Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

Weed beds change from year to year

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As slightly lower temperatures beckon anglers of all stripes over the coming days, bass fishermen have asked if there’s a problem in the upper tidal Potomac River regarding the apparent disappearance of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAVs) — the fish-hiding weed beds that are a necessary part of a bass hunter’s day.

After discussing this with a professional fisheries biologist and several hard-core river regulars, the consensus is that the presence or lack of the water weeds — mainly hydrilla, milfoil and wild celery — in various parts of the river is an ongoing and ever-changing dynamic. One year, the weed beds show up strongly; another year they’re not easily found. For example, dense grass beds in the Potomac’s Dogue Creek, downstream of Mount Vernon, have pretty much disappeared. However, new hydrilla and milfoil is again growing and when we fished it a couple of days ago, we found a few bass and catfish that snatched up plastic craws over the emerging vegetation.

It is believed by some bass anglers that Dogue and Piscataway creeks, even parts of Pohick Bay, might have been sprayed with herbicides to answer the complaints of wealthy shoreline residents who wanted the vegetation gone, lest their boats become bogged down in the waterlogged greenery that has become a nationally famed fish nursery. However, biologist John Odenkirk of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does not believe this is happening. “The grass comes and goes. Things change from year to year,” he said.

Elsewhere, in the Maryland and Northern Neck of Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay, the chances of hooking striped bass and slowly increasing numbers of bluefish are good. The best rockfish catches, however, continue to point to the Southern Maryland side of the Bay, especially the Gas Docks section in Calvert County. To be sure, stripers are caught throughout the Bay, but not in the numbers those magical dock waters have been giving up. If you’re heading toward the Route 50 Bay Bridge, quite a few stripers are hooked by jig bouncers along bridge abutments.

Spotted sea trout have again been taken in the Eastern Shore’s Honga River, with a few also found in the Kedges Straits of the Tangier Sound. To round out the week, perhaps you’ll run into a small school of Spanish mackerel. Boaters have been seeing these small, delicious mackerel leaping from the water in a number of places, particularly in Virginia and lower Maryland Eastern Shore parts of the Bay.

Freshwater anglers who are after smallmouth bass in the mountain rivers should fare well in the coming days. The water temperature might drop a smidgeon, and waders or johnboat drifters using a variety of lures will connect on their favorite fish, with the upper James and Rappahannock rivers in Virginia perhaps the best of the week, even though the Rappahannock received a dangerous flash-flood type of rain last weekend. All is well now unless more downpours return.

D.C. AND VICINITY

(All listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District around Fletcher’s Cove (202-244-0461), Ray Fletcher said it’s the same old story as last week. “Very warm water, catfish, but little else right now. Much the same is true of the waters below town, although the meteorologists say a little bit of a cooling period is under way. It may help bass boaters and shoreline lure and bait casters from below Wilson Bridge down to Virginia’s Aquia Creek tributary, especially in the morning and evening hours. In the lower, saltier portions of the river there are plenty of Norfolk spot and white perch up and down the Maryland and Virginia sides. “Bottom fishing has not been this good in many years,” said the owner of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box, Ken Lamb. Lamb sees dozens of customers who stop by to show off their catches and he backs it up by sending us dozens of photos.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Croakers are hooked on squid, shrimp and crab baits when it’s overcast or when the sun begins to get low in the West. The white perch and spots are literally everywhere in this Potomac feeder river.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – We’ve had better days in this creek, but early morning boaters find a little bass action on buzzbaits and grass rats, followed by a few hookups in grass pockets and sunken wood if you use Chigger Craws or Baby Rage Tail craw-style baits. There is an algae bloom under way in the creek that can slow down current success rates even more.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is good for paddleboats and kids perhaps hooking a sunfish on a worm-and-bobber rig, but little else. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) your chances for bass increase, but the warm water makes for tough hours-long searches before you find a willing largemouth.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area have been super slow as far as bass catches are concerned. The slight cooling trend that is reaching our area now might help a little.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The river is loaded with Norfolk spot, along with a good mix of croakers and white perch. Rockfish are all over the mouth of the river and some anglers have hooked them by casting artificials from shore around Cedar Point. Shore fishermen stalking the rocks between Hog Point and the swimming beach on the Patuxent Naval Air Station are catching rockfish on top water plugs, Sassy Shads or bucktails. Breaking schools of stripers are surfacing from Cedar Point up to the Bay’s Gas Docks.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – The reservoir has seen more productive days, but all is not lost. A few bass are taken alongside lake points where water depths change quickly. Early hours can turn up a cruising largemouth next to sunken wood and brush. Catfish are available as always.

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