- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

What a difference we noticed in the fishing during the past several days when albeit temporarily April took the place of January. During several outings the most important factor in winter fishing, the water temperatures, changed sufficiently to coax baitfish to come to very shallow water, and the bass and yellow perch followed.
In one of the Potomac River's tidal feeder creeks, my boat's water temperature gauge read 45 degrees in one sector, 44 in another. That's warm enough to convince the bull minnows and shiners to seek whatever food they can find in depths of two to four feet.
A friend from out of town came visiting, and the two of us hooked easy limits of largemouth bass and maybe a dozen yellow perch half of them roe-bearing females along shallow marsh banks in the creek, but only when deep water was very close to the skinny stuff.
The tackle of choice: light and medium action spinning outfits, the reels loaded with very thin, but strong FireLine that would come in handy when our 3-inch Mann's Sting Ray grubs, or 2-inch Berkley Power Tubes and Power Grubs, as well as some nondescript fringed tube baits, became lodged on creek bottom snags.
When it happened, all we did was pull hard to straighten and free the 1/8-ounce jig hook, rebend it to its original shape with needlenose pliers, maybe touch the hook point up with a small whetstone, then resume fishing. Of course, you can use monofilament line, but be prepared to break off now and then. Before we forget, yes, our beloved Smelly Jelly was dabbed onto every one of the plastic baits before we made a cast. (Incidentally, Cabela's new fishing catalog now features it on page 103.)
Some of the bass we caught and subsequently released were of a color that recalled warm summer days, not the end of January. They were dark green with distinct black bars on their bodies. Absolute beauties they were, that's for sure.
Meanwhile, our neighbor down in Charles County, fishing guide Andy Andzejewski of Reel Bass Adventures, verifies that the water temperatures on the tidal reaches of the river have been stuck in the 40-plus-degree range.
"Bass activity has increased in the creeks as well as the river," he says. "The deeper outside bends of creeks produce fair numbers of bass when fished with grubs or Silver Buddies. For best results, fish bends that show at least 15 feet of water nearby."
While we've done very well in Charles County feeder creeks, Andrzejewski's best fish catches have come from above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge anywhere between the Fox Ferry rocks and the Spoils Cove, where the guide finds willing crappies, bass and yellow perch, even fat bluegills, all of which strike plastic grubs and tubes that are dabbed with fish attractant.
West of Fredericksburg, Va., at Lake Anna, the High Point Marina's Carlos Wood reports much improved fishing as the lake's bass also have started visiting shallower than usual water. "Bass are biting over the entire lake, particularly at either end," says Woods. "Bass are being caught from midday until evening in shallow water. Smithwick Rogues, Sluggos and Senkos are good choices."
How long will this last? Not long, you can bet. Winter isn't over by a long shot, so take advantage of this while you can. To be sure, our little gang will continue fishing no matter what the temperatures are, but not everybody is as fish-crazed as we are.
Trout stocked in local lake Gilbert Run Park's Wheatley Lake, a 56-acre impoundment in Charles County (Route 6 east of La Plata) should have received a generous stocking of rainbow and brown trout by the time you read this. Signs that stipulate limits are posted at the park's concession. Licenses are required.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.



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