- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What started as a great fishing season in the offshore waters of Virginia has turned ho-hum, to say the least. One of the better ocean and bay anglers in the state, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association, says, “An already slow tuna bite has slowed down further, and the dolphin and billfish that are supposed to fill the void have not made much of a showing.”

To be sure, some marlin and dolphinfish, as well as tuna, are caught, but catches are simply not as consistent as they should be. Much the same complaint is heard from Maryland offshore boaters. One of the reasons, say bluewater fishermen, is the current Middle Atlantic water temperature. It has been below normal and has kept some fish from visiting.

There’s no griping about the tidal water bass and striper fishing in the Potomac River, however. Enterprising rockfish hunters are finding topwater and sub-surface strikes from young river stripers anywhere from Maryland Point in Charles County down to and past St. Clements and over into Virginia’s Nomini Bay area. The trick is to be there before sunrise and then work with moving tides, casting rattle lures or topwater poppers and darters around river points, rock piles, stone-surrounded river markers and such. The fish will do the rest.

Fair warning: This is primarily an exciting catch-and-release fishery because few will meet the 18-inch required minimum. One local guide told us his two clients caught well more than 40 stripers on small Bass Assassin plastics, but only four or five would have been legal table fare. Please do the fish a favor and pinch down hook barbs so they can be released more easily without doing any damage.

In the Chesapeake Bay and some of its tributary rivers, the fishing has been fine, says Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park. “Spot, hardheads, flounder, rockfish and blues — all are making news this week,” he says. For example, Lamb says lure casters are “wearing out” the surface-breaking stripers in the mouth of the Patuxent, but just like in the Potomac most are under 18 inches long. Chummers, meanwhile, find rockfish and blues from Buoy 72A south to the Virginia line. And if it’s Spanish mackerel you like, they sometimes can be seen leaping from the water around the Targets and well down into the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Meanwhile, remember that the Capital Longcasters are offering free casting lessons Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon, at Kenilworth Park in the District. The lessons are for people who want to reach more fish from shore. For details, www.longcasters.org, 301/333-2136.

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