Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

Smallmouths fatten up with cold days ahead

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Rain might raise the water levels of mountain rivers, but Western Maryland fishermen don’t believe it can stop them from going after smallmouth bass in the Potomac.

The same is true for Virginians who prefer the Shenandoah, Rappahannock and James rivers. Surely, the coming weeks will give us more settled weather. I, for one, have had it with the rain.

Even when it’s wet, the upper tidal Potomac River promises good catches of bass. The largemouths are feeling the slowly lowering water temperatures and are responding accordingly. They know that lean feeding days lie ahead and try to fatten up in preparation for winter. Open pockets in the water vegetation and edges around fallen trees and rocky shoreline portions are good choices for casters of firetiger color crankbaits, white/chartreuse-skirted Chatterbaits and soft plastic crawfish imitations. Remember, the Potomac’s bass feed on crawfish more than most people expect.

Large Virginia reservoirs, including Anna, Gaston, Kerr and Smith Mountain, are delivering outstanding catches of bass for the same reason the Potomac River’s largemouths are interested in eating. Winter is coming, and the fish know it.

In the Chesapeake Bay, the striped bass are active now that fall is here and the water temperatures have dropped.

From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, proprietor Ken Lamb said, “Trollers, lure casters and surf casters - all are catching rockfish in the Patuxent, Potomac, and the Bay proper [where] rockfish and blues are mixed, many of them breaking on the surface up and down the ships channel.

Many of these large schools of fish are small, but decent-sized specimens can show up anywhere, anytime.”

The fishing in the Atlantic Ocean begins along the shores of Maryland’s Ocean City where flurries of small bluefish charge into the beach waters every day.

In the back bays behind the resort city, the rockfish and tautogs have been more cooperative, while the deep-sea charter fishing boats connect on scattered yellowfin tunas and a few billfish. Closer to shore, sea bass are a given around ocean wrecks. In Virginia, there’s a better-than-average chance for well-fed channel bass (red drum) in the surf waters of the Eastern Shore’s barrier islands, but offshore boaters also do well as they hook yellowfin tunas and dolphin fish.

Finally, the Coastal Conservation Association/Virginia says the current menhaden management system has allowed this critically important fish species to decline to its lowest abundance ever recorded. The CCA/VA urges concerned anglers to register their concerns by letting the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) know they want to protect this vital forage stock that bluefish, striped bass, cobia, sea trout, flounder, red drum and sharks depend on. Seabirds, including the osprey, also feed on menhaden.

Currently, overfishing of menhaden by the “reduction industry” (it includes commercial netters in the Chesapeake Bay who sell the menhaden to plants that turn the little oily fish into various products) is occurring.

In August, the ASMFC approved Draft Addendum V to the Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan that raises the overfishing threshold while proposing new rebuilding targets. A copy of Addendum V and the public hearing schedule for the Atlantic Coast can be found on the ASMFC website, http://www.asmfc.org/public

The nearest public meeting will be held Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission’s John T. Parran Hearing Room, 222 Taylor St., Colonial Beach, Va., 22443.

D.C. AND VICINITY

(All listed distances begin in Washington)

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