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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have you wondered why in the past several days local meteorologists continue to remind us that it is very hot?

What are the chances of us not already knowing this? In the case of the weekly fishing report, we will not resort to the obvious except to say "get out early and come back in as soon as possible." You won't need us to remind you, as one local radio voice did this week, to "wear light clothing and drink plenty of water." Duh!

Meanwhile, the fishing up and down the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that empty into this marvelous, huge fishing hole can be wonderful. It begins in the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake where striped bass are caught by chummers, trollers and sight casters (whenever a surface eruption by the rockfish occurs) from the Virginia state line, past Point Lookout and Point No Point, up to the Patuxent River's Cedar Point and north to the Gas Docks. For example, Capt. Jeff Popp sent word that he has been doing very well live-lining Norfolk spot at the Gas Docks and proved as much with a photo of a customer, Chris Sullivan, of Hampstead, Md., who caught a 35-inch striper. "Everybody on board caught limits of fish," he said.

Catches of the striped delicacies are made clear up past Annapolis, and all along the deeper Eastern Shore sides from the Middle Grounds and Buoy 72 to Hooper's Island Light and north to Love Point, at the entrance to the Chester River.

Not to be outdone, the Virginia parts of the Bay are alive with action from the Northern Neck and the Rappahannock River south to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The top news this week comes from a number of Virginia Beach fishermen, including Dr. Ken Neill, who sent word that one of the toughest fighting fish on Earth, the cobia, has finally made a good showing. It began when Capt. Jorj Head hooked eight of these whoppers in two days, and the numbers are steadily increasing.

Dr. Neill also tells of 7-year-old Brandon Drewry who had a 79-pound cobia while fishing with his father. The boy's catch beats the current Small-Fry World Record by half a pound. A record application will be made with the International Game Fish Association. The old mark was held by a boy named Ken Braddy, who, it turns out, is Brandon Drewry's cousin. A photo of Brandon's 79-pounder can be seen at www.genemuellerfishing.com.

If it's croakers, white perch and Norfolk spot you want, just about all of the Chesapeake Bay's feeder rivers has them, especially the Rappahannock, Potomac and Patuxent. But there are anglers who simply don't care for saltwater species. Instead, they seek largemouth and smallmouth bass and are finding them in good numbers. The upper tidal Potomac is king in matters of largemouth catches. Early hours, coupled to moving tides, provide good action from just below the District of Columbia downstream to Mallows and Wades bays, including all of the tributaries.

Smallmouth bass are caught in exceptionally low mountain rivers, including Virginia's James, Shenandoah and Rappahannock, as well as Maryland's Potomac. Leave the johnboat at home and go wading.

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) you'll connect on massive blue catfish even during the current heatwave if you drop cut baits to the bottom of the river. Yes, there'll be a few bass caught, as well, but the catfish provide the most sport. Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) has had no trouble finding main-stem and feeder creek bass as he casts early hour topwater baits around the edges and inside pockets of large weed beds. When the sun bakes the water, he switches to craw-style baits and small crankbaits wherever it's possible to retrieve them without dragging in several pounds of hydrilla or milfoil. A reminder once again to not overlook rock piles anywhere in the main stem of the river. Shallow crankbaits and RageTail-type craw baits are deadly in the rocks. Downriver, from outside the Port Tobacco River mouth across on the Virginia shorelines, you'll find plenty of white perch and catfish on spinners and small spinnerbaits. The perch picture is the same around the Morgantown power plant and on toward Swan Point where the deeper waters can give up a croaker or two. Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, said, "There were lots of reports of hefty croakers in the Potomac for shore and dock fishermen in the evenings and at night. Breton Bay, Colton's Point, Piney Point and Ragged Point all have croakers, spot and perch. Squid, bloodworms, shrimp and cut spot will lure the croakers." Don't forget, there are flounder possibilities at the outer edges of Cornfield Harbor.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Diligent bottom bait-dunking fishermen find keeper croakers and spot, while artificial lures such as an in-line, white Roostertail spinner or a small Beetlespin will be hammered by white perch along the weed edges inside the river. The buoy at the mouth of the Wicomico has given up a few keeper stripers to Rat-L-Trap casters very early in the day.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Marsh bank dropoffs in the slow zone are good for bass that like green pumpkin craws or 4-inch finesse worms. A small or large Chatterbait will be looked at by the largemouths anywhere there are weed beds in the creek -- and they won't be hard to find. Don't overlook early hour topwater buzzbaits and poppers.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) plenty of sunfish are hooked, but not much of anything else, although this lake has enough bass that could make things interesting. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) crankbaits come up with nice largemouths, although the next time I go I'll go, one rod will have a Pop'R topwater lure on it and another rod will hold a 4-inch finesse worm, preferably a scented PowerWorm in junebug color.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties area show early morning bass action for those who concentrate on wood structure and lake points. Successful anglers start with a slowly-popped blunt-nosed surface lure, then switch to soft plastics or medium-lipped crankbaits in sunfish or crawfish colors. Sunfish are everywhere for kids using small bits of worm on small hooks below a bobber.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – White perch are plentiful and big this time of year, said Ken Lamb. Use Beetlespin lures on the main river and in the feeder creeks. For example, Lamb told me that fishermen could hook a perch on every cast inside St. Leonard's Creek, to mention just one of the feeders. Don't overlook Battle Creek and all the others. As an aside, Lamb caught three puppy drum this week while casting Beetlespin lures for perch. "These redfish were about 11 inches long and were a welcome sight because they are the first I have seen this year," he said. "Last year, they were plentiful beginning in June." However, before you keep one remember that the puppy drum must measure at least 18 inches. Spot are strongly present in the mouth of the river, at Sandy Point, Fishing Point, Hog Island, Green Holly, Seven Gables and the Hawk's Nest. They love cut pieces of bloodworm.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – Bass fishermen need to be here early if they want to enjoy success in the currently heated water. Crankbaits, soft plastic craws and worms can do the job, as can hard jerkbaits worked erratically along creeks that show shallow water with nearby deep water drops. Catfish and sunfish round out the fishing from Fountainhead up to Bull Run.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – A smartly cast topwater buzzbait before the sun rises too high can produce bass, but when it heats up switch to plastic worms and craws anywhere you can find shallow-to-deep points, brush, sunken wood and such. Sunfish are easy to hook on small popping bugs or with live nightcrawler pieces. The crappies have gone on strike apparently.

CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – Shallow, rock-laden stretches from Little Orleans in western Maryland down to Dickerson in Montgomery County -- a long stretch of river -- produce smallmouth bass in the 9- to 12-inch range. Use tubes, jigs, grubs, small topwater poppers and buzzbaits. Occasional walleyes are taken, but those catches are more by accident than targeted deliberately. Catfish are available up and down the river.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Lake guide Brent Nelson (captbrentnelson@gmail.com) agrees that weedbed edges and sharp drops alongside lake points and deepwater coves will deliver strikes from bass. The rock-laden points and adjacent dropoffs might also bring a walleye if you crank in a lipped lure or a colorful tube or jig. By the way, this lake is justly famous for its large bluegills and yellow perch, so don't overlook the possibilities.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Not exactly the best place for bass right now, but some are caught with soft plastics and spinnerbaits in the Havre de Grace marinas and adjacent shoreline wood. The Flats hold some bass, catfish and maybe a striper or two, but nothing is guaranteed.

CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – The rockfish parade has not seen any signs of letting up. In fact, instead of anglers finding only small specimens, some of the boaters are lucky enough to catch truly nice-size stripers. For example, charter fishing captain Jeff Popp (410-790-2015) sent word that he has been doing very well live-lining Norfolk spot at the Gas Docks and proved as much with a photo of a customer, Chris Sullivan, of Hampstead, Md., who caught a 35-inch striper. "Everybody on board caught limits of fish, he said." Then comes .Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, who said, "Rockfish are concentrated from Cedar Point north to the Gooses. Big 'rock' are caught by live-liners north of the Gas Docks boundary line. Some of these fish are in excess of 20 pounds and great fun on light tackle. The catches are consistent of typical fish of 18 to 24 inches, but lunkers can take the bait at anytime. Trollers are finding them too, and lure casters are getting them when they feed on the surface. Some jig users found stripers in the Cedar Point Rip." Elsewhere, live-lining and trolling striper fishermen are scoring from the lower end of the bay's Eastern Shore side clear up to Love Point in Kent County, with similar success enjoyed on the western side from the Annapolis area south to the aforementioned Gas Docks, but also Point No Point and Point Lookout's deeper outside edges.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – In the waters between Smith Point and the Rappahannock River mouth, not only are boaters finding rockfish they're finally connecting on a few bluefish, usually in the chum lines set up for stripers. Down toward the mouth of the bay, the cobias have arrived in better numbers. One of the best fishermen anywhere, the dentist Dr. Ken Neill, sent a photo of 7-year-old Brandon Drewry who landed a 79-pound cobia not far from the Bridge-Tunnel. Brandon's catch beats the current Small-Fry World Record by a half pound. A photo of the boy and his cobia can be seen on www.genemuellerfishing.com. Neill added that sight casters have been doing very well over the past week. Capt. Jorj Head got three cobias yesterday and five the day before. If it's flounder you prefer, the Bridge-Tunnel's pilings and islands are home to plenty of the flatfish.

EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Pretty good fish catches are promised in the mouth and up the river for some distance. Croakers, perch, rockfish and spot. The disappointing news is the lack of good bass fishing in the upper portions of the river. The bass in many areas have simply vanished.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing you'll hook a decent largemouth now and then. Mann's Bay 1-Minus crankbaits have again begun to deliver the goods in flooded shoreline wood and tree roots.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – Marshyhope Creek near Federalsburg and the upper Delaware parts of the river are good for bass if you start early and hope for a good moving tide. A variety of lures work, but I'd be using a shallow crankbait and a Chatterbait around old sunken dock pilings and in the main stem, spatterdock pockets.

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – My lakeside friend who wishes to remain anonymous passed along the following: "The lake is bath water-warm and any serious fishing is done early or late in the day. A dock pattern continues to work on the bass but don't overlook throwing a topwater lure against the willow grass at first light. Trollers are finding stripers while dragging large, deep-diving crankbaits or spoons in the midlake and downlake waters around Pigeon Creek, Rose Valley, the mouth of Sturgeon and Contrary creeks as well as from Dike 1 to the dam. Catfish are taking chicken liver baits."

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – The river is low and definitely wadeable. The better smallmouth bass catches are made around the Rapidan junction where small topwater baits and various tubes and spinners will get action. In the tidal parts below Fredericksburg, a few largemouth bass are hooked on soft plastics or medium-depth crankbaits cast into flooded shoreline trees and spatterdock. The Green Bay area has turned up catches of lagremouths. Catfish, meanwhile, are everywhere and they'll take cut baits, worms or clam necks.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – The best times to fish here, needless to say, are the earliest possible morning hours when bass are still cruising obstacled shorelines in search of small sunfish and minnows. Catfish and bluegills are biting.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Call concessionaire Darrell Kennedy, of Angler's Landing (540-672-3997) for the latest water conditions. One wag said that the bass are so lazy right now, they're laying on the bottom, sweating. It isn't that bad, but the past few days have not been stellar although catfish and bluegills have no trouble coming to worm baits.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Lakeside resident Marty Magone is using Rico topwater poppers and whacking the bass early in the day. "The uplake pattern seems to be fishing the points and grass lines closer to the channel because there's grass eradication under way on the flats. Any noisy topwater bait, vibrating Chatterbait or plastic worm will do the trick. If you get out early, a striper bite is possible in the area of the Smith Creek railroad bridge," said Magone. Forget weekends here. It can be a jet ski zoo.

KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) is the place for local information. The lake water is very warm, but deeper layers of the lake turn up large flathead and blue catfish, while early hours in the upper lake show a few stripers chasing bait. Bass catches are holding up surprisingly well in flooded brush.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Catfish mostly, but some bass are possible in side pockets and feeders, such as the downstream Chippokes and Walker creeks.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – Check with River's Rest (804-829-2753) for the latest conditions. Bass boaters find action in sunken wood and in the deeper drops alongside marsh banks. Crappies have gone on strike, apparently, but for those who want some panfish for dinner, there are perch and sunfish.

WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Royal's Dick Fox said, "The river is at its lowest level this year. The fishing is still good, but light line, long casts and stealth are required. It's working for us. The water temperature is 81 degrees and small Senko type baits, flukes, in-line spinners and some topwater lures do the job. Deep-water pockets behind fast water seems to work best.."

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Deep-water trollers connect on stripers, but even the shallower waters turn up the landlocked rockfish, especially after sunset or just before daybreak when they chase baitfish into shoreline stretches where the largemouth bass often hang out. Feeder creeks have been fairly good for largemouths that like jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and a variety of soft plastics. Some smallmouth bass are taken on jigged bucktails and plastic grubs along rock walls and stone ledges.

UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles -- Low water conditions, but fair numbers of smallmouth bass are possible if you use flyrod streamers and poppers or spinning tackle tubes, jigs and grubs.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – Sue Foster of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City says that the flounder fishing was good this week, but as we said previously, there are a lot of undersized specimens. Live minnows and white Gulp artificial bait has been working well. Sue added that nice-sized bluefish are being taken from the Route 50 Bridge. "The surf is seeing a lot of small panfish early in the morning, such as spot, kingfish, sand perch, and croakers," the tackle shop owner said. Shark fishing can be better when the sun sets. Blue-water offshore boats find tuna, wahoo and dolphin fish, while the boats working the waters closer to shore connect on sea bass and flounder.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reports

amberjack are taking live bait and jigs at the Southern Towers, as well as several offshore wrecks. Deep-dropping is still good, with boats finding good numbers of tilefish, rosefish, and scattered grouper. Julie said that Bill Knapp, of Virginia Beach, caught a 67.5-pound snowy grouper while a guest on her boat in offshore canyon waters last week. White and blue marlin catches are increasing and numbers of yellowfin tunas, along with bluefins and bigeyes, are still showing up at the docks. Most of the blue-water boats are also finding dolphin fish, king mackerel, mako sharks and some wahoos.

• For additional outdoors news visit www.genemuellerfishing.com.

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