If you’re among the hundreds of boaters trying to troll up a 28-inch-or-longer striped bass during Maryland’s current trophy rockfish season, don’t be upset if you come back to port without the fish you’re after.
Striper fishing is seeing plenty of skunk outings, although others who work virtually the same parts of the Chesapeake find action.
The lower Potomac River between St. George’s Island and Point Lookout is thought to be the best producer of big rockfish, but there are Bay hangouts from Eastern Bay down to Virginia’s Rappahannock River that give up striped bass by the numbers. On the subject of Virginia, don’t forget that in its portion of the Chesapeake you now may keep one striper of at least 32 inches per day. Fishing has been particularly good between the James River and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s abutments and pilings. Meanwhile, many Marylanders are waiting for May 16, when two rockfish per day between 18 and 28 inches will be legal.
The legions of largemouth bass fanatics hereabouts find plenty of their favorite prey in the upper, tidal waters of the Potomac. Fishing for bass begins in Washington and doesn’t slow until you’re far down in western Charles County. However, the most frequent comment heard from bass anglers concerns the Northern Chinese snakehead, the infamous alien invader that has taken such firm roots in the Potomac that no one seriously believes the fish will ever be eradicated.
In fact, some of the bass boaters are beginning to enjoy catching the fierce, toothsome creatures. They hang out in almost identical waters that the largemouth bass enjoy, yet there is absolutely no evidence that the snakeheads threaten bass populations. The same cannot be said for other fish species. Snakeheads devour young carp, including freshly hatched fry. They also go after white perch and sunfish, but the most popular gamefish in the land, the largemouth bass, has nothing to worry about. What many do not know is that the largemouth bass, like the Chinese snakehead, also is an invader in the Potomac. It is not a native fish species.
By the way, whatever happened to the croakers that are supposed to be in the Maryland parts of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers? While some are hooked by bait dunkers in Virginia, the Maryland rivers that normally see hordes of the tasty fish by this time have little to show thus far. However, given a few hot days, all that can quickly change.
Small-boaters, even sea kayakers, have been catching beautiful channel bass (aka redfish or red drum) in fairly shallow water around Smith and Fisherman’s islands along the Eastern Shore of Virginia. When one successful channel bass angler was asked which kind of bait or lure he preferred, he simply answered, “RedEyes.” The RedEye is a lipless rattling lure akin to the famous Rat-L-Trap. Finally, those of us who hope to hook a heavy black drum in the vicinity of Cape Charles, Va., are beginning to worry. Some of the big brutes are caught, but they are not present in the large numbers everybody was hoping for. Perhaps it will happen by the time you read this.
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, the shad contrinue to deliver decent fishing action. Add stripers and catfish, not to mention unusually late staying white perch and you can truly enjoy a day in the upper portions of the tidal Potomac. A reminder that the District of Columbia’s striped bass season begins May 16 and then you may catch and keep two stripers between 18 and 36 inches per day. Downriver, the bass, crappie and snakehead fishing can be downright amazing. Although the majority of the bass we catch now on lizards, craws, Chatterbaits or 4-inch finesse worms are males, there are some naturally larger females taken in any of the tidal feeder creeks between the District and Charles County. Many of the river’s crappies are spawning and that means they’re often found on 3- to 4-foot-deep flats where a few stickups are seen. In some of the feeders, the Pomonkey, Piscataway and Chicamuxen, for example, shows the bass, snakeheads and crappies quite often hanging out in the same areas. Small, shallow-running crankbaits or 1/8-oz. tubes or curly-tail grubs will catch either species. The bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) takes his clients into the general area between the Chicamuxen Creek and farther upstream on the main-stem toward the Pomonkey Creek. Four-inch Pulse worms, Paca Craws, spinnerbaits and shallow-to-medium depth crankbaits are his main lure choices. “My clients aren’t complaining,” said Andrzejewski, “because they’re all catching fish.” In the salty parts of the lower Potomac, some trollers believe they can do better on the river than the Chesapeake Bay when it comes to hooking trophy stripers.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Lots of catfish and a few perch inside the river, but no meaningful catches of croakers.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – What a great bass, crappie and catfish creek. Sadly, this is also the favorite creek to launch bass tournaments in. The Smallwood State Park usually serves as headquarters for these cast-for-cash events and local residents might as well stay home over any weekend because of the boat ramps being clogged with out-of-towners who act as if they owned the park and the adjacent Potomac River.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers sunfish and bass; it all depends where you fish in this lake. The bass are either spawning in the upper end of the lake, or they’re in a post-spawn mode, which can make the hunt for bass tough. In St. Mary’s Lake (south of Leonardtown on Route 5 to left turn at St. Mary’s State Park, Camp Cosoma Road).the crappie and bass fishing has been very good.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard counties turned up several 6-pound bass last week that had to be returned. Howard County’s Louf Sifford and his pal, Jack Schulberg, latched onto the big bass using soft plastic craw claws, such as the Rage Tail or the Paca Crawon the
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – Upper river near Hills Bridge might turn up an errand yellow perch now and then, maybe a catfish or two, but not much of anything else. Lower river, especially between Solomons and the mouth can be home to a few croakers, maybe a throw-back rockfish. One river angler caught a 40-inch rockfish near Solomons. It was released, but it goes to show what can happen in this river.