- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Continued threats of rain and rising water levels in the mountain rivers of Virginia and Maryland are sure to worry fishermen in search of smallmouth bass. However, one angler, Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., says the fishing in his favorite waterway, the Shenandoah, has been fantastic.

“Now is the time to hit the Shenandoah,” he says. “The river is a little high, with a slight stain and a water temperature of 58 degrees. We have been catching good numbers of 12- to 15-inch smallmouth bass, with a few 17-inchers mixed in. Black tubes have been best for us, but many other lures will catch the bass right now. The bluegills are very active, and the crappies are biting.” Earlier this week, Fox also caught a 6-pound-plus largemouth bass on a tube. Big largemouths are a rare find in this river.

In the upper tidal portions of the Potomac River, it doesn’t matter whether it rains or the sun shines. Either way, the largemouth bass, catfish, even some decent white perch, are biting. The massive fields of water weeds, including milfoil and hydrilla, have not yet begun to die off. They are green and still provide ideal ambush spots for the bass, occasionally also Chinese snakeheads. There have been productive outings in the Mattawoman, Quantico and Chicamuxen creeks, as well as Virginia’s Pohick Bay. An old lure I found in the shed caught a limit of small bass this week. Do you know Uncle Buck’s Buzzer, an inline buzzbait that was all the rage in the 1970s? Its hook is covered with deer hair, dyed in various colors. It still does the job.

The Chesapeake Bay’s lower Maryland parts have been fine for rockfish trollers, jiggers, even topwater lure casters. One group of friends finds excellent surface fishing for striped bass over shoreline flats in the mouth of the Choptank; others have found plenty of action over wide areas between the Calvert Cliffs and the Virginia state line. Of course, the good fishing extends into the Northern Neck’s waters and beyond, clear down to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel where flounder, sheepshead, red drum and slowly increasing numbers of striped bass are hooked.

If the Atlantic Ocean is your favorite water, Dr. Ken Neill, whose boat, the Healthy Grin, comes out of Virginia Beach and travels offshore more than most, said, “We ran out to the Triangle Wrecks [and] had the place all to ourselves. The chopper blues have arrived. We caught big bluefish on the troll and by jigging. We also caught some false albacore.” A bit to the north, bluefish catches are reported by Ocean City, Md., boaters.

In other Virginia saltwater news, the fishing for sea bass has been shut down through the rest of October, but flounder anglers a few miles east of Virginia Beach are hooking the sea bass with ease - and they’re releasing them. Triggerfish are caught on coastal wrecks, but not much can be said about more distant offshore waters because of recent windy weather. When things calm down, there will be hookups with tunas, wahoos, even swordfish if you stay out overnight. Elsewhere, North Carolina boats running east of the Outer Banks are finding dolphin, yellowfin and blackfin tuna, also good numbers of wahoo.


(All listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District at Fletcher’s Cove (202-244-0461), off Canal Road, blue and channel catfish, as well as a few bass, are hooked. The catfish like cut baits on the bottom, but the bass prefer jigs, craws and crankbaits. In the main stem of the river below the District, bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and I worked the creeks near the Smallwood State Park ramps yesterday during a strong incoming tide and found willing largemouths over large grass-dotted flats in 3 to 4 feet of water. Some of the grassy spots showed enough open pockets between the vegetation to allow the casting/retrieving of shallow-running crankbaits in firetiger colors, just like last week. In addition, a number of bass struck small buzzbaits. Incidentally, the grass has not yet died off, what with the water temperature being 64 degrees. Until it happens, fish the main stem and the tributaries with surface lures, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic craws. Farther down the river, beyond the Route 301 Bridge between Charles and King George counties, the rockfish frequently cooperate. Ken Lamb says, “The Potomac now has rockfish in all the nooks and crannies.” Lamb has received catch reports from St. Clements Island and Ragged Point. “These fish are 22 to 24 inches long,” he said, and added, “Bigger fish can show up at anytime.” That means that you’ll probably find rockfish clear down toward Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – A few rockfish are found at the mouth and plenty of white perch are inside the river, but be reminded that the perch like a moving tide, coming or going, but do bite well when it is very low.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Bass and catfish are almost guaranteed if you play the tides properly. A nicely outgoing tide in the middle portions of the creek will have the largemouths looking at a watermelon or junebug color plastic craw, such as a Baby Rage Tail or Chiggercraw, especially along marsh bank drops. But early hour topwater poppers and loud buzzbaits also see action inside the weed beds. Clam snouts or cut fish pieces will draw channel catfish.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers the usual assortment of bluegills, even a few shellcracker sunfish, along with “bank runner” bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) it’s time for a 1/32-ounce shad dart in white/red or white/green tied to light line, with a bobber three or four feet above the little lure whose body looks perpendicular to the line, then cast around sunken and stickup wood that the lake has much of. Cast it out, then jiggle the rod tip every 5 seconds or so to make the little dart, well, dart up, down and sideways. The largemouth bass prefer small scented, plastic worms or 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits in standing timber and around lake points.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area will provide decent fishing this weekend. Take a look at the crappie jig’n’bobber description above in the Southern Maryland lakes portion and duplicate it. Crankbaits and scented soft plastics can do the job on bass, especially when you concentrate on jutting lake points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Plenty of white perch are in the creeks, but they are a picky lot as far as tides are concerned. Like most fish, they prefer moving water, but the perch kind of shut down when the tide is very low. The chance of finding stripers at the mouth, even stretches inside the river, are very good.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles — Topwater bass lures have been fine around stickups and rock formations as long as the sun wasn’t up and shining hard. Overcast conditions always are best. As the day goes on, switch to plastics and crankbaits that will lure the largemouths. The crappie catches have been better in the past several days.

Story Continues →