Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

‘Buzzing’ over Potomac bass

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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.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles – Fountainhead Park is open and anglers launching their own johnboats find crappies and occasionally hefty bass. Crankbaits and craws are the best bass lures at this time, while live minnows under a bobber are great for crappies. Fish in deepwater coves and concentrate on secondary points and sunken brush. The park’s phone number is 703/250-9124.

BURKE LAKE: 31 MILES – Marina services will be available Memorial Day, but anglers can come in and hunt for crappies and bass right now. A few 2- and 3-pounders have been scored on medium-depth Norman Little Deep N lures in shad colors. The park’s phone number is 703/323-6601.

CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – From Williamsport to Taylor’s Landing in Washington County, small-boat fishermen have found willing walleyes, some smallmouth bass and surprisingly cooperative muskellunge. Of course, the muskies go after large jerkbaits and sub-surface crankbaits. In Montgomery County waters, the main catches have been smallmouth bass in the rock beds and Virginia-side dropoffs. Small Crankbaits, jigs, tubes and spinners do the job.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Expect fairly good fishing for walleyes, especially if you drift along lake points and channel edges with a spinner rig that holds a whole nightcrawler or a live minnow. More than one of our readers have done this and have brought home tasty ‘eyes, as some call the walleye. Bass fishing has been slow.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Most of the action has been in feeder creeks where yellow perch and white perch are spawning or already finished the process. Look for hickory shad to arrive in Deer Creek. They’re already hooked and released in Virginia’s Rappahannock and Washington’s Potomac portion. Back in the Susky, a few bass are hooked in the marinas down around Havre de Grace and when the wind is down, some boats are out on the Susquehanna Flats looking for stripers.

CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 25-65 miles – Some catch-and-release resident rockfish have been taken on Bass Kandy lures and other jerkbaits in the waters close to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station, but we haven’t heard much about other catches. To be sure, boat owners up and down the Bay are readying their craft for the spring trophy striper season, starting April 21.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – From the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb, reports that commercial hook-and-line fishermen are landing huge rockfish, trolling deep at the SP Buoy in Virginia waters. “I know it hurts to hear this,” said Lamb, “but catches of near 1,000 pounds are not uncommon in a few hours.” Virginia commercial licenses are limited to a set number of pounds every year and unlike Maryland, Virginia does not have a 36-inch maximum length in the spring. “Many of the Va. folks are now saving their remaining [allotments] for the fall as the price of rockfish has been driven down by the current abundance of fish coming to market.” Meanwhile, in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, the bridge-tunnel near Cape Charles shows some flounder and tautogs, and the black drum watch has begun. They could arrive sooner than normal.

EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Upper parts around Greensboro have turned up on-and-off catches of yellow and white perch, but the overall fishing has not been the greatest.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – Snow Hill to Shad Landing stretches show cooperative largemouth bass and a few fat crappies. This time of year, the best methods to bring a bass to the hook is to fish small coves where the water flow is not very strong and where you find sunken brush galore. Use medium-depth crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jig’n’craws.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – The Seaford, Del., stretches have been good for spawning yellow perch, while the boat launch area’s wood pilings of the Marshyhope Creek and sunken brush inside the coves of Delaware’s Broad Creek are giving up fair numbers of crappies.

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – Virginia DGIF biologist John Odenkirk said the striper fishing in the lake has been outstanding, and bass or crappie anglers are not complaining what with the late spring-like weather warming the backwaters of coves where many of the bass and “speckled perch” hang out. For a fun guided striper trip, call Jim Hemby (540) 967-3313.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – The water in the river above Fredericksburg is very low and clear. Just below the rock line at Route 1 bridge you’ll find some hickory shad, even white shad, but the fishing has been remarkably slow. The low, clear water is blamed for the fish playing possum. Rain is needed.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – The lake dam is being repaired and water levels had to be drawn down. We’re told that it will be tough to launch a boat right now. Perhaps a very light aluminum john boat can be carried to the water. The concession is open.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Plan on hooking plenty of crappies if you have minnows and a pocketful of bobbers that can be cast into standing timber or flooded shoreline brush up and down the lake. A few largemouth bass are taken on deep-cranked lipped lures or plastic craws.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – From Holly Grove Marina, (434) 636-3455, fishing guide Craig Karpinski says that bass catches are fine around lake points. Use jigs and suspended baits. Crappie will jump on live minnows under a bobber. Of course, little jigs and spinners also work. A 74-pound catfish was caught on cut fish bait here recently.

KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles – Bobcat’s Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) can provide a water condition report. Bobby Whitlow says that the bass bite has been great for anglers using Rat-L-Traps and other lipless lures like it. Soft plastic worms and craws have worked as well. Big catfish are sucking in cut pieces of fish, but we haven’t heard anything about striper catches. Water temperature is approaching the low 60s.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) The catfish catches have been wonderful, but bass and crappie fishing leaves a lot to be desired. For a fun catfish outing, call Mike Hoke of Life’s Revenge Guide Service (804/357-8518)..

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – The fishing has seen lots of ups and downs. Bass should be more cooperative, what with this summer-like weather, but some largemouths, catfish, crappies and perch are caught indeed. River’s Rest (804-829-2753) will provide the latest water conditions.

WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Two days ago, Front Royal fisherman, Dick Fox, said, “Fished the river this afternoon, the water was 60 degrees, stained and almost normal level. The bass fishing was slow but the crappie bite was real good and the catfish were pretty aggressive, hitting my crankbaits.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – The bass and crappies are biting in coves and in feeder creek brush and sunken rocks and logs, but striper catches aren’t the greatest right now. A few are hooked. Things will get better as far as the rockfish are concerned.

UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles —Smallmouth bass are taking a hard look at spinners, small spinnerbaits, tubes, jerkbaits and 1/4-ounce crankbaits. A few smallies have been caught by flyrodders using streamers.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City – Offshore wrecks are giving up tautogs and a few sea bass.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Dr. Julie Ball (drjball.com) has been doing quite well during offshore trips to various wrecks. She’s using crab baits that attract hefty tautogs. Deep wreck fishing can also turn up tilefish.

For additional outdoor news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com

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