Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

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It wasn’t all that long ago when New Orleans super chef Paul Prudhomme came up with his famous blackened redfish and seafood lovers everywhere loved the dish.

So many people clamored for the blackened taste delight that Prudhomme eventually begged people to try other fish species prepared the same way lest the redfish become an endangered species. Commercial netters went after the red drum or channel bass, as it’s also known, with a vengeance. Soon, serious restrictions on the catching of “reds” were put into place.

Nowadays, the redfish is doing fine and even is the subject of conversation in the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay - not normally thought of as redfish country. Now, certain sport fishermen and charter fishing captains go expressly after these tough-fighting visitors from the South. This time of year, some are hooked in the Bay, especially at the Mud Leads and the Middle Grounds. They’re caught by slow trollers using big spoons but also by croaker anglers who use fragrant baits such as shrimp and crab. Sizes of the red drum in the Chesapeake range from 10 to near 40 pounds. However, don’t promise anyone a blackened redfish dinner until you’ve caught one of these tacklebusters. They’re not easy to come by.

What’s easy are the stripers that love a live Norfolk spot. The rockfish are hooked by live-liners all over the Bay, with one of the hottest producers (when the tide is right) being the Gas Docks in Calvert County, around the corner of the Patuxent River. Trollers also score, but be prepared to release many undersized fish. In time, you’ll come home with your two 18-inch-and-over keepers.

In the lower ends of the tidal rivers, the Patuxent, Potomac and Choptank in Maryland, and the Rappahannock in Virginia, have been good for croakers, striped bass, white perch and plenty of spot. The upper tidal Potomac still is king of the hill when it comes to largemouth bass even when the temperatures climb. Many of the local boaters now play it smart, leaving the house before sunrise and coming back home before noon. Fish can be found, but you must work at it, seek their hiding spots under dense grass mats, in deep dropoffs next to marsh banks, and in the dark recesses of docks and bulkheads.

The Atlantic Ocean turns up tunas, sharks, dolphin fish and marlin in various numbers from Delaware to Maryland, and on to Virginia and North Carolina. Inshore, flounder fishermen concentrate on their favorite species in the backwaters and inlets of Ocean City, Md., and the Eastern Shore waters of Chincoteague and Wachapreague, Va. However, some of the best flounder fishing has been found around the pilings and man-made islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel near the mouth of the bay.

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, “We didn’t see much rain and the river is in good shape.” Rental boaters and rock hoppers find some large catfish on bottom-fished cut baits, also largemouth bass with artificial lures. By the way, Fletcher’s is just about the only place that sells D.C. fishing licenses, so if you don’t have one, the concession there will fix you up. Fletcher’s is located off Canal Road in Georgetown. Downriver, bass fishermen are doing surprisingly well as long as they play the tides coupled to early or late hours. Let’s face it, the heat is not exactly helping day-time catches. If you arrive near a main river rock pile, sunken wood, or grass bed edge during a moving tide early in the morning, chances are you’ll find bass action on topwater buzzbaits, chug baits, plastic craws or Chatterbaits that run just under the surface. Our fishing has been wonderfully productive from the Pomonkey on down past the Mattawoman mouth, on to the Mallows Bay, Wades Bay and Arkindale Flats waters, but the tides-and-times game must be played. In the slightly saltier parts beginning near the mouth of the Nanjemoy and Port Tobacco feeders, you’ll find early morning (or evening) rockfish, white perch and astonishing numbers of catfish, usually on the Virginia shorelines where plenty of rip-rap is available where the fish like to hide. Fish also for rockfish around every buoy that has protective rock lines around the markers. Throw lipless rattle baits in blue/chrome and hang on. Stripers and croakers are available in limited numbers from the Route 301 bridge south to St. Clements, St. George’s Island, Blackistone Island and all areas downstream toward Point Lookout. Of course, Norfolk spot are biting on moving tides in most of the lower river, and some of the more skilled fishermen who know where the ledges and dropoffs are outside the Cornfield Harbor area are finding keeper flounder.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Croakers are possible, as are plenty of white perch and Norfolk spot. But we hear complaints from croaker fishermen who say they’ve seen better “hardhead” years.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – One of my close contacts who prefers to fish for largemouth bass said he had the worst time finding fish in the creek earlier this week. However, the Mattawoman has plenty of bass; it’s just that the heat is taking a toll and the bass are finding shady out-of-the-way places that many of us simply never think would hold a bass. Still, I’m certain if you fish the drops along the marsh edges and inside open pockets of weed beds, using Paca Craws and soft fat worms, you’ll find action sooner or later.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) you’re guaranteed to hook sunfish even when the sun is baking your hide. That’s pretty much it. However, at St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) a local fisherman, Shannon Landowski, caught a 7-1/2-pound largemouth while he reeled in a bluegill. The bass inhaled the sunfish and was landed by the angler. (A photo of it can be seen at www.genemuellerfishing.com).

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area are feeling the heat, but deep-water baits can bring catfish, while early morning spinnerbaits and any other vibrating lure, along with soft, scented worms, will interest the bass if you concentrate your efforts on visible water-logged structure. But be reminded, when the sun bakes the water, the bass will head down and act lethargic. Not so with the bluegills. They’re willing any time.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The rockfish in the mouth of the Patuxent are breaking from Drum Point to Cedar Point in good numbers and size. To illustrate, the Tackle Box store owner Ken Lamb went out on Capt. Greg Buckner’s “Fin Finder” (301 873 1327) last week. “The plan was to go live-lining at the Gas Docks, but we came across breaking rockfish with lots of birds about a mile east of Drum Point,” he said. “We moved into the breaking fish, cut the engine and started casting jigs, poppers with trailing bucktails, and other surface lures. Everything worked. We had our limit of two fish per person and one each for the mate and the captain by 7 a.m.” Meanwhile, if you need Norfolk spot for supper or for live-lining bait, they’re biting on tiny bits of bloodowrm bait all over the Patuxent whenever the tides are moving.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – Daytime heat hasn’t encouraged man nor fish to give it a try. Sure, some of the lake specialists are finding topwater and “worming” action before it gets too hot. They concentrate on lake points and sunken brush or solid wood, such as tree trunks. These places usually are preferred hiding or ambush spots for bass. Haven’t heard anyhting about crappie catches, but I’ll bet that the bluegills will take a nightcrawler chunk.

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