Now that the catching of 18-inch striped bass is legal anywhere south of the Hart-Miller dike in the northern Chesapeake Bay, most Maryland boaters are delighted simply because the large trophy stripers that had to measure at least 28 inches have not been the easiest fish to find of late. Incidentally, the 18-inch rockfish also are legal in Virginia’s Bay waters.
Complaints about a lack of large rockfish have outnumbered the success stories, although some striper fishermen did quite well. It’s been an up-and-down trophy rockfish season. For example, charter fishing captain Greg Buckner, who keeps his boat in Solomons, Md., had a party of 13 one day last week and all 13 caught trophy rockfish before the lunch hour arrived. Capt. Buckner said all the big stripers he’s found have been north of the Gas Docks and Chesapeake Beach, even at the mouth of the Choptank River.
• Closer to home, what certainly is one of America’s premier tidal rivers for largemouth bass continues to attract large bass-fishing tournaments, which isn’t always welcome news to local residents who want to launch their boats at the nearest ramps to their homes. That might be a tough chore over the next several days when a for-profit, out-of-state organization, the FLW and another group, will conduct cast-for-cash outings. The contestants will have their catches weighed at the National Harbor facility in Prince George’s County, but since National Harbor can’t accommodate a hundred (or more) tournament boats, organizers have told the fishermen to launch in a number of other locations.
That means local anglers most likely will be forced to stay home since parking spots and ramps will be crowded. What a shame. Maryland, in an apparent slap in the face of its resident anglers, continues to endorse these events in spite of recent mishaps when the bass that were supposed to be released alive, later turned up floating dead in the release waters. Not only that, one reader asked if these people fish for money - not for recreation - why should they be allowed to buy a recreational fishing license? “They ought to be made to buy a commercial license like the watermen who also ‘fish’ for money,” he said.
• In the lowest reaches of the Chesapeake Bay, our friend, Dr. Julie Ball (www.drjball.com), said the drum-fishing scene continues to heat up with an escalation in black drum activity in Bay waters. Large black drum are showing up on the eastern side of the Chesapeake between buoys 13 and 16, along the Latimer and Nautilus shoals where chowder and sea clam baits draw the fish to the hook. However, this kind of fishing will not last much longer, perhaps no more than a week before they move up into Maryland portions of the Bay.
On the ocean side, some big red drum (aka channel bass or redfish) still can be found close to Smith and Fisherman’s islands on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The Assateague Island surf in Maryland also can produce an odd redfish or a striper.
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, expect discoloration of the water due to rains earlier this week, but the fishing for stripers (many of them small specimens), large catfish, left-over shad and perch will continue unless monsoon rains come along. The bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) and many other bass angler who fish below Washington most likely will try to keep their river visits to a minimum, considering that two national bass tournaments will be held this week. One of them, the BFL event, will restrict fishermen to staying upstream of Wilson Bridge. The other, a large FLW outing, will have its participants pretty much launch anywhere they want to, with the National Harbor facility serving as headquarters for both contests. You can bet that there will be little room to park your vehicle and trailer at a number of Maryland ramps, although Virginia boat launches, such as Leesylvania, should be okay. Of course, you already know that these tournament pros will act as if they own the Potomac, which is something that rankles more than one local boater. Meanwhile, the fishing for bass, crappies, catfish and occasional stripers will be good from the Piscataway Creek clear down to the Mattawoman. Some anglers report topwater bites as their poppers and buzzbaits come across submersed vegetation. But soft plastics and Rat-L-Traps will draw the most hits.
In the salty portions from St. Clements and areas downriver, striper trollers report greatly varying success rates. Some score on rockfish, others do not. Either way, you now can keep two stripers of 18 to 28 inches per day, but watch those oversize fish. The “man” may be watching you.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Some croakers have arrived at the mouth of the river, plus the insides turn up increasing numbers of white perch and so many catfish that some anglers, using shrimp or squid baits hoping to catch a croaker, believe that’s the only fish that can be found here.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – Watch for the bass tournament crowd that is sure to come in here looking for aqn easy bass catch. The creek is indeed home to better-than-average numbers of bass and excellent numbers of catfish that hang out in the channel waters of the winding creek. Use clam necks on a bottom rig and see what happens anywhere as long as the water shows more than 6- to 10-foot depths.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) continues to give up plenty of sunfish, even a few crappies and catch-and-release bass. In St. Mary’s Lake (south of Leonardtown on Route 5 to left turn at St. Mary’s State Park, Camp Cosoma Road) you’re sure to hook a bunch of crappies in sunken timber, stickups and shoreline spawning flats. My best lures for crappies have been the 2-inch Berkley Power Minnow in black back/silver underside, or a 2-inch chartreuse Gulp grub, both fished 3 feet or more under a bobber. The bass like small spinnerbaits or 4-inch green pumpkin color finesse worms.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties have been good choices for crappie fans. Any sunken brush or stickups seen in the deeper coves of both lakes can hold crappies. Small jigs under a bobber is usually all you’ll need. There are times when bass will jump onto any lure you throw around logs, brush, lake points and outcroppings of rocks.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Upper river near Hills Bridge will be discolored and not much other than catfish will cooperate. In the lower parts of the river, downstream of the Benedict Bridge continuing out toward the mouth, there’ll be rockfish, a few croakers which some anglers catch from shore and, if you fish in the creeks, increasing numbers of white perch.