- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

The time of year has arrived where every fishing trip and subsequent success (or lack thereof) depends on the temperature. It doesn't matter whether the daytime weather is gorgeous or rotten, no, it's the nighttime temps that hold the secret to good outings. Now, the night coolness chills water surfaces enough to begin to force some fish movements during various times of the day.
For example, in the Potomac River's feeder creeks you will launch your boat and discover that the bass are hanging out just a little farther away from a marsh bank than they did two weeks ago. So you begin slinging crankbaits (small ones at first, then slowly step up to the bigger models as the weeks wear on) toward the outside edges of fallen trees and the band of water that lies away from a weedy shoreline where depths change from, say, as little as 3 feet to 10 feet or more in the space of one cast. Concentrate on such quickly declining watery terrain.
How good is the fishing right now? "It all depends," says river guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) who has been running his bass boat from the Wilson bridge area down to western Charles County, Md. "Some days are good, others are absolute stinkers. Still, the bass are there and they can be caught. I recommend quarter-ounce shad color crankbaits, quarter-ounce white spinnerbaits and a handful of blue fleck Berkley Power Ribworms. Work the edges of grass beds in the river and the creeks and you'll notice how some of the vegetation is beginning to shrink."
Similar reports are heard from the tidal Susquehanna in the upper Chesapeake Bay, as well as Virginia's James and Chickahominy rivers. One day the catches are fine, then they drop, only to rebound the following day. The fish are in a changeover pattern and it's all expected. Don't be disappointed if you have a bad day.
Not so bad, however, are the upper mountain portions of such smallmouth bass producers as the James, Shenandoah, Rappahannock, Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. But quite a bit of the sweetwater grasses are disappearing, leaving the water clear and exposed so the smallies are able to see anglers much quicker. The best lures now, as always, are the tube jigs, small topwater poppers and buzzbaits, tiny spinnerbaits and an assortment of flyfishing streamers and poppers that imitate minnows, crayfish and insects.
Locally, the Virginia and Maryland reservoirs and all state-managed lakes are excellent choices for bass, sunfish, catfish and increasing numbers of crappies. By the way, a reader asked if St. Mary's Lake, south of Leonardtown, Md., is filled again after lengthy repair work. Yes, it is. Even better than that, some bass, sunfish and crappies are hooked.
In the Chesapeake Bay, roving bands of rockfish and blues are seemingly everywhere. Many of these 15- to 19-inch fish come to the surface every day and if you happen to be in the vicinity, start throwing small spoons, surface poppers, or rattle lures such as the ones used by bass anglers. You'll get your fill. Also watch your depth sounder and see if you don't notice fish markings under the topwater eruptions. In many cases they can be sea trout, especially in waters more than 25 feet deep. Drop a jig head holding a small Sassy Shad or a bucktail whose hook is covered with a plastic worm and pull it up a few feet, let it drop, pull it up again. The trout might do the rest. Well, at least they should.
By the way, the Virginia rockfish season is open now through Dec. 31. Just as in Maryland and in the tidal Potomac, Virginia allows the keeping of two rockfish per day that are at least 18 inches long. Just in time, the Northern Neck area of Virginia shows lots of small rockfish and bluefish, but quite a few of the stripers will "keep" as they say on the Chesapeake, meaning they're legal.
If it's flounder you're after, the Buoy 76 area of the Bay again has shown 17-inch-and-up flatfish that like drifted minnows along the channel ledges. In fact, most of the ledges on the eastern side of the Chesapeake from the Choptank River area down to Tangier Sound should give up flounder now. But this fishing will not last long when freezing nights become the norm.
Ocean fishing again was put on hold this week because of strong winds. However, the backwaters of the Ocean City, Md., and Eastern Shore, Va., harbor towns and inlets deliver a few sea trout and quite a good number of snapper blues and occasional rockfish.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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