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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

New year starts with bass biting

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Every New Year's Day, come sun, fog, rain, snow or ice, we go fishing. We've done it for more than a quarter century, but compared to years gone by when ice occasionally had to be broken before we found the water, the first day of 2012 could not have been more accommodating.

It all began with Potomac River fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, who firmly believes that a day of fishing is better than nursing a post-celebration headache. Not being overly fond of booze myself, I heartily concur with the man we jokingly refer to as the Fishing Pole, so I'm ready to meet him wherever he says he's going to launch his boat. This year, he also invited Bob Lunsford, the former director of freshwater fisheries for the Maryland DNR. Since Lunsford retired, he tries not to miss an opportunity to hook whatever species is willing to look at a lure.

The first casts of 2012 came inside Gunston Cove, on the Virginia side of the upper tidal Potomac River. As soon as we left the Marshall Hall boat ramp on the Maryland shore and entered the broad cove, Andrzejewski intently watched an electronic depth locator and promptly found a watery ledge where the bottom fell from less than four feet to upwards of nine feet. "The bass should be along that ledge," Andrzejewski said. "They're here all through the cold season, but we have to make sure to stay away from the Army boats. Fort Belvoir's security guards don't want anyone getting too close." A number of old landing craft sat in the distance and we obeyed the various "Restricted" signs.

Soft, rubbery, flat-tailed grubs that had been pushed onto quarter-ounce jig hooks landed in the shallow water, then were dragged and hopped gently along until they fell off the ledge into the deeper layers. By the fourth or fifth cast, a shout of "Fish on!" came from Andrzejewski, a youthful largemouth bass thrashing on the surface only moments later. "That's the only bass I've caught all year," said the Fishing Pole, tongue-in-cheek. The catch scene repeated itself, with the guide or Lunsford and I setting the hooks of the avocado-color grubs to more largemouths.

Eventually, Lunsford latched onto a 5-pound bass. Talk about a happy fisherman. A 5-pound river bass in winter is something to be proud of. My biggest might have been about three pounds.. Of course, before our New Year's Day outing ended, the pro guide had to show off just enough to make us all feel bad. Andrzejewski caught a 5 1/4-pounder just in time for him to say,"OK let's wrap it up and go home to have our New Year's dinner."

In all, we hooked and released 21 bass, one yellow perch and a fat crappie that Lunsford latched onto. What a January day!

Talk about excitement, this was it. From the general Virginia Beach area, the fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, reports that large numbers of striped bass are hanging out along the inshore waters near Virginia Beach. What startles many of the rockfish anglers is a sudden appearance of bluefin tunas that can turn striper rods and reels into mincemeat. It happens every year as tunas that weigh from 100 to 300 pounds most likely are after the same baitfish schools as the stripers. Neill mentioned that most of these fish are too big to keep under current regulations. Right now, permitted recreational anglers are allowed to keep a single bluefin tuna per boat measuring between 27 and 59 inches.

If you plan to visit the Virginia Beach area, remember that rockfish bite might slow down while the bluefins are roaming about. It won't last forever, and when the water cools more around Delaware and Maryland, more rockfish will come south and the striper fishing will resume big time. By the way, you may fish for the rockfish only within the three-mile zone. And if you wish to do catch-and-release fishing for the stripers, they're plentiful inside the Chesapeake Bay.

Perch and catfish can be caught. Our friend Ken Lamb, who owns the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park (St. Mary's County), says, "There are still plenty of white perch to be caught in the Patuxent," which means the lower river near Solomons where the perch stay in deep holes all winter. They'll take bits of bloodworm on weighted bottom rigs, or they'll jump onto jigged Silver Buddy blade lures. Lamb also mentioned fat catfish are available in the warm-water discharges at the Patuxent River's Chalk Point Power Plant, also the Morgantown Power Plant in the Potomac, adjacent to the Route 301 bridge between Charles County, Md., and King George County, Va.

For more outdoors news, visit www.genemuellerfishing.com

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