- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Much is happening in all the waters near and far from Washington. It begins with the clearing of the mountain rivers and the resumption of smallmouth bass and channel catfish catches from the upper Potomac to the Shenandoah and on to the Rappahannock rivers. But if heavy rains again arrive as they have all too often in recent weeks, all bets are off.

In the Chesapeake Bay, so much freshwater runoff from the feeder rivers has occurred that a drop in the usual salinity was noticed by Maryland’s DNR fisheries scientists. That can affect the crabbing and the fishing. However, in spite of less saline water, more than one Chesapeake boater has noticed surface eruptions by schools of bluefish a species that normally cannot abide much “sweet” water. The blues have been seen and several have been hooked from around Buoy 72 down toward the Virginia state line.

An interesting scenario could develop according to the DNR’s Keith Lockwood, who says that with such low salinity levels in the Bay’s feeder rivers, usually unwanted blue catfish and Chinese snakeheads may leave the Potomac and travel up the Bay to take up residence in the northern Chesapeake’s rivers. This applies to you, South, Magothy, Chester, Bush, Back, Patapsco and Sassafras rivers.

We have not heard of any catches of black drum in Maryland waters. It’s time for the heavy brutes to take up temporary residence in the Bay’s Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light waters. Could the lower salinity have something to do with that?

Meanwhile, a large FLW bass tournament will be under way Thursdaythrough Sunday on the upper tidal Potomac River. The cast-for-cash event is headquartered at National Harbor, near Wilson Bridge, and not all the local D.C., Virginia and Maryland bass anglers are delighted. There’ll be large numbers of bass caught and released. But if you recall last year’s FLW bass tournament that was run out of Smallwood State Park, many of the released bass died, most likely because the fish were confined in tight aerated bass boat wells far too long in water that was far too warm.

If it’s ocean fishing you like, Maryland and Virginia charter boats are finding offshore tunas, while a little closer to land some decent-size sea bass and tautogs are available.

(all listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles –  The Fletcher’s Cove area is still a bit high and water is moving along at a brisk pace, but the concession staff said unless heavy rains arrive later this week, there’ll be remnant stripers, also big catfish and some bass caught. For the latest conditions, call 202-244-0461 or go to www.Fletcher’scove.com. Downstream, bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) is being joined by dozens of local anglers who fear that the June 2 to June 5 period on the river will resemble a zoo as the FLW tournament organization will have some 300 bass tournament anglers competing for $125,000 in prize money. The National Harbor facility near Wilson Bridge will serve as headquarters for the tournament and we can’t help but wonder if the National Harbor management will be happy with the whole idea of hosting a mega tournament from its location. There’ll be lots of bass caught and some locals who want to just fish and be left alone will have encounters with tournament “pros” who will want to occupy the choicest spots. It happens every time one of these for-profit organizations like the FLW comes to town and many of the participants act as if they own the river.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Quade’s Store in Bushwood says there are some boaters who find fair to good numbers of croakers, but others aren’t scoring all that well. White perch are hooked with small spinners or bloodworm baits around dock pilings and weed bed edges.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Most of the bass have finished spawning, but smaller male specimens are hanging around the nesting sites, guarding the young. Small worms, jerkbaits or Pop’R topwater lures will score there and along weed bed edges or spatterdock fields.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) you’ll have a ball with bedding bluegills and a few post-spawn bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) you can depend on crappies taking small darts, jigs, tubes, or little minnows. Most of the bass have finished spawning, so you’ll have to hunt to find a decent strike, but it can be done.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties corridor are god for oodles of panfish, mostly bluegills that will slam a flyrod popping bug or a tiny 1/16- or 1/32-ounce shad dart in white/red fished under a bobber. The bass can be found along dropoffs around lake points. Use long-lipped crankbaits, craw-style plastics or slowly-retrieved spinnerbaits. It’s post-spawn time for the big females and they’re a bit lethargic now.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles –  From the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports, “A group of my friends went out to Hog Point on the Patuxent Naval Air Station’s river side last week during an ebbing tide. They set up a couple of rods baited with bloodworms and immediately began pulling in croakers (hardheads). They left the beach with 33 croakers, two big catfish and a dozen perch after a couple of hours of fishing.” Elsewhere, the perch and croakers are biting on the rising tide in the morning at the Hawk’s Nest buoy in the mouth of the river. There are plenty of rockfish there, as well, and the season is open for 18-inch-up specimens. In fact, the Tackle Box reports that the river is loaded with stripers in the 18- to 25-inch range from Benedict to Cedar Point.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – “The bass spawn is over, but the males are still guarding fry and can be caught rather easily now,” says Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis. “The topwater bite is very good right now but you must get there early,” he added and mentioned that the bigger females are in their post-spawn pattern and are much deeper now.  Smokey recommends fishing the mouth and inside points of long, deep coves. Use deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastics. Bluegills are bedding now and a small popper on a flyrod can be a big producer. The crappies have gone deep, up to 15 feet down. The reservoir is clear with surface temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Crappie fishing is a bit tougher now because of the heat, but they can be caught with live minnows over deep brush piles. The bass fishing has been kind of slow, but the fish are there. It’s post-spawn time and things could be a little tough for a week or two.

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