In some parts of our region fishing could not be better, but biologists are concerned that the shortage of precipitation might affect spawning activities of certain fish, including smallmouth bass in such rivers as Virginia’s Rappahannock and Maryland’s Potomac.
A good rain will be a great relief to the rivers. Without a soaking, resulting in continued low water, there’s a chance that some of the fish might skip proper reproduction this year and wait until 2013 to do their thing.
Virginia biologist John Odenkirk believes that the Rappahannock River that is part of his beat particularly needs river-refreshing rain. The same fears are voiced by the folks at Fletcher’s Cove in the far upper tidal reaches of the Potomac River in Georgetown. Dan Ward, of Fletcher’s Cove concession, asserted that a good rain is needed although current fish catches can be outstanding. “Shad, white perch and some catch-and-release stripers are here,” he said when we chatted with him.
In the tidal parts of the Potomac below the Wilson Bridge down into western Charles County feeder creeks, bass catches can be great. Local guide Andy Andrzejewski said that not nearly as many bass are sitting on their spawning beds as some believe.
“I continue to find pre-spawn bass that like a variety of lures, including soft plastic craw baits, crankbaits, Chatterbaits, occasionally even a topwater lure,” Andrzejewski said.
The main problem this time of year can be a rash of bass-fishing tournaments that has cast-for-cash competition fishermen clogging up state-owned boat ramps and parking lots, as well as the fishing waters preferred by local residents who paid for the boating facilities with their taxes, licenses and special fees.
The most frequent question we hear is, “Where are the croakers?” These tasty fish, also known as hardheads, have been playing hide and seek. Boaters and shoreline anglers patiently drop shrimp, squid, or crab chunk baits into the lower Patuxent, Potomac and Chesapeake Bay waters but often return home without so much as a nibble.
Croakers are in Southern Maryland waters, and they should bite this weekend. It often is a matter of warm sunshine that raises water temperatures, in turn driving the croakers into the rivers.
In the Atlantic Ocean from Maryland to Virginia, fishing is seeing plenty of ups and downs. Strong winds have curtailed activities for most boaters, but a few trollers east of Ocean City find scattered stripers. Virginians around the Eastern Shore’s barrier island occasionally tie into a fighting red drum that can measure 4 feet. Offshore wrecks in as much as 300 feet of water hold plenty of tilefish and sea bass. But where are the black drum that all of us enjoy fishing for in the Cape Charles area of the Chesapeake Bay?
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, Dan Ward says “We need rain.” There is less water coming down from up in the freshwater parts and it is affecting water depths and conditions. However, Dan, who works at the boat livery, also said that the fishing has been fine. Hickory shad are still there and more of the larger American shad are going to be seen. Also, fat white perch are hooked and a few catch-and-release stripers can be found. Down-river, the local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) says in spite of reports of many spawning largemouth bass, he is not seeing vigorous spawning activity. “The clients I take out on the river find fat female bass on the main stem’s rocky points,” he said. “These bass haven’t even begun to look as if they’re ready to spawn.” He’s referring to the bellies of the roe-bearing female bass and the fact that he still feels the eggs to be quite firm, not ready for spawning. Continued good catches of bass are made with Pure Poison and Chatterbait lures, as well as shallow to medium-depth crankbaits. The bigger catfish are looking for your cut fish pieces or a ball of clam snouts in deeper channel waters between Washington and Southern Maryland. The crappie fishing in many of the feeder creeks can be outstanding now. As far as the croaker fishing is concerned in the lower reaches of the river, it has been hit and miss, but local experts swear it will take off this weekend.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – No word on great croaker catches, but some of the “hardheads” are in the river. The insides of the river are home to many catfish that like just about any bait you throw into the water, from shrimp to crab, and from nightcrawler to bloodworm. White perch are possible around duck blinds and emerging shoreline grasses.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – You can bet your last dollar that the creek will be overrun with tournament boats over the weekend. It’s a spring and summer ritual around Charles County’s Smallwood State Park and local residents are not delighted with all of the activities that frequently keep the very people who paid for the park from launching their own boats. Meanwhile, there are some decent-sized largemouths taken that like Chatterbaits or crankbaits as they pass over underwater weed beds.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) continues to offer bluegills, small bass, even the occasional crappie or stocked rainbow trout. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) the majority of johnboaters and shoreline anglers looks for crappies, bass and catfish. They can score on all three species.