- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Magic is about to happen for the fresh- and saltwater anglers in the Washington area. Never mind occasional days of rain; they’ll go away. Never mind that odd 85-degree day that shows up now and then during September. Just as sure as steamed, spiced crabs and venison steaks are Mueller household staples, the hot days are decreasing; cool weather is on the way, and along with it some of the best fishing since spring.

The Chesapeake Bay will give us a final hurrah as every finned species in this monstrously large fishing hole looks at a variety of baits and lures. The catches are merrily continuing even now with bluefish, stripers and slowly departing Spanish mackerel cooperating from the Eastern Bay, near the bay bridge, south to Hooper’s Island Light and on to the Middle Grounds, Buoy 72, and the Point Lookout and Smith Point areas. There’ll be some wonderful fishing for all of us this weekend and in weeks to come.

Although rain has been forecast for much of the week, no one believes they’ll be gully-washers, such as the ones we experienced earlier this month. Even the upper Potomac River’s top freshwater biologist, the DNR’s John Mullican, says not to worry. “The weekend should be fine,” he said from his Western Maryland office. His sentiments are echoed by Virginia’s John Odenkirk, the fine biologist of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Odenkirk firmly believes the Shenandoah and Rappahannock rivers will offer decent smallmouth bass fishing. The same appears to be true of the upper and lower James River.

Locally, the upper tidal Potomac River’s bass anglers should experience no real problems finding a largemouth that will follow a smartly-retrieved crankbait, spinnerbait or topwater popper. When it gets really cold, the water weeds will begin to die off, but so far they continue to provide sanctuary for minnows, sunfish and perch, which of course draw the main predator species, the largemouth bass. To a lesser degree, the Chinese snakeheads also look for the same food, so be prepared to get a jolt when one of those alien critters attacks your spinnerbait or lipped cranking lure. Be sure to kill the fish and take it home. I’m told its fillets taste delicious. I wouldn’t know because I’m no great fish eater.

Finally, allow me to remind anyone who would flaunt the law, a little more than a week ago, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources proposed to suspend the fishing privileges of 60 recreational fishermen for violating the state’s fisheries laws. The suspensions were proposed for a broad range of violations that included the taking of fish during closed seasons, taking fish during spawning seasons, taking fish in closed areas, exceeding daily catch limits and possession of female crabs. Violators will be officially notified that they can plead their case before a judge who will make the decision to suspend licenses, or reverse the department’s findings.

The DNR said over the past several years it has increased its enforcement and penalties of Maryland’s commercial and recreational fishing regulations to maintain sustainable fisheries.

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, “The river is in good shape for fishing. A few large catfish are hooked and we’re looking forward to improved bass catches. It usually happens when the water temperatures begin to drop — and that is happening now.” Below town, weed bed edges and sunken wood or rocks are the best places to catch a largemouth bass. Of late, early hour surface lures, such as a Rico or Rebel Top-R, have been good producers if you can keep them from getting tangled in the milfoil or hydrilla. Small spinnerbaits and wacky-rigged “fat” worms like the Senko do well. The water is nicely fishable and all the feeder creeks between the District and western Charles County, Md., and creeks on the opposite side of the river in Virginia, have been turning up bass, a few snakeheads and plenty of catfish. The one disappointment for bass anglers has been the Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County. To be sure, some bass are found, but the success rates we saw in years past have not been met in some time. The same goes for the Port Tobacco River, below the Nanjemoy, which, we’re told, is suffering from inexcusable amounts of pollution due to overflows from a La Plata waste treatment plant.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – The Norfolk spot are slowly leaving and the croaker fishing has seen better days, but some hardheads are caught in deeper channel waters. White perch and catfish have been reliable standby catches.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The weed bed edges, spatterdock pockets and marsh bank dropoffss will turn up keeper bass, but also a fair share of juvenile fish. Catfish are in all the channels and clam necks or live chunks, fished on weighted bottom rigs, will get them.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will see sunfish and a few bass being caught. Incidentally, my friend Jim Kundreskas said that a Chinese snakehead was found in the creek below the lake dam. How did it get there? Meanwhile, at St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) largemouth bass have gone for small spinnerbaits, topwater poppers and 4-inch Berkley PowerWorms. Bluegills and a few crappies round out the possibilities. By the way, the crappie catches will increase greatly when the speckled fish begin to school as they will later this month and in October.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties corridor are going to give up some fine bass this weekend, even if it rains and even if there are remnant signs of murky water brought on by the recent heavy downpours. Scented plastics, bright spinnerbaits or Chatterbaits, as well as medium depth crankbaits will do the job. Crappies have not schooled yet, but some can be caught in flooded brush.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – If you want a tidal river that delivers white perch, croakers, some flounder, snapper bluefish and plenty of rockfish, look no further. This is it. From below Benedict, downstream to Solomons Island and the opposite shore’s Patuxent Naval Air Station, the river offers a variety of fishing action, some of it even from Solomon Island’s public fishing pier and various beach fronts. Boaters frequently run into surface-erupting schools of blues or stripers and topwater poppers or wobbling spoons can do the job when it happens. Bottom-fished crab or shrimp baits can draw croakers or stripers.

OCCOQUAN RESEROIR: 33 miles — Work a wacky-rigged Senko or Zero worm through waterlogged branches and fallen trees. The bass will take a hard look at such offerings. Shallow- to medium-depth crankbaits and quarter-ounce spinnerbaits will also see action. I haven’t heard of any decent crappie catches this week.

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