- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saltwater fishing fanatics up and down the middle Atlantic states say the summer season has begun even if the official start of the season has not. Yellowfin tuna are hooked in the offshore ocean parts from Maryland to Virginia, with some of the blue-water Virginia boats connecting also on early numbers of dolphins (the fish, not the mammal). Flounder catches in the Atlantic backwaters of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia have increased, and in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay, expect flounder, red drum and cobia hook-ups.

Striped bass, croakers, even a few bluefish, are taken from the lower Rappahannock River in Virginia up to the Chesapeake’s waters in Maryland, especially those between the lower Potomac River and the eastern side of the Bay up toward the mouth of the Choptank River. In fact, croakers (aka hardheads) are plentiful in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Double-hook rigs baited with bloodworm, shrimp or strips of squid can deliver the goods. If it’s white perch you want, try the Patuxent River. They are available in fine numbers from the Hawk’s Nest clear up to Benedict. Drop the baits over oyster bars wherever you find them, or fish the feeder creeks with Beetlespin lures.

Tasty perch also are available in the Potomac, and up the Bay in the West, South and Rhode rivers, as well as the Chester, Choptank, Nanticoke and lower Pocomoke rivers.

Bass hunters in the upper, tidal portions of the Potomac River between the District and western Charles County find above average catches as long as they properly play the tides and the sun. If it’s early or overcast, cast surface poppers and buzzbaits in and around weed beds and spatterdock fields. When the day begins to brighten and the water warms, switch to soft plastics, especially those that can be fished without added slip sinker weights, but also don’t forget to cast and retrieve a wobbling, vibrating lure known as a Chatterbait. It can deliver the goods.

A lot of bass boaters are beginning to believe that a high tide is as productive as a strong outgoing tide, something that used to not be in style. Not long ago, it had to be an ebb tide if you wanted the largemouths to strike. Times change - or is it the people that do?

Freshwater river anglers can score on smallmouth bass in the upper Potomac, James and Rappahannock rivers, as well as the entire Shenandoah. The lakes, from Maryland’s reservoirs to the big Virginia impoundments, are turning up good numbers of bass, catfish and crappies.

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) the fishing can be good for catfish, a smattering of stripers and largemouth bass (the bass are often on the Virginia side of the river. I joined bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) for a day of bass hunting, leaving the Smallwood State Park boat ramps, the fishing in Occoquan Bay, Belmont Bay, Powell Creek, also parts of Quantico and the Possum Point Power Plant’s rock piles. All the areas gave up bass, even if I had a rotten days. But the pro guide showed that the fish were there and they liked Chatterbaits, trimmed with Shadalicious trailers and the Chatterbaits fished with or without a skirt. Oddly, that day our Rage Tail Baby Craws did not produce as they did only days before. But don’t give up on the craw baits. They can be deadly when the fish are in a feeding mood. In the more saline waters from Morgantown south to St. Clements Island, Tall Timbers, St. George’s Island and downriver, there’ll be croakers, spot, perch and catfish, not to mention increasing numbers of resident stripers.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – The Bushwood area of the river shows excellent bottom fishing for croakers and perch, penty of catfish and some small spot, even some small to medium size stripers.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The marsh banks above the “slow down” zone upstream of Smallwood State Parks have been good for bass that like finesse worms, Paca Craws, and the like. Occasional topwater catches are made with poppers or buzzbaits, depending on where you can find enough open pockets to allow a lure to run through without picking up milfoil or hydrilla.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) there’ll be a few bass caught, but the best bet here are the many fat sunfish that young anglers will enjoy when fishing for them with worm baits and bobbers. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) the bass have been very cooperative, although the crappies play hardball some days. Fat bluegills are everywhere.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties are good for bass and now you can keep one if you care to. Crappies and sunfish, some catfish, are always available for boaters and shore walkers.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Norfolk spot have moved into the lower river in good numbers. They’re found from Fishing Point to Point Patience and for many rockfish live-liners will provide the bait they need. White perch and croakers are available throughout the river.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said, “The reservoir is at full pool, clear and the topwater bass bite remains awesome, especially in the early morning or late evening hours.” Smokey pointed out that recent hot weather has begun to move the bass into their summer hangouts earlier than usual. “Fish the openings of long, deep coves or the deepest side of main lake points with long-lipped crankbaits or crawfish color tube jigs,” he said. The crappies fishing is improving; a number of citation-size “specks” showed up last week. Main-lake blowdowns in 12 to 15 feet of water hold these fish and they like medium size minnjows. Bluegills are still plentiful.

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