- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

We can only guess what effect the rains that visited our area will have on the weekend fishing, but as far as the expected runs of herring, shad and white perch are concerned, it won't help fishermen if the water is high, fast and muddy.

Assuming that things have settled down a bit by the time you read this, John Odenkirk, a top biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries who knows a thing or two about the Rappahannock River area on his beat, says, "The shad and perch fishing ought to bust wide open any moment now."

Some Fredericksburg herring fanatics already are cashing in on herring and a few hickory shad are showing up on shoreline anglers' lines, but warm weather and clear water would really help.

In the uppermost tidal portions of the Potomac River, between Fletcher's Boat House and the base of the falls, you should see some herring action this weekend. Ray Fletcher says, "We have a few rental boats ready to go, but rentals depend a lot on the weather, and, yes, I've heard of some herring catches but haven't seen any. The shad will be here within 10 days if the weather cooperates."

Fletcher's is located on Canal Road, near Chain Bridge. Call 202/244-0461 for the latest info. Currently, some fat crappies are biting at the edge of Fletcher's Cove.

Just below the District, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says bass appear to be seeking shallower water. He says the best catches come during the last three hours of an incoming tide. His best bass lures have been Glamour Shad spinnerbaits, Clatter Shad lipless crankbaits, red shad Power Worms and the always effective Mann's Stingray Grub. Of course, you're sure to have favorites of your own, but we mention the guide's picks so you can compare his tackle to yours.

Andrzejewski has been finding bass mostly in three to six feet of water, in river stretches that are close to a deep, nearby drop. He says the District portions of the river remain hot, but some days you'll have plenty of company between Smoot Bay's South Point and the Blue Plains treatment plant to the north.

"Drop shot rigs remain productive in clearer water," he says as he rigs a 4-inch Berkley Bungee worm in blue fleck or June bug. "Main river points are starting to produce quality bass if you can find a spot where the wind doesn't stop you from feeling a bite. The Stingray grub catches some big bass, as well and at low tide the bass can take plastic worms and grubs at the bottom of the dropoff ledges."

Incidentally, until June 15 the minimum keeper size for bass in the Potomac River is 15 inches. The 15-inchers are protected because they are excellent spawners.

On the subject of spawning bass, the Maryland DNR's Bob Lunsford, who directs freshwater fisheries and the tidal bass in the state, says, "We are going to repeat the entire protocol outlined last year for the fish refuge areas in Burgess [part of the Nanjemoy Creek system] and Chicamuxen creeks. This year the areas will be unmarked and we will survey them for active redds. There will be no restrictions on fishing or access."

However, Lunsford points out that in 2003, two large spawning coves in those creeks will likely become "No Entry/No Fishing" zones as the DNR surveys the areas to see how many active nests are counted compared to those in 2002. When it happens, there'll be more marker buoys than those we saw in 2001.

In the Chickahominy River, herring have appeared at Walkers Dam. Get out your gold hooks or 1/32-ounce shad darts and use very light line as you retrieve tandem rigs of the tiny lures, while the tidal James River just below Richmond's fall line is getting a decent run of hickory shad.

You reservoir fishing fans might as well head for Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg. Carlos Wood at the High Point Marina said the pre-spawn bass fishing action is good especially at the lower end of the lake. Bass are in four to 10 feet of water, but will look for deeper ledges when predicted cold fronts pass through. The best lures have been suspending stickbaits, spinnerbaits, or shallow crankbaits. Crappies are hooked in 10 to 15 feet of water around bridge abutments and the like.

At Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Reservoir), Bobcat's Lake Country in Clarksville says the bass catches are fine and some of them come in less than three feet of water. That will change with the cold rains, and the bass will go into deeper layers for awhile. The backs of feeder creeks have been fine for crappies and, oddly, roving bands of stripers.

In nearby Lake Gaston, Bobby Colston at the Tackle Box store in Gaston, says it required 18 pounds of bass to win a tournament on the lake last weekend.

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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