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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report
Question of the Day
Who could have guessed that additional rainstorms and wind would alter some parts of last week’s fishing report, so for this week’s outlook we’ll stay on the side of caution. That means the mountain rivers from Maryland into Virginia might be fishable, but because water levels already are up and the ground is soaked everywhere, it won’t take much of a downpour to change everything. The upper Potomac, Shenandoah and Rappahannock rivers are on my list to stay away from.
Even the Chesapeake Bay suddenly turned into an iffy proposition for some boaters who were out trolling for striped bass. As our friend, Ken Lamb, of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box, said, “Every day is different out there.” The early part of last week indeed was shut down by rain storms, but later in the week the stripers began to cooperate. By Sunday and Monday the rockfish struck a variety of lures. Lamb said that many trophy stripers were seen at his store. The anglers enjoy having their picture taken by store personnel.
Whether the fish were biting or not, Lamb made a simple statement that many fishermen probably agree with. He said, “A bad day of fishing is still better than watching TV reruns or some goofy wedding in Great Britain.”
Meanwhile, croakers (hardheads) are caught from the pier at Point Lookout State Park; even the Wicomico River in Bushwood reportedly has shown a few of the tasty fish, although our crowd that checked the fishing there was disappointed with the results. That can change in a moment’s notice and with the arrival of a proper tide. Happy news for white perch fans: They’re in the Chesapeake’s feeder rivers and tributary creeks.
In Ocean City, Md., the first bluefish, sharks and stripers were caught in the surf. Even the offshore regions are giving up large mako sharks and some flounder will show up in the Atlantic backwaters of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Down at the mouth of the Chesapeake, local fishing hotshots are awaiting the arrival of cobias, and the Eastern Shore’s lower barrier islands give up red and black drum, as well as sizable rockfish.
See the full fishing report below, and for additional outdoors news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com
D.C. AND VICINITY
(all listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles — Ray Fletcher, of Fletcher’s Cove, said the river in his sector is cloudy and showing a strong flow. However, if further rain stays away, there might be boat rentals this weekend. “If the weather situation improves,” said Ray, “you might hook some white and hickory shad, as well as a blue catfish. Even some snakeheads show up when the water gets high.” For river conditions above Chain Bridge, call Fletcher’s at 202/244-0461 (or go to www.Fletcherscove.com). Downstream, if you can get away from the seemingly endless bass tournaments this river must suffer through, the chance for bass is good in the feeder creeks below Washington, and especially so in the Charles County feeders and those opposite the river in Prince William County, Va. One local hotshot has been catching some largemouths on a small topwater buzzbait, but by and large it’s best to stick with shallow-to-medium depth crankbaits, such as the KVD 1.5 from Strike King or Mann’s Baby 1-Minus; various crawfish-clawed lures, such as the Rage Tail Baby Craw that can do well, and Nancy Knupp, who fishes with her husband, Dale, prefers finesse worms while casting to marsh banks, weed edges and fallen wood in the creeks. She’s hooking bass in good numbers. Meanwhile, in the lowest reaches of the river, trollers are connecting on trophy rockfish, using parachute bucktails and umbrella rigs with chartreuse or white Sassy Shads.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles — A few croakers are reported by fishermen working the Bushwood area of the river. White perch are more cooperative, though. You might want to check with Quade's Store in Bushwood; call 301-769-3903.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles — Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) says Paca Craws and Baby Craws do well on the bass, but also plastic worms and crankbaits. This creek has a large population of bass, but of course some days they develop lockjaw. Don’t give up. The fish are there. Catfish have begun to pick up chunks of herring or other cut fish baits just below the Indian Head boat ramp.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles — Gilbert Run Lake (a.k.a. Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, is always good for sunfish and the children who fish with gardenworms or small pieces of nightcrawlers will enjoy success. Some crappies and bass are possible. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) the crappies are more than willing to pick up a small, live minnow or a small jig, fished under a bobber. Bass catches are only so-so, but this lake has a good population of largemouths.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles — Bass and crappies, also catfish and bluegills, now are available in good numbers at the Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties corridor. Don’t forget, you can’t keep any bass. The season for them is closed until the spawning days are over.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles — The upper river, near Hill's Bridge, hasn’t turned up much of anything, according to my spies who fish there. One angler was cranking back a spinnerbait when some kind of fish almost took the rod out of his hands. “It got away and I’ll never know what it was,” he said. Chances are it was a big channel catfish or a visiting striper. Down in the lower parts of the river, the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, reports that white perch can now be found in the feeder creeks. As far as the croakers are concerned, we haven’t heard of any fresh catches in the past two days, but they’re in the river, especially along the Patuxent River Naval Air Station shoreline, near the mouth.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles — . Ranger Smokey Davis said, “John Dellinger and Mike Keller, both from Manassas, won last Sunday’s Fountainhead Bass Club tournament with a six-fish limit weighing 19.5 lbs. Dellinger also took big fish with a 5.9-pounder. The cold front that blew in Saturday night had a profound effect on the tournament. Eight of the 37 boats that were entered never had a keeper fish and only five boats had six-fish limits.” Smokey also reported that the cold front pulled bass — that had been ready to spawn — back into deeper water and they suspended in eight to 10 feet of water in staging areas. He added that the crappie bite is slowly improving, but the fish are small. The reservoir is at full pool with surface temperatures in the low 60s.”
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles — Plenty of crappie action, especially if you’re using live minnows, but white or chartreuse jigs and grubs, fished under a float, can also do well. Shallow crankbaits and sub-surface hard or soft jerkbaits will draw strikes from bass along shoreline brush.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles — The river is still high, discolored and moving swiftly. If no further heavy rains fall between Cumberland and White’s Ferry, smallmouth bass fishermen might want to try it this weekend, but I’m staying away until better days arrive.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles — The bass spawning days arrive a little later up here than they do down in the lowlands, but you can bet that some of the largemouths are in the coves doing their thing, guarding their nests. Sunfish and yellow perch are biting in deepwater coves and the chance for walleyes that like a deep-diving crankbait is good if you concentrate on jutting lake points that show sharply dropping water on each side.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles — The Susquehanna Flats are a good bet for a few Johnny-come-lately stripers that will hop onto a smartly-retrieved Bass Kandy jerkbait. The insides of the river aren’t very productive, what with a nearly constant runoff of murky upstream water.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles — It has been a confounding week for some striped bass trollers and one that rewarded patient boaters with wonderful catches of the rockfish. Ken Lamb, our Southern Maryland contact for the latest fishing information, said, “Last Sunday was absolute gangbusters. The fish jumped on every lure in sight and trollers caught them all day.” We’ve talked with some striper anglers since then and they said they connected on trophy fish Monday and Tuesday. However, as you know, the luck of fishermen can change as quickly as spring weather. Lamb also pointed out that croakers (hardheads) are hooked from the public pier at Point Lookout State Park (at the very end of Route 5 south in St. Mary’s County).
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles — Black drum are on the menu for Cape Charles clam bait drifters. Some flounder and rockfish will be hooked around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and don’t forget that the feeder rivers, including the James and Rappahannock, now offer steadily increasing numbers of croakers. Snapper bluefish are taken now and then near the ocean junction. The watch has started for the cobias. They’re expected to come in from the North Carolina coast and enter the Chesapeake Bay any day now.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles — Some perch are found between the Cambridge area and the mouth, but the overall fishing in this river simply isn’t what it should be. For example, not long ago two of us spent two days on the river between Martinak and the greater Denton area, and in two days we caught one crappie. No bass. I recall days when we’d catch one bass after another, and beautiful chain pickerel. Where are they now?
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles — Snow Hill to Shad Landing stretches are good for a couple of well-fed bass if you use crankbaits or plastic lizards. The waterlogged shallow roots along some shorelines are great for Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lures in almost any color to care to use.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 , or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) From the upper river parts in Seaford, Del., down to the mouth of the Marshyhope, your chances for catching a bass are at least fair, but the feeder creeks, including the Marshyhope, are your best bet for bass, crappies and some fat white perch.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles — The best striper action remains in uplake waters, says our lake expert. He recommends using live herring, shad or jumbo shiners. Water temps are well above the 60-degree mark throughout the lake and largemouth bass can now be found actively spawning, or are in a post-spawn mode. The crappie fishing is great and it’s all happening in the shallows. Look to boat docks, underwater brush and around the willow grass. High Point Marina is recommending you don’t spend a lot of time fishing beaver huts and for good reason: if you can see it and fish it, so could a thousand guys before you. Good advice.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles — Longtime Fredericksburg area resident, Jack Reed, says the river is high and murky and moving swiftly. However, he also mentions that he watched at least 10 fishermen working flyrods from the shorelines in downtown Fredericksburg. “They did things you and I would never do under such conditions,” said Jack. We’re guessing that they were casting for white shad, but Jack said he never saw anyone bringing in a fish. With the river looking as it does in Fredericksburg, you can imagine what a sea of murky water it will be down in the Port Royal to Leedstown sector. Probably not the best time for bass catches.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles — Crappies and bass are willing if you are even if there’s discolored water from heavy rains. The bluegills (better known as bream in Southern states) are preparing to build their nests along the shorelines and flyrodders or the worm-and-bobber set can have a ball.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles — (Concession stand, 540-672-3997) Darrel Kennedy of the concession said the bass and crappies are spawning and some fine stringers of crappies are brought in, mostly caught in waterlogged shoreline brush on jigs or small minnows. The bass appear to prefer soft plastic worms and craws. A local angler, Kenny Smith, hooked three walleyes in the 20- to 26-inch range while he was fishing for bass, using a crankbait. The bluegills are in the shallows and kids can have a ball with worm baits fished under a bobber.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles — Marty Magone said there are two different lakes now, the down-lake bass are coming off their beds and are becoming harder to catch, while up-lake water temperatures are 60 degrees and the bass and striper population is waiting for anyone willing to burn some gas. “Allens creek is the place for early topwater action,” said Magone. Another report by the VDGIF said the crappie action is good if you use live minnows or small jigs. If it’s catfish you want, use chicken livers at creek mouths and in channel waters. A Lake Gaston health advisory has been issued by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries concerning the consumption of walleyes that are sometimes hooked in the lake. Tissue samples checked by the adjacent North Carolina Division of Public Health showed mercury levels in walleyes that exceeeded the amounts considered safe for long-term human consumption. The state says the consumption of walleye should be held to no more than two meals a months. Virginia’s advisory stretches from John H. Kerr Dam downstream 18 miles to the Virginia-Carolina state lines.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles — Bobby Whitlow of Bob Cat’s Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) said that the largemouth bass are hanging out in waterlooged shrubs and bushes in the creeks. Some of them are still on their beds. Spinnerbaits or soft plastics are doing a good job. The crappies are still spawning and they’ll jump on small minnows or shad darts and such. The water shows a slight stain in the upper lake, but it’s clear down-lake, with water temperatures reaching nearly 70.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles — (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Discolored and fast moving water isn’t the best for fishing, but some large blue catfish are taken and a bit of shad activity has been noted at the dam in Richmond.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER : 135 miles — (Williamsburg area) The weekend should be kind to visiting bass boaters. The fishing for the largemouths will be good. Use small crankbaits, soft crawfish-like claw baits and finesse worms around marsh banks and fallen timber. White perch and crappies are available, as well.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60 to 85 miles — Front Royal’s Dick Fox reports that the river still quite high and muddy. “And with more rain predicted, it will not be very good for fishing until we get a week of dry weather,” he said.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles — Your best bet now might be the crappie fishing, although the bass are more cooperative than they have been in a while. Crappies love small, live minnows or 1/16-oz. jigs trimmed with curly-tailed grubs. Look for flooded brush or the same places where the bass hang out, which includes shady spots under boat docks. Striper trollers can score now and then as they use planer boards and pass over lake points and adjacent dropoffs.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles — (Route 6 south of Charlottesville to Scottsville) So much depends on possible weekend rains. If they materialize, the river will turn color and run swiftly. But if the weather stays nice, smallmouth bass will be hooked. A warning: The launch ramps from Scottsville to Bent Creek have been covered in mud, but the New Canton ramp is good to go..
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles — Sue Foster, of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, Md., and Fenwick Island, Del., said there were lots of “firsts” this and last week. The first bluefish of the season was caught in the surf in Ocean City and the Oceanic Pier. The first keeper striped bass was reported from the surf in Ocean City. The first sharks were hooked in the surf and the first mako shark and bluefin tuna were caught offshore. Flounder are biting in the bays, pier, and bridge. Stripers are biting from the Rt. 50 Bridge at night. Indian River had a good striper bite. A nice black drum was weighed in by an angler who caught it in the adjacent Delaware surf.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach — Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) says the drum bite has been and up-and-down affair. The anglers who fish off the Fisherman’s Island inlet and Smith Island on the Eastern Shore can hook up with some fat redfish, but the overall action can be slow. There’s a chance also of finding lightweight (35 pounds or so) black drum inside the Eastern Shore’s seaside inlets, but also the Latimer Shoals in the Chesapeake. Flounder fishing also has been slow one day, a little better the next. Tautogs are now off limits, but the striped bass season is open. Dr. Ken Neill reminds us that the first half of May is the “trophy” season where you can keep one fish of at least 32 inches long. The second half of May and the first half of June is the “spring” season when you can keep 2 fish 18 to 28 inches long. One of your 2 fish can be a trophy, at least 32 inches long. All “trophy” stripers kept must be reported.”
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