If you enjoy saltwater fishing fun with the kids, buy a dozen bloodworms, chop them into small pieces, attach several to a high/low bottom fishing rig (think small, snelled hooks with fairly light sinkers at the end) and drop them into the tidal Potomac River, from Smith Creek north to the St. Mary’s River, and on toward St. Clements and the Wicomico. The Patuxent River offers big spot from the O’Club to Benedict, says the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb, down in Lexington Park. The tasty spot also are found in the Hawk’s Nest and Kingston Hollow area of the river, as well as Green Holly and the Helen’s Bar where croakers (hardheads) provide bonus catches.
Add the Choptank and lower Nanticoke rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and don’t overlook the feeder creeks and rivers of Virginia’s Northern Neck, plus the Rappahannock River from the mouth up toward Moratico. All are home to schools of spot and often quite a few croakers.
Chesapeake Bay rockfish trollers, chummers and sight casters find enough action to keep them smiling, but more than one Bay specialist is wondering where the bluefish are. Granted, the big slammer bluefish of years past haven’t shown up in some time, but in the summer and autumn of 2010 we experienced a welcome rash of juvenile blues, some even weighing as much as three and four pounds. Such catches now are rare.
The 143-pound blue catfish that was caught in Virginia’s Kerr Reservoir over a week ago has been approved as an official state record by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The angler, Nick Anderson, of Greenville, N.C., awaits word from the International Game Fish Association - the recognized keeper of all world records - with whom he filed an all-tackle record application. If the IGFA approves his catch, it would beat the current world mark by 13 pounds.
Local bass fanatics are doing quite well in spite of the recent heat and humidity. The upper, tidal Potomac’s main stem waters, from just below Hains Point to Fox Ferry Point and on toward the Broad, Piscataway and Little Hunting creeks, have been fine for largemouth bass that will charge a loud topwater lure whenever it’s overcast or very early in the day. Even the noon hour can produce fish for hardy bass boaters. They use crawfish claw-style plastics with great success along and inside the many weed beds found in the river and the feeder creeks.
Disappointment is voiced by insiders to western Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake, where the largemouth bass haven’t been cooperating as they should. That, however, is not true of the large Virginia reservoirs, such as lakes Anna, Gaston and Buggs Island. The fishing has been fine if you know how to tease a bass from its lair with soft plastics and early hour surface lures.
Finally, as the Fourth of July weekend beckons, be reminded that many of our waters will be crowded. Serious fishermen will get out as early as possible and come back in when the pleasure boaters begin to arrive. Also, marine police everywhere will be checking for inebriated boat drivers and there will be no warnings if you’ve been drinking alcohol. You’ll be arrested.
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) expect good catfish chances, but fewer rockfish. The water is in good shape. Farther downstream, weed bed edges and open pockets in the greenery are good for bass that will inhale a Paca Craw or Baby Rage Tail, fished as you would a Texas-rigged plastic worm. We’ve done exceptionally well in several feeder creeks on bass (even a snakehead here and there) using buzzbaits, Mann’s Bay 1-Minus, and craws or fat plastic worms. As you head into more saline water, our friend Bob Greer has connected on croakers and spot from the Route 301 Bridge south to Buoy 32 and other markers in the vicinity. If you like to eat Norfolk spot, or use them as bait for the river’s rockfish, have at it. The spot schools are found up and down the Potomac, from Smith Creek north to the St. Mary’s River, and on toward St. Clements and the Wicomico River. The creeks and main-stem shorelines wherever duck blinds or weed beds are found, are always good for white perch that will jump on an inline spinner or a small Beetlespin lure.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – The Bushwood sector continues to produce croakers and we even had a reader mention that despite hints of better chances during the dark hours, he did just fine in broad daylight. Best baits so far have been squid strips, shrimp, peeler crab, and expensive bloodworm pieces. White perch and plenty of catfish are also available. All three species can take the same bottom baits, but along the shorelines in the weedy pockets, try a small Bteetlespin lure. The perch will hammer these safety spinners.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Fish early or late and try to catch a moving tide. The bass will jump on a surface lure, especially buzz baits that can maneuver over top of the weeds without dragging in five pounds of greenery. Soft “fat” worms, like the Senko and Strike King Zero, will do well when the sun drives the fish down toward the bottom. The upper creek has been fine and I read somewhere that the upper Mattawoman is lousy with snakeheads. Well, they’re not taking over, but some of the toothy critters are indeed there and they like crankbaits, buzzbaits and spinnerbaits.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) surprising numbers of small bass are hooked, but overall best bets include the sunfish. The kids love fishing for them with pieces of gardenworm or nightcrawler, fished on small hooks under a bobber. Elsewhere, we had an awful outing to St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) last week. Even the sunfish were hard to come by and only one tiny bass was caught. I’m blaming it on a changing weather system that had moved in. That’s a weak excuse, isn’t it?
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties deliver the goods as far as bass, catfish and sunfish are concerned. Dropoff waters around lake points are good holding areas for the largemouths that like a descending, fluttering craw or finesse worm.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The river shows big Norfolk spot from the O’Club to Benedict, says the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb. Fish for these spot also at the Hawk’s Nest and Kingston Hollow, then add Green Holly that has turned hot as has Helen’s Bar where spot and hardheads hang out. The croakers usually measure from 13 to 14 inches. White perch are everywhere in the river — in the creeks, main stem, you name it.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – If you get out as early as possible and concentrate on stickups up and down the lake, weeds and fallen brush in the coves, while you cast and retrieve a blunt-nosed popper, you’re going to entice some decent bass to strike. After sunrise and a general warming of the surface water, switch to soft plastics and also crankbaits around lake and cove points. You’ll score. Crappie fishing could be better, but catfish and fat “bream,” as they call sunfish in the South, are cooperating.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Get there early and quit early. Bass can be yours, but the crappies have been hard to convince to take a small grub or even a live minnow.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – The weekend should provide smallmouth bass anglers with plenty of action anywhere between the Washington County rock beds and those found in Montgomery County. However, a lot of smallmouth bass hunters swear they do better along the Virginia shoreline, so give it a shot. Grubs, tubes, little crankbaits, plastic or hard jerkbaits — all can deliver the goods. Worm or liver baits will draw strikes from channel catfish.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Lake guide Brent Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an honest man. For example, yesterday he said, “The bass fishing is terrible. About the only thing going is 12- to 14-inch smallmouth bass on rocks in the main lake and aroiund points, adjacent to deeper water. Small tubes and inline Mepps spinners and Swiss Swings (it’s a rubber minnow behind a spinner) will take the smallmouths.” Nelson even pointed out that the largemouth bass are pretty much rare. Some can be taken from weed beds and from shady spots under pontooned piers, but the action is not red hot. “A few perch and walleyes are taken, using leeches on Lindy Rigs or on harnessed nightcrawlers. Chain pickerel like a shiner drifted across submersed vegetation up in the lake’s coves in 8 to 15 feet of water.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – More than a few largemouth bass have been scored by plastic worm users in the Havre de Grace marinas and along wood-strewn shorelines inside and outside the river mouth. Up toward Conowingo Dam, there’ll be some fat catfish and occasional stripers caught, with the Susquehanna Flats giving up scattered bass, catfish and stripers. However, this is not the kind of water where catches are guaranteed. It’s an up-and-down game here.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Trollers who have downsized their bucktails, Sassy Shads and surgical tubing lures find striped bass from the Gum Thickets south to Eastern Bay, the channel waters west of Tilghman Island, across to the Gooses and south to the Gas Docks, Point No Point and Point Lookout. Our friend Ken Lamb, however, says striper fishing can also be excellent when live-lining with small Norfolk spot. “Iis the way to go for big rockfish,” he said. The Gas Docks show plenty of concentrated rockfish, with schools of fish north of there to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant. “These fish move around and have to be found,” said Lamb, “but they are schooled and eating small spot somewhere every day, all day. One captain caught 150 in an hour (releasing most of them, of course). Many of these fish are close to 30 inches long.” Even some small sea trout have been noted by bait dunkers.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles — Cobia fishing is improving around the Latimer Shoals and other nearby waters. However, the fishing is not nearly as good as it was last year around this time. There are other species to pursue, to be sure. For example, black drum and more sheepshead have been hooked at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s man-made islands. During last weekend’s Flounder Bowl, held annually in these parts, a lot of prize-winning flounder were hooked around the Bridge-Tunnel’s pilings. But if you’re among those who can’t afford a lot of gasoline for the boat to head south to the end of the Bay, the nearby Northern Neck’s feeders and the Rappahannock River are good for croakers, a few snapper blues, lots of spot and plenty of pan-size rockfish. Some very nice stripers also are hooked by trollers, chummers and sight casters.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – The best rockfish, croaker, spot and perch catches are made in the large, bowl-shaped mouth area of the river. Some perch and croakers are possible up in Cambridge, but it hasn’t been red-hot.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – Slow going for bass up toward Snow Hill, but things perk up daily at one time or another. Much of the fishing luck here depends on proper incoming or outgoing tides. Shallow-running crankbaits and Texas-rigged plastics can do a fine job in this river.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – The Marshyhope Creek in the Federalsburg is usually dependable, but when daytimes run hot and the tides run extremely low, the bass fishing can be super tough as one of our contacts, Carl Everett, found out this week. Main stem river points from Vienna and downstream often see early morning visits from marauding rockfish. It’s worth a shot.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – My lakeside reporter friend said that at daybreak poppers and buzzbaits find bass cruising the shallows; but once the sun clears the trees, you’d better be fishing deep. The best striper action has been in the vicinity of the Route 208 Bridge. Trollers dragging a Redfin DD-22 or LEC-15 are connecting on some decent fish in the mornings. Look for crappies around bridge pilings and brush piles. Catfish continue to bite throughout the lake. Beware, however, the 4th of July weekend is beckoning. There’ll be lots of water traffic. Do your fishing early and late.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – VDGIF biologist John Odenkirk said now is the time for long casts, light line and light tackle if it’s smallmouth bass you’re after upstream of Fredericksburg. “The river is falling and getting clearer,” he said. In the tidal waters below town, where boaters seek largemouth bass, conditions are improving daily. By the weekend, Odenkirk guessed, the bass fishing should be fine. Meanwhile, catfish of note, and occasional bowfin, are available.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Go fishing. This lake provides good bass, crappie and sunfish numbers. One of our regulars went to Brittle with his flyrod earlier this week and landed a bunch of fat bluegills, using a tiny popper and a short dropper line tied to the popper’s hook. The foot-long line was attached to a sinking fly dubbed the Bumblebee.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Call concessionaire Darrell Kennedy, of Angler’s Landing (540-672-3997) for the latest water conditions. The bass like a popper surface lure early in the day, but be sure to switch to plastic finesse worms or a fat sinking Senko as the sun warms the water surface. Crappie catches have been poor, but sunfish are assured.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Weekends are noisy and busy affairs as personal watercraft (i.e. jet skis and Skidoos) take up valuable fishing areas. Anglers in he know hunt for their bass inside upper lake creeks early in the day, long before the water cycles from hell show up. Good catches are made with topwater poppers, soft plastics and shallow to medium depth crankbaits.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has approved the 143-pound blue catfish as a state record. The monster “cat” was caught here a little over a week ago. The angler, Nick Anderson, of Greenville, N.C., now awaits word from the International Game Fish Association with whom he filed an all-tackle world record application. If the IGFA accepts the record, it would beat the old mark by 13 pounds. If it’s bass and crappies you’re after, both species have been fairly active this week, with main-lake points and brush piles best for crappies, but feeder creek brush and sunken wood best for bass.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Evening hours have been fine for blue catfish hunters in the Dutch Gap area. A few hefty bass are attracted by wacky-rigged or straight Texas-rigged plastic worms inside feeder creeks and on main-stem wood and vegetation if the tidal pull is not prohibitive.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – Senko and Zero worms, fished without slip sinkers, can see action in the upper and middle river sectors. Early hour topwater poppers and buzzbaits will also be looked at by the bass. Catfish are plentiful.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles — Our Front Royal river specialist, Dick Fox, fished from a kayak, as did a friend, and here’s what he reported, “We got the dust off the kayaks and floated from Karo to Front Royal. The river is in great shape; the best it has been in a while. The water shows a perfect stain with a surface temperature of 79 degrees.” Dick said between the two about 60 smallmouth bass were caught. “Most of them measured between 10 and 12 inches, but we also caught some quality fish up to 18 inches. The best lure for us was a 3-inch chubby Senko-type plastic bait in watermelon color.”
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – With the arrival of fairly sustained daytime heat in the mountains, a lot of fishermen are confining their activities to the dark hours, especially the striper anglers who drift along in deep channel bends with live bream or large shiners. Occasional nighttime surface eruptions occur down around the “S” Curve as stripers feed on threadfin shad. Quickly cast and retrieved rattle lures and surface chug baits will get them. The largemouth and smallmouth bass are hanging out in rock formations and feeder creeks points and dropoffs.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles — There’ll be smallmouth bass by the numbers if you use dark color fringed tubes, soft plastic jerkbaits in white, or various spinners, as well as flyrod streamers and poppers. Only tremendously heavy rainstorms can change the outlook.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – Sue Foster, of the Oyster Bay Tackle Shop in Ocean City, Md., and Fenwick Island, Del., said that the surf is full of Norfolk spot, as well as some croakers, kingfish, baby sea trout and snapper bluefish, big cownose rays and sharks. The flounder fishing all around Ocean City is good, but you’ll have to catch 10 or 12 before having a proper keeper. Most of the flounder are small. That’s good for future years, isn’t it? If you want stripers and bluefish, try the resort city’s inlet, also the area around the Route 50 bridge. Sea bass chances are good in the offshore waters and the Oceanic Pier offers flounder during the sunny hours, with bluefish coming in at night. The blue-water boats in the canyon waters find good tuna hookups and some billfish.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach — Spadefish are possible at the Chesapeake Light Tower, but they’re real picky, while Spanish mackerel provide fine sport for inshore Virginia Beach anglers. Some of the mackerel measure up to 24 inches. Amberjack are available, but it takes a run to the Southern Towers for best action, says Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com). She adds that the Fingers and the 26-Mile Hill produce bluefin tunas, as well as dolphinfish, king mackerel and a few wahoos. Yellowfin tunas, some weighing up to 100 pounds, are also found in the distant offshore waters.
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