If you leave the house before the roosters crow and get on the water as quickly as possible, you'll do very well this weekend. Above-average temperatures in the air and the water will dictate where and how you catch your fish.
It begins in the Chesapeake Bay, where a number of charter fishing captains already have begun their night fishing trips to the Middle Grounds to find croakers for their customers. The biggest specimens seem to strike the baits just before darkness sets in; after that, lots of smaller (but legal) "hardheads" will jump on the hooks.
Rockfish have been plentiful from the waters at the Virginia/Maryland state lines up toward the Cove Point area, where chummers have scored, but trollers also connect clear up to the Routes 50/301 Bay Bridges and beyond. Some anglers find action on the stripers by casting spoons and poppers near the mouth of St. Jerome's Creek and the Calvert Cliffs when the wind doesn't blow.
In the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, the Bay Bridge-Tunnel area is home to cobias, black and red drum, as well as increasing numbers of bluefish and flounder.
Things finally are getting back to normal on the tidal Potomac River between Washington and western Charles County, Md. The huge FLW bass tournament that was headquartered at National Harbor is over. Professional bass angler Luke Clausen, of Otis Orchards, Wash., last Sunday caught a five-bass limit that weighed 19 pounds, 4 ounces. It earned him $125,000 at the conclusion of the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac. Clausen's 4-day total tournament catch of bass was only two ounces shy of 70 pounds.
Although I do not propose that we entertain massive bass tournaments on the tidal Potomac River at any time, I am glad that at least one Maryland fishing pro, Bryan Schmitt, of Deale, placed fourth and won $25,000 with a four-day weight total of 64 pounds, 12 ounces. I'm sure he can use it.
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 conditions will be good for rock hoppers and boat renters. A smattering of striped bass is still around, plus you'll be sure to hook some hefty catfish, maybe even a snakehead and a few well-fed bass. Below D.C., the mega FLW bass tournament that was headquartered at National Harbor for four days finally ended Sunday. On the last day, professional bass angler Luke Clausen, of Otis Orchards, Wash., caught a 5-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 4 ounces to win $125,000 in what was called the Walmart FLW Tour on the Potomac River. His 4-day total catch of bass was only two ounces shy of 70 pounds. Although I do not propose that we entertain massive bass tournaments on the tidal Potomac River at any time, I am glad that at least one Maryland fishing pro, Bryan Schmitt, of Deale, won $25,000 with a 4-day weight total of 64 pounds, 12 ounces. Schmitt placed fourth. So now the bass fishing for Maryland, D.C., and Virginia residents who care little about these cast-for-cash events can resume. Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) says if you stick to fishing the edges and the open inside pockets of weed and spatterdock beds in feeder creeks and main stem with fat worms, spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits and early morning topwater poppers, you'll score. Catfish and white perch are well distributed and they're hungry.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Quade's Store in Bushwood agrees that hardheads -- the favorite word for croakers in Southern Maryland -- will bite, especially at and after sunset. White perch and plentiful catfish can drive bait dunkers batty. By the way, if bloodworms are too expensive for your croaker fishing, try strips of squid or small whole, raw shrimp. Yeah, a pound of little grocery store shrimp is cheaper than a dozen bloodworms.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The water now is warm enough to see successful anglers launch their boats as early as possible. Outside creek bends along marsh banks and spatterdock fields can be great for early or late hour surface lures, especially blunt-nosed poppers. Plastic worms are always good, but I prefer wacky-rigging a Zero or Senko worm without any added weight and slowly jerking it through the vegetation or sunken brush.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) you'll soon see the summer crowds as children get out of school and they'll be paddle-boating here. Stick to the earliest hours or fish above the roped-off lake sections where the little darlings can't take their noisy activities. Scattered bass and plenty of sunfish are available. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) you'll find bass, crappies and fat sunfish. Flyrodding for bluegills has been a blast.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties will deliver bass, sunfish, catfish and some decent-size crappies. A 1/16-ounce white/red shad dart fished 3 or 4 feet below a bobber can be deadly on crappies and large bluegills when fished around shoreline brush and sunken wood.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – From the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, "Trollers using small bucktails are catching rockfish in the river on high tides close to the shoreline." If it's white perch you want, 1/8-oz. Beetlespin lures or regular spinnerbaits, as well as straight in-line white spinners, such as a Roostertail, will find action in the feeder creeks wherever there's a shore lined with grass or fallen brush and trees.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – Ranger Smokey Davis reports, "The first hour of the most recent Fountainhead Bass Club's tournament was good for those who decided to use topwater baits. Carl Martin and his partner, Mike Isner, both from Manassas had their 6-fish limit early and that formed the basis of their tournament-winning weight of 23.37 pounds. They went on to catch a couple of 5-pound kickers on deep-running crankbaits in crawfish colors later in the day." Smokey added that flyrodders continue to score well on bedding bluegills and now channel cats are getting ready to spawn. A few crappies are taken, but numbers and sizes are not very good. The water remains slightly stained; surface temperatures range from the high 70s to low 80s.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – The bass will hop onto a buzzbait or a Pop'R popper during low light conditions, but when the sun is up switch to Texas-rigged 4-inch Power Worms or some kind of finesse worm on a shaky-head rig. The crappies are beginning to settle in on brush piles. Do the small jig-and-bobber thing for good results.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – It finally makes sense to come up to the mountains and go after smallmouth bass (maybe even a tiger muskie) in Washington County and downstream toward Montgomery County. The walleyes are around, but they are well scattered and tough to find. The smallmouths will look at a white or chartreuse fringed tube jig, small pig'n'jig lures in brown or black, even quarter-ounce red/brown crankbaits that can do well in the deep-water holes below large rock formations.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Lake guide Brent Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is finding bass for his clients. The largemouths have been going after grubs, jig'n'pigs, jerkbaits and even some topwater lures under docks or the deeper coves. Walleyes have been hanging around lake points. A deep-running crankbait in red or red/chartreuse can work.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Bass fishing has picked up a bit in the Havre de Grace area and even up in Port Deposit where occasional smallmouth bass are taken along with the largemouths among river rocks on the town's shoreline. Scattered rockfish are possible below the Conowingo Dam and they'll look at a Rebel or Rapala diving/floating jerkbait.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Norm Braveman, of Rockville, won last week's light tackle category in the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland (CCA MD) Kent Narrows Catch and Release Tournament with a 31-1/4-inch rockfish, and Jeff Nicklason, of Grasonville, topped the fly division with a 24-5/8-inch striper. Some of the tournament participants also caught four black drum over 40 inches long during the day. The drum were released. Down in the lowest Maryland parts of the Bay, night trips to the Middle Grounds for croaker have begun in earnest. The Tackle Box's Ken Lamb said that Capt. Lew Tippett on the "Stephen D" was out earlier this week and limited out on croakers. "The bigger fish (15 to 18 inches) are caught the last hour before dark," said Lamb and then pointed out that when the sun sets the 10 to 12 inch croakers take over. If you enjoy fishing the Point Lookout area, Capt. Lore is now running the headboat "Olympus" and most everyone is getting plenty of croakers and other species. Daytime chummers and trollers score around the Targets, below Cedar Point, and the Middle Grounds near buoy 72. Lure casters have hooked rockfish on surface poppers near the mouth of St. Jerome's Creek. Norfolk apot are coming on and soon there'll be enough to use as bait for live-liners hoping to catch rockfish. Small bluefish and young speckled trout show up now and then.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – The fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, said that cobia have arrived in the [lower] Chesapeake Bay. "Cobia have been caught by both chumming and sight fishing this week. Black drum are schooling around the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and red drum can be caught up on the shoals." Boats cruising around looking for cobia are also encountering them. Dr. Neill also said that sheepshead have arrived at the Bridge-Tunnel, but spadefish have not made a good showing, although the hot weather will help bring them in. Small bluefish are all over the lower bay. A few fat flounder are hooked along the Bridge-Tunnel islands and abutments.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Rockfish and white perch are hooked in the river's mouth, with occasional stripers and increasing numbers of perch taken from the Cambridge's Route 50 fishing bridge.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – Spatterdock fields and flooded tree roots on shore deliver fair numbers of bass. Use shallow-running crankbaits or finesse worms.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – The Marshyhope Creek in the Federalsburg is as good a place as any to start hunting for bass with worms and early morning poppers. Main river bass action sometimes is confined to the weeds and spatterdock edges up the river in Seaford, Del. Crankbaits, small spinnerbaits and 4-inch Power Worms have done the job.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – It's been a tough week for largemouth bass anglers, but catfish fans are all smiles with willing fish found all over the lake. Most are in the 1- to 3-pound range; they like chicken liver baits in 5 to 10 feet of water. Trollers are starting to connect on stripers, but live bait fishermen get better results. Look for the crappies to be around deep water bridge pilings. Water temperatures in the mid-lake portions have been hitting the 85-degree mark.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – The river is very fishable, especially in the upper non-tidal portions above Fredericksburg where smallmouth bass hold court. Flukes, tubes, small crankbaits do the job in the rock beds and shaded shoreline stretches. In tidal bass waters below town, the largemouth fishing has been good for boaters working plastic worms, shallow crankbaits and Chatterbaits. Try surface poppers early in the day if you see open pockets in spatterdock patches.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish catches can be very good. The bass are off the beds and they'll go after shallow water wacky-rigged worms, or in the dropoffs, a Texas-riggd 4-inch Power Worm or any kind of finesse worm. Crappies and fat bluegills will jump on a tiny white/red shad dart fished under a bobber.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Much the same fishing action as Lake Brittle. Crappies, bass, sunfish and catfish, but also walleyes, are available. Try flyrod popping bugs for fat bream along the shorelines.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Good catches of bass and stripers are reported from upper lake portions, but remember that weekends here resemble a zoo with plenty of PWCs (personal water craft) that ought to be renamed WMFH (water motorcycles from hell). Fishermen and jet skis do not get along very well.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Above average bass fishing in the mouths of the feeder creeks and main stem are giving up stripers. Catfish catches are fine. Some of the guys using cut herring or chunks of fish from other species find whopper blue catfish. Crappie chances are good in flooded brush.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Blue catfish and a few bass are taken. Remember, the catfish often outnumber the bass. However, the river's feeder creeks hold good numbers of largemouths.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – Bass boaters find action in the upper and middle portions of the "Chick." Wacky-rigged plastic worms or hard jerkbaits can do the job around wood or marshes.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Royal river angler Dick Fox said, "The river is in great shape with near normal water levels. Around Front Royal it has a slight stain with 75-degree water temperatures in the South Fork and 72 degrees in the North Fork. Fish are biting but they're on the small side. Use crankbaits, Mann's Sting Ray grubs, tubes, in-line spinners and small Senko-type plastic baits."
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Stripers and bass have been hooked in good numbers, but in the creeks it's the sunfish and crappies that hold the attention of those who want to catch a delicious supper.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles – Here's hoping that rainstorms stay away because the smallmouth bass have jumped on flyrod streamers, such as the Clouser Minnow, and others. Conventional tackle, such as spinning outfits, turn up "smallies" by the numbers if you use jigs, grubs and tube lures in an assortment of colors.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – Sue Foster, of the Oyster Bay Tackle Shop in Ocean City, says the water temperature reads 68.7 degrees. She adds that a few stripers and red drum are still caught in the surf. Additional hookups come when bluefish, kingfish, croakers, rays and sharks came into the surf shallows. Sue said there was a good flounder bite this week and that a number of rockfish came into the Ocean City Inlet. Offshore boats find sea bass and tautogs, maybe even a codfish. In the canyon waters, there'll be tuna hookups, especially the Washington Canyon. By the way, if you want to check out Delaware Bay, some large drum are taken there.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Big bluefish can be hooked on the ocean seamounts and in the distant offshore waters. From the Virginia Beach area, Dr. Ken Neill said, "The Fingers are loaded with the critters." Bluefin, yellowfin, and a few bigeye tunas are caught in canyon waters, with the Norfolk Canyon delivering a good yellowfin tuna bite.
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