- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What a glorious time of year to be a dyed-in-the-wool sport angler. It’s November, with cool nights and fairly warm days, and in the case of the Potomac River, crappies are biting big-time in a number of its tidal portions.

It begins with Spoils Cove, just a hop upstream of the Wilson Bridge where small hair or bucktailed jigs, fished plain or under a plastic bobber, will be looked at by the tasty, speckled fish. Some fat crappies also are hooked in the backwater coves along the Alexandria shoreline, as well as downstream, inside the Piscataway Creek, Pohick Bay and Occoquan River and Bay. There’ll be crappies hooked in all of the feeder creeks and small bays clear down to the Arkindale Flats and beyond. Best of all, each of these spots also give up largemouth bass and sometimes unusually good numbers of yellow perch.

Then consider the Chesapeake Bay where, in addition to a fine resident population of striped bass (aka rockfish) there are reports of large ocean stripers that come into the Bay every autumn. Among some of the first ones seen was a 42-inch, 34-pound whopper caught by Ron Drinkwater, of Leonardtown, Md. Christy and Michael Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek, measured and weighed it. The marina owners said the stripers’ gill rakers contained sea lice, something that rockfish pick up only in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Chesapeake Bay. Incidentally, Michael Henderson sent a photo of an ocean striper that he caught a few days before Drinkwater’s catch.

In the mountains, in freshwater parts of the Potomac, overall catch rates for smallmouths - as well as catch rates for quality-size bass, - have been some of the highest ever documented, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist John Mullican.

He said that this is largely due to the record 2007 year class that is now 5 years old and ranging in length from 12 to 15 inches. Mullican mentioned that during sample electro-shockings, large smallmouths have been collected, with the largest measuring more than 20 inches in length. The DNR biologist pointed out that autumn is a perfect time to visit the mountains, enjoy the scenery and catch those fine river bass.

Much the same of what Mullican said is echoed by his counterparts in Virginia who monitor the James, Rappahannock and Shenandoah rivers, all of which are home to good numbers of smallmouth bass even though this time of year they’re not as easily fooled as the little ones are during summer.

If it’s ocean fishing you prefer, the waters east of Ocean City or Virginia Beach can be productive this time of year. Of course, blustery winds can put a crimp into the fishing, but when it doesn’t blow, the offshore wrecks hold sea bass and tautogs, even some fine flounder. In the more distant ocean waters, any day now, the bluefin tunas will arrive and the fishing will be ever so wonderful. By the way, in the lowest Virginia portions of the Chesapeake Bay, close to the ocean, there are large numbers of striped bass that can make a day on the water something to remember.

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 catfish of good size taken on bottom-fished cut baits. Some well-fed bass are hooked in shoreline cover. Heading downstream, the Spoils Cove and Fox Ferry Point waters are giving up bass, with the Spoils also turning up crappies. It will be a zoo inside the cove when the word gets out that the crappies are schooling. Local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509)is finding bass, catfish, crappies and yellow perch all on the same lure, the 3-inch Mann’s Sting Ray grub in avocado color. However, when we fished a few days ago, we found willing crappies taking Gulp grubs in chartreuse up and down the river wherever small and large feeding flats could be found that were close to hiding cover, such as rock piles and dock pilings. For example, a fish-rich area for a variety of species right now includes the Occoquan Bay and river, as well as portions of Pohick Bay and Maryland feeder creeks, including the Chicamuxen and Mattawoman. Downriver, from below the Route 301 bridge to the St. Clements Island area, some rockfish are caught trolling bucktails and Sassy Shads, but even better action can be expected from St. George’s Island south toward Point Lookout. Occasional large schools of surface-feeding rockfish are seen, which makes for great casting sport.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Just outside the river mouth, a few rockfish are hooked by slow-trollers. Inside, from Bushwood across to Cobb Island, not much is happening. Even the white perch are hard to find since they’ve moved into deep river holes.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The Burn Point and Deep Point areas of the creek have given up bass, catfish and small stripers. Bass catches are made on bottom-bounced plastic grubs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Much the same bass fishing can be had along the marsh banks and dropoffs in the slow zone toward the Mattingly Avenue boat ramps.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has been very slow as far as bass catches are concerned, but with worm baits and bobbers, the kids can hook a few bluegills. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) look for crappies in flooded brush, standing timber and shallow-to-deep flats where crappies often look for minnows and such. Bass catches have been low this week.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties can be added to the list of places where the crappie fishing is going to be good. Use small darts and jigs under a bobber near or in sunken trees and brush. The bass can be found waiting in ambush for baitfish alongside jutting lake points. Medium to deep crankbaits will do the job; so will a plastic, scented craw bait.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The river is loaded with rockfish, says Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. “Trollers from the Hawk’s Nest to Sheridan Point — close to twenty miles — are catching plenty of stripers,” he said. “One party of three trolling near Broome’s Island had their six fish in about 10 minutes of trolling. Many reports of 30-plus fish per outing are not uncommon. The trick is to troll deep along the edges of the oyster bars and up and down in the deep holes. The fish are healthy and fat, resembling footballs.” The well-known charter fishing captain Sonney Forrest (443 532-0836) agrees. He adds that you might want to try it across from Broome’s Island and upriver. Incidentally, Capt. Forrest has been cashing in on quality stripers out in the Bay.

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