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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report
Head to rivers as days turn cool
Can you feel the difference in the air and water? Both are cooler and because of the ever-so-welcome autumn temperatures the fishing for certain species will improve with every passing day. This is particularly true of largemouth bass, stripers and blue catfish in Maryland and Virginia.
It begins with the largemouth bass in the upper portions of the tidal rivers, especially the Potomac and Rappahannock, where these predators lie in ambush for unsuspecting baitfish. However, as cooler weather beckons, the massive submersed weed carpets that dot the Potomac, for example, will begin to die off slowly. It hasn’t happened yet, but when it does the bass that have thrived in the erstwhile lush greenery will begin to migrate toward sunken wood, dock pilings and fallen trees along various river and creek shorelines. Remember that.
Currently, the largemouths can still be found in pockets of milfoil, hydrilla and spatterdock, as well as along the sharply dropping edges of marsh banks. But do not overlook flooded wood structure, either. Plastic worms and crawfish claw imitations will be looked at, as will shallow to medium crankbaits and flashy spinnerbaits.
In the mountain rivers, conditions are slowly, surely getting back to normal. Recent unpredictable rain storms changed water conditions in some quarters, but not in others. In the next four days, however, you can safely plan on fishing anywhere in the Shenandoah, upper Potomac, Rappahannock and James rivers.
The Chesapeake, in spite of recent steady rains, delivers surprising numbers of rockfish (striped bass). They’re hooked by trollers, surface casters and jig bouncers over large areas of the Bay. In addition, ongoing catches of spotted sea trout are the delight of the week for many anglers who cast and retrieve bucktails, plastic curly-tailed grubs and small silvery spoons mostly in the river mouths of the Eastern Shore.
From the lowest parts of the tidal Potomac River, charter fishing captain Eddie Davis, whose boat comes out of Smith Creek, not far from Point Lookout, says he’s locating massive schools of bluefish, many of which weigh up to 5 pounds. “They’ll slam anything you throw at them when they surface,” he says, but he also connects on the tooth-laden blues when they dive. If you’re interested in a charter outing, Capt. Davis can be reached at 301-904-3897.
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, the water is discolored but conditions are expected to improve in the next several days. Either way, large catfish are available on bottom-fished cut baits and as the water clears more, the bass will cooperate. In the tidal water stretches below the District, the bass fishing can be outstanding. Our friend Dale Knupp had a fine outing in the Belle Haven area and other bass-boaters we’ve spoken with are getting strikes from bass (and a few snakeheads) from around Little Hunting Creek into the Piscataway, as well as downstream to Pohick Bay, and the general Occoquan area. Bass also are hooked in the feeder creeks and main-stem in Charles and Prince William counties on the Maryland and Virginia sides, respectively. If you can an open area inside the weed beds, try medium and shallow diving crankbaits, but Chigger Craws and Rage Tail crawfish claw imitations continue to be reliable, as will early morning topwater lures. The water is chilling down some and that will make the bass increasingly more active. Word has it that some rockfish are trolled up just past the Route 301 bridge and south toward Tall Timbers. But in the lowest parts of the river, once he leaves his Smith Creek home waters, charter fishing captain Eddie Davis finds massive schools of bluefish. “They’re in the 2- to 5-pound class and they’ll slam anything you throw at them when they surface,” said Capt. Davis, who also catches them by the numbers with trolling gear.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Don’t expect a whole lot more than catfish and plenty of white perch. If anyone is hooking croakers we haven’t heard about it. On top of that, the water is cooling down, something the tasty “hardheads” don’t enjoy.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – We fished the creek during a slightly windy morning during a high tide and the catches weren’t the best, but what we did get into apparently liked the Chigger Craw baits and wacky-rigged fat worms in the creek portion near Slavin's boat ramp.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has cooled down quite a bit and a small crankbait ought to draw the bass in mid-lake and lower portions of the lake. Bluegills are a given. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) you can find some decent largemouth bass right now. Water conditions are fine and within days the crappies will begin schooling, which makes it a lot easier to come home with a fish dinner. Hook one and chances are you’ll hook a dozen of the speckled critters.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – The water temperatures in Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties area are steadily declining and chances for bass and crappies are seriously improving. Of course, catfish and bluegills are always available.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – You can bet the rent that the rockfish are biting over most parts of the lower river. Hurry up if you want to catch fat white perch because as the water cools they’ll head out of the feeder creeks and enter deep river ledges where the catch rate won’t be as good as in shallow creek waters.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles — Weekend anglers will have a fine time catching bass, catfish and increasing numbers of crappies. The time of year has arrived when all species will want to fatten up for the coming lean months. Crappies should begin to school in and around fallen trees, sunken branches and creek points that offer good bottom structure.
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