- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Although the close-in Atlantic Ocean in Virginia and North Carolina continues to deliver great catches of tunas and striped bass, this also is a good time to think of planning outings to the Tarheel State’s surf and inlet waters that are not far from the Virginia border.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries says that striped bass are a good bet in all the inlets, sounds and bays of the northern Outer Banks. This time of year, rockfish often are found throughout the northern Pamlico Sound, as well as Roanoke and Croatan sounds. Target areas around bridges or channels and sudden depth changes in the water. Bonus catches include spotted sea trout and red drum (aka channel bass).

Oregon Inlet has been a good producer of stripers and trout for me in years past, and word has it this week that pre-dawn to mid-morning hours have been good for beach visitors fishing around the Bonner Bridge.

By the way, if you plan to drive down to the Outer Banks — anywhere from Nags Head south to Hatteras Island - the fishing piers are closed and will reopen around Easter. But stretches of surf and various 4-wheel-drive beach access roads are seeing traffic since the temperature increased. All you pray for is a day with low winds.

It was on Hatteras Island’s Cape Point where I caught my biggest red drum ever some winters ago — a 41-pounder. That can happen now if you stick with it. Use an 11-or 12-foot surf rod, 20-pound monofilament on a saltwater spinning reel, a surf bait rig known as a Fireball, baited with a generous slab of mullet and make a mighty cast while standing in the surf in chest waders. A belt should be tied firmly around the chest area to keep waves from sneaking up and soaking you.

Bluefish can suddenly blitz the beaches as they chase baitfish. Talk about incredible fishing excitement when it happens. Be ready with a spare rod, its reel loaded with 17-pound testline and the business end of the line tied to a foot-long metal leader, snapped to a 4-inch Hopkins or Crocodile spoon. Cast and retrieve. The toothsome blues will do the rest.

Potomac River always offers something: With the current letup of freezing weather, the upper tidal Potomac River is giving up crappies and a few largemouth bass. It starts in the discharge waters of the Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant, upstream of Wilson Bridge. Ditto for the Spoils Cove and the dropoff waters or rock line near Fox Ferry Point. Downstream, add the Swan and Piscataway creek marina docks and bulkheads as possible productive crappie waters. The Mattawoman Creek has been slow for some reason, but over in Virginia the Occoquan Bay comes up with a few bites — either on live minnows or jigs and grubs.

Record striper caught in Virginia: Manassas resident Cary Wolfe practically is guaranteed verification of a potential state-record 74-pound striped bass that he caught over the weekend while fishing aboard Capt. Tim Cannon’s Bada Bing. The boat was trolling close to Cape Henry when Wolfe’s rod doubled over. After 15 minutes of give and take, the huge rockfish was landed. Although it has not yet been certified by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, a state agency, it was properly caught, weighed and witnessed. The current state record, a 73-pounder, was landed four years ago. The world record comes from Connecticut. It weighed 81 pounds, 14 ounces.

Record Ocean City tautog: Philadelphia visitor Charles Donohue set a Maryland state record for tautog, a 23-pounder caught 12 miles east of Ocean City, Md., while fishing aboard Capt. Monty Hawkins’ “Morning Star” over an artificial reef. The previous record was a 20-pound ‘tog. Either size is monstrous for this reef-dwelling species. Donohue’s tautog was caught Jan. 11, but it takes a while for the state to certify a record application.

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