"Everybody complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it," a tongue-in-cheek Mark Twain said long, long ago. The sad fact is that our area's anglers would love to change the weather, but, alas, they can't.
The past week and coming days are ideal examples. We had sun, cooler-than-normal temperatures, a bit of snow, plenty of showers and enough wind to drive a man to drink. Forecasters now say there's a bit of a warming trend coming our way, but I won't believe it until I can I feel it.
"Nothing to worry about," said ace fisheries biologist John Odenkirk, who works for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "The hickory shad are in the Rappahannock River [Fredericksburg area] and there are some stripers and yellow perch there as well."
Odenkirk was very optimistic, especially about next week, figuring that all heck is going to break loose as far as the fishing is concerned.
Much the same kind of optimism is heard from Dan Ward at Fletcher's Cove on the Potomac River in Georgetown. "The stripers are starting to show up," he reported, "and the shad are biting off and on. Only the white perch fishing has been slow, but they're here." All that will change rapidly as a warming sun raises water temperatures.
The bass boaters in the upper tidal Potomac between the District and western Charles County, Md., or Prince William County, Va., are doing just fine. The creeks are giving up good catches of largemouths and if you want to tie into a Chinese snakehead, Odenkirk says the latest hot spot is the Aquia Harbor section of the Potomac's Aquia Creek. "They're hanging around the wood pilings and bulkheads in that part of the creek," he said.
April 16 isn't far away and the Chesapeake Bay's rockfish hunters will be out by the hundreds, if not thousands, looking for the 28-inch-and-over trophy specimens.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(all listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles -- Just about every feeder creek to the main stem of the river is giving up quality catches of largemouth bass. Of course, when that happens you can bet your last nickel that the tournament boaters will dot the water like a bad case of measles. A few days ago, I spotted a batch of Pennsylvania boats that came out of the Mattawoman Creek's Smallwood State Park. Their occupants were practicing for a big state outing. Why here? Because they can't fish for bass and weigh them in just yet in their own state. So Marylanders and Virginians must suffer the visitors who occasionally act as if they own the tidal Potomac River. The bass, meanwhile, will look at Mann's Sting Ray grubs, crankbaits, crawfish-like clawed plastics, and in some cases even a Chatterbait wherever grasses are beginning to emerge. If you plan to head into the Aquia Creek on the Virginia side, prepare for a shocker in the upper parts of the creek, especially around Aquia Harbor's docks and bulkheads. Virginia biologist John Odenkirk and his crew checked for snakeheads the other day and he said the numbers of Chinese invaders they shocked up was incredible. Meanwhile, in the uppermost tidal portions of the river, Dan Ward at Fletcher's Cove (off Canal Road in Georgetown) said boats will be rented as long as the river stays as it is currently. "The stripers are coming in," he said, "but the perch fishing has slowed a bit because of the cold snap. Shad are biting, so come on down." You can Fletcher's Cove at 202/244-0461.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles -- I visited the Allen's Fresh sector of the river to fish for white perch, but caught nothing, using small grubs and light-weight Silver Buddy lures. Could be that the high tide had something to do with it, but other anglers affirmed that the white perch action was slow -- very slow.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles -- The creek has been absolutely wonderful as concerns productive bass outings. Flat-tailed grubs smeared with Smelly Jelly (any flavor), short plastic worms in red or red with black stripes, 1/4-ounce crankbaits in brown/red, or chartreuse with black back, have worked well in shoreline wood, emerging spatterdock edges, and marsh banks that offer quickly dropping depths. We did fine on incoming tides this week as bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) gave us a bass fishing lesson. He easily outdid his two friends, catching bass as if he were fishing in an aquarium. Wow! The Mason Springs sector, we've been told, has seen some early arrivals of herring.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles -- Gilbert Run Lake (a.k.a. Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, has been okay for small bass that like spinners, small crankbaits and pieces of nightcrawler fished under a bobber. This is ideal for children. Crappies and sunfish are also available. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) the bass fishing has been tough, but wind and temperature drops can be blamed on that. Some crappie catches are reported by anglers using 1/16-ounce white darts or plastic grubs fished under a bobber.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles -- Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties corridor show some decent crappie catches in flooded brush near various shorelines. Small live minnows, fished under a bobber, can be deadly, but curly-tailed grubs in white or chartreuse often do the job every bit as nicely. I have not heard of even one decent catch of bass. However, even if I begin to sound like a broken record, there are largemouth bass in both lakes that die of old age. These waters simply do not face the fishing pressure of a Potomac River and other super-popular waters.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles -- Upper river between Route 50 and Route 4 (Hills Bridge area) are finding some white perch, but no one is really raving about having great success.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles -- Ranger Smokey Davis said Alexandria's Peter Coon and Axel Boy, of Springfield, won the Fountainhead Bass Club's first tournament of the season with six bass that weighed 22.51 pounds. Big fish of the contest was a 5.81-pound beauty. Spinnerbaits, fished over flats next to main-lake points, were especially effective as the largemouths are checking out various spawning areas. The reservoir is at full pool and clear. Surface water temperatures are in the 50s. For some reason, the crappie bite is slow. Could be that not many anglers are specifically going after them just yet. By the way, a 3-pound chain pickerel was hooked on a live minnow at the Fountainhead Park pier.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles -- Bass fishermen are doing quite well as they're working Berkley Power craws and Strike King Rage Tails, along also with spinnerbaits and 1/4-ounce crankbaits wherever brushy areas meet suitable spawning shorelines. Here as in neighboring Fountainhead Park the crappie bite is still a bit slow. Blame cold temperatures for keeping some of the crappie fanatics away. The fish are there, for sure. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk told me about finding a young muskellunge inside a special trap the fisheries people use to find out what's happening to the muskies that used to bring people from all over as they tried to hook one of these freshwater monsters.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles -- Walleyes continue to take brightly colored jigs upstream of Taylor's Landing in Washington County, but these fish can oblige one day and act tight-lipped the nest. Smallmouth bass have started biting again from western Maryland all the way down to Montgomery County's White's Ferry and Edwards Ferry. Grubs, tubes, small red crankbaits -- all can do the job in the deep pockets below river boulders.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles -- Bass guide Brent Nelson (email@example.com) says the northern pike bite continues in the coves if you use live shiners, but bass are waking up and fine yellow perch will take a small, live minnow or a Berkley dropshot imitation minnow.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles -- Some decent-size, catch-and-release stripers are already taken on the Susquehanna Flats, but inside the river right now it's mostly white perch and a few bass.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles -- All the trophy rockfish hunters are awaiting the April 16 through May 15 season when one fish of 28 inches or longer will be legal per person. Remember, eel baits cannot be used. Some catch-and-release stripers are hooked around the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant. Upper Bay rockfish anglers who are checking on the presence of stripers find action on the Susqehanna Flats.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles -- Virginia tidewater specialist, Dr. Ken Neill, says tautog are caught on structures inside the Chesapeake Bay, also around the Bay Bridge Tunnel where good catches are reported. "A little run of stable weather conditions will kick off the spring flounder run," says Neill, who also reminded us that a few croakers were caught up in the rivers before the cold snap arrived. He added that some striped bass are caught and released in the James and York River systems.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles -- Slow going for bass in all sectors, but some decent perch action is seen way up the river above Greensboro around Red Bridges where the white perch go to spawn. Don't be surprised to happen into hickory shad in the same areas.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Either very few boaters are checking out the bass fishing in the river, or the bass have lockjaw. Everybody we've talked to says they're waiting for much warmer weather.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles -- (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 , or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope gives up some fair-sized bass to jig'n'pig lures or shallow-running crankabits. The same is true of the Nanticoke's Delaware feeder, the Broad Creek. Seaford, Del., boaters find a few bass around bridge abutments, emerging weed edges and sunken brush.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles -- Bass will look at dropshot rigs holding grubs or small plastic worms. Quarter-ounce Little Deep N crankbaits should see action around boat docks and brush piles up and down the lake. Crappie fishing with live minnows is productive if you have sunken trees and beaver huts to cast to.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles -- John Odenkirk, the fisheries biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says the hickory shad, yellow perch and some stripers are in the general Fredericksburg sector. Of course, during a cold snap, the fish will not offer great action, but as the weather warms (which should happen this weekend) you'll notice a decided change in their willingness to bite.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles -- A good mix of bass, catfish and crappies makes Brittle a good choice for weekenders.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles -- (Concession stand, 540/672-3997) In case you didn't know this, there are walleyes in this lake and they can be caught on live minnows or a variety of crankbaits or colorful grubs right now. Add also a good chance for bass and crappies.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles -- Uplake areas have been fine for bass, stripers and a few fat crappies, but lower lake feeder creeks also offer fair opportunities for bass.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles -- Of course, bait dunkers from near and far are trying for the huge blue catfish that are in this large reservoir ever since a 109-pound state record was boated recently. Don't overlook the striper run that is about to materialize in the reservoir and crappie or bass anglers always find action if they're patient.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles -- (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Big blue catfish are hooked between Richmond and Appomattox. Bass reports are not encouraging, but the "graveyard" area in the upper tidal river can be a good starting point for largemouth bass, even rockfish now and then.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER : 135 miles -- (Williamsburg area) Bass like small crankbaits or Sting Ray grubs alongside emerging spatterdock fields, but also in upper river shoreline wood. Crappies and perch are possible in upper portions.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles -- The fishing for smallmouth bass has seen better days, but the weather simply hasn't cooperated lately. It will be better this weekend.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles -- Smallmouth and largemouth bass are possible in the feeder creeks. Jigs'n'pigs in black or blue do nicely. Live herring or large shiners can draw a striped bass downlake.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles -- (Route 6 south of Charlottesville to Scottsville) Just like the Shenandoah River, the James has suffered from lousy weather that has kept anglers away and fish very tight-mouthed. Here, too, the weekend will turn up smallmouth bass that like grubs, jigs, tubes and small crankbaits.
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles -- Some tautogs are possible on the coastal wrecks, but in all the fishing isn't anything to write home about. Good things, however, are about to happen as the red drum (channelbass) will arrive along the beaches soon and surf fishermen will go after them from Ocean City down to the Assateague Island beaches.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach -- Super saltwater angler Dr. Ken Neill said, "The recent return of winter-like weather conditions put a damper on fishing activity this past week. Some boats did manage to get out in between blows and coastal wrecks produced good catches, with the Triangle Reef area being a favorite destination. "The coastal wrecks are also holding some decent cod," said Neill and added, "The arrival of big red drum is much anticipated. They will be biting on the Eastern Shore by the next full moon."
For more outdoors news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com.
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