Here’s a surprise for all who suppose that this week’s fishing will have to be postponed because of the aftereffects of Hurricane Irene. From nearly every corner of our region comes word that the water is fine, certainly good enough for fishing and, if anything, the catches might be better than usual. It happens frequently after strong storms blow through our area.
Unfortunately, many tackle shops, marinas and charter fishing captains are losing money. “Who thinks about going fishing when your yard is littered with uprooted trees?” said Ken Lamb, who owns the normally busy Tackle Box store in Lexington Park. Lamb is right, the fishing is put on the back burner when a huge oak rests atop your garage and, in some cases, even the house that still is without electricity. Charter fishing captain Eddie Davis, who operates in the lower Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay between Point Lookout and the Middle Grounds, said catches of stripers, bluefish and croakers can definitely be made this week.
Lamb echoes Davis, reporting that one angler who - after the hurricane departed - caught an 80-pound black drum, along with bluefish and croakers, at Cedar Point in the mouth of the Patuxent River, not to mention all the continued good catches of rockfish at the Gas Docks, north of Cove Point.
If freshwater smallmouth bass are your favorites, don’t hesitate to visit the upper Potomac River from Washington County downstream to Montgomery County. The fishing should be fine, said a DNR biologist who told me the river at Point of Rocks didn’t rise more than a foot. “We just didn’t get the massive rains that fell along the coast,” he said. The same is true of the upper portions of Virginia’s Rappahannock River and all of the Shenandoah.
In the tidal bass fishing waters of the Potomac, especially downstream of Wilson Bridge and toward Mount Vernon, also Dogue Creek, Occoquan and/or Belmont bays, Mattawoman and Chicamuxen creeks, the bass will be biting, as will catfish and white perch. Occasionally, some of the feeder creeks in Charles and Prince William counties will be discolored from rain runoff, but the main stem of the river is in good shape, with little debris seen by boaters.
The drawback could be the oceanfronts. As this was written, few people came to the Ocean City, Md., and Virginia Beach, Va., resort cities with rods and reels in hand. More pressing duties probably called back home for the usual summer visitors.
D.C. AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District around Fletcher’s Cove (202-244-0461), Ray Fletcher said that the river is in good shape with very little debris coming down from the upper portions in Montgomery County and beyond. “We’re seeing typical late summer fishing now, what with the catfish and a few largemouth bass cooperating,” he said. The Charles County-based bass fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509), reports the river to be in good condition, very fishable, but he passes along disturbing news that the Delacarlia water supply facility in Georgetown once again was cleansed and flushed out, which means all the sediment and other smelly substances ended up in the Potomac River. Happily, this will be the last year water officials will do this. The dredge from the facility will be stored somewhere and no longer will end up in the river. Meanwhile, good bass fishing can be had from the Mt. Vernon sector clear down to the Aquia Creek. Early hour topwater lures, followed by shallow crankbaits, soft plastics and small spinnerbaits will do the trick along weed bed edges, rocks, sunken wood and docks. The feeder creeks might show some discoloration from rain runoff, but all things will be in fine shape by the weekend.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – There’ll be lots of white perch chasing after a white inline spinner or a small Beetlespin lures around the shoreline weeds and also boat docks and duck blinds. The croaker fishing goes from good to lousy and back again. Very unpredictable. Any Norfolk spot you catch will be jumbo-sized.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Some discolored water will be seen in the upper creek portions, but that will be all cleared up by the weekend. Weed edges, marsh bank dropoffs and waterlogged wood can turn up decent catches of bass. Plastic worms and craws, Chatterbaits and small spinnerbaits can attract strikes.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for sunfish and a few small bass, but little else is happening. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) will give up mostly small largemouth bass, but now and then a smartly fished plastic worm or shallow crankbait will be inhaled by a whopper. This lake is home to more than a couple trophy bass.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties received rain and debris-scattering wind, but with a little luck the bass will want to go on feeding sprees in the next several days and your crankbaits and plastic worms will be looked at by the largemouths. Sunfish and catfish also are hungry.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – One angler who fished from shore within sight of the old Cedar Point Lighthouse base, cast out cut bait and soon had the fight of his life with a black drum. He landed the 80-pound behemoth and later also caught bluefish, stripers and croakers. Meanwhile, the creeks are home to plenty of white perch that like small spinner and Beetlespin lures, while the main stem is turning up whopper-size Norfolk spot for anglers using bloodworm pieces on high-low bottom fishing
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles — Bet the rent that a topwater lure early in the morning, cast to stickups and lake points, will result in a bass strike even if the water isn’t in the best of shape. Plastic craws, worms and creature baits also work.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Early hours and topwater poppers can spell success on the lake bass. Try it around brushy spots, stickups and lake points, just like we recommended for Occoquan Reservoir.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – My friend Kevin Wilson (of the website htttp://fatboysoutdoors.blogspot.com) said, “I took a drive to the Monocacy River and upper Potomac at the mouth of the Monocacy and the Dickerson power plant to check things out. The Monocacy is up slightly, but not near as much as I thought it would be. It’s off-color, about 1.5 feet visibility. At the Dickerson plant, the Maryland side was off-color, but the Virginia side looked fairly clear. It’s higher than it has been in a while, about a foot higher than pre-Irene, so waders would need to take it easy until it drops again.” After Wilson’s report, I talked with a western Maryland DNR biologist who told me the river in Washington County was in good shape and definitely fishable. He said that he also checked out the river downstream around Point of Rocks and the river had risen only a foot or so. The smallmouth bass are waiting for your visits.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Good catches of large- and smallmouth bass are possible. Skip plastic grubs, tubes or worms under floating docks, or concentrate on the edges of weed beds where a bass, maybe even a northern pike, will look at soft or hard jerkbaits. The lake points and their steeply declining rock beds can give up bass and walleyes to crankbaits or colorful tubes and worms.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Catfish, as always, are possible anywhere in the river around Port Deposit, but the bass fishing has not been very good.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – After the hurricane moved on it quickly became apparent that the fishing opportunities had not changed, even though the marinas, tackle shops and the charter fishing trade suffer from a lack of customers. Ken Lamb, of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box, says that he’s lost thousands of dollars in income because many people, especially those in his St. Mary’s County home area, are still without power, not to mention having problems removing uprooted trees and lots of debris. “They’re not thinking about going fishing,” he said. Meanwhile, if you can get away, there are rockfish to be caught at the Gas Docks in Calvert County, but live-liners who like to use small, live spot as bait, can only find jumbo-sized spot. They’re cutting them in two and the rockfish don’t mind it one bit as they inhale the offerings without hesitation. The Southern Maryland waters, according to charter fishing captain Eddie Davis also contain fair numbers of bluefish currently. If it’s spotted sea trout you’re after, the Tangier Sound has a fair number willing to take bottom baits, and in the middle and upper Maryland parts of the Bay, rockfish are taken here and there from the mouth of the Choptank up to the Chester River.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – The well-known fishing dentist and sportfishing activist, Dr. Ken Neill, pulled no punches when we asked him what to expect in his portion of the Chesapeake Bay, down around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and Virginia Beach. “It is going to take a few days for the lower bay to clear up,” he said. “Until then, fishing will be slow. The shallows will clear fairly quickly — I was catching speckled trout from my dock last night — [but] it will be a bit longer for the flounder bite to pick back up. The best of the cobia bite is probably done but the speckled trout and spot action is just getting ready to start.”
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – There’s a chance of finding a few barely legal rockfish in the mouth along with a few croakers and plenty of white perch and spot. Upriver bass fishing in the Greensboro to Martinak State Park stretch has seen better days in years past. It’s not good now.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles — Bass are possible from Snow Hill to Shad Landing if you use 4-inch scented Berkley worms in blowdowns, waterlogged tree roots and spatterdock edges.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – The bass catches that were possible earlier this year simply haven’t held up. It’s been a downhill journey for the past several months, but saltwater species such as striped bass, white perch, spot and croakers are found in the lower third of this waterway.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – My lakeside friend who insists on anonymity said, “The lake has survived the hurricane with only several inches of rain and a good bit of wind. The dam and dikes have been inspected and rated as safe. The cooling temperatures have been bringing the bass into shallow water and they’re found now around stumps, docks and other cover. Striped bass continue to move uplake but all the recent rains may bring some closer to where the two main feeder rivers split. There has been good topwater action in the early mornings and some stripers have been driving bait into the shallows. It’s still a bit early for any real good crappie action.”
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says the river is in good shape. It obviously did not get the amounts of hurricane-generated rain that other areas received. Odenkirk said the upper river, above Fredericksburg, is definitely ready for those looking to catch a smallmouth bass or two, or maybe even a dozen. The tidal parts of the river should be giving up plenty of largemouth bass, but that simply isn’t happening. To be sure, a few fish are caught, but you can never compare it to the upper tidal Potomac’s bass population.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to catch a few bass if you use early hour topwater poppers or buzzbaits. Small spinnerbaits, short plastic worms, or quarter-ounce crankbaits in crawfish colors will take up the slack when the day brightens. Lots of sunfish, catfish and crappies are here, as well, but the crappies are not very cooperative.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Darrell Kennedy runs the Angler’s Landing (540/672-3997) if you want the latest update on water conditions. The bass and even a few walleyes are taking shallow to medium depth crankbaits in bluegill or crawfish colors. Plastic worms also work. If the children want to hook a sunfish, this place delivers the goods.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – From the shores of the lake, Marty Magone writes, “The water levels are down even after recent torrential rains. Most bass catches are coming from the numerous grass beds above Hawtree Creek in the flats. Early risers can score with any number of topwater poppers and chuggers. Uplake striper activity has slowed a bit, but anyone willing to brave the run up to Allens Creek will likely find some willing rockfish using surface lures. Some eating size crappies are showing up in Holly Grove Creek. Find a brush pile near a dock and use a marabou jig. You’ll catch them.”
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles — Bobcat’s Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) will pass along last minute weather information. You can be assured that the bass and catfish will be turned on after the hurricane headed north. Take advantage of it.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) professional guide Mike Hoke, (804-357-8518) said, “I know by the weekend I’ll be catching blue catfish. We didn’t get a whole lot of rain, so conditions are good. I do know that the fishing usually is good after big storms.”
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – Check with River’s Rest (804-829-2753) and you’ll hear that the bass bite has been good. The storm apparently did little damage to the “Chick,” as the locals call it.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Dick Fox, who fishes this river very often, said it is in good shape for fishing. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t hook some decent smallmouths this weekend,” he added.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Check out every one of the lake’s creek mouths because that’s where the stripers have been hanging out during low-light hours. Soft and hard jerkbaits, saltwater size Chug Bugs, even loud buzzbaits can catch them. If it’s largemouth bass you’re after, prepare to fish in up to 20 feet of water, using pig’n’jig combos or fairly heavy slip sinkers on tubes or crawfish imitations.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles — The fishing guide L.E. Rhodes (434-286-3366) can be of immense help if you need a professional. The river is fishable, not having been inundated with hurricane-generated rains. The smallmouth bass will be looking at a variety of lures and streamers.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – Sue Foster of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City said before the hurricane arrived and the town was evacuated, the fishing was great. The flounder, bluefish, sheepshead and croakers bit well and there is no reason why they shouldn’t take up where they left off as the weekend arrives. Sue said before Irene blew into town, one angler caught a pompano and another fisherman had a 44-inch-long cobia in the surf.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – From the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Ken Neill said offshore fishing should still be good once things calm down a bit.
“September is a good time to try to drop a live bait around the Chesapeake Light Tower for a chance at a big amberjack or jack crevalle. September also is a great month to fish the coastal wrecks. The sea bass bite will be hot plus there will be good numbers of trigger fish, sheepshead, and drum hanging around the wrecks.” Dr. Neill added that the offshore fishing was very good before the hurricane blew through here. Neill expects marlin fishing should be excellent for the next few weeks. “There should be plenty of dolphin around,” he said and tuna or wahoo fishing will get better as we move into the fall. However, no one will be fishing from the ocean fishing pier for a while. It was cut in two by Hurricane Irene.
• All listed distances begin in Washington
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