During the current open season for trophy striped bass in the lower portions of the Potomac River and Maryland’s part of the Chesapeake Bay, conflicting reports are heard from boaters who are out by the hundreds looking for big rockfish.
Many bucktail and umbrella rig draggers are scoring readily; some even return to port after being in the Bay or Potomac for only a half-hour - that’s how quickly they find a 28-inch-and-over striper.
But there are others, many of them quite capable of hooking fish, who troll around between Point Lookout and Chesapeake Beach and can’t even catch a cold. That’s how poorly the fishing has been for a number of boaters.
One of the insiders to this kind of springtime fishing, Ken Lamb, of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box store, says you need to be out there at break of day. He has noticed that many anglers who come into the store to have a photo snapped with their catches also say that the best “bite” came before 8 a.m. A lot of trollers eagerly await May 16 when two stripers of 18 to 28 inches in length can be kept.
• Locally, it’s good to see that Ray Fletcher of Fletcher’s Cove on the upper tidal Potomac in Georgetown has returned from a brief stay in the hospital. “I feel fine; all went well,” said Fletcher, who then proceeded to fill us in about the hickory and American shad that still are in his portion of the river. “Not only that,” he said, “we’re still seeing plenty of white perch caught. This has been one of the best years ever for the perch.”
A few rockfish are making their way up the river to spawn, and Fletcher passed along news that the District of Columbia’s striped bass season will open May 16. From that day on, you’ll be able to keep two rockfish per day, and they must measure from 18 to 36 inches long; nothing smaller or larger is permitted.
• In the tidal Potomac between the District and western Charles County, plenty of bass can be caught if a body were willing to put up with a sudden rash of tournaments, some of which are local events, with others being organized by profit-making, out-of-town organizations.
For example, a large FLW tournament will come to National Harbor from May 17-20 that will see hundreds of participant boaters. On the same date, a BFL All American tournament will be conducted out of the same place. Oddly, National Harbor does not have a boat launching facility so the for-profit FLW and BFL group has told participants, who pay as much as $4,000 to enter the contest, to launch boats pretty much anywhere they want. That means all the public boat ramps in Charles and Prince George’s counties and the airport ramp on the Virginia side of the river, will be choked with tournament boats. The Marshall Hall boat ramp area will be home to FLW service trailers beginning May 14, in addition to being a launch facility for the contestants. Good luck to local residents finding a place where they can slip a boat off their trailers and then find a place to fish.
• The Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Jeff Kelble, of Boyce, Va., has lodged a number of complaints with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) asking that the Shenandoah River be listed as impaired due to excessive algae blooms. Kelble said algae blooms occur year-round on all segments of the river system, and they violate Virginia’s nuisance aquatic plant-life standard, not to mention that they interfere with the public’s recreational use of the river. However, Front Royal sport fisherman, Dick Fox, while agreeing that there is some evidence of algae blooms, says they eventually diminish and have not hurt his chances of good smallmouth bass fishing.
• In the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia fishermen are beginning to see more cooperative black drum, the huge bottom-feeding fish that come into the Bay this time of year to spawn. The fishing with clam or soft crab baits has been slow, but water-warming weather will trigger feeding responses.
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, Ray Fletcher said, “We still have plenty of American and hickory shad in the river, not to mention white perch. This definitely has been one of the best white perch seasons ever.” Fletcher also says that some large catfish are possible and rockfish are moving into his sector. He said that the District of Columbia’s striped bass season will begin May 16 and then you may catch and keep two stripers between 18 and 36 inches per day. Down-river, the local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) joins many other local fishermen in lamenting the current rash of bass tournaments held by small clubs or state federations, as well as large for-profit tournament organizations such as the FLW and B.A.S.S. Good luck to the fishing citizens of Charles County and/or Prince William County who want to take their kids out in hopes of hooking a fish. All the launch ramps will be choked with cast-for-cash boaters, not leaving much for the people who paid for the facilities.
In the saltwater, a good number of trophy stripers has been caught on umbrella rigs loaded with Sassy Shads, but also simple single or double parachute bucktails without the umbrella setups. Areas of striper catches include a long river stretch starting south of St. Clements down to Piney Point and St. George’s Island, also the channel waters past Smith Creek and the entire deeper layers of water around Point Lookout State Park. Far warning: Don’t get too close to Point Lookout’s shores. It gets mighty shallow there.