The time has come when many of our area's warm-weather fishermen begin to stash away their boats and tackle. However, hard-nosed anglers who prefer to seek their quarry in the Chesapeake Bay, the tidal rivers of Maryland and Virginia, as well as the not-too-distant Atlantic Ocean, are not giving up - not by a long shot.
November is a fine month for the Chesapeake's stripers (aka rockfish) in its middle and Southern Maryland portions. Down near the mouth of the Bay, in Virginia, the striped fighters will be available well into late winter, not to mention tasty tautogs that now begin to hang out in tight bunches over wrecks and alongside bridge abutments. Locally, there is no stopping for bass, crappie and yellow perch anglers. All three species will be available in varying numbers in the Potomac's tidal feeder creeks. Included among the best, if it's all three you're after, are Spoils Cove, portions of the Piscataway Creek and Pohick Bay, and Occoquan Bay and river. Also, don't overlook the Mattawoman, Potomac and Aquia creeks, as well as the main stem's Mallows Bay.
For example, if it's crappies you prefer, river bass guide Andy Andrzejewski has been using avocado-color Sting Ray grubs, dabbed with a fish attractant known as Smelly Jelly. He's hooking crappies around river points and shoreline feeding flats from Swan Creek down to the Occoquan and farther south in the Aquia Creek. All of the crappie fishing spots also have turned up largemouth bass on the same lures, but once in a while the guide casts lipped crankbaits wherever he sees fallen trees in shallow-to-deep water. If a bass is hiding there, a decent fight can quickly ensue.
Currently, the mountain rivers, including the Potomac, Rappahannock and Shenandoah, give up some fine smallmouth bass. However, while fish sizes seem to increase, be prepared for fewer numbers.
The Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia are seeing increasing numbers of ocean rockfish that enter the Bay, chasing baitfish schools and fattening up before again leaving to go back to the Atlantic for the winter months. Some of the heavyweight stripers have been hooked near Buoy 72, the Middle Grounds, the mouth of the Choptank and near-shore waters off St. Jerome's Creek and Point No Point, as well as the lower Potomac River. Down in the lower Virginia parts of the Chesapeake, speckled sea trout, tautogs and lots of striped bass in all sizes keep boaters busy.
If the wind ever slows down in the Atlantic Ocean, hardy offshore anglers will begin to travel many miles from land to go after bluefin tuna, while boaters a little closer to shore find tilefish, grouper, sea bass and tautogs over wrecks, especially those not far from Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(All listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District at Fletcher's Cove (202-244-0461), off Canal Road, there'll be a few hungry catfish, maybe a smallmouth and largemouth bass here and there, but overall fishing success hasn't been the greatest. Local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) fishes mostly downriver and he's been whacking the bass and crappies around river and feeder creek points and rock formations from below Swan Creek clear down to Virginia's Aquia Creek. His lures of choice now are Mann's avocado Sting Ray grubs and crankbaits in various colors. From the Port Tobacco River down to St. Clements Island, the fishing for stripers has been kind of slow, but no so as you reach lower river stretches where resident rockfish are mixed in with large sea-run stripers from St. George's Island south toward Point Lookout. Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park said, "Trollers are getting plenty of fish in the 22- to 35-inch range, with an occasional 40-inch-plus fish taken."
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Maybe an odd rockfish now and then outside the river mouth, but the insides of the Wicomico haven't given up much of anything except catfish.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Try points and marsh dropoffs with crankbaits, Sting Ray grubs (if the weeds will allow it) and wacky-rigged worms on warm days. The bass will do the rest. However, as marine grasses begin to die, remember that the largemouths will begin to be drawn to sunken wood and fallen trees that shjow some nearby deep water.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows a few sunfish and small bass, not much else. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) the crappies will take a small jig or dart under a bobber wherever some kind of underwater change occurs. That means look for dips, channels, sunken wood and such. Bass catches have been down, but the largemouths haven't left to spend the winter in Florida, so keep on trying.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties corridor has seen a little too much wind to allow cartopper boats onto the water. Crappies are occasionally hooked by shoreline walkers of both lakes. Bobbers and small shad darts, sometimes tipped with a tiny live minnow, can be deadly if you see a brushy area in shallow-to-deep cove waters. Lake points are good starter places for cranking long-lipped bass lures.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Trollers using a variety of bucktails, Sassy Shads or spoons are finding action on plenty of rockfish in the 22- to 24-inch range. Occasional 30-plus-inch fish have been seen in the deep river holes off Sotterly last week, reported the Lexington Park's Tackle Box. It is believed that the rockfish are heading toward the Chesapeake now, having moved downriver, with good numbers taken from Cape St. Mary's to Sotterly Point. "The bite can be short on the change of tide, and a good morning bite can lead to poor activity in the afternoon, or vice-versa. Sunny days can be difficult; rainy and overcast days tend to be excellent," added proprietor Ken Lamb. By the way, lots of white perch are hanging out along 50-foot-deep ledges around the Hawk's Nest, Kingston Hollow, Green Holly, and between the Route 4 Bridge and Point Patience. Bloodworws are recommended. Shad darts tipped with bloodworm fished on a doulble hook bottom rig can be good producers.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles -- Crappies and bass are possible, but the wind curtailed much of the fishing earlier this week.
BURKE LAKE: 31 MILES -- A live minnow fished three or four feet under a cork can be a winning combination for crappie hunters. Of course, small plastic grubs or hair jigs also do the job in brush piles and shoreline dropoffs. The same spots offer bass that like crankbaits in crawfish colors. The wind has not been kind to anglers.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – Smallmouth bass and a few walleyes are possible from Washington County's Dam No. 4 downriver to the Shepherdstoen area and below. Most of the smallmouth bass this time of year will look at a grub, a small pig'n'jig or tube jig if you manage to cast it into a deep hole at the down-flow side of large boulders in the middle of the river.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Bring your warm woolies and life jackets. The wind has been blowing and the fishing has suffered, but there are walleyes, bass, yellow perch and pike to be caught when things quiet down.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Most of the shoreline fishing successes have come a bit down, away from Conowingo Dam, in rock-filled waters that hold catfish and a few stripers, maybe even a bass or two. Some largemouths are fooled by Senko worms among marina dock pilings in Havre de Grace.
MARYLAND: 25-65 miles -- In spite of strong winds that have turned fun fishing into tough chores for the past four days, rockfish from the AtlanticOcean are in the Bay and the lower Potomac River. The Tackle Box in Lexington Park (St. Mary's County) has seen customers show off large rockfish for about a week now. There are trollers who've been hooking fish ranging from 40 to 48 inches, some of which weighed well over 40 pounds. Trollers are working the Bay's ships channel, but also find action in the lowest parts of the Potomac River's deep holes, as far up as St. George's Island. The proprietor Ken Lamb said, "The big stripers are not plentiful yet. Trollers using umbrella rigs and tandems are getting a handful per outing, and many days consist of lots of trolling time, but the numbers of fish should improve daily." Much the same kind of action is reported by trollers using Sassy Shad-loaded umbrella rigs up and down the Bay, with most of the hooked fish measuring well over 18 inches, but only a few currently are attaining trophy status. The stripers are hooked from as far up as the Bay Bridges down to the Virginia state line.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – In the waters of the Northern Neck you will not have any problems finding rockfish, but the wind has been merciless. Down the Bay, Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said, "Everyone is talking about the tremendous speckled trout run. Not only is the momentum picking up, but so is the size of the fish. It's not uncommon to find specks averaging between 2 and 4-pounds in most lower Bay backwaters and tributaries right now." Striped bass are more active as water temperatures drop more and more. Local anglers agree that the average size of the rockfish is growing. "Although many fish are stretching to around 28 to 30 inches, some stripers between 38 and 40 inches are also in the mix," said Ball, who also pointed out that rockfish of all sizes are striking eels, 6-inch Storm lures and Wind Cheaters. Check out the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's pilings and the first and second islands of the crossing. Tautog action continues to sizzle, said Ball. "Anglers are finding limits of keeper fish from lower Bay wrecks and bridge structures using fiddler and blue crabs," she added, and some of 'togs push 10 pounds.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Again this week and in spite of the wind, the mouth area has given up rockfish, some of them in the 26- to 28-inch range. Not much is happening above Martinak State Park as far as as bass catches are concerned.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- Slow going, we're told, as far as the bass are concerned, but live minnows or white hair jigs, kept from snagging the bottom by plastic bobbers, can deliver the goods in sunken brush and fallen trees from Snow Hill to Shad Landing and beyond.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – Nothing doing here over the past several days, although you can find willing crappies in the public boat ramp area in Federalsburg. You'll have plenty of wooden pilings to cast minnows or small plastic grubs to.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – Our lake insider reported, "Early next week the nuclear reactors are expected to be functional for the first time since [the earth quake] in August, and that means the down-lake current will be back and the hot side will be warming up. For now, most striper fishermen are working up-lake regions around the bridges. Topwater lures get action early and late in the day, but otherwise it's a trolling pattern or drifting live bait. Many largemouth bass have moved deep and typical winter patterns apply. The crappie fishing remains good around bridge pilings and deep water docks."
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – A local club tournament was won with a fine catch of largemouth bass below Port Royal -- the place we've been told has been devoid of bass. All the same, Virginia biologists insist the better bass chances come above Port Royal and the nearby Hicks Landing. In the far upper river, it will be tough sledding for smallmouth bass hunters, but they're hanging out in deep river pockets, below large rock formations, where a jig, grub or crankbait can see action.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Try the crappie fishing. It can be quite good if you use live minnows or small, scented Gulp grubs with or without a bobber. We have not received any decent reports of bass catches this week.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – The concession is closed until spring 2012, but shore walkers could find willing catfish, bass and crappies. Now is the best time to use live minnows and to show more patience than is normally required. The fish are here.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Our lakeside reporter, Marty Magone, said some of the deeper shoreline drops in the feeder creeks will give up largemouth bass to casters of crankbaits and short fat worms, such as the Senko. Bridge abutments and shoreline rocks in deep-enough water hold fat crappies. By the way, Holly Grove Marina, (434/636-3455) now is closed for the season. It will reopen in February. The gas pumps will work with a credit card and the marina operators said that rental boats are still available if you call ahead and leave a message.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) can provide a water condition report. A number of bassboaters have said that catches have been fair to good. Crankbaits now appear to be lures of choice. If it's crappies you want, fish in 10 to 15 feet of water in sunken brush piles and other structure. The catfish catches have been down, but that could be due to visitors not even going after "cats." The lake's rockfish like large shiners or threadfin shad. Water temperatures hover between 55 and 60.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Mike Hoke of Life's Revenge Guide Service (804/357-8518) says the catfish love cut shad baits on the bottom. By the way, trophy-size blue catfish are now beginning to cooperate. The crappie fishing has been good in feeder creeks if you use live minnows under a cork, as Southerners say. But I'll bet I can attract a few with an artificial Gulp grub instead of a minnow. Hoke also said that recently some rockfish were caught on bucktails in the evening hours around the Benjamin Harrison Bridge. The water temperature is in the mid 50s.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – River's Rest (804-829-2753) will provide the latest water conditions. The fishing has been a bit slow, but blame fewer boaters being on the water on that. The catfish are biting if you use cut fish as bait, although some boaters are dropping live eels to the bottom. The crappies like just about everything, from a live minnow under a bobber, or small jigs and darts fished under a float. Even a few rockfish are hooked down toward the mouth. The water temperature is dropping to 60 or below now.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Royal resident and frequent fisherman, Dick Fox, said, "The river is still in great shape, but you'll find a lot of leaves floating on the surface. The water is clear with a temperature of 45 degrees. The fishing for smallmouth bass was tough this week, what with all the wind and cold water. However, stable weather should improve the bite for those who fish slowly." Best bet for finding the smallmouths is to fish between deep cuts and river ledges.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Our friend Kevin Wilson (fatboysoutdoors.blogspot.com) fished here with several friends and found the lake to be a tough nut to crack last weekend. "After thousands of casts from four of us (in two boats), only one of us managed a legitimate strike using artificials," he said. "I hooked and fought a nice striper in the middle of the day, and it pulled free. Later in the day, while using a Lucky Craft Pointer jerkbait I caught [a tiny shad and] transferred the little fish to my plastic worm rig, took off the weight, and tossed it under a bobber. While casting my jerkbait, the bobber swam off, and I closed the bail and the fight was on." Wilson caught a fine rockfish on the little live shad that could provide dinner for eight people, I suppose. His group also caught a few bass. However, the fishing is tough right now.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles -- The smallmouth bass fishing can be good if you use pig'n'jig combos, 1/4-ounce crawfish color crankbaits or tube jigs and such. However, do not expect large numbers of fish now, but what you'll hook is usually of good size.
MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City -- Sue Foster, of the Oyster Bay Tackle Shop (410-524-3433) in Ocean City, remarked that the resort city hasn't had the world's greatest weather. "But a few fish were caught," she said. There have been steady reports that some nice rockfish blues and sharks were hooked in the surf, of all places. The Ocean City Inlet also receives visits from the stripers and local fishermen in the town find tautog catches. In the offshore waters, the sea bass numbers have been wonderful, but not many boaters ventured out during recent blows. Trollers could tie into a few large stripers and bluefish if they were able to get out, but the wind has kept most people in port.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Julie Ball (drjball.com) reports that flounder action is very good further offshore for wreck anglers, with the Triangle wrecks and the Light Tower areas being favorite picks. Fresh strip baits and Gulp Swimming Mullets entice strikes. Big sea bass are also available on many of these wrecks. The bluefin tuna watch continues. Perhaps this will be the weekend for them to arrive. Deep-dropped lures and baits will find big blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, grouper and rosefish if the boats can get. If the wind calms down and allows overnight trips by some of the charter boats out of Virginia Beach, there's a chance of swordfish cooperating. Inshore waters, such as Rudee Inlet, turn up large speckled sea trout that like Gulp grubs and Mirrolures.
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