- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Md., says rockfish are striking practically every lure trolled or jigged as long as they can see them. Lamb reports that fabulous catches of stripers are possible in the lower Potomac, with the sizes of rockfish ranging from 18 to 45 inches. One of the hot spots has been the deep dropoff just off the buoy that marks St. Clement's Island in St. Mary's County.

Virginia waters are also loaded with big stripers and since the rockfish season continues until New Year's Eve, there is plenty of time to find yourself a trophy striped bass.

Umbrella rigs have been the most popular of the trolled lures, but big spoons, parachutes and other big bucktails with Sassy Shad bodies rigged on stinger hooks will do the job. The big fish have been breaking or rolling on the surface with gannets and gulls diving all around. When that happens, the rockfish can be caught on spinning or casting tackle. Just stop the boat and start jigging the lures.

Gray sea trout are available at Buoy 72, and many are in the 25- to 30-inch range. The trout schools are in deep water (70 feet and more); use 3- to 4-ounce chrome jigs that can reach the bottom quickly and draw strikes.

Now along comes Captain Billy Pipkin of Ingram Bay Marina in Virginia's Northern Neck, who says, "We are finally getting some seasonable weather. The cold fronts this week should finally get the water temperature moving downward.

"Striped bass are rolling through Virginia waters in waves. There is no shortage of fish. Acres of them are available from Buoy 1 off the Great Wicomico River down the shipping channel to the lower Cut Channel near Buoy 42. These schools of 24- to 40-inch fish can be found under flocks of gulls and gannets. Each morning and late in the afternoon, there has been a strong feed. Unlike the fish at the lower Chesapeake Bay's bridge-tunnel, these stripers are heavy for their size. More pounds per inch is not only good for the fight, it's great for the dinner table."

Tidal rivers show action In the tidal portions of rivers where the bass hang out, Potomac fishing guides report the water temperatures to be in the 50s with bass activity being good in the creeks and in the main stream of the waterway. The deeper outside bends of the tributary creeks produce good numbers of bass and crappies for anglers who cast small, deep-diving crankbaits and small grubs. Short plastic worms also work, as do jig 'n' craw combos. Main river ledges, especially those above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, continue to give up good numbers of quality bass, as well as good numbers of fat crappies.

Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says he finds his bass on small, deep-diving crank baits, grubs or spinnerbaits. Ledges with rocks, wood, or grass hold the bigger fish. Crappies, many of them weighing more than a pound, sometimes even approaching two pounds, can be located along the ledges in 10 to 17 feet of water. They prefer Mann's Sting Ray grubs in the avocado color, or Berkley 2-inch Power Grubs in chartreuse. A drop shot rig with a powder-blue Berkley Drop Shot Pulse Worm or a Bud's Helgi in black also can be very effective.

The tidal Rappahannock River around Hicks Landing, below Fredericksburg, had Allen Kerns of Caroline County, Va., weighing a pair of blue cats that went 32 pounds, 2 ounces, and 26 pounds, 13 ounces. Only one bass fisherman was seen this week, and he had three largemouths in five hours of fishing. Crappie fishing has been slow, but that is blamed on a lack of anglers, not the availability of the fish.

In the upper, freshwater parts of the Rappahannock, the river flow has been very low, although recent rains should raise levels. A few anglers continue to find some decent smallmouth bass while casting small grubs, spinners, or streamer flies.

Lakes are good for fishing action Kerr Reservoir in south-central Virginia is still quite low, and lots of bass fishermen are cruising the lake, marking humps, rocks and other structures not visible when the impoundment is at full pool. Boaters will find one lane of the ramp past Longwood and another at Okeneechee open.

Striped bass fishing is good, and the stripers are showing signs of returning to their winter haunts in the creeks. Many are found at the mouths of the creeks, above the railroad bridge and near Buoy 16. Use live bait for best results. Largemouth bass, meanwhile, are located in shallow water, where they'll strike short-lipped crankbaits and small spinnerbaits. Crappies can be caught in 12 to 16 feet of water wherever a brush pile can be found.

At Kerr's neighbor lake, Gaston, you'll hook stripers if you can find a school of shad they're feeding on. Gaston's crappies and catfish are willing, but the largemouth bass are tough to find.

Bass aren't bashful at Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, where the first "winter" tournament kicked off at Anna Point Marina last week with a 7-bass catch that topped 23 pounds. The lunker weighed 71/4 pounds. Bass are being found relatively shallow, mainly in water ranging from six to 10 feet. Carlos Wood at High Point Marina likes water from three to eight feet. He said bass are hooked around bridge abutments, rocks and other structures.

Some bass continue to hang out in very shallow water in the backs of large creeks. Carlos said the lake's striped bass are widely scattered but visitors are finding more of them nowadays. Most are above Stubbs and Holiday bridges and some are as far up as Terry's Run. Live bait appears to be the best bet. Anglers look for birds to find the stripers for them. When a seagull flock dive-bombs the water surface, chances are pieces of bait are floating about, because the rockfish are feeding on baitfish.

Anna's crappies, white perch and catfish are also cooperating.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday,Wednesday and Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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