Dangerous wind greeted Chesapeake Bay fishermen on the opening day of the Maryland trophy rockfish season last Saturday.
With very few exceptions, the great majority of boaters remained ashore. But just before the Bay's waves rose to near seven feet, charter fishing captain Greg Buckner on the "Miss Susie" managed to get his anglers hooked up on six striped bass during his first trolling pass near Buoy 77, off Little Cove Point. The young but experienced captain had the legally allowed number of fish. Each client had a trophy striper. Buckner quickly reeled in the lines and headed safely back to his Patuxent River home waters.
This course of action is never recommended for novice boaters. However, on Sunday, there were so many striper-chasing boats on the Chesapeake that the water looked as if it had measles. With declining winds and a brightly shining sun, catches of 28-inch-and-over rockfish materialized, but many of the stripers developed lockjaw. Blame high pressure weather systems on that. All the same, some happy anglers were seen returning to their home ports. For example, at Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek, beautifully marked striped bass were hoisted before the day ended, many coming from the channel edges near Buoys 72 and 72A. Similar scenes were repeated over many other parts in the Chesapeake.
Ken Lamb, of Lexington Park's Tackle Box, said that the first 10 trophy rockfish that were brought to the store earned their anglers a $20 gift certificate. Oddly, every one of those stripers was caught by surf fishermen who camped out on the Hog Point beach at the Patuxent Naval Air Station. Lamb said that in addition to the rockfish, the surf crowd caught many croakers and one fisherman even hooked a huge flounder.
If you prefer to visit the fresh waters of our area's mountain rivers, you'll want to put off your outings for at least five or six days as high, swiftly moving, muddy water now is the norm. Allow the upper Potomac, Rappahannock, James, and all of the Shenandoah to settle down before going after smallmouth bass, shad, and other species.
The tidal Potomac River in Maryland's Charles County and Virginia's Prince William County will be fishable if you stick with the weedbeds and shoreline wood found in the feeder creeks. The upper, tidal parts near Washington are discolored and carry lots of debris that is coming down from the mountains. Some of the floating logs are big enough to seriously damage small boats.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(all listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles -- The Fletcher's Cove area of the upper tidal parts in Washington is no good for fish outings. Muddy, swift water is the norm and things will not get better until perhaps Monday. For river conditions and such, call Fletcher's at 202/244-0461 (or go to www.Fletcherscove.com). The main stem of the river shows a lot of debris and murky water and really is not recommended for the next several days. However, the feeder creeks -- especially those in Charles County, Md., and Prince William County, Va. -- will give up bass, crappies, snakeheads and catfish. If you want bass and perhaps a snakehead or two, try casting/retrieving a Chatterbait trimmed with a short Shadalicious or Sassy Shad swim bait. That, or a Mann's Baby 1-Minus crankbait are great in shallow shoreline areas where the bass are beginning their spawning ritual.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles -- Don't be surprised if you find a rockfish near the mouth, but it has to be released. White perch are possible inside the river around steadily growing weed beds.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles -- Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) has no trouble finding willing bass in ever-growing fields of vegetation up and down the creek. His favorite lures include the Chatterbait, Strike King's KVD-1.5 crankbait, Mann's Baby 1-Minus, and various crawfish-clawed plastics. The water may not be clear, but it will be fishable by the weekend.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles -- Gilbert Run Lake (a.k.a. Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, has been very reluctant to show much bass action, but anglers have been hampered by strong winds here and at St. Mary's Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) where bass and crappies should be willing within the next two days. It's time for good fishing. Enjoy the weekend. Only heavy additional rains can ruin it.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles -- Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties area will show bass, crappie and catfish activity this weekend, but remember that the upper ends of the lakes will be discolored from recent rain storms.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles -- Upper parts of the river from Jackson Landing, past Western Branch and toward Hill's Bridge and Queen Anne's Bridge will be muddy and swift until past Sunday, even into next week if more rain comes down. However, down toward the river mouth, there have been croakers caught at Drum Point and the story of the week concerns 10 surf fishermen who worked their lures from the beach at Hog Point on the Patuxent Naval Air Station. Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, says the location is the mouth of Pearson Creek at a line that marks the Patuxent River's end and the Chesapeake Bay's beginning. The surf fishermen landed nine of the first 10 rockfish brought into the Tackle Box, earning gift certificates. In addition, one angler caught a large flounder and the whole group latched onto a good number of croakers.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles -- Give it a few days before heading out onto the water of this reservoir. Conditions aren't the best right now.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles -- This impoundment usually handles rainstorms and the fishing should continue this weekend. Bass are beginning to show up on spawning beds and are prone to jumping on lures that anger them, such as crankbaits, and especially lizard and crawfish-like soft baits. Crappies like small live minnows under a bobber.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles -- In the shortest sentence: Stay away from the river. Muddy, fast, high water isn't safe for fishing from land or from a boat.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles -- There'll be a bit of discoloration, but the weekend fishing crowd will find smallmouth and largemouth bass, perch and some fine walleyes, even a northern pike now and then. A lot of walleyes, bass and pike will look at deep- or medium-diving crankbaits in shad or sunfish colors. Need a guide? There's none better than Brent Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles -- The Susquehanna Flats will give up catch-and-release stripers to casters of Bass Kandy and other types of soft, colorful swim baits, but the inside of the river will receive a mass of murky water coming across the Conowingo Dam from the upper Susquehanna River. That is not conducive to good fishing, although Deer and Octararo creeks are home to shad. You may have to wait a few days.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles -- Opening day of the trophy striped bass season last Saturday was a bust as 40 m.p.h. winds pounded the Bay, forcing most boaters to cancel their fishing plans. However, the following day and all the days since then there have been banner fishing trips for many. Just read what Christy Henderson, of Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek, wrote in an e-mail: "I wish you could have been here Sunday to see the nice rockfish that came in. Most of them were caught on the western channel edge near buoys 72 and 72A. There was a lot of debris to deal with and many of the guys ran into submerged crab pots because of the high water covering the [marker] corks. The fish averaged between 38 and 44 inches. Nearly everyone limited out. But Ken Lamb of the popular Tackle Box store in St. Mary's County's Lexington Park said high pressure and bright skies made the fishing a little more difficult. "The fish were spooky and closed their mouth," he said. All the same, as you read this there are stripers boated up and down the Chesapeake.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles -- Croakers are available in various areas in the Bay, especially near Willoughby, says Dr. Julie Ball (drjball.com) from her Virginia Beach headquarters. The flounder picture has not developed as brightly as was hoped, but some are taken on the Eastern Shore side of the Bay. Catch-and-release stripers are always a possibility and since some snapper bluefish have already been caught off the ocean pier in Virginia Beach, there is no reason why some of the snappers shouldn't be coming into the Chesapeake. Get your heavy-duty rods and clam baits ready. The first black drum will inhale the baits this weekend if the wind allows quiet fishing, while drifting or anchoring in 20- to 30-foot depths not far from the Cape Charles area.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles -- Not the best place in the state for bass fishing if you planned on heading up into the Denton area. Rainstorms have put a crimp into fishing plans. Toward the mouth of the river, the best you can hope for is to use it as a return point after having fished for stripers in the Chesapeake Bay.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) High tides and tight-mouthed bass this week, but the rain did not affect this river as badly as it has others..
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles -- (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 , or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope Creek may be your best bet if it's bass and crappies you're after. Main stem of the river has been a bust for fishermen this week.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles -- Our contact at the lake says, "The water is at full pool plus and heavily stained, especially near areas where smaller feeder creeks enter. Many largemouths are on their beds throughout the lake now but some post-spawn bass are available down near the dam if sight fishing isn't your thing." He also said that huge schools of crappies are in the shallows and small minnows dangled under a bobber will get bites, but small plastic grubs that are gently bounced back to the boat actually can outfish live bait. "That's especially true if you dab a little Smelly Jelly on your offerings," he said, and added that stripers are hitting live herring and shad off planer boards and some are fat specimens.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles -- Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk recommends you leave this river off your preferred places to go this weekend. "It is not fishable," said Odenkirk, mentioning that high, muddy and swift water isn't recommended if it's shad or any other species you're after. The downstream Port Royal sector is a muddy mess.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles --Too murky and discolored to be of good use for bass and crappie anglers this weekend. It'll be fine perhaps by Monday -- unless more heavy rain arrives.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles -- (Concession stand, 540/672-3997) Better than Lake Brittle as far as water conditions are concerned. Your chances of hooking a bass, crappie, catfish or sunfish are good.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles -- The feeder creeks give up bass to rattle baits and scented worms or lizards, such as the PowerBait brand from Berkley. Crappies love live minnows under a bobber fished around boat docks or bridge abutments.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles -- Discolored water from the recent storms is seen, but it is still a prime lake for huge catfish that like slabs of herring or bream, fished on the bottom. Bass catches might be on hold for a couple days, but should resume by Sunday-Monday.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles -- (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Forget it for three or four days. The river is a mess.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER : 135 miles -- (Williamsburg area) The upper end will give up some crappies and white perch, while the middle portions, around marsh and weed edges, are good for bass even if the adjacent James River is not productive.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: (60 to 85 miles) -- Front Royal's Dick Fox says to stay home for a few days. "And if it rains even more, it'll be off limits to fishing for a week." The river is fast, high and muddy.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles -- Bass and stripers are possible if the wind allows a boat to be launched. The feeder creeks show willing largemouths, even some smallmouth bass, that have jumped on lipped crankbaits.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles -- (Route 6 south of Charlottesville to Scottsville) Forget it. The river took a pounding from strong rains. It's swift, high and muddy.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles -- There'll be a couple channelbass (red drum) hooked in the Assateague surf -- and why not? They're being hooked down the beach a bit around Virginia's Fisherman's Island. Look for the first flounder to show up in the backwaters of Ocean City..
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach -- The fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, says he was aboard a boat looking for red drum, but the boat experienced problems. They had to head back in. His pals Wes Blow and Keith Blackburn, meanwhile, went to Fisherman's Island on the Eastern Shore and caught beautiful redfish (a.k.a. channelbass or red drum). Not to be denied, a day later Neill took his wife's boat to the same place and hooked some drum, among them a released 48-incher. Scuttlebutt has it that a few flounder are caught in the Wachapreague backwaters.
For additional outdoors news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com.
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