- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The proliferation of large blue catfish in the upper tidal portions of the Potomac River is astounding. In a river that not too many years ago wasn’t even home to this tough piscatorial adversary, the Potomac already has given up several in the 60-pound range and, a few days ago, an angler up around Fletcher’s Cove in Georgetown came to the concession building to show off a 55-pounder. It is believed that these catfish could have migrated north from Virginia’s James and Rappahannock rivers.

The blue “cats,” as they are respectfully known to users of cut fish baits and tough line, rods and reels, can grow to well over 100 pounds. This was proved recently when a world record 143-pound blue “cat” was landed in the huge Kerr Reservoir (aka Buggs Island Lake) in south-central Virginia. The day will come when the Potomac River will join other record-producing waters, including a former record-setting hotspot for blue catfish, the tidal James River, downstream of Richmond.

Meanwhile, this week’s fishing outlook includes the ever-widening possibility of hooking a Chinese snakehead. This week, one of our contacts found six snakeheads attacking his bass lures in the Potomac’s Nanjemoy Creek, located in Charles County. Another fisherman hooked two of them in the river’s Mallows Bay. Our small group that visits the river on a regular basis has seen snakehead catches in the last two outings, including a 10 1/2-pounder by the “Fishing Pole,” the bass guide Andy Andrzejewski.

These Asian invaders are not about to disappear. They’re here to stay and according to the top Virginia fisheries biologist, John Odenkirk, they are not decimating the largemouth bass population. In fact, there have never been more bass in the tidal stretches than this year, so you might as well enjoy the tremendous fight a snakehead puts up and its willingness to charge into virtually every artificial lure known to man. I’m not a big fish eater, so I shouldn’t be asked if they’re an epicure’s delight, but word has it that these fish are every bit as tasty as striped bass. You do know that every snakehead you catch must properly be disposed of, don’t you? The best place for that could be a dinner plate.

On the subject of stripers, Calvert County’s Gas Dock in the Chesapeake Bay continues to be the top producer of the striped delicacies for charter and private boaters. The numbers of these fish that hang around the Gas Dock is fantastic. One captain after another justifiably brags about “limiting” out on rockfish within 30 minutes after setting an anchor and dropping live Norfolk spot to the finned predators.

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) don’t be surprised if you hook a large blue catfish, even while standing on the rocks. Ray Fletcher told me that a 55-pounder was caught over the past weekend. “They’re plentiful and they’re getting bigger every year ,” said Fletcher. Elsewhere, heading down the river, the heat has kept quite a few of the bass boat regulars off the water, but bass can be caught, although not in the numbers we’re used to during spring and autumn. We had several outings in recent days when largemouths and an occasional snakehead was boated in the Occoquan’s Belmont Bay, main Potomac waters near Possum Point, and one of our regular contacts called to say he hooked snakeheads and some bass in the Nanjemoy Creek. Overall, conditions aren’t the best, but fish can be caught.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Croakers and white perch, plenty of spot and catfish are available from Bushwood up and across to Cobb Island, but the croaker catches are up and down. No one we know of is hooking bunches of them.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Topwater buzz baits can do a fine job on the bass during the dawn hours, but be sure to switch to craws and fat worms after sunup. Fish the hydrilla, milfoil and spatterdock, but never overlook sunken or flooded wood.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Slow going at Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata), but a handful of sunfish and small bass is possible. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) some of the local johnboaters find largemouth bass, including occasional lunkers, while others can’t even catch a cold. Things haven’t been easy here for most anglers in the past two weeks. Blame the heat.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area have been miserly as concerns giving up good numbers of bass, but a few are caught on craw-style baits and crankbaits. If you can be on the water before the roosters crow, try a Rebel Pop-R or a small buzzbait around stickups and sunken wood. Crappies appear to have gone on vacation. Very few are hooked, but sunfish and catfish are available.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Stripers are in the mouth of the river and at Little Cove Point, while spot, varying amounts of croakers and lots of white perch are available throughout the lower river. The white perch, some anglers say, have never been more plentiful than this year, especially in the lower feeder creeks.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – Slow going generally, but earlybirds can beat the sun and find a few bass along shoreline drops and around lake points that show quickly falling water next to them. Soft plastics are usually the best way to go, but early or late hour topwater lures will see some action. Don’t overlook the many blowdowns in this lake and its small side creeks and coves. They often hold bass and crappies.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Not much is happening right now, but that will change quickly when water temperatures drop a bit. Currently, don’t be surprised to get readings in the 80s. Early hour topwater lures, followed by wacky-rigged Senko-style worms can produce a bass now and then.

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