Gene Mueller’s Fishing Report

Warm weather spurs arrival of hardheads

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Editor’s note: This is Gene Mueller’s final column for The Times. He’s taking his talents to South Carolina, to enjoy retirement and great fishing. He will continue work on his website, genemuellerfishing.com.

Atlantic croakers finally have decided to show up in Southern Maryland waters. The species is a warm-weather favorite for thousands of local saltwater anglers who use two-hook bottom rigs, baited with pieces of (very expensive) bloodworms, peeler crab, or more reasonably priced squid and small, uncooked grocery store shrimp.

Ken Lamb, owner of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Md., reports that croakers (also known as hardheads) are in the Potomac River and its tributaries, including the Wicomico, Breton Bay and the St. Mary’s River. Ditto for the Patuxent River. “Catches have been made at the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek as well as the fishing pier at the [Patuxent Naval Air Station’s] Recreation Center, the Three-Legged Marker, also off the O’Club and at Hog Point,” Lamb said. In addition, land-bound anglers at Point Lookout State Park have been hooking croakers from the public fishing pier and from the rock-lined shore on the park’s causeway.

There is some question regarding the weekend weather, which has been kind of unsettled from South Carolina up into the New England states. That means the word “if” comes into play. If it doesn’t blow a gale, chances are oceanside fishing for stripers and red drum from Maryland into Virginia’s barrier islands will continue to be fruitful. If the wind is strong, it will curtail most of the waterborne activities in the middle Atlantic and most of the lower Chesapeake Bay, if not all of it.

Meanwhile, the Maryland and Northern Neck, Va., parts of the Chesapeake have been good for roving schools of stripers in the 18- to 24-inch class, with occasional trophy-size rockfish jumping on the trollers’ lures. If Norfolk spot arrive within the next several days, the rockfish hunters will use small spot as bait during something they call live-lining. It works like the dickens on the rockfish around the Gas Docks in Calvert County and elsewhere.

If it’s largemouth bass you like, you couldn’t be in a better place than the tidal waters of the Potomac between Maryland and Virginia, especially south of the District and downstream toward western Charles County, Md., including all the feeder creeks on either side of the river. In spite of unusually plentiful fishing tournaments, fishing has been fine for local residents who apparently must give way to out-of-town, for-profit organizations that claim first dibs on boat launch ramps up and down the river.

Incidentally, Northern Chinese snakeheads are on a rampage. Every bass and crappie angler we’ve talked to mentions that they either caught snakeheads or lost a lure or bait rig to the toothsome critters. To show how these alien invaders have spread, Mike Henderson, the owner of Buzz’s Marina, along St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, caught an 8-pound snakehead a few days ago. He planned to put it on the grill and have it for dinner.

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 will continue to see large catfish and ever increasing numbers of striped bass. Some largemouth bass, even a few smallmouths, are taken by those who fish the Virginia shoreline in that portion of the river. After several large bass tournaments on the river last weekend, I jokingly told the fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) that there might not be any bass left in the river. He replied that the cast-for-cash crowd is restricted to weighing in only those bass that measure 15 inches or more. “Look at all those 12-inchers that are left in the river. The fishing is fine,” he said tongue-in-cheek. The fact is that the tournament pros believe the tidal Potomac to be one of the best — if not the best — bass waters in the land. No kidding. We’ve known that all along and we strongly feel that the mega contests being held here are not exactly a benefit to the fishery. Meanwhile, blue catfish are found in good numbers in the river’s dropoff ledges between the Piscataway and Quantico creeks — a long stretch of river, to be sure. By the way, the Chinese snakeheads are going bonkers. They’ll strike just about any lure they see if you happen to fish in 2- to 5-foot-deep water around obstructions, such as docks, weed bed pockets and edges and stony shorelines. We receive daily reports of snakeheads being caught in the Occoquan River, Powell, Quantico, Chicamuxen, Little Hunting, Piscataway and Broad creeks, to name just a few hot areas.

Downriver, where the water is more saline, croakers are found in varying numbers from St. Clements Island to the mouth of the Wicomico River, and south of there to Tall Timbers and Cornfield Harbor. The Point Lookout State Park pier and the rock-filled shoreline waters of the park’s causeway have also given up tasty “hardheads,” as many call them. The croakers like bloodworms and peeler crab pieces, of course, but squid, and shrimp also do well.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – The river from Bushwood up to Chaptico Bay will offer croakers, catfish, white perch and if you stay near the mouth there’s as fair chance for rockfish.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – A lot of bass tournament traffic is seen, but soft plastic craw baits, topwater poppers and buzzbaits, as well as small spinnerbaits can do well anywhere from south shore of the creek up to Marsh Island, and on toward the Slavin’s Ramp area. Catfish are everywhere and, of course, don’t be surprised if a snakehead suddenly hammers your lures.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers the usual bluegills, even some shellcrackers now and then, perhaps even a bass, although you can’t keep bass. In St. Mary’s Lake (south of Leonardtown on Route 5 to left turn at St. Mary’s State Park, Camp Cosoma Road) a variety of fish is available. One angler caught a 25-inch-long chain pickerel last weekend, another found a 4-pound bass. The bass and crappies are willing if you are. The lake is a fine choice for shoreline anglers and johnboaters.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties are good for largemouth bass and plenty of crappies if you pick the right spots. Sunken brush or visible stickups are sure to hold both species, but some of the lake points are ready for the picking. Cast medium-depth crankbaits around the edges of quickly dropping points and see if a largemouth won’t charge into it. The female bass are done with spawning and now are hungry.

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