- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Among American sport-fishing fanatics the striped bass (aka striper or rockfish) is second only to the largemouth bass in matters of popularity. That should come as no big surprise since an adult striper of 30 to 50 pounds can make a grown man’s muscles feel like Jello and turn an expensive one-piece fishing rod into a two-piecer when you least expect it.

So where is the best place on the East Coast to find a tackle-busting striped bass? This time of year the honor doesn’t go to the hallowed striper waters of New England, New Jersey or North Carolina. No, a broad Virginia area of the Chesapeake Bay that reaches from above the Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the edges of the Atlantic Ocean is the Holy Grail for sport anglers now and in the weeks to come.

The prized fish that invade the lower Bay to fatten up on menhaden baitfish already are being hooked and boated by the dozens. It should come as no surprise then that a film crew for the nationally-televised show “George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing” (http://www.georgepoveromo.com/) is on the Bay side of Virginia Beach to film a show about the trophy rockfish.

In the deeper waters starting outside the Lynnhaven Inlet over to the Bridge-Tunnel’s high-rise span and in ditches and channels near the Eastern Shore’s Fisherman’s Island, there are eel drifters, lure jiggers and trollers who use soft rubbery Sassy Shads, bucktails and spoons to entice a strike. The men and women who are after one of the great fish species found along the East Coast scoff at cold weather, stiff winds, even rain and snow. Among the best are Virginia Beach-area dentists, Drs. Ken Neill and Julie Ball, also Ken Neill’s wife, Tricia. Add fishermen Rick Wineman, Charles Southall, Jorji Head, Eric and Ric Burnley — all of whom are well-known for their skills and fish record-setting habits. Other anglers in the salty waters of the Old Dominion are quite aware of them.

Maryland Bay anglers had a ball — As the Maryland striped bass season comes to a close, many a Bay troller agrees that the first two weeks of December were spectacular for trophy-sized rockfish. Meanwhile, the rockfish season continues in the tidal Potomac River and all Virginia waters.

Upper tidal bass and crappies — Well-fed crappies and bass have been caught on brown or black pig’n’jig combinations, as well as avocado-colored Mann’s Sting Ray grubs, along marsh banks that drop from a couple of feet of water into 9- and 10-feet layers during moving tides in the Potomac River’s Mattawoman Creek and Virginia’s Aquia and Potomac creeks. Try also the docks, rip-rap, and old wooden pilings in the Occoquan River. Elsewhere, quite a few boaters are visiting the Spoils Cove, a large pond-like cove just above the Wilson Bridge on the Maryland side of the river.

Fair warning if you launch a boat in the Potomac between the District and western Charles County. We were on the river earlier in the week, and there is more debris floating after the heavy recent rains than I have ever seen. The Potomac is discolored, so is the Occoquan River, but the Mattawoman Creek is remarkably clear.

Lake Gaston anglers score — Lake Gaston, Va., resident, Marty Magone, has been out on the lake in his bass boat and he said, “Yesterday, I ended up with 10 largemouth bass in the up-lake portion just before reaching the Route 1 Bridge. I used crankbaits and jig worms along the channel dropoffs. It sure is nice not to see any other boat traffic.”

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