April is a time of year when most fish species begin to think of reproducing. Piscatorial love is in the air, or rather in the water.
Largemouth bass are seriously checking out bedding sites in preparation of spawning. Some already have begun, especially in the southern Virginia reservoirs, such as Kerr and Gaston.
Spawning activity has been noted at Virginia’s Lake Gaston, and any day now our tidal Potomac River will see female bass depositing their roe, followed by the fertilization of the males’ milt.
The spawning efforts of crappies have started, although recent, sudden cold snaps may have delayed it a few days. Shad and herring are at it, and in saltwater, striped bass are about to begin their spawning runs. Bluegills, carp, lake walleyes and river muskies also are going to be answering the call to multiply.
For starters, hickory shad and lesser numbers of American (aka white) shad are in the upper tidal portions of rivers and creeks, including the Potomac around Fletcher’s Cove in Georgetown; shad also will come into the fall line of the James River in Richmond, the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg, Va., the Susquehanna and its Deer Creek feeder at the head of the Chesapeake Bay.
Locally, anglers who are on the hunt for the Potomac’s largemouth bass are doing well. Much of that has to do with many of these fish not yet guarding their nests. However, with the current warm-weather forecast, it will happen quickly. Meanwhile, all the feeder creeks are showing emerging submersed vegetation, and that can be the secret to finding bass. Cast and retrieve medium-diver crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits and soft craw claw baits over the weeds. You’ll score in the feeder creeks and main stem from Wade’s Bay north to the District — a mighty stretch of water.
If it’s Chinese snakeheads you want, Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk told me that the backwaters of the Occoquan River and the nearby Massey Creek showed many of the toothsome alien invaders while he and his crew electro-shocked the waters to check on the species’ presence. Odenkirk said there were so many snakeheads in the Occoquan River around the water plant that one man, using a fishing bow and arrows, regularly shot snakeheads. Largemouth bass also were plentiful in the same waters, said Odenkirk.
In the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland boaters await the start of trophy season that runs from April 21 through May 15. One thing is sure, the big breeder “cow” stripers are heading our way. Farther down in the Chesapeake, the Bridge-Tunnel that connects the Virginia Beach area with the Eastern Shore’s Cape Charles gives up tautogs and scattered flounder. There’s even a chance of hooking small bluefish in that area. The blues also are in the oceanfront at Rudee Inlet.
Offshore Maryland and Virginia boats find tautog and tilefish action over deep-water wrecks, while along the Eastern Shore of Virginia the first red drum (aka channel bass or redfish) have made a showing in the various inlets.
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, Ray Fletcher says the shad, catfish and slowly increasing numbers of rockfish are noted. Some bass, even walleyes, show up in that section of the river. From the District down to the Piscataway Creek, the bass fishing is fine and much the same kind of success is enjoyed in every feeder creek, inlet, cove and bay clear down to Wade’s Bay, but we hear complaints about a lack of crappies. There really is no shortage, but the speckled fish had started schooling in preparation for the spawn, then a cold spell lowered the water temperature in the shallows and they disappeared. It’s a temporary move. They’ll be back doing their thing this weekend. The big blue catfish take slabs of gizzard shad or whole white perch in the deep drops from outside Broad Creek south to Marshall Hall and outside Gunston Cove. Snakeheads are very active now, with the most success currently found in the far backwaters of the Occoquan River, around the water plant.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Nothing doing yet, but the croakers hopefully will show up within a week or so.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Of all the feeder creeks of the Potomac, this is the most popular one for tournaments because of Smallwood State Park’s six boat launching ramps. The bass and even crappie catches can be good, but weekends often serve as a time for tournaments of all sizes. That means be prepared for crowded conditions.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for panfish, such as bluegills, but also a few bass. In fact, during the spawning days, the upper end of the lake sees 5- and 6-pound largemouths sitting on their beds. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) you’ll hook crappies, sunfish and increasing numbers of bass. Some of the bass will be on their beds. Be kind if you catch a bedding female and return her quickly in the same area so she can finish what she started.