We have mostly good news for weekend anglers in the Washington area. The heavy rains that fell throughout the region, which ruined many basements and even house foundations, are quickly receding and clearing. Even the mountainous portions of the Potomac, Rappahannock and James rivers will be very fishable in a day or two. In fact, you could visit them now and probably hook a few smallmouth bass. On Wednesday, the Point of Rocks section of the upper Potomac stood at a little over three feet. It had been as high as nine feet last week.
Fans of the upper tidal parts in the Rappahannock River will be happy to hear what the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologist, John Odenkirk, had to say about a recent electroshock study of largemouth bass in the stretches below Port Royal. He was delighted to see good numbers of them. "The fishing ought to be fine," he said, adding that even the waters above Port Royal, in the Hicks Landing area, for example, should also deliver the goods for anglers. "The creek mouths have been loaded with bass," he said.
One of the country's most productive bass rivers, the tidal Potomac between the District and Charles County, Md., or Prince William County, Va., is seeing some debris and scattered murky water from recent monsoon-like rains, but the river is clearing nicely and will give up catches of largemouths, blue catfish, a few perch and Chinese snakeheads. In fact, if you happen to fish in a muddy, shallow corner of a feeder creek, a wacky-rigged plastic worm, a spinnerbait, or a short-lipped crankbait might be the ticket for a hookup with one of the foreign invaders. They don't mind discolored water and certainly seem to like the shallows.
In the Chesapeake Bay, the coming days will see terrific catches of stripers and bluefish, as well as the soon to depart Spanish mackerel. The rockfish and blues are well-distributed throughout the Bay, with good catches coming from as far north as the Magothy and Chester rivers, the Bay Bridge's pilings, and all the channels, ledges and dropoffs from the False Channel on the Eastern Shore to the Patuxent River on the western side. By the way, as the nights grow cooler and even the days are more comfortable, many local boaters are thinking of the great late fall striped bass fishing that isn't all that far away.
Ocean boaters from Delaware to Maryland and Virginia are catching white marlin and dolphin (mahi mahi) in the far offshore waters, while inshore stretches all along the coast deliver flounder, croakers and bluefish in varying numbers. Bluefish, even some tautogs, often are in the inlets and back bays of the Atlantic resort cities. In Virginia, the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay, within shouting distance of the ocean, continue to turn up red drum (redfish) and cobias, while flounder anglers around the wide Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel are all smiles most days.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(All listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District around Fletcher's Cove (202-244-0461), Ray Fletcher said, "By the weekend, the river should be fine for fishing." That means blue catfish, maybe a bass or two, perhaps even a walleye that washed down from up above during recent high water conditions. Currently, there still is some strong discoloration, but it's clearing steadily and Fletcher said that boats are being rented. Meanwhile, the bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) said there is no reason why largemouth bass, snakeheads, catfish and perch shouldn't be interested in lures and baits right now. We fished parts of the main stem and several feeder creeks a few days ago and, although there was some floating debris and spotty discolored water, the bass bit, as well as some fat yellow perch. The fishing appeared to be best in open weed pockets and along weed bed edges. Small spinnerbaits and crankbaits can turn the trick. Yesterday, the river was in terrific fishing condition, reported Andrzejewski.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – At the mouth you'll run into a few keeper-size rockfish, but don't call the wife and tell her to heat up the frying pan until after you caught them. The fishing can be spotty. As nights are getting cooler and the water temperatures begin to drop, expect the departure of Norfolk spot, but some of them, along with croakers, will still be around. White perch and catfish are always around.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The lower parts of the creek have been okay as far as bass catches are concerned. However, there are patches of muddy water that suddenly change into nearly clear portions, then back to murky conditions. It's like a checkerboard. The bass have looked at white/chartreuse spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits and early hour topwater spoons and poppers. Conditions wil steadily improve up and down the creek since no new rain storms are in our future.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will give up bluegills, maybe a small bass now and then, or perhaps a crappie. At St. Mary's Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) the cooler nights will affect water temperatures and that means the bass will become more active. Get ready. This lake is home to more than a few whoppers. Crappies will begin to school up later this month.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George's/Montgomery/Howard counties are sure to turn up bass that are hungry after all the terrible weather we've had. Even if there's some discoloration, loud topwater lures, rattling crankbaits or scented plastic worms can draw hits from the largemouths. Sunfish and some catfish are around for worm dunkers.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – A whopping good report comes from the fishing proprietor of Lexington Park's Tackle Box, Ken Lamb, who begins by saying that stripers are "infesting" the mouth of the river. That's practically a guarantee that you'll catch rockfish. For example, charter fishing captain Brady Bounds took a party of anglers to Hog Point and the area of the naval base's O'Club to fish among the rocks there. His group landed and released 100 stripers in that quarter-mile stretch using only topwater lures. By the way, white perch continue to be caught in the creeks and Norfolk spot and croakers are cooperating with bottom fishermen.
OCCOQUAN RESEROIR: 33 miles -- Don't stay home this weekend. The reservoir will be okay for bass, catfish and sunfish hunters. Crappies are still a bit hard to locate, but they'll soon begin to school up as the water temperatures decline more with every passing night.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – The bass await your visits. They like a smartly-cast spinnerbait, jerkbait or plastic worm around sunken obstacles, lake points and stickups. Crappies aren't easy to find just yet, but they will be later this month. Catfish like clam necks or strips of liver.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – DNR biologist Mark Toms says that the recent heavy rains didn't affect the upper river as much as was feared. Although water levels are up a little and are discolored, it's not serious enough to stop you from making plans for a smallmouth bass outing. To illustrate, the Point of Rocks area of the river had been as high as 9 feet, but now is little more than 3 feet.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – There'll be bass caught this weekend, not to mention the chance for a walleye or northern pike. Night temperatures have fallen and so has the water temperature. That means the predator species will be hunting for food. Bait dunkers in the lake coves will catch fat yellow perch and sunfish.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – This place will be off limits to fishing for another week. Way too much muddy water is charging down through the Conowingo Dam, messing up the river below.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Striped bass catches are possible up and down the Maryland portions of the Bay. From the mouth of the Potomac and Patuxent rivers and up the western and eastern sides of the Bay, rockfish are present along with good numbers of bluefish of various sizes (mostly in the 2- to 3-pound range, though) and bonus catches of Spanish mackerel. By the way, Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says that the Honga River is turning up small spotted sea trout, but occasional 18-inchers are possible. Meanwhile, charter fishing captains, such as Greg Buckner, find breaking schools of rockfish around Cedar Point in the Patuxent. He trolled, cast lures, and jigged, landing all the fish he wanted for his customers. If you're in the Bay Bridge area, the abutments and pilings of the span are holding rockfish that like jigged spoons, bucktails, or crab baits.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – In Northern Neck waters, not far from the Potomac's mouth, you'll find Spanish mackerel, bluefish and some keeper rockfish, not to mention croakers and spot that hang around channel edges closer to land. Farther south, Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reports that well-fed croakers, many of them weighing two pounds, are active in lower Bay waters. The bigger "hardheads" are lurking in deeper areas around the channels, inlets and the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, she said. Flounder catches are not back in full swing, but some anglers find decent-sized flatties. In fact, keeper flounder, some of which weigh in the 7-pound range, have been taking bottom-fished or drifted baits around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's dropoffs and stone structure. Dr. Ball said the 3rd and 4th islands have been best. Hard-charging cobias continue to hang around the Bridge-Tunnel pilings, as well as the buoys near the mouth of the Bay. Tossed jigs and live bait are productive. If it's big red drum (channel bass) you like, Ball said the Nine Foot Shoal area and 4th Island at the Bridge-Tunnel are the best places to look.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – There hasn't been a lot of fishing success here in the past several days, but croakers, spot and white perch, not to mention the occasional school of rockfish that comes into the mouth, chasing baitfish, are always a possibility. Upper river bass fishing has been slow.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- A week of poor weather, followed by sunshine and gentle temperatures could make this river a good bass fishing choice this weekend, especially in the Shad Landing and Snow Hill stretch. This river has so much natural cover by way of sunken brush, fallen trees, flooded tree roots and spatterdock fields, you'd think there was a bass caught every two minutes. However, it isn't happening that fast.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – Slow going for bass up and down the river, from the Federalsburg area clear up to Seaford, Del. The best chance for action might be the river points and feeder creek mouths downstream of Vienna. Get there early in the day (before sunrise) and cast loud topwater poppers or rattling lures and see if a striper isn't around to attack the offering.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – My lakeside friend and fishing insider reports that the striper and bass fishing continues to remain well below par for this time of year. "The largemouths are on the move and should be far more willing to bite very soon," he said and added, "They're heading to creek mouths and they're cruising banks out on the main lake." Shallow diving crankbaits and spinnerbaits would do the job. Crappies are currently saving the day. "They've been very active around the deep water bridge pilings and other deep structure. Pick up a couple dozen minnows and get out the slip bobbers and start your search at around 25-feet," is his advice.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says that water conditions should be suitable for smallmouth bass anglers this weekend. The water is clearing and dropping nicely. In the tidal reaches of the river below Fredericksburg, Odenkirk has been doing electro-shock studies of the bass population and he reports good numbers of largemouths below Port Royal, but also around Hicks Landing. As an aside, he said, "You wouldn't believe the numbers of bass we see in the mouths of creeks."
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Easy fishing for sunfish, catfish, maybe even an errant crappie or two. But the bass fishing hasn't been the greatest, even though the lake is home to plenty of largemouths.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Darrell Kennedy runs the Angler's Landing (540/672-3997) concession. You might encounter cloudy water, but some bass and hefty catfish will be hooked in the next several days.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – The lake's upper portions around Allen's Creek have been fine for freshwater stripers that will jump on surface lures, such as the Rico. Bass catches are possible in the feeder creeks, with "fat" worms, such as the Senko and Strike King's Zero doing a good job whenever the spinnerbaits and crankbaits won't.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) can tell you the latest water conditions. Catfish are on the menu, for sure. And we're talking about whopper blue or flathead "cats." The crappie fishing soon will get into high gear when cooler water convinces them to start schooling in 5 to 10 feet of water. The bass catches could be better, but they'll perk up by the weekend.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) The fishing guide Mike Hoke (804-357-8518) can be called for bookings. By Saturday, the water will be in good enough shape for catfish and bass outings. Things are still settling down after last week's nasty weather, but they are settling.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – Check with River's Rest (804-829-2753) for the latest conditions. Give the bass fishing a shot. Catches have been good this week, so have the catfish hookups.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Front Royal's Dick Fox said, "The river is in great shape. It is at normal level with a slight stain, perfect for fishing. The water temperature has cooled to 74 degrees which should bring the fall smallmouth bite in the near future."
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Stripers have been hanging around the creek mouths, along with a fair number of bass. The largemouth and smallmouth bass are sure to turn on in the next several days, what with cooler night temperatures driving them to seek food.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles -- One Virginia fisheries official said he wouldn't hesitate to go fishing for smallmouth bass this weekend. Things have greatly improved since last week.
MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City -- After last weekend when the Ocean City Inlet and coastal waters were an iffy proposition for boaters, but the back bays and nearby offshore areas today appear clean and ready for fishing visitors. In the distant offshore region, the Poorman's Canyon, for example, has been giving up white marlin by the numbers. Add to that some hefty dolphin (fish) that are found among the billfish. Bluefish are caught far out and close in, even in the back bay behind the resort city. A 51-inch red drum was reportedly caught from the beach at Assateague Island a few days ago. The Coastal Fisherman paper says the North Jetty has been giving up big croakers, bluefish and tautogs. In the bay, expect strikes from flounder, but most of them will be undersized.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – A. Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said amberjacks can be hooked on wrecks, the Chesapeake Light Tower and the South Tower. She also said that deep-droppers are having good luck in the ocean with limits of blueline tilefish, blackbellied rosefish and jumbo seabass hooked. Offshore action is picking back up, she added, and Dr. Ken Neill, who has been out hunting billfish says the numbers of white marlin that are caught is astonishing. One charter boat came back to Virginia Beach reporting 31 white marlin hookups in one outing. Ball, meanwhile, said that most of the billfish action is occurring from the the Triple 0's area and to the south lately. "Even swordfish and spearfish were reported this week," she added and mentioned that 50-pound class yellowfin tunas and great catches of dolphin (fish) round out catches.
• For additional outdoors news, check out www.genemuellerfishing.com.
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