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.
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles – Bass can be caught on early hour topwater poppers, followed by casts to brush and sunken wood with crankbaits or soft 4-inch ribworms in junebug or watermelon colors. A few crappies are taken on live minnows, but the best is yet to come.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – Top DNR river biologist John Mullican said the upper portions of the Potomac are in good shape. "I can't say what will happen if it rains in the next several days," he said, but Mullican predicts that the fishing for smallmouth bass will be good, what with water levels being normal and the water temperature having dropped to 64 degrees. "I expect that will increase a bit," he said, "but the fishing should be good
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Take the kids on a late season bluegill or yellow perch outing. The lake's coves contain plenty of each and worm-baited hooks below a plastic float will find action near shore, or docks and sunken wood. The bass, meanwhile, continue to take soft plastics, including PowerWorms and various tubes or grubs. Morning and eening hours can be great for topwater poppers cast close to vegetation and shady docks.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – The amount of floating debris coming down from Pennsylvania portions of the river has been amazing. Blame recent storm rains and serious flooding on that. The fishing has not been worth a nickel.
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles – Keith Lockwood, of the Department of Natural Resources, said that your best chance of finding fishing action is on the eastern side of the middle parts of the Bay. Boaters are hooking stripers from Eastern Bay on down. Since the rain storms blew through our area, salinity has dropped in the Chesapeake, but stripers, bluefish and some Spanish mackerel are possible. In the lower Maryland portions of the Bay, the water is clean and breaking schools of blues and striped bass are seen There's even a chance of catching an odd red drum (channel bass) now and then. Live-lining with spot baits continues throughout the Bay, especially the Gas Docks, False Channel, and Buoy 72.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – Cobias continue to be caught around bridge abutments and buoys in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay, with quite a few of these tough fighting fish also seen cruising the surface waters. The flounder and croaker fishing has been good all this week, especially at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but the flatties are beginning to move from medium depths to deep holes. Some channel bass (a.k.a. red drum or redfish) are hanging our north of the Bridge-Tunnel's fourth island. Our thanks to Virginia Beach's Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) who provided much of this Bay fishing report.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – The mouth of the river holds scattered schools of young stripers, some decent hardheads and slowly departing Norfolk spot. Perch and occasional rockfish are hooked on small pieces of crab bait at the Route 50 fishing bridge in Cambridge.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles -- Expect decent catches of bass below Snow Hill whenever the tide recedes. It's time to sling out shallow-lipped and medium depth crankbaits in firetiger or shad colors. Spinnerbaits and Senko worms round out the lure requirements.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – Stripers are possible below Vienna and on toward the mouth, but in the upper river -- around the Marshyhope Creek and up toward Seaford -- the fishing for bass has been abysmal.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – "There has been good fishing here this past week," says my lake insider. He said that catfish are really active and chicken liver baits will even occasionally tease a nice striped bass into biting. "The bass are now in the creeks and they're hitting a wide variety of lures early and late in the days near cover such as the willow grass fields, docks, stumps and rock piles." He also mentioned that crappies are hooked around some of the docks in the upper lake sections that show reasonably deep water nearby.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says the upper and lower river should be in good fishing condition come the weekend. Odenkirk doesn't believe scattered local showers will alter the smallmouth bass fishing picture. In the tidal stretches, crankbaits and soft plastics in junebug and watermelon colors will be looked at, especially in small feeder creek mouths that enter the main stem.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Plan on catching bass this weekend. The largemouths will cruise the shorelines, searching for food. You can cash in on that with a lively jointed jerkbait, such as minnow-imitating, shallow-lipped models make by Rapala and Rebel. Do the stop-and-go retrieve and see what happens. Sunfish and a few crappies will also be hooked.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Darrell Kennedy runs the Angler's Landing (540/672-3997) concession if you need information. Plenty of bass and catfish are on the "must catch" list in the next several days. Crappies will school soon, but it hasn't happened just yet.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Marty Magone, who lives by the lake's shore, caught seven good bass and lost an additonal seven largemouths in the thickest weeds in the back of Great Creek the day before yesterday. "I used Rico and Chatterbait lures," he said and added that the fishing can be pretty good if you're willing to work for your bass. By the way, the fishing for striped bass has been great.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles -- Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) will help with information about water conditions. Bass catches aren't the greatest, but some decent catches are possible for boaters using crankbaits, even topwater lures, and, of course, scented plastics and spinnerbaits. The crappies that are caught come from deep brush piles, which isn't the easiest way to fish for them, but it can be done. Catfish have been taken on cut baits in the upper end of the lake. The upper reaches are discolored, but the lower end is fine.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) The fishing guide Mike Hoke (804-357-8518) can be called for bookings. Hoke says the water temperatures have dropped nicely and as a result the blue and flathead catfish have been devouring cut shad, eel or whole sunfish baits. There is quite a bit of floating wood in the river caused by recent storms and strong runoff. The water is slowly clearing, but strangers to the river had better watch where they travel because of the debris.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – From River's Rest (804-829-2753) Alton Williams says the bass fishing has plenty of ups and downs. "It's hit and miss," he said. Some of the bass boaters, however, are doing fine using spinnerbaits. A 6.71-pound largemouth was caught by a visitor and that is noteworthy because the "Chick" is not known for lunker bass, but it has plenty of 2- and 3-pounders. Crappie catches thus far have been very slow.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Fly fishing phenom Harry Murray (540-984-4212, www.murraysflyshop.com) says the river is clearing and providing good catches of smallmouth bass. If you're planning to visit the South Fork, plan on boat-floating, not wading, but the North Fork, he says, is fine for wading.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Stripers continue to be active early and late in the day around the creek mouths and sharp depth changes at mid-lake. Bass have been hooked inside the creeks and they've gone for whacky-rigged plastic worms or quarter-ounce chartreuse/white spinnerbaits.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles -- The water is still a bit discolored, but unless more heavy rains arrive the smallmouth bass will jump on spinners, small topwater poppers, tubes or little crankbaits. Local experts say the smallmouths will begin to move into deeper river holes as they do every fall. That means your fishing will be better along main-stem rock ledges and dropoffs.
MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City -- Offshore boaters will find plenty of marlin, dolphin (fish) and some tuna action around the Washington and Poor Man's canyons. Inshore catches include bluefish, seabass and a few keeper flounder, with backwater anglers behind the resort city saying small bluefish, some flounder and croakers are hooked now and then, but the fishing has not been spectacular.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – One of our favorite saltwater specialists, Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com), said Spanish mackerel continue to snatch up small spoons along the Virginia Beach shore at Sandbridge and Dam Neck in 20 to 25 feet of water. "Schools of false albacore in these same areas will also hit spoons," she added. Blueline tilefish and jumbo sea bass are taken in offshore waters, Even if it's a little chilly, those who can make it out to the canyon waters and the Triple Os will find good numbers of white and blue marlin. Some large class yellowfin tunas are possible, maybe even a few blackfins. Dolphin (fish) hookups are common. Surf fishermen are expecting increased visits from red drum on the lower Eastern Shore.
• For additional outdoors news, check out www.genemuellerfishing.com.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.