- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

The fishing this week has been outstanding, and the cooler night temperatures that rejuvenated the water must get some of the credit. That goes for the upper Potomac River’s smallmouth bass, the largemouths in the tidal parts of the river and the bluefish or stripers in the Chesapeake Bay.

Ken Lamb, of Tackle Box in Lexington Park, said, “Spanish mackerel are plentiful all up and down the ship channel in the main stem of the Bay.”

The Spanish, as they’re called, have been caught as far north in the Bay as Bloody Point and Eastern Bay, with the tasty fish roaming wide areas from there down into the Virginia portions of the Chesapeake.

Mixed bags of 18- to 24-inch stripers and young bluefish are caught clear up to the Chester River and the Susquehanna Flats area, with heavy concentrations of blues and rockfish found in the middle Bay from Anne Arundel County to Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. Lamb said, “Big concentrations of Spanish and blues are in the mouth of the Patuxent River at the Three-Legged Marker, Little Cove Point (Buoy 77), Cedar Point and Cedar Point Hollow. Rockfish can show up in this mix most anytime.”

Red drum continue to be hooked by trollers using gold or silver color spoons. The red drum, also known as redfish or channel bass, often travel in schools near the Target Ship, the Middlegrounds and Buoy 72 area. When you troll sizes 17 or 18 spoons through one of those schools, be prepared to see all the rods double over.

(Ratings key: ****=excellent fishing; ***=good; **=fair; *=poor)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER:35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461), it’s pretty much the same story: blue and channel catfish, some bass, maybe a walleye or an errant striper now and then. From the District down to the western portions of Charles County, the largemouth bass catches in the main stem and the feeder creeks can be impressive.

Most catch patterns point to early morning topwater poppers along the edges of grass beds or spatterdock, as well as using weedless grass “rats” directly over the thick grass mats. When the sun brightens the sky, switch over to small crankbaits, spinnerbaits, finesse worms rigged Texas-style or fat worms rigged wacky-style. I’ve done very well with light line and a 2-inch Berkley PowerBait minnow in yellow perch or black shad colors. Others, such as our friend Carl D. Brown, have scored with 4-inch curly-tailed grubs.

The fishing during outgoing and incoming tides can be very good. Catfish, by the way, grow big in the Potomac. Bottom-fished slabs of perch or herring will find blue catfish, with smaller bait sizes attracting the channel “cats.”

In the more saline waters around the Route 301 Bridge between Charles County, Md., and King George County, Va., trollers who use small bucktails with a strip of pork rind or 3- and 4-inch Sassy Shad lures have been catching keeper-sized rockfish along the channel edges from the bridge down to and past Swan Point and the Wicomico River mouth.

Farther down, a mix of bluefish and rockfish is seen, but if it’s flounder you want, stick with Piney Point’s Steuart’s Pier area and the various depths of Cornfield Harbor, near Point Lookout. The river, by the way, holds plenty of spot, some croakers and many white perch.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (**) — Up-and-down croaker catches. If any of them are here, remember they’ll be leaving pretty quick now. It’s that time of year. White perch are fairly plentiful along grass edges around points and duck blinds. All you need is a 1/8-ounce Beetlespin or a couple of white inline spinners. But do yourself a favor and clip one of the arms on a treble hook. It’ll make hook removal so much easier.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Small PowerBait minnows, wacky-rigged “fat” worms, 1/8-ounce and 1/4-ounce crankbaits and early hour surface poppers do very well on the largemouth bass along the edges of grass beds or in open pockets found in spatterdock fields.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***)Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is getting better now. Sunfish and bass are awakening, thanks to the recent cooler nights. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5 past Leonardtown to Camp Cosoma Road), the bass fishing has been very good, as have been pickerel and sunfish catches.

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) has helped bass, sunfish and catfish anglers. The fishing has improved.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***)Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County. What a difference a few nights of cooler temperatures can make. Bass and crappie catches have increased in both reservoirs. If it’s bass you’re after, the early hours call for lures to be cast close to shore, preferably around points and fallen logs. As the day warms, start fishing in deeper layers. Spinnerbaits, plastic worms, early-hour poppers — even crankbaits of various sizes now are called for.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County. The same method for bass applies here as it does at the WSSC reservoirs. Fish close to land, around points and rock formations early in the day, then step down to various lake ledges with crankbaits and plastic baits as the sun warms the water. One thing is certain: The cool nights have helped.

PATUXENT RIVER:25-60 miles (***) — Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that catfish are in the river from Benedict to the Chalk Point Power Plant in huge quantities and sizes. Bottom-fished alewife or cut perch baits will net catches of fish that can weigh up to 20 pounds. If it’s spot you want, they’re in the river around St. Leonard’s Bar and Helen’s Bar. The rockfish can be found roaming the shallows early and late in the day, especially around the river points where they’ll strike topwater poppers and Rat-L-Trap lures.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***)Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said, “Last week’s Fountainhead Bass Club tournament was won by Carl Martin and Mike Isner of Manassas, with a six-fish limit that weighed 21.88 pounds. Included in their winning bag was a beautiful 4-pound smallmouth bass that inhaled a 6-inch watermelon color plastic worm, fished on a shaky head jig.” Davis said the better bass fishing came in the upper end of the reservoir where the water was cleaner and a few degrees cooler. The crappie bite continues fairly strong, and catfish are hungry for chicken livers or shrimp; the lake’s bluegills devour meal worms. “The reservoir remains at full pool, slightly stained, with surface temperatures in the low to mid 80s,” Davis said.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County. The bass catches already have seen some improvement, thanks to welcome cooler temperatures, especially at night. Plastic finesse worms and small crankbaits have been good picks as far as lures are concerned. The crappie bite is a little off but will get better every day.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) Fisheries biologist Josh Henesy said the upper river is running low and clear, with average flows for this time of year. “Fishing opportunities have been best during late evening hours,” he said. “Due to an abundance of seasonal insect hatches, topwater action will often produce best. Try targeting areas of moderate currents and structure to find feeding fish.”

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (call 240/460-8839) will be glad when the summer waterski boating traffic finally slows down. The bass and walleye fishing will increase daily.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**)Occasional visits by rockfish are noted clear up to the Conowingo Dam. The bass fishing from Port Deposit to Havre de Grace has shown some improvement, thanks to cooler night temperatures. In fact, topwater lures can score over the weeds of the Susquehanna Flats as long as the sun isn’t “cooking” the water. Just below the river mouth in the Chesapeake proper, small bluefish have been tearing up rattle baits and jerkbaits like bass fishermen often use.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — With the arrival of cooler nighttime temperatures, the fishing in the Chesapeake Bay — when the wind doesn’t blow too hard — has been good from its upper reaches in the Susquehanna Flats and the upper Bay rivers, such as the outside areas of the Chester and the Patapsco, down to the Bay Bridges near Annapolis and southward to Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. Most everybody can troll or chum up a keeper rockfish and a handful of bluefish. If it’s Spanish mackerel you want in the mix, it begins at the Eastern Bay area and continues down to the Virginia state line and into all the Old Dominion waters. In addition, spoon trollers around Buoy 72, the Middlegrounds, the Targets and other rises and dips under the water from St. Mary’s County across to Dorchester counties will receive strikes from red drum (channel bass) that are usually too big to keep. Anything over 27 inches has to be returned to the water. By the way the croakers over the Middlegrounds’ underwater humps are supposed to think about leaving, but they’re still there and of late have shown good size.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com) said: “A high-pressure system brought cooler temperatures and breezy conditions to our area this week. Northeast winds shut down fishing for a few days. Spanish mackerel fishing continues to go well with anglers finding more consistent numbers this week. The 20 to 35-foot depths between Windmill Point and Dameron’s Marsh has offered consistent catches of mackerel mixed with small blues. The morning hours provide the best topwater action, yet during the late afternoon schools have been surfacing as well. Blind trolling from the Great Wicomico Light up to Blackberry Hang has been good for mackerel and bluefish, particularly along the drop-offs. Smith Point Bar has shown less consistency this week as the waters have been churned up. Mackerel have been on the edge of the bar as well as to the north and channel side of the lighthouse.” Pipkin also mentioned that plenty of bluefish are available to chummers and trollers. “The Northern Neck Reef offers good catches of 2- to 3-pound blues in chum lines particularly during flood tide,” he said. The edge above Buoy 62 has yielded some large channel bass (redfish) this week.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The river mouth is seeing the bulk of the action, what with Spanish mackerel, keeper-size rockfish and bluefish flitting in and out the large mouth area. Some white perch and crabs are taken from the Bill Burton fishing bridge in Cambridge and the bass boaters around the Denton area are hooking a few nice largemouths in spatterdock fields or shoreline structure.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Cooler nights have sparked a willingness to bite in the local largemouth bass population. The area around Shad Landing has been a good hunting area for bass that will jump on rattle baits and small crankbaits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) From Marshyhope Creek across the main river into Delaware’s Broad Creek, the bass catches can be good. Cooler temperatures have helped and rattle baits are tunring on the fish, but if it’s too weedy use soft plastics, including wacky-rigged Senko and Zero worms.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Guide Wayne Olsen said the bass fishing can be quite good if you start early enough and work around structure, using shaky-head hooks and finesse worms. Guide Jim Hemby continues to successfully troll for stripers.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper-river chances for smallmouth bass are good this weekend. Use small topwater poppers and quarter-ounce crankbaits. In the tidal stretches below Fredericksburg, the largemouth bass fishing can be quite good if you concentrate on channel dropoffs at the mouths of creeks and sunken wood along main-stem shorelines. Plastic worms and rattle baits will do the job.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Cooler nights have done the job on getting the bass and sunfish to look at baits and lures. Crappies are not biting strongly yet, but that will happen shortly. Catfish are always available.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass like small topwater poppers early in the day. Use them around points and brushy spots. Crankbaits and small spinnerbaits can attract a few nice keepers. Catfish are hungry.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) From Bracey, Va., Marty Magone said the lake’s main-body grass beds above Hawtree Creek are still the choice for quality bass up to 5 pounds. “The vegetation is thick so topwater or plastic lures need to be on fairly stout line,” he said. “Upriver striper action has increased near the mouth of Flat Creek with 12- to 15-pounders not unusual. Drifting live shad or casting bucktails has turned the trick.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The drop in temperatures has definitely helped the bass and crappie hunters. For bass, rattle baits and spinnerbaits complement plastic worms now along lake brush and points, as well as creek entrances and secondary points. Catfish are available in fine numbers.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish continue to hold the spotlight from Dutch Gap downriver as far as Walker’s Creek. Decent bass catches are happening at Walker’s and Chippokes creeks.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Bass catches have perked up a bit, but will get even better in the weeks to come. Catfish and crappies are hooked in good numbers toward Walker Dam.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said the smallmouth bass in his stretch of the river definitely will jump on a smartly presented topwater popper or soft Zoom jerkbait.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Talk about a chill in the air, this mountain place felt it over the past several days and nights. Bass fishing has been good. Use jerkbaits, plastic worms and some crankbaits around ropck formations.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Good smallmouth bass catches are possible if you use surface poppers, streamers, spinners or tube jigs.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Even though flounder are caught in the backwaters behind the resort city, you will not have an easy time finding big keepers. The word is that some good-sized flounder have been hooked right in the Ocean City Inlet, along with nighttime stripers and bluefish. In the offshore waters, a strong Nor’easter has made things tough, but there’s a good mixture of dolphin, a few white marlin and tunas waiting. Keith Lockwood of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said medium-sized croakers are being caught within a couple of miles of the beaches along with flounder. In the surf, you’ll find a smattering of kingfish, croakers, snapper blues and spot.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From Virginia Beach, Ken Neill said he’s catching big red drum inside the Bay but some of them are out in the ocean swimming with the tuna. “Amberjack fishing remains very good at the South Tower. This should be the month for some large jack crevalle to show at the Chesapeake Light Tower,” he said. “Spanish mackerel fishing remains very good along the oceanfront on out to the Chesapeake Light Tower. Offshore, it is expected to have a very good white marlin bite after a northeast blow. The concern is that fishing was already very good, so we may not want a change. If it is a change for the better, you really want to be out there when this wind lets up. Dolphin and wahoo are being caught along with the occasional tuna. What really has been impressive is the numbers of sailfish being caught.” Meanwhile, the flounder catches in such Eastern Shore hangouts as Wachapreague, Metomkin, Oyster and Chincoteague have been only fair. 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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