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Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

Trophy stripers still playing hard to get

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles – Bass, sunfish, crappies and catfish will definitely bite even if the rain turned some portions murky. The bass bite has been good for johnboaters using 1/4-oz. spinnerbaits, medium depth crankbaits or how about throwing a wacky-rigged "fat" worm toward shoreline and cove brusy spots.

BURKE LAKE: 31 MILES – Bass are off the beds and in some cases will look at Baby 1-Minus lures, small spinnerbaits and 4-inch plastic worms. The crappie catches have been good one day, lousy the next. Don't forget the lake's fine catfish population.

CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – The upper river most likely will be a little murky, but if much more rain comes it will turn off the smallmouth bass fishing. Until now, the smallmouths and a few walleyes have been fairly cooperative between Washington County's Taylor's Landing and Montgomery County's Edwards Ferry. By the way, the White's Ferry launch ramp is in terrible shape, so be careful, or better yet, use the Edwards Ferry boat ramp.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Bass guide Brent Nelson says chain pickerel, northern pike, yellow perch and walleyes love a medium shiner drifted across grassbeds in upper lake coves. Attach a small split shot about 18 inches above the shiner and wind-drift across grassy habitat in 8 to 12 feet of water.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – The Flats area's rockfish catch-and-release season has ended, so don't be fishing for stripers for now. The DNR's electro-fishing crew reported large numbers of white perch and channel catfish inside and outside the river mouth. Some decent bass catches are seen in the marinas of Havre de Grace.

CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 25-65 miles – From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reported that the trolling for rockfish improved just in time for the trophy season to end. Of course, now every fisherman can keep two rockfish of at least 18 inches up to 28 inches per day. The fishing for the smaller rockfish will be good in the coming days over broad areas of the Chesapeake. You could find them as far up as Eastern Bay and as far down as the Virginia state line.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – Northern Neck trollers find rockfish of all sizes between Smith Point and the mouth of the Rappahannock and James rivers. However, there are plenty of Virginia and Maryland anglers who want news about the black drum near Cape Charles. Dr. Julie Ball says black drum measuring over 46 inches long have been taking chowder and sea clam baits between buoys 13 and 16 along Latimer Shoal and near Nautilus Shoal. Down in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel waters, the Spring Trophy Striped Bass season is going well, says Ball, but be sure to check the regulations closely and note that these fish must be reported. Excellent striper action is had all over the lower Bay. Topwater action is the most popular method to entice fish exceeding the current 32-inch minimum size requirement, especially along the pilings and islands of the bridge-tunnel. Flounder action around the bridge-tunnel has not been very good.

EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – The mouth area has seen excellent rockfish numbers, although that can change from day to day. Still, the area is always home to some kind of striper action.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles – Snow Hill to Shad Landing portion has been slow to give up bass, but there are plenty of largemouths in that section of the river. Most of the productive fishing with crankbaits and plastics occurs during outgoing tides.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – There have been a few bass and crappies taken in the Marshyhope Creek, but main-stem success is sparse. Downriver, beyond Vienna, some 18-inch-and-over stripers can be found early in the day around river poi8nts, grass edges and such. Rat-L-Traps and jerk baits can do well.

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – Post-spawn bass are a finicky lot, but some are caught in coves and mouths of the feeder creeks. Crankbaits, plastic craws, even some surface lures, can do the job. The crappie fishing is fine in the lake's brush piles and around docks. Striper catches aren't easy, but trollers score every day.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 40-80 miles – The rain, says Virginia biologist John Odenkirk, can actually be beneficial. "The water could stand having a little color in it," he said, "but if the rain continues, it can be a problem." So far, the smallmouth bass catches are good, so is the tidal largemouth bass fishing, with the Fredericksburg sector delivering good catfish opportunities.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – The concession stand's Lori can be reached best during weekends at 540/219-1673. If you can approach the water, go for crappies, bass and sunfish even though the levels are still way down.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Darrell Kennedy of the Angler's Landing concession (540-672-3997) will provide water condition reports if you need them. The bass, catfish, sunfish and crappies are biting.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – Holly Grove Marina (434-636-3455) can provide water condition reports. The bass are definitely off the beds and in some areas, the catching is not very good, but you're sure to hook plenty of male bass around the lake's shorelines. The crappie bite has been good, especially if you bring a pail filled with bait minnows.

KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles – Bobcat's Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) has lake condition reports if you need them. Catfish are on a rampage, said one lake visitor who caught blue cats in the 30-pound range on slabs of alewife bait that he brought with him froma Chesapeake Bay supplier. The bass fishing is in a transition period now that the spawning is done. Some days the fishing is good, others it can be terrible.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) It's mostly blue catfish time, but there are some decent bass caught in the "graveyard" and down in the feeder creeks below the Appomattox River.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – River's Rest (804-829-2753) will have water conditions for you if you require them. The bass catches have perked up, but they will get much better in a week or so when the up-till-now tired females will want to fatten up after their spawning chores. Crappie and catfish add to the day's activities here.

WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – If much more rain visited as this was written, it will hurt your fishing for smallmouth bass. But before it poured, the smallies jumped on soft plastic grubs and spinner lures.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – Cooler than normal nighttime temperatures have made bass fishing a chore this week, but the creeks and stump-laden shorelines are home to plenty of largemouths, while rocky areas hold smallmouth bass. No word yet about explosive rockfish action. Some are caught, but things could be better.

UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles – The local guide Guide L.E. Rhodes (434) 286-3366 may be talked into providing water condition reports. So far, the smallmouth bass fishing is holding up well even in slightly stained water, but here's hoping not much more rain will fall.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City – Sue Foster of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City said the flounder fishing has not improved all that much. Blame windy and overcast cooler weather. But the tautogs took baits in the resort city's inlet. There's a decent chance of catching a striped bass in the surf from Ocean City and down along Assateague Island, but don't promise the neighborhood a free fish dinner until after you've caught the rockfrish. Offshore boats have been in port because of the recent winds.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Dr. Julie Ball (drjball.com) reported that big red drum are still patrolling the breakers off Smith and Fisherman's islands on the Eastern Shore. Incoming tides provide the best results of late. "Surf anglers are still faring very well on the reds from Smith and Myrtle Islands, with good sized striped bass to over 41-inches also taking offerings," she said. The red drum action is also picking up along the Nine-Foot shoal area, especially in the evenings. Both peelers and blue crabs are working well, but alewifes will also get the job done. Bluefish are hooked along the Virginia Beach ocean front and inside Rudee Inlet. Surf and pier anglers are pulling small spot, sea mullet and medium-sized croakers out of the surf line off Ocean View and Little Creek.

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

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