- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

Maybe the big rockfish that were supposed to hang around the middle portions of the Chesapeake Bay through the entire month of December are gone, but one thing is certain: The largemouth bass, crappie, yellow perch and sunfish that live in the Potomac River haven't departed for warmer climes.
My frequent fishing partner, bass guide Andy Andrzejewski, had to break in a spanking new Triton bass boat two days ago and he picked where else? the slightly warmer waters of the Potomac's Fox Ferry Point and Spoils Cove area. For example, when we launched at the public ramp in Marshall Hall, the water temperature stood just above 40 degrees. By the time we reached the Wilson Bridge and, subsequently, the Fox Ferry stretch of the river, the water had warmed to 46 degrees. All this might not mean a whole lot to the casual observer, but to the waterborne residents it can mean the difference between looking at a lure and ignoring it or going on the attack.
Happily, the latter was true. Our 2-inch scented Berkley grubs and 3-inch Mann's Sting Rays (yes, dabbed with Smelly Jelly fish attractant) did a number on the bass and crappies. However, Andrzejewski struck gold. He experimented with a shiny, single-hook metal spoon no more than three inches long and slightly curved to provide a crippled baitfish look as it was slowly hopped and retrieved across the bottom. Inside Spoils Cove, on the Maryland side of the river, the guide had four or five bass on consecutive casts. That is not to say that I did poorly with the Sting Ray or the Berkley Power Grub, but the man known as the "Fishing Pole" did better with the spoon.
So why did he switch back to the plastic baits? "They don't get hung up on the bottom as quickly as the spoon," he explained.
By noon, between the two of us, we had 24 bass, a half-dozen crappies (including one whopping specimen), several yellow perch and even some spunky red-breasted sunfish. They all were let go. It wasn't bad for a pre-Christmas outing, you'll agree. As concerns the higher temperatures in that part of the Potomac, the treated, warm water from the Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant in the District surely has something to do with that.
Those giant rockfish are in Virginia
The ocean stripers that enter the Chesapeake Bay to fatten up on alewives and whatever else they can find didn't stick around the Maryland portions of the huge bay long, but some boaters in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, at the Bay Bridge-Tunnel near Cape Charles, Va., are finding action. If the wind doesn't blow too hard, boaters who drift or jig with Sassy Shad lures or troll with big bucktails and the like find heavy-duty rockfish up to 30 pounds. Some days, there so many of the fish massing in relatively small areas near the bridge-tunnel's islands and abutments even the rawest novice will hook a trophy striper.
How long they'll stick around is anybody's guess. But if they leave, the local boaters coming out of Lynnhaven Inlet and the general Virginia Beach area will find tautogs (also known as blackfish) on the Cape Henry wreck and other underwater structures.
So even if it's hot Thermos and long underwear time, there are fish to be caught.
Hunters for the Hungry back in business
The Virginia division of the multi-state Hunters for the Hungry organization, which provides nutritious venison for poor people, is back in business. You might recall our item last week that the Virginia group could no longer accept donated deer from hunters because it had run out of money to pay for processing the animals. Happily, the Philip Morris U.S.A. Company stepped in and wrote a $35,000 check. The amount is enough to process 1,166 deer, which will provide high-protein, lean venison for 233,334 people. Good for Philip Morris. For more information about the program go to the Web at www.h4hungry.org.
Maryland deer hunters score big
A preliminary count of the two-week deer hunting firearm season indicates that Maryland firearms hunters took 41,469 deer, an increase of a little more than 9 percent from last year. After shooting 15,473 deer on the opening day of firearms season, the state's hunters tagged an estimated 25,996 deer during the remaining two-week season.
If that sounds like it's no big deal when compared to states like Virginia, where some 200,000 deer are shot during the annual season, consider that in the early 1960s Maryland deer hunters accounted for only 8,000 to 9,000 whitetails during the same time period. The current numbers certainly help put the deer population explosion into perspective.

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

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