- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Washington area’s rivers are slowly returning to fishable conditions, especially the tidal portions of the Potomac River where, in Charles and Prince William counties particularly, the largemouth bass, blue catfish and snakeheads are holding court. The lower, tidal sector of the river (downstream of the Route 301 bridge) is great for trophy rockfish. The season is open now through May 15, as it is in most of the Maryland body of the Chesapeake Bay.

On the subject of the Chesapeake, few boaters are complaining; most are finding 28-inch-and-over stripers and with the arrival of several summer-like days, increasing catches of Atlantic croakers are noted in the waters of Southern Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia. Craokers and rockfish have even been hooked from the beaches and public pier at Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County.

The question that needs to be answered is whether the mountain rivers in Virginia and Maryland can be fished. If further heavy rains stay away, by Saturday-Sunday the casting for smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac River will resume. The same is true of the freshwater portions of the Rappahannock and James rivers, and all of the Shenandoah where smallmouth bass have been chasing artificial baits.   

On the ocean front, each day sees increasing numbers of flounder that are willing to pick up a drifted minnow or squid strip. From Ocean City, Md., south to Chincoteague, Wachapreague and Oyster, Va., the tasty flatfish are beginning to cooperate, while the lower Eastern Shore of Virginia, inside the Bay and along the ocean front, has anglers hooking up with red drum (channel bass) as well as some black drum. The lower Chesapeake near Cape Charles will be best for the powerful black drum that can easily reach weights of 80 pounds and more. 

D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles - For river conditions above Chain Bridge, call Fletcher’s at 202-244-0461(or go to www.Fletcherscove.com). The main stem of the Potomac is fishable. To be sure, there still are precautions that must be taken when running a boat because of remnant pieces of floating wood and other debris. It’s all part of the recent flooding in the upper river, which brought down all manner of junk. Meanwhile, main stem and river coves that maintain a fair layer of water even during ebb tides will have bass sitting on their spawning beds. However, not all bass spawn at the same time. If you fish sunken wood, spatterdock edges, and milfoil patches close to shore - especially in the feeder creeks - you’ll come up with bass. Baby 1-Minus lures, also the KVD 1.5 crankbait, Rage Tail Baby Craws, spinnerbaits or Chatterbaits are the kinds of lures you’ll want to throw. White perch are caught on bloodworm baits or chunks of peeler crab alongside river ledges near Marshall Hall, Greenway Flats and Fenwick on the Maryland side, and across on the Virginia shore where water drops from 9 and 10 feet to 25 feet or more. Blue catfish are hooked on slabs of gizzard shad or alewife outside the mouth of the Piscataway, also near Wilson Bridge, and down near Quantico Creek, but in the Potomac’s main stem.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles - A few rockfish are trolled up outside the river mouth, but the trolling really improves if you head south on the river. Inside the Wicomico, growing weed edges on either side of the river, including those in Chaptico Bay, hold white perch. Look for croakers to arrive soon in better numbers. Some are here now, but the catches are nothing to write home about. Catfish are plentiful throughout.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles - Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) says the largemouths are spawning big-time. Look for coves, wooded edges and marsh banks up and down the creek where bass can be yours, especially if you fish shallow-running crankbaits, Paca craws or Rage Tail Baby Craws’ll - all will score. With the recent warm weather, don’t shy away from casting a topwater popper into likely looking terrain. Bedding bass don’t want anything in or over their nests. They’ll attack intruders.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles - Gilbert Run Lake (aka Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, shows spawning bass in its upper ends where a small jerkbait or scented PowerWorm will be looked at. But you must be super quiet and not bang oars against the boat when coming into the lake shallows. Some fat sunfish and average crappies are also hooked. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) you can have a ball with the crappies in standing timber, along weed edges and around land points. A few fair bass are hooked and sunfish are everywhere.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles - The largemouth bass at Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area are spawning, and if you want to do a little catch-and-release fishing with a Baby 1-Minus lure or a plastic worm, stick to coves in either lake that offer shallow-to-deep drops of water. Crappie fishermen are happy if they use small minnows under a bobber or a 1/16-ounce shad dart under a float. I like to tip a shad dart with a tiny piece of gardenworm or nightcrawler.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles - Croakers are caught on bloodworm, shrimp or squid baits at Hog Point, Drum Point, even from the Solomons Pier we hear, but the hardheads will spread out wide and far clear up to Benedict eventually. The Tackle Box reported that good catches of crabs were seen in crab pots inside the feeder creeks.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles - Ranger Smokey Davis said, “The bass fishing has been excellent for those who know what they are doing. The fish want to spawn, but the weather hasn’t cooperated. Several bass over 7 pounds were caught last week, with the biggest weighing 8 1/2 pounds. The big females are found in 6 to 7 feet of water, close to cover and their spawning beds.” Smokey said Brush Hogs and jigs’n’pigs have worked well on the bass and also mentioned that the channel catfish and crappie fishing has improved. Some of these catfish have struck crawfish color crankbaits. “The reservoir is at full pool, slightly stained, with surface temperatures in the mid to high 60s,” said Smokey.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles - Bass are spawning and fall for jerkbaits, soft plastics (especially lizard and crawfish fakes), but also worms and small spinnerbaits. Sunfish and crappies are available in fine numbers.

CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles - If all goes right, weekenders will find smallmouth bass from Washington County down to Montgomery County, but sudden heavy rain can ruin it all quickly. Occasional walleyes will be taken on the same tubes and crankbaits that we use on the “brown” fish.

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