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Gene Mueller’s Weekend Fishing Report

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

For thousands of area saltwater anglers, only one thing matters this Saturday: the opening day of the Maryland spring trophy season for striped bass. The official state fish of Maryland also is known as rockfish, striper and, whenever a 30-pounder breaks off five feet from the boat's transom, a few names not suited for a family newspaper.

The season runs from April 16 through May 15. You are allowed to keep one striper of 28 inches or more, but the culling of fish is not permitted. In other words, when a 28-inch-and-over specimen is caught, it may not be kept alive in a tub or tank and exchanged for a bigger fish caught later. Eel bait is not permitted during the trophy season. All fishing must be done in the Chesapeake Bay, from the upper Bay's Brewerton Channel south to the Virginia state line. This applies only to the Bay proper, not the tributary rivers and creeks.

As an aside, the first croaker of the season was caught Saturday from the Point Lookout State Park pier. Daniel Stock caught it on bloodworm bait, and he received a gift certificate from the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park for bringing in the first "hardhead," as it usually is called by Marylanders.

Talking about the tidal rivers of the Chesapeake, many small-boat and shoreline fishermen are concerned with other species. What a difference a few warm days can make. The upper tidal Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank, Nanticoke and Pocomoke rivers in Maryland, as well as Virginia's James, Chickahominy and Rappahannock, all are promising a variety of fish. There is something for everybody  from wonderfully cooperative largemouth bass in the Potomac to excellent numbers of shad in the Rappahannock, crappies and bass in the Chickahominy, or monster blue catfish in the James.

All the lakes, reservoirs and ponds in our region await your visits. Virginia's Lake Anna, Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston are giving up good numbers of largemouth bass, crappies, catfish and, in some cases, even walleyes. The mountainous Deep Creek Lake in Maryland is waking up and walleyes, bass or fat yellow perch are hungry. Near Washington, the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs in Maryland and Northern Virginia's Occoquan Reservoir or the nearby Burke Lake can provide productive outings for the entire family.

D.C. AND VICINITY

(all listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles
-- Expect white and hickory shad, some large striped bass, also a few white perch that are getting ready to head back downstream after spawning in the Fletcher's Cove area of the upper tidal parts in Washington. For river conditions and such, call Fletcher's at 202/244-0461 (or go to www.Fletcherscove.com). Downstream, there are no feeder creeks, side pockets and coves in the river between D.C. and western Charles County where you can't find a bite. The top species, of course, is the largemouth bass and boaters are finding action especially in main-stem pockets that offer large sections of emerging hydrilla and milfoil grasses. The same is true of the feeder creeks. You can do well from near the mouth of the Piscataway Creek down to and past the Greenway Flats and the large Gunston Cove; also Pohick Bay and down to Potomac and Aquia creeks on the Virginia side, or the Pomonkey, Mattawoman, Chicamuxen and Wade's Bay areas of the river. A shallow or medium depth crankbait in chartreuse/red/black or crawfish-clawed soft baits in various colors can turn the trick. A full moon is on its way. That can drive the bass toward their spawning grounds. White perch like bloodworm or crab pieces, while the catfish prefer cut chunks of herring or sunfish almost anywhere in the river.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles
-- Some white perch are beginning to show up on their downstream journey after spawning. Check out Bushwood, Chaptico, Cobb Island channels and ditches, also the edges of newly emerging aquatic vegetation.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles
-- Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) is using various crawfish-clawed imitations with great success, but he also has been wacking the bass on rattle baits, crankbaits and Chatterbaits. The creek is a producer of the first order. The only problem we've had here are rude out-of-town bassboaters who break posted creek speed limits. That and lack of willing crappies. Where are they?

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles
-- Gilbert Run Lake (a.k.a. Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, has been okay as far a few bass and sunfish are concerned. One angler, Bob Rice, told me he found some willing crappies under the little bridge that crosses from near the parking lot to the concession stand. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) crappies and normally small bass are the rule. However, with the warming temperatures fat bluegills are beginning to come into shallower shoreline areas. A piece of gardenworm on a small hook and held from the bottom with a bobber is all that's needed to keep a child, sitting on the shoreline, happy.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles
-- Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties area deliver bass hits for johnboaters and shore walkers who cast shallow and medium depth diving crankbaits, spinners, spinnerbaits, or short plastic worms to water-logged obstructions. Crappies like small shad darts three or four feet under a bobber. If you add a tiny piece of worm bait to the dart's hook, all the better.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles
-- Bob Lunsford finds a few largemouth bass on plastics or crankbaits in the Jackson Landing area of the river, also inside the Western Branch. However, don't expect the kind of bass catches fishermen on the Potomac are realizing. What bothers me is the lack of white perch catches reported by shoreline anglers in the Hills Bridge sector where the fishing usually experienced this time of year.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles
-- Ranger Smokey Davis says, "Now is the time to go after your bass of a lifetime. With warmer weather and a full moon approaching the bass will be moving up on the beds big-time." Smokey believes if the weather holds, the weekend should be awesome. The reservoir is at full pool, clear, with surface temperatures ranging from 60 degrees at Bull Run Marina to 56 degrees at the tubes. As far as lures are concerned, Davis recommends spinnerbaits on the flats, but says brush hogs, lizards and other plastics have also produced well this week. The crappie bite remains spotty. Some nice fish have moved into shallows, but you have to search for them as they are not yet where they normally should be," said Davis.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles
-- A great time of year for crappies, pre-spawn bass and even some fat sunfish. Although there are muskellunge in this lake, we haven't heard of anyone finding one except the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries crew that recently netted a muskie.

CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles
-- Western Maryland fisheries biologist John Mullican says you can expect good fishing for smallmouth bass and walleyes over a long stretch of river. That means most likely from Dam Number 4 in Washington County down to Darnestown in Montgomery County. Tube lures in various colors, spinners, or small, deep-running crankbaits in red or orange will work. However, if heavy rain materializes, the outlook is not encouraging.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles
-- Western Region biologists say you should be able to find smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleyes and yellow perch. If you care to book a guided outing, you couldn't pick a better bass guide than Brent Nelson (captbrentnelson@gmail.com).

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles
-- Good numbers of quality striped bass are caught (and released) on the Susquehanna Flats. Catches also include fat channel catfish for boaters using bottom cut baits and such. Inside the river, Octoraro Creek and other feeders will deliver catch-and-release hickory shad this weekend. Some bass are hooked on 4-inch plastic worms in the docks and shoreline rip-rap of the Havre deGrace marina sections.

CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles
-- Trolled parachute bucktails, trimmed with white or chartreuse Sassy Shads, on spreader umbrella rigs will be the main method for all the boaters who are after trophy rockfish of at least 28 inches in length. Remember, you cannot use eel baits and you can keep only one rockfish of 28 inches or more per day, per angler. You may fish from the northern part of the Chesapeake at Brewerton Channel down to the Virginia state line, but not in any of the tidal tributaries. There'll be trollers working the water from near Point Lookout north to Chesapeake Beach, across to Tilghman Island, up to the Bloody Point Light area, and across to the Bay Bridge and Hackett's Light, most of it in 25 feet or more of water, often in 40 feet and more. The trophy season runs from April 16 through May 15. And from the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, proprietor Ken Lamb sent the following: "Daniel Stock spent last week at Point Lookout State Park trying to catch the first croaker of the year and he was rewarded Saturday evening at 9 p.m. when a 12-inch croaker (hardhead) took the bloodworm bait he was offering. He claimed the $25 gift certificate the Tackle Box gives each year for the first croaker of the year.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles
-- The flounder fishing in the Bay did not materialize, as was expected. But lower Chesapeake wrecks turn up tautog for many boaters. Only the wind can hinder the 'tog seekers. Expect the arrival of some large red drum, followed by their cousins, the black drum. They'll be caught within days if we're fortunate, but certainly within a week or two.

EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles
-- There'll be some catch-and-release hickory shad catches up the river, at Red Bridges and beyond. Throughout the river, the white perch are generally done with spawning and might now be available to bloodworm bait dunkers as far down as Cambridge. The Denton to Greensboro area has not been the best for bass anglers. No one knows why.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles
-- (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass anglers can score with plastic lizards and Berkley Power Worms, as well as spinnerbaits from Snow Hill down to Shad Landing, but you'll do best during a slowly receding tide with your lures aimed at blowdowns and slowly growing spatterdock tops.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles
-- (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 , or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope Creek and Delaware's Broad Creek have been good for bass and crappies. Target sunken brush and old dock pilings that show at least 4 or 5 feet of water. Shallow jerkbaits, 1/4 ounce crankbaits and soft plastics have been good for bass.

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles -- Good numbers of crappies and bass are reported from this nuclear power station lake west of Fredericksburg. Boat docks, brush piles and rocky points, as well as bridge abutments, can hold both species. Be mindful of the bass being in a pre-spawn mode and some may actually be pursuing nesting activity. A few stripers are taken.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles -- Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says if heavy rains arrive this weekend, it can raise water levels and can turn the river's color from clear to murky -- even muddy. However, if the rain is sparse or non-existant, you'll find shad by the hundreds in Fredericksburg below and above the Route 1 bridge. Some catfish and stripers are possible in town. Bass hunters score fairly well from Hicks Landing down to and below Port Royal. Small crankbaits, Chatterbaits and lip-less rattle lures can deliver thee goods, as will soft plastics. In fact, wacky-rigged Zero worms have done the job already.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles
-- Bass are serious about spawning, so fish with shallow crankbaits, lizards, craws and soft worms in the coves and around shallow-to-deep lake points. Crappies and sunfish are available.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles -- (Concession stand, 540/672-3997) Much the same story as with Lake Brittle. Bass are in the pre-spawn mode, crappies are biting, especially if you have small minnows and fish them under a bobber near brush tops and sunken timber.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles
-- Upper lake coves and creek points hold bass by the numbers. Some locals believe the largemouths are actually sitting on spawning beds. Be that as it may, the fishing can be good if you use fat worms rigged wacky-style, or soft crawfish-like baits. Sub-surface, shallow-lipped jerkbaits will be looked at. Some decent stripers are hooked down- and up-lake.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles
-- The best in the state if it's large crappies you want, as well as monstrous catfish. James River fans will dispute this, although the state record blue cat comes from Kerr. Increasing opportunities for bass are noted if you fish shallow crankbaits and soft plastics in flooded willow bushes, blowdowns and such. Pre-spawn or spawning season is here. Not all bass spawn at the same time.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles
-- (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Blue catfish are in from Dutch Gap down to the Appomattox River and cut baits will get them. Upriver, at the Richmond fall line, there'll be some shad. Bass catches are nothing to write home about.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER : 135 miles
-- (Williamsburg area) Upper and mid-river sections give up good numbers of bass to anglers casting Rat-L-Traps, medium diving crankbaits and soft plastics. Some of the marsh bank dropoffs are good starter points. Crappies and fat sunfish are inside sunken brush and waterlogged shoreline timber.
WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: (60 to 85 miles)
-- Front Royal's Dick Fox says the river is in good shape, but running a little higher than last week, with water temperature readings of 54 degrees. "However, that could change with all the rain that has been predicted," he said, and added, "The fishing was slow over the past week due to the erratic weather patterns."

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles
-- Bass, crappie and stripers can be yours if you fish channel waters and sharp drops for the latter and creek structure, blowdowns and brushy areas for the bass and crappies. No spawning activity here because of water temperatures not having risen as sharply as in other lakes.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles
-- (Route 6 south of Charlottesville to Scottsville) Pray that the rain stays away. If things remain calm, you'll score on smallmouth bass with grubs, tubes, spinners, crankbaits, Mann's Sting Rays, also 1/4-ounce crankbaits in red or red/black.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles
-- Some tautogs and small codfish are found by offshore boaters. Not much else is going on. Surf fishermen on the sands of Ocean City and Assateague Island will begin to test-fish the beach waters for channelbass. It's almost time. Most surf stickers figure by the last 10 days of April they'll see some of the heavyweights cruise through the ocean front. Sand sharks should also be around to steal the bottom baits.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach
-- The fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, reports from the Atlantic Ocean portions of Virginia, "We fished the Triangle Reef area yesterday," he said. "We hit five different wrecks [and] ended up catching a total of 25 tautogs." Neill said that most were small specimens, but he and his friends did land a couple of 9-pounders -- all of them released. "We [also] caught some nice sea bass in the 3- to 4-pound range and they had to be released due to the closure. In addition to the sea bass and tautogs, the guys landed six nice codfish. "Next weekend, we will leave the 'togs alone and start hitting the Eastern Shore surf for big red drum," he added. Small Taylor blues are taken by Virginia Beach pier jockeys.

For more outdoor news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com

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