As you read this, the air will tell what typical February weather should feel like, but the past six or seven days' spring-like temperatures have worked wonders on man and fish. Suddenly, we saw more boats being launched along the upper, tidal Potomac River, with occupants scoring nicely on largemouth bass wherever a sharp change in the water depths of various feeder creeks and coves could be found.
Three of us were in several river pockets just below Alexandria's Belle Haven Marina, and we caught 20 largemouth bass — one of them weighing 4 pounds. Avocado color flat-tailed grubs or a quarter-ounce Norman Deep Baby "N" crankbait did the job on the fish. All of them were released.
If you happened to visit the Marshall Hall boats ramps in Charles County, Md., phenomenal numbers of blue catfish could be seen as the catfish hunters returned from the river, many of them having fished the broad bend in the Potomac just south of the public boat launch, especially near Virginia's Gunston Cove.
We saw La Plata's Ronnie Wedding and White Plains' George Hashman return from the river with 23 blue catfish in the 6- to 12-pound range, all of them caught on slabs of gizzard shad that were fed onto 8/0 circle hooks which were tied to fish-finder rigs with no more than 2 ounces of weight to keep the bait on the bottom. Best of all, the two friends were out on the river to secure enough tasty catfish for a fish fry to be held at St. Joseph Church in Pomfret, Md. They did wonderfully well, even releasing one 42-pounder and a 30-odd-pound blue "cat" because, as they said, "They don't taste as good as the smaller ones do."
Shenandoah River and Lake Anna: Front Royal fisherman Dick Fox currently finds better-than-average sizes of smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah River. He's using 3-inch-long green tube jigs, drifting over rock beds, keeping the rubbery "bait" just above the stones to keep them from getting stuck in rock crevices. Similar reports come from the upper Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. Winter, it seems, is a great time for a trophy smallmouth. If it's crappies you're after, check out Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg. A friend who knows the lake said, "Surprising numbers of crappies were caught in the shallows this week."
Those amazing bluefin tunas: From Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) comes word that besides the great striper fishing, the "bluefin tuna craze still is exciting anglers just as much as it is perplexing marine biologists." Ball said that for some reason this highly migratory fish species appears to be content to stay put. Some boaters even have reported tuna hookups inside the lowest portions of the Chesapeake Bay. The senior fisheries manager at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Joe Grist, figures that the tunas are simply following large numbers of baitfish.
Ball said that some days the tuna fishing is better than the catches of striped bass, with up to a dozen or so bluefins caught each day last week. Most of these tunas weigh around 150 pounds, with a few pushing 200 pounds.
The Feds will reach into your pocket: If you're a 4-wheel-owning surf fisherman who enjoys casting lures or baits along vast stretches of North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore, get ready to fork over some serious cash for the privilege beginning next Wednesday. What used to be free will cost off-road beach vehicle drivers $120 for a yearlong permit, or $50 for a week of driving the sands.
If you don't have a hanging permit or a windshield sticker, you could be fined up to $150 beginning March 15. The National Park Service will enforce the new fees, which are little else but new taxes. One of three designated visitor centers on the island will sell the permits, and purchasers have to watch a seven-minute educational video.
Hatteras business owners are unhappy because the fees might keep beach buggy owners away. However, the Park Service and various environmental groups claim it will better protect bird- and turtle-nesting habitats. How the charging of rather steep fees will protect a turtle is a mystery to me.
• For more outdoors news, check www.genemuellerfishing.com
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