- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Chesapeake Bay boaters who haven’t had an easy time finding rockfish while trolling are switching to chum ground-up menhaden baitfish and the catches can be quite good, especially in the waters below Hooper’s Island Light and south of Cedar Point.

Solomons, Md., charter fishing captain Greg Buckner has been catching limits of various sizes of stripers for his customers while chumming. We’re certain other captains are succeeding in similar fashion. But all the chummers agree that you shouldn’t try to conserve this fish attractant. Dump plenty of ladles filled with the juicy “fragrant” melange into the water and see if the rockfish do not respond. Make sure your lightly weighted hook rigs are attached to finger-long slices of alewife back-meat, then drop them into the chum line.

Once again, the weather has played a major role as concerns freshwater anglers wishing to wade or sit in small johnboats in the upper portions of the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, and also the entire Shenandoah River. It doesn’t look promising. Repeated thundershowers have visited these waters, and they’re only adding to already poor conditions. The best that can be hoped for is that with three or four days of dry weather things will settle down enough to allow some casting for smallmouth bass, catfish and redbreasted sunfish.

Even in the upper tidal parts of the Potomac River between Wilson Bridge and western Charles County, local fishermen find it a challenge to navigate around the floating debris that has been coming down from the mountains. It’s not as bad as several TV stations have reported it to be, but there are enough logs, boards and trash moving about with every tide that a boater has to slow down and occasionally execute evasive steering maneuvers.

All the same, the tidal water bass, snakeheads, catfish, crappies and sunfish are available in the surprisingly clear waters of the feeder creeks on either side of the river. You’ll need to move into the backs of the creeks to get away from some of the murky river water that is pushed into the openings of the creeks during incoming tides.

The people who are after croakers in the Potomac find a few downriver, around the Wicomico tributary and areas south of there. The fishing for the “hardheads” should improve with continuous warm weather such as we’ve had this week. By the way, the white perch and blue crabs are seen increasingly in the Chesapeake’s feeder rivers and creeks.


(all listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – The Fletcher’s Cove area continues to see strong runoff and murky water. There will be no boat rentals until things look a lot better. If the river clears enough for fishing by the weekend, you’ll see catfish, snakehead and striper catches. Call ahead for conditions, 202-244-0461 or go to www.Fletcher’scove.com. Meanwhile, downriver bass fishermen are dodging quite a bit of debris that is coming down from the mountains and nearby counties above Great Falls. However, bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (391-932-1509) says most of the feeder creeks are fishable and I agree. I was on the river and in several creeks on Tuesday and caught fish. The guide says to stick to grass beds and spatterdock, using topwater poppers, Chatterbaits, or “fat” worms, like the Zero or Senko. For example, the Chicamuxen Creek showed action, as will the Aquia and Potomac creeks. In the more saline lower river parts, remember that summer isn’t far away and croakers, various sizes of rockfish and white perch are now available as far up as the Route 301 bridge.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Quade’s Store in Bushwood reports croakers and increasing numbers of white perch, but until a steady summer pattern sets in, you must be prepared for good catches one day, lesser success the next. It’s an up-and-down kind of fishery right now.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – If you work the dense grass beds and mats of hydrilla and milfoil, you’ll catch bass. Use topwater poppers during the early morning hours or whenever it’s overcast. Senko and Zero worms do well, even when fished without added slipsinker weight. The Chatterbait lure also is a good choice.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – At Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) it will be bluegills jumping on flyrod bugs or worm-baited hooks under bobbers. Some bass and occasional crappies are taken, as well. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) the bluegills and crappies can make this lake one terrific fishing choice. Bass are also available and once in a while, you’ll hook a chain pickerel.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Once again, the upper ends of Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge will show murky conditions from recent rains, but much of the two reservoirs are fishable. Concentrate on side pockets and coves, using small white grubs under a bobber for the crappies (especially if you see some flooded brush), or shallow-running crankbaits or spinnerbaits for bass. Sunfish are everywhere.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The Tackle Box store reports that croaker catches are consistent. Boaters who drift over Helen’s Bar can get a dozen or so white perch and the same number of croakers in a couple of hours. Shrimp, bloodworm pieces or squid strips will result in strikes. The public fishing pier under the bridge at Solomons produces perch, a few rockfish, catfish and croakers. The Tackle Box also says that blue crabs are in the creeks in good numbers.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles – The topwater bite was good all last week, especially up-lake. Male bass, guarding fry, will bust any topwater lure. The bass spawning is not yet over. Some big females are still on the beds, but sight fishing will be wiped out if the rains come. Good crappie catches have been reported. Medium minnows under a light bobber set at 6 to 8 feet. around brush and standing timber have produced best. Bluegills are just now getting ready to spawn and if the rains stay away, flyrodders will have a ball. Reservoir is stained with surface temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Some decent catches of bass, fat sunfish and crappies are made. The water is fishable.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – Here we go again. Every week we figure that the river will be in good enough shape to permit decent smallmouth bass outings, but then a rain deluge arrives and the fishing must be put on hold. That’s the story right now. High, swift water is the rule and most anglers hoping that things settle down in time for the weekend. More rain is forcast. If it’s light, maybe the river can get back to near normal, but if it pours, forget it.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Lake guide Brent Nelson (captbrentnelson@gmail.com) says the water temperature is in the mid-60s and the smallmouth bass are spawning on rocky cover over most of the lake. Look for light, dish-shaped beds in 8 to 10 feet of water, he said. Largemouth bass are just now beginning to spawn in the backs of uplake coves. “Turkey Neck, Green Glade, Poland Run, McHenry and Beckman’s are solid bets,” said Nelson, who recommended that you skip plastics and flipping jigs under the various docks, but Nelson asks anglers to let the spawning fish go immediately to let them complete their breeding cycle. Bass seasons is closed now; it will open June 15. Crappies are caught in in brush piles and under certain docks. Walleyes will go after a leech, nightcrawler or shiner baits on Carolina or Lindy rigs up in North Glade and Turkey Neck coves, also in front of the state park.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – The river below Conowingo Dam is discolored and moving swiftly. However, the side of the Susky, in places like the Apartment Cove just outside and to the right of the Havre DeGrace marina will turn up some bass, while the Susquehanna Flats give up stripers. However, the constant rains have not helped the fishing.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, reports that the big rockfish (40 inches or more) have mostly returned to the Atlantic Ocean. To be sure, there are plenty of 22- to 30-inch fish for trollers and chummers — yes, chummers. The chumming has begun. Solomons charter captain Greg Buckner, of the “Miss Susie,” had a party that insisted on light tackle fishing last Sunday, so the captain secured fresh alewife bait, ground it up, and set up a chum line just below Cedar Point. In less than three hours his party had limited out on both big and small rockfish. The fish now are scattered up and down the Bay and lots of patience is needed to be successful. Don’t forget to use plenty of chum to lure the stripers closer to the boat. “Lighting up the water,” charter captain Eddie Davis used to call the practice of dropping many ladlesful of chum into the water. Meanwhile, Bay trollers have no problem finding rockfish in all sizes up to 34 inches on the western side of the Bay from Cedar Point to Point Lookout. But the middle and more northern parts on the east side also deliver rockfish action.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com), the well-known fishing phenom down in the Virginia Beach area, said that there seems to be an over-abundance of small black drum this year, although larger fish are also providing some of the action near buoys 13 and 16. Some boats average up to 15 of the big brutes during an outing. Good striped bass catches are made at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel along the spines of all four islands. Ball said “Nice stripers are also taking live bait presented over the tubes. Some of these fish are over 44-inches long.” The same bridge-tunnel areas also hold decent-size flounder. Ball added that red drum are still available within the inlet off Fisherman’s Island, but the fish are beginning to disperse to other areas of the lower Bay. Big redfish are mixed in with the black drum in some locations. Use peeler crabs and fresh alewife bait and you could score on both species. By the way, trophy striped bass are sometimes caught in the shallower waters where the drum are hooked.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – The upper river sees very little bass action. Not my choice for a “fishy” getaway. At the mouth, there’ll be some 18-inch stripers taken by casters and trollers.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – Slow going again for all species, especially bass in the Snow Hill to Shad Landing area. These shore rivers have seen far too much unsettled weather and that unsettles the fish.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – One local Federalsburg angler said, “If you want fairly decent bass and crappie action, stick with the Marshyhope Creek. The rest of the river hasn’t turned up much of anything.” The Marshyhope bass like topwater lures during low-light hours, but plastic worms always are a good choice, as well.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – The crappie bite can be quite good now, but for some reason the bass hunters have not done as well as they should.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – As this was written, the river was muddy and moving quickly above Fredericksburg and down below the city. One of our fishing friends crossed the Route 301 bridge at Port Royal and said the river was a sea of mud. It will be a while before it clears up.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Even if the water gets a little murky, there’ll be bass, sunfish and crappies caught. Remember, the fish in these waters are used to occasional discoloration.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Bottom baits will find fat catfish, and noisy topwater lures retrieved around standing timber or brush piles might see a bass slam into it. Scented plastic worms do well on the bass, while live minnows draw hits from the crappies.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Marty Magone says any down-lake points hold bass and topwater poppers cast around such spots early in the day will be looked at by the bass. The up-river parts of the lake continue to show female bass with bloody tailes, indicating that some spawning is still under way. The upper lake parts (not far from the Route 1 boat ramp) are good for stripers.

KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles — Catfish and crappies are the main catches, but some truly good bass fishing can be had when the water clears more in the flooded brush of feeder creeks.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) No one expects the fishing to be great this weekend. Water conditions aren’t the best.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – The upper “Chick” delivers bass, crappies and catfish. Haven’t heard of any great catches in the waters close to the junction with the James.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Royal resident and frequent river angler, Dick Fox, said, “As it stands today river is still up several feet and stained. If we do not get a lot of rain this week it will be in great shape for the weekend.” That means the smallmouth bass should be biting eventually.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Feeder creeks will give up bass and crappies. Not many rockfish are hooked in the main lake, but that can change on a minute’s notice.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles – Skip it this week. The water is discolored and moving swiftly. Blame heavy rains on that.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles – The backwaters of Ocean City give up a few flounder, but the fishing should be better. Surf catches from Ocean City down to Assateague Island have included some decent-sized striped bass, even a channelbass now and then. One angler says he was using cut mullet bait and had a small bluefish swallow the offering. Sea bass might be on the menu for offshore wreck fishermen.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Keeper flounder are available in Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet and all the seaside inlets and backwaters of the Eastern Shore. Speckled trout occasionally provide bonus catchers for the flounder drifters. The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reports catches of Taylor bluefish along the ocean front. Dr. Ken Neill wrote, “We ran out for the re-opening of Virginia’s sea bass season on May 22 [and] caught a nice class of sea bass with a number pushing the 5-pound mark. In addition to the sea bass fishing, we did some deeper bottom fishing in the area of the Norfolk Canyon. We had a good day catching five golden tilefish, a pollock, blackbelly rosefish, 12 or so hake, blueline tilefish up to 17 pounds, 5 ounces, and two snowy grouper.”

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