The upper tidal Potomac River currently delivers unbelievably great bass fishing. The past week has seen a veritable explosion of largemouth bass that are willing to strike a variety of lures. It’s the talk of the day among tidal river fishing fanatics.
Fat, sassy bass are hooked from as far south on the river as the Arkindale Flats and then all upriver portions in coves, tributary creeks and main-stem sections. As long as there’s sunken brush, waterlogged trees, or freshly emerging submersed aquatic vegetation, you’ll get plenty of action.
“There isn’t a spot where I’ve stopped to fish that didn’t turn up bass,” said pro fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski of La Plata, Md. “The fish are taking crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastics,” added the guide. “I’ve had clients aboard who don’t fish very often, but they’ve hooked 20 to 30 bass each without any problem.” Our fishing pal, Dick Fox, said it took 27 pounds (for five bass) to win a small tournament on the river last weekend, and the news of a bass that weighed more than 9 pounds being caught by a participant in another contest has everybody buzzing.
As if that wasn’t enough, white perch and hickory shad are caught up around Fletcher’s Cove, off Canal Road in Georgetown, and up or down the river wherever quiet side pockets with plenty of hiding cover are found, chances are you’ll catch a crappie. If that isn’t good enough, large blue catfish (including a recent 80-pounder) are available in the Potomac’s channels and deep cuts between the Wilson Bridge and Marshall Hall.
Hickory shad are in the Fredericksburg sector of Virginia’s Rappahannock River. However, state fisheries biologist John Odenkirk told me that the river sorely needs a good rainfall. “Water levels are way down,” he said, “and the shad, as well as other fish, are kind of laying low right now.” Apparently, the hickories and American shad do not like very clear, shallow water.
Elsewhere, crappie, bass and stripers are turning on in all of the Virginia reservoirs, starting with Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, south to lakes Gaston and Kerr along the Virginia/Carolina border. The same is true of southwestern Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake, while the James River from Richmond down to the Appomattox is good for fat blue catfish.
If it’s great saltwater action you want, Virginia Beach’s super lady angler, Julie Ball, says the offshore tautog bite has been quite good when the weather and wind cooperate and bait crabs are available. Inside the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the bridge-tunnel offers tautogs and the first flounder of the year. Stripers are slowly heading up the bay toward Virginia’s Northern Neck and southern Maryland, but don’t be in a hurry to start trolling. It will be a while before they arrive.
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 told us that rental boats will be in the water sometime this week, perhaps by Thursday or Friday. He recommends calling before coming down if you plan to rent a boat. As far as the fishing goes, things are in fine shape. Dan coined a new word for the unusually warm weather. “I say we’re having ‘Spummer,’ a combination of spring and summer,” said Ward. “The white perch are biting and there are hickory shad, even a few American shad, stripers and catfish available.” Meanwhile, the local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says he can’t remember an outing in the past week when his clients didn’t catch at least 20 or more bass each. “The bass fishing has been fantastic just about anywhere you fish,” he said. Andrzejewski finds action up and down the river and in the feeder creeks, wherever he finds emerging grasses in main stem or feeder creeks, also downed trees and sunken brush, channel edges and marsh banks. Popular lures have been red or blue/chrome crankbaits, Red-Eyes, Rat-L-Traps, craws, such as the Rage Tail Baby Craw in green pumpkin or junebug. And this week I’m beginning to cast and retrieve a lure known as Pure Poison, by Strike King. It looks and acts like the Chatterbait.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Not much doing in the lower river, but the Allen’s Fresh sector shows some spawned-out female yellow perch, also varying numbers of white perch, but considering the super warm weather more than one angler now believes the run has just about ended.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – The creek shows many side pockets where submersed aquatic vegetation is emerging and those are the places where a smartly retrieved crankbait in red or blue/chrome will be looked at by chunky largemouth bass — many of them exceeding three and four pounds. Try also Texas-rigged craw baits and Chatterbait-type lures. Bass and snakeheads are also hanging around sunken brush and logs up and down the creek. A few crappies are found on live minnows or small jigs under a bobber.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) continues to provide some decent chances at stocked trout in addition to sunfish, but not many bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road), Ken Lamb reports that several big catches of crappies have been made this week. Lamb said, “A couple fishing from the bank on the first fishing mound towards the dam (as you stand on the boat launch) landed about 65 crappie, mostly small, using minnows and pieces of night crawler fished under a bobber.” Well, I hope they released all but a dozen of those crappies because if you believe that crappies can’t be overfished, think again. They can take tremendous population declines if we don’t practice conservation. Elsewhere in the lake, small bass and young pickerel are hooked.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties will deliver crappies, sunfish and some fine catch-and-release bass in sunken brush and submerged logs.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The far upper reaches of the river, from Western Branch and up toward Hills Bridge and beyond, will give up a mixed bag of white perch and spawned-out yellow perch. The Western Branch, in fact, also turns up young largemouth bass and some decent crappies. Crappies should cooperate in the sunken shoreline wood above Hill’s Bridge.