“The mouth of the Rappahannock River is also holding surface-feeding fish,” he said. “On many occasions, these fish lend themselves well to casting and jigging.”

Down around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel some decent-size tautogs are hooked, and everyone down this way expects the ocean striper fishing to get underway soon.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Local casters, jiggers, and trollers agree that the river has been outstanding since the recent nor’easter wind. Metal squid, such as the Hopkins or bucktails, as well as soft plastic Bass Kandy lures will score when jigged in the deeper holes from the mouth on to the river areas inside.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass catches took a dip during the rain, but there’s no reason why crankbaits and jig’n’craws cast into flooded trees and shoreline brush shouldn’t deliver some feisty largemouths.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) There’s murky water in the Marshyhope and Delaware’s Broad creek. However, things will clear up by the weekend, and the bass in the feeders and in the main stem will look at crankbaits, spinnerbaits and various soft plastic lures. If you happen to be in the Vienna area before the sun rises, cast a Rat-L-Trap or Red Eye rattle bait toward sandy river points and see if a rockfish won’t attack it.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Guide Jim Hemby (www.JimHemby.com; 540/967-3313) has no trouble finding striped bass, but the guys who are looking for largemouth bass ought to read what a local tournament fisherman had to say about a contest on this lake earlier in the week.

“It was very tough,” he said. In two days and 14 combined hours of fishing he caught five fish — two keeper bass, two smaller specimens and one bluegill. In fact, the 30-odd fellows who competed over a two-day period caught only a total of 102 bass. By any measure, that’s not good.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — Maybe it will be good enough by the weekend, but I suppose the heavy rains turned the upper and most of the lower waters into a mess. If it clears, the upcoming weeks will be super for smallmouth bass.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappie and bass catches slowed during the most recent changing weather front, but by Saturday I’ll bet the crappies and bass will bite.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Even if it rains, as happened earlier this week, the catfish bite remains good. The bass and crappies should turn on by the weekend.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Good bass chances in all the lake’s feeder creeks. Use soft plastics, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Some rockfish are hooked by bass anglers casting hard and soft jerkbaits around lake points and creek entrances when the light is low.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Water levels are low as the lake managers do a draw-down in anticipation of winter melt runoff. But bass, crappies and catfish are available even if the launching of a boat can be difficult at times.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Richmond-area water is discolored, but blue catfish will take a juicy fish fillet held tight on the bottom with a sinker. As always, the Dutch Gap area is good for the “cats.”

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Some decent bass catches are made with soft plastics, spinnerbaits and medium-depth crankbaits. Catfish are hungry. For local water condition information call River’s Rest at 804/829-2753.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) From Front Royal, river specialist Dick Fox said: “I spent several days on the river earlier this week, and the fishing was very good. On Sunday I caught over 25 smallmouth bass, also some largemouths, plus a bonus 25-inch walleye. The fish have left the shallow water and most are caught in 8 to 12 feet of water. Most of the fish related to rocks and other hard cover. The best bait, by far, was a small beaver-tailed grub in green pumpkin with the tip of the tail dipped in chartreuse dye. Floating leaves are a nuisance if you’re running a jet motor.”

Fox said that even after the rain, the river hasn’t risen much. He is certain the weekend will be fine for fishing. In fact, he believes recent rains have helped because it will produce more current that will see more bass in deep river pockets.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Stripers are in the feeder rivers, and they like jigged bucktails, metal spoons or soft jerkbaits like the Zoom Fluke. Bass go after spinnerbaits, and one local wag said, “If it ain’t chartreuse, there ain’t no use.” He meant to be sure to cast chartreuse-skirted spinnerbaits.” Crankbaits in crawfish patterns also work.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass should go after a variety of lures in deep and shallow water even after the recent rains.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (**) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The fishing has not been exemplary. In fact, if it weren’t for the bluefish that come into the surf and enter the Ocean City Inlet, the fishing would be terrible. But the blues save the day, supported by increasing numbers of stripers. Gotcha lures and metal squids will do the job, as will a smartly cast Rat-L-Traps in 3/4-ounce weights. Because of high winds and rain storms, the offshore fishing has been put on hold.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From Virginia Beach, Ken Neill reported: “Windy conditions have continued to put a damper on fishing activity.” Neill said even when a boat makes it out to the far offshore waters, the results can be mixed. Only a few tuna have been hooked, although the tuna action farther south, for boats out of Oregon Inlet, N.C., has been super. Neill also said, “It’s time to start looking for large bluefish in the area of the Triangle Wrecks.” 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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