Outstanding catches of striped bass and occasional hookups with spotted sea trout are possible over many areas of the Chesapeake Bay.
That includes a large swath of water that begins around the Bloody Point area and Eastern Bay, then continues to the mouth of the Choptank River and on toward the lower Maryland parts, including Buoy 72 and the Middle Grounds.
In the upper Bay portions, anglers who enjoy catching white perch can do so around the abutments of the dual-span Bay Bridge.
The upper tidal Potomac River between the District and western Charles County is coming into its own as the water reached 51 degrees in some parts of the river. For serious crappie anglers, now is the time to look for them. The water is just right and shoreline drops covered with waterlogged trees and brush can deliver the goods. Virginia's Aquia and Potomac creeks are giving up the speckled fish, and near the Wilson Bridge you can bet that crappies are showing up on anglers' hooks inside the Spoils Cove.
As far as largemouth bass are concerned, the river from Alexandria down to Leesylvania State Park, as well as the Maryland feeder creeks and portions of the main stem in Charles County are turning up good numbers along rocky outcroppings, underwater stone piles and the edges of grass beds or spatterdock lilies. Even though the area experienced a good frost for two consecutive days early this week, the marine grasses continue to be green and apparently still are attracting bass and catfish. You can catch them on spinnerbaits, plastic craw baits and deep-running crankbaits in quarter-ounce sizes.
Some of the terrific smallmouth bass fishing in the Rappahannock and Shenandoah rivers has slowed a bit, but whatever you catch now appears to be of good quality. Three-pounders are not unheard of. Scented grubs, tubes, crankbaits and spinners of every type will turn the trick, usually among mid-river rock beds where deep pockets of water are usually found on the downriver side of large boulders. That's where hungry smallmouths wait to ambush unsuspecting minnows and such.
The Atlantic Ocean was not kind during the recent Nor'easter that blew through portions of Maryland and Virginia. Although the rare October snow was confined to the western parts of both states, wind and rain pretty much put a halt to the fishing along the coast. However, all is getting back to normal. The sea bass fishing has resumed, chopper bluefish are found in good numbers, especially in Virginia waters, and tautogs are hanging onto wrecks near and far. As the red drum (channel bass) slowly make their way south, surf and pier fishermen along North Carolina's Outer Banks are setting baited hooks on the shallow-water fighters.
Fans of striped bass should be interested that the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) finally approved the 81.88-pound rockfish caught by Greg Myerson, of Westport, Conn., on Aug. 4, as an IGFA All Tackle World Record. The previous world record was a 78.8-pound striper caught nearly three decades ago in Atlantic City, N.J. Myerson hooked the huge rockfish while fishing from a boat in the Long Island Sound in Westbrook, Conn. The record fish inhaled a 15-inch-long eel bait.
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, Ray Fletcher said, "A few catfish and bass are caught right now and let the people know that we're pulling up all the rental boats this weekend. It's that time of year." However, that doesn't mean the fishing stops. There are bass available in the towpath canal and the river itseld practically the year around. Local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) called while on the river after he launched his boat at the Smallwood State Park ramps in preparation for a guided trip the following day. "The water is clear, with a surface temperature of 51 degrees. I've caught nine bass so far on plastic grubs and crankbaits," he said. The bass guide finds action with hungry largemouths along rocky points and underwater stone formations, but he also gets strikes along weed bed edges and inside open pockets of the vegetation with his Rebel jerkbaits, Senko and Zero worms, also spinnerbaits and deep-diving Bomber Model A firetiger crankbaits. He's been working anywhere from Maryland's Marshall Hall area down to the Chicamuxen and across to the Virginia shore's feeder creeks, including the Potomac and Aquia creeks. In the brackish to salty river portions below the Route 301 bridge, rockfish catches are possible, but totally unpredictable. Sassy Shad and bucktail trollers score fairly well below St. Clements, also Tall Timbers and across on the Virginia side, but things really improve when you reach the end of the river, from Point Lookout into the Chesapeake.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Slow going for most everything right now, but there's a chance for perch and catfish as always. However, don't look for bonanza catches of any species.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Grass beds are still green, but be reminded that we had a frost several nights in a row earlier this week. If more of that comes, there'll be a vegetation die-off and the bass will move from the grass to shoreline wood, marsh banks and nearby deep dropoffs. Meanwhile, the grass still holds some decent largemouths and they like craws, scented worms, small crankbaits (if you can find cranking room in open pockets), plus 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) chilled down enough to keep more than a few anglers away earlier this week, but sunfish and small bass are possible. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) it's much the same story. Cooler night weather has slowed some bass activity, but they'll bite nicely this week if you use shallow to medium crankbaits in timber and along the lake dam's rock line. Crappies definitely will cooperate wherever there's sunken timber, brush or a sudden depression in a flat.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties are turning up crappie and some bass catches. Find 3- to 4-foot-deep stickups, sunken brush and wood in either reservoir and there'll be bass and crappies looking for jigs, grubs and live minnows as long as there's deep water nearby into which the fish can flee.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Perch are moving steadily into deeper layers of water around river points where they'll pick up bloodworm or crab baits. Rockfish are all over the mouth and up into the river, occasionally as far up as the Benedict bridge.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles -- Get a pail of 2-inch minnows, some bobbers, No. 1 snelled hooks, rig up properly, then cast the little baitfish around obstacles, sunken wood, waterlogged branches on any portion of the lake and chances are you'll hook enough crappies for supper, or a bass. Jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and scented grubs or tubes also do the job on the largemouths.
BURKE LAKE: 31 MILES -- It's time for late-season bass and the annual autumn schooling of crappies that like small minnows or 1/16-ounce jigs or grubs in white or chartreuse. Crankbaits are productive if it's bass you're after.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – From Washington County dowstream to Montgomery County, the fishing will be fine this weekend. Smallmouth bass like tubes, grubs, little crankbaits and spinners of all types. Many of the fish will be hooked in mid-river rock beds. Upper river's Dam No. 4, above Taylor's Landing in Washington County, ought to give up some walleyes, maybe even a muskie. My friend Kevin Wilson will be up there this weekend and he said he's determined to catch a muskellunge.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Be sure you wear your warmest woolies and even think about bringing a pair of snowshoes. The weather up here can change on a dime and there was a lot of snow earlier this week. Either way, the walleyes, pike and bass are available to minnow drifters and lure casters. Big yellow perch are in the coves; they like minnows or worm baits.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Most of the action is found just past the Conowingo Dam, among rocks and occasionally swift, then slow, water (it all depends on scheduled water releases through the dam), but bass, catfish and a roving striper here and there are possible. I haven't heard one word about decent bass catches down around Havre de Grace and the outside portions where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – The Bay Bridges' rock-laden abutments (east of Annapolis) are holding white perch in over 20 feet of water, but always fish your lures or baits close to the rocks. In the middle portions of the Bay, all the boaters are out chasing rockfish and the rockfish are often seen chasing bait. Surface eruptions occur from Eastern Bay to the Choptank River. A lot of success has been had through vertical jigging with metal lures such as the Swedish Pimple, Kastmaster and Hopkins metal squid. Soft-bodied jigging lures also produce. A few bluefish are still available and the same lures used on the stripers do well on the blues, although trolled Sassy Shads and bucktails normally are better on the blues. In lower Maryland bay waters, the Middle Grounds, Buoy 72 and areas close to the Virginia line offer lots of rockfish action, with expectations of large ocean stripers running high. Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek in St. Mary's County reported seeing one striper that was brought in and its gill rakers showed some sea lice -- usually a sign of it being on ocean rockfish.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – In the waters of the Northern Neck, you'll troll up a few slowly departing bluefish and enough rockfish to put a smile on your face. Speckled sea trout are the main fare as you head toward the lower ends of the Chesapeake. The fishing dentist, Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) says that sea trout are available in many lower Bay shallows, rivers or inlets. "Anglers are catching dozens of trout, with several citation-sized fish making the mark," she said. The biggest trout have been coming from the Elizabeth River where "specks" have been caught in the 7-pound-plus range. Ball also pointed out that speckled trout, puppy drum and small stripers are delighting surf anglers of lower Bay shorelines. As the water chills down ever more, the rockfish bite will increase every day. Currently, some of the better fishermen connect on stripers throughout the lower Bay. "School-sized fish are hitting jigs and plugs in the light lines along the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel, the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel," said Ball. Large tautogs are taken around the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but the flounder fishing in the same waters has been spotty.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Shallow waters continue to offer rockfish and some speckled sea trout, but most of the action has been in the mouth, not upriver. The lower Choptank last week turned up a 20-inch speckled trout, which is great anywhere in the Bay.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- Poor weather early this week put a screeching halt to the fishing. I imagine you could find a bass now and then downstream of Snow Hill.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – Forget the bass. The fishing has been awful in the upper river parts, but again this week, rockfish and some sea trout are found in and near the mouth.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – Not many decent bass reports are coming out of Anna now and one wag suggested that it's caused by too many anglers also being hunters. "They're sitting up in their deer stands right now," he said. Either way, Lee Martin, of Warrenton, Va., caught a 6-pound, 15-ounce largemouth on a Shad Rap lure during a VA-outdoors weekend series tournament here. He and His father, Larry, won the contest on a nasty, cold day. By the way, crappies and catfish are biting if you can find time to get out of your tree stand.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk said the upper river is still a bit high, but the smallmouth bass are taking various lures, including crankbaits in the mid-river rocks above Fredericksburg, while a surprising number of beautiful smallmouth bass -- along with largemouths -- are hooked below the historic town. A recent small-club tournament that came out of Hicks Landing showed the winning stringer consisting mostly of smallmouth bass in the 3- to 4-pound range.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Go after crappies if the bass won't cooperate. Live minnows, as well as small 1/16, even 1/32-ounce jigs, darts and grubs do the job. Catfish are always possible and they like bottom-fished worms, minnows, clam snouts or cut pieces of fish.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – The concession has been shut down until spring 2012. Crappie catches will be good this weekend and live minnows probably will outperform small grubs and jigs. Catfish are taken on clam snouts. The bass fishing has been a bit slow, but will perk up when the largemouths adjust to cooler water temperatures.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Our lakeside reporter, Marty Magone, says the bass fishing has been poor for some reason, but a few good largemouths are caught on crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastic worms. The crappie bite is improving in up to 8 feet of water at bridge abutments, rip-rap dropoffs and brush (if you can find any). Clam snouts and liver baits are always good for catfish.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) can provide a water condition report. Crankbaits, lipless rattle baits and slow-rolled spinnerbaits are drawing strikes from bass. The water is still high, but in good enough shape for fishing, with water temperatures staying around 60 degrees. The Clarksville area of the lake has been turning up blue catfish, but a lot of people come down here for the crappies. All you need do is drop a minnow or white hair jig under a slip-bobber and you'll catch dinner.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) There'll be some bass caught in the river's side pockets and feeder creeks, but the big attraction when it cools down is a character known as blue catfish. They grow big here and the Dutch Gap area appears to produce good bites most any day.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – River's Rest (804-829-2753) will provide the latest water conditions. The bass are biting. Use surface poppers and buzzbaits when the warms up and a cloud cover remains. Plastic stick worms, such as the Zero or Senko, are working well in shoreline cover, and the crappies like minnows or small darts and jigs under a bobber. If you like catfish, some big specimens are inhaling cut fish slabs.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Dick Fox, of Front Royal, says, "The river is normal and very fishable, with a water temperature of 48 degrees. You'll' find a few decent-sized smallmouth bass on grubs, tubes, maybe a deep crankbait, but this week hasn't been easy."
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Look for the bass to hang out in deeper than normal water around docks, creek points and rock beds. Crankbaits and slowly-fished plastics can turn the trick. The striper catches weren't the best last week, but they'll turn on, especially if you slow-troll a Redfin or Sassy Shad lure.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles -- Look for smallmouth bass in mid-river rockbeds and stone ledges. A weighted tube, grub or short plastic worm can draw strikes, but I also like to use a 1/4-ounce crawfish color, long-lipped crankbait.
MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City -- Sue Foster, of the Oyster Bay Tackle Shop (410-524-3433) in Ocean City, agrees when we say that the earlier parts of the week have been terrible as far as the sportfishing was concerned. "The wind blew, and then the wind blew some more, and then it rained." said Sue. said "Hopefully, we'll get some stripers moving [through] soon," she added and reminded all near-offshore fans that the sea bass fishing can resume now. It has been closed to fishermen.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – As the wind slowly subsides, Julie Ball (drjball.com) says that the Triangle wrecks and general area is giving up large bluefish up to 17 pounds. Trollers and jig bouncers connect on the big "choppers." Sea bass season is now open and they're biting. Bluefin tunas might soon show up in the Triangle area. The Eastern Shore's barrier islands could give up some big red drum, ut it's hit and miss as these shallow water fighters are heading south. A few offshore boats have reported catches of snowy grouper, golden and blueline tilefish, as well as blackbellied rosefish. Fishing phenom, Dr. Ken Neill, said large red drum are being caught along the beaches and from the piers of North Carolina's Outer Banks.
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