The rains finally arrived, and even though we prayed for the wet stuff, a lot of anglers feared a lengthy downpour would raise and muddy water levels. It didn’t happen.
Although rivers and lakes received a good dousing, the worst that occurred was a slight water discoloration, which actually helped fishermen looking for action.
Dan Ward, of the Fletcher’s Cove boat rental and tackle concession along the Potomac River in Georgetown said, “The rain helped. We’re not complaining. If you come down to fish, expect a mixed bag of shad [the American and hickory variety], also some perch. We’re thinking that maybe another wave of perch will come up the river.”
Ward also mentioned that one angler on the river caught 38 striped bass that he promptly released. Yes, many of them were the smaller males waiting for the females to arrive. Good things are going to happen here.
Along comes our favorite fisheries biologist, John Odenkirk, of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, who has been working in one of the Potomac’s feeder waters, the Occoquan River. “You would not believe the numbers of bass, snakeheads, shad, herring, crappies and perch we see in the area of the dam inside the river,” he said.
Other fishing fans, especially the bass-boat crowd, may not have visited the Occoquan, but they’re finding good catches in just about all the Potomac’s tributary creeks. Quite a few are working the main stem’s rocky points, rip-rap and sunken logs or brush. A variety of lures, from soft plastic baits such as the Paca Craw to hard jerkbaits, also the shallow-lipped Baby-1-Minus - all can draw strikes from bass.
On the sad side of things, Odenkirk told us about a fish kill in the upper portion of popular Lake Anna, Va. It happened in the Pamunkey arm of the lake in a fairly small area. Dead carp, stripers and perch were found, but Odenkirk believes no huge damage was done. No one knows what happened. Runoff of pesticides from farms can’t be blamed because the fish kill occurred before the rain arrived. It might have been some unthinking dolt who thoughtlessly dumped a toxic substance into the water.
In the Chesapeake Bay, last Saturday’s opening of the striped bass season for 28-inch-and-over trophy specimens kicked off splendidly. Our friends at Buzz’s Marina along St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said it was the best opener for rockfish they’ve ever witnessed. The owners, Christy and Mike Henderson, had a steady stream of successful boaters return from the nearby Chesapeake Bay, many of them showing off 40- to 44-inch-long stripers. Much the same happy news came from Ken Lamb, of the Lexington Park Tackle Box, where a lot of fishermen stop to have pictures taken of their catches (to see some of them visit www.genemuellerfishing.com) or to file applications for state trophy catch citations.
Elsewhere, there’s concern among some saltwater fanatics about the lack of black drum in the lower Chesapeake Bay’s Cape Charles area. I believe there is nothing to worry about. In fact, a few have begun to show up this week. Most of the large bottom feeders are due in the early days of May and, yes, sometimes they arrive a little sooner, but the sudden change in the weather surely affected any decision by the large, tasty fish to arrive in familiar lower Bay waters.
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 “I think the rain has actually helped. The water is a little discolored, but not enough to hurt the fishing.” Dan said he saw one man catch and release 38 stripers, most of them small. But there are white and hickory shad in the Fletcher’s Cove portion, not to mention white perch and catfish. In fact, there may be new arrivals of white perch. “It happens every year,” said Dan. “We’ll see.” Meanwhile, down-river, the local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says hard jerkbaits, Baby 1-Minus crankbaits, soft plastics of every type and slowly retrieved spinnerbaits can do a fine job on largemouth bass and snakeheads of all sizes along main-stem points, gravel bars, sunken wood and, of course, freshly growing milfoil and hydrilla fields and patches. The same goes for all the feeder creeks. If you want to be in the presence of large numbers of snakeheads, bass, white perch, shad and herring, give the insides of the Occoquan River (close to the dam) a shot, said Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk.
In the saltwater portions of the lower Potomac, trollers have done quite well dragging umbrella rigs loaded with Sassy Shad lures or simply using single parachute bucktails. One party of trollers near Smith Creek put out five rods for the five men looking for 28-inch-and-over rockfish. They limited out in less than two hours. Sadly, the croakers (a.k.a. hardheads) have been tough to find. From Lexington Park, the Tackle Box store’s Ken Lamb said, “The cold snap last week made the fish move from the shallows to deeper holes. Some of the river. ‘s pound-netters got as many as 18 bushels of croakers overnight during this movement, but then they disappeared again.”
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – The news is not good if it’s croakers you’re after. The colder water temperatures over the past week has driven potential new arrivals back out into deep river depressions. They’ll wait until things warm up. The river has plenty of catfish and increasing numbers of white perch that like the newly growing grass edges and dock pilings.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The rain has not affected the fishing. Expect good catches of largemouth bass. Use a variety of hard and soft lures. One of the better anglers told me that he’s whacking the bass with a Baby 1-Minus crankbait and Paca Craw or Rage Tail Baby Craw in red fleck/water melon, also in junebug colors. Crappies can show up almost anywhere you see sunken wood and brush in at least three and four feet of water even when the tide is down.