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.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(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.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – DNR river biologist John Mullican says if no further thunderstorms materialize, the weekend will be good for smallmouth bass, scattered walleyes and channel catfish. Earlier this week, the river was still high, but rapidly improving. I'm praying that heavy rains stay away even though severe weather is being forecast in the general region.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Lake guide Brent Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be hooking largemouth and smallmouth bass as skips soft plastics and jig'n'pig lures under boat docks and around points and dropoffs in the various coves. Fat bluegills, pike and yellow perch are available.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – The Maryland DNR recently electro-shocked Conowingo Reservoir and found excellent numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as large bluegills, crappies and walleyes. The bass fishing below the dam and heading into Havre de Grace has been below average, however.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Christy Henderson of Buzz's Marina (St. Jerome's Creek, St. Mary's County) said, "The big stripers are not gone." To prove it, she sent a photo of two young lady anglers, Ashley MacDonald and Katie Arnold holding rockfish that measured 36 and 37 inches, respectively. They were bringing in the trolling lines near Buoy 72 when the stripers struck the last two lines that remained in the water. "We also have had acres of breaking fish from the Woodrow Wilson Reef down to Point Lookout," said Christy. Bay and river expert Ken Lamb says that rockfish are hooked pretty much all over the Bay. Some anglers are finding limit catches at the Calvert Cliffs; others score around the Patuxent's Cedar Point. Trollers and chummers score on stripers up and down the Bay and one boater spotted a huge school of medium-size bluefish erupting on the surface near Buoy 72. The blues are coming into Maryland even though the Bay's salinity has dropped quite a bit. No word yet about any black drum catches at Rock and Sharps Island Light.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – Stripers and increasing numbers of bluefish are seen south of the Maryland state line and if it's large croakers you want, the lower Rappahannock River has been giving up real whoppers. Farther down the Bay, Dr. Ken Neill says that some large speckled trout are being caught in the Mobjack Bay area. Look also for the Bluefish Rock to give up flounder and any day the Bridge-Tunnel and Bluefish Rock should see cobias -- possibly by the time you read this. It’s time for those fighting cobias invade the lower Bay. The cobia bite has been very good off Cape Hatteras and Oregon Inlet and now they're moving toward the Chesapeake.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – A few nice rockfish are taken inside the river mouth by casters and trollers. Increasing numbers of white perch are noted by Cambridge's anglers standing on the fishing bridge that spans the river. Even a striper or two is hooked now and then, but when you head upstream, to Denton and beyond, looking for largemouth bass, the success rates aren't the best.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – A few decent-size bass are caught on Mann's Baby 1-Minus lures cast around flooded tree roots, brush and spatterdock .fields between Snow Hill and Shad Landing. Early hours or overcast skies are perfect for casting a Pop'R surface lure now.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – The Marshyhope Creek in the Federalsburg area is good for a couple of good bass that usually go after Paca Craws and Strike King Rage Tails, as well as soft finesse worms. The stump and piling areas in the creek hold bass, crappies and some fine sunfish. If the bass won't look at the plastics, try a topwater popper before you head home.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – Our lakeside informant said that after a hectic Memorial Day weekend, fishermen now can again target both bass and stripers with topwater lures during low-light conditions. Bass are mainly in the willow grass and around docks. The stripers are found mostly downlake below the Route 208 Bridge. Crappies can be taken next to many of the bridge foundations throughout the lake. Look for water of at least 30-feet and rig the slip bobbers to dangle minnows in the 20-foot range. Catfish like chicken liver baits.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – Virginia state biologist John Odenkirk had a great float trip in the upper river, starting around Ely's Ford. He and a fishing pal caught many smallmouth bass from 12 to 18 inches. "The river was in good shape," he said. Odenkirk also said that in the tidal waters below Fredericksburg, the migratory species have departed for the year, but largemouth bass should be biting south of town. That means the areas from Hicks Landing down to Leedstown ought to be good picks.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Sunfish galore for flyroddeers and worm-and-bobber anglers. The bass fishing might be a bit slow now since the post-spawn period is underway for a little while, but some largemouths will be hooked. So will fat crappies.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Walleyes have been biting and that's a species that too many Southern anglers are overlooking. Angler's Landing (540-672-3997) said walleyes in the 2- to 4-pound range have been hooked on minnows or nightcrawlers slowly retrieved on an in-line spinner. If it's crappies you want drop a white hair or plastic jig into a brush pile and see what happens. Shellcracker and bluegill fishing can be terrific now.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Holly Grove Marina, 434-636-3455. Craig Karpinski reports that bass action is good. Try top-waters, plugs, lizards and frogs. Local crappie are responding to minnows and jigs. Lake residents Marty Magone and Dez Rubesch had a fine day earlier this week. Said Marty, "While attempting to escape an armada of pleasure craft we ran to the flats and had a pleasant surprise. Bass and nice catfish were slamming Rat-L-Trap type lures in three to five feet of water. Largest "cat" weighed 17 pounds. Water temperatures are in the 70's.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bob Cat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) says the striped bass should be coming out of the rivers and the Clarksville channel should see schooling fish. Swimbaits, flukes or live shiners will get them. But Rudds, Eastland and Grassy creeks also will show rockfish action. If it's bass you're after, fish mid-lake points and don't overlook the effectiveness of topwater buzzbaits and poppers during low-light hours. The upper parts of the lake continues to give up blue catfish. The crappies are done with spawning and now will move into brush piles and fallen trees.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Although the state says the blue catfish population is still good, the biologists say the larger specimens are in a bit of a decline. However, plenty of 30- to 40-pounders are available. The bass catches have not been as good as those we see in the tidal Potomac, but some post-spawners are taken in the coves, creeks and backwaters of the river.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – The River's Rest (804-829-2753) staff reports that bass can be caught on spinnerbaits, soft plastic worms and medium-depth crankbaits. The crappie fishing can be good if you use live minnows under a bobber, but small feather or plastic jigs also do the job. Cut bait will find large catfish now and then. Water conditions are improving quite a lot.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Fishing for smallmouth bass will slowly resume after weeks of up-and-down water levels and far too much rain for anyone wanting to wade or use a small johnboat. Our Front Royal river expert, Dick Fox, yesterday said, "The river is up a couple of feet and stained, but its fishable. Use caution. Rain is predicted over the next few days."
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Trollers get hooked up with rockfish. Now and then breaking fish are seen and they will slam a Rat-L-Trap and various swimbaits. The bass have gone for wacky-rigged fat worms, such as the Zero or Senko models, in the shallows. Try also regular Texas-rigged plastics around wood pilings and rock formations.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles – Recent stormy weather saw river levels rise to more than 10 feet and even now the water conditions aren't the best, but things are improving. By the weekend -- barring more storms -- there'll be good fishing for smallmouth bass on a variety of spinners and tube jigs, or flyrod streamers and poppers. Interested in hiring a guide? Call L.E. Rhodes at 434-286-3366.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – The Ocean City Fishing Center (410-213-1121) says one of its captains, Ron Taylor, who runs the Playtime charter vessel, had a 34-inch bluefin tuna and released an additional 10. The charter boat Game On had 6 yellowfin tunas, the heaviest weighing around 56 pounds, and seven false albacore. The boat Wave Dancer, with Captain Jeremy Blunt, hooked nine yellowfins and one 37-inch bluefin. You can see that good things are happening in the offshore waters. Inshore fishing is also holding steady. The headboat Morning Star found sea bass and tautogs. The down note is the slow going for flounder. Not many are caught right now, but catches of rockfish in the surf and inlets often make up for any disappointment regarding the flounder fishing.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Jumbo sea bass, some weighing as much as seven pounds are hooked over the offshore wrecks. There should be some bluefin tuna showing on the sea mounts like the Cigar, Hot Dog and 26 Mile Hill, says Dr. Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishing Association. Bluefish have been taken by Virginia Beach boaters and around the seaside inlets and barrier islands, anglers continue to find drumfish. Both reds and blacks are being caught. The flounder bite is improving in the Chincoteague and Wachapreague backwaters.
For more outdoor news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com
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