- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

What an awful week this has been. If it didn’t “blow a gale,” as they say down by the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, it rained. The fishing has been less than outstanding, to put it mildly.

It begins with the tidal Potomac (forget the upper, non-tidal portions because they’re fast and muddy), where the largemouth bass and crappies suddenly developed lockjaw in areas where only days before the catches had been fine. Could be they sensed bad things were about to happen and went deep to sulk and ignore lures.

Before the downpour Wednesday, the bass fishing had been decent along the Potomac’s ledges, underwater obstacles like sunken barges, coves and little bays. The top bass producer has been the Mann’s 3-inch avocado grub, dabbed with fish attractant like Smelly Jelly.

Be aware that in this type of fishing, you often feel only a tiny resistance as you lift the rod. It could be a bass or an underwater snag. Set the hook when in doubt and be surprised as you see a largemouth or crappie at the other end. Other winter lures that do the job are blade baits like the Silver Buddy and Cicada, as well as small silver or gold spoons that can be fished vertically, in a jigging fashion.

The best areas for this type of angling have been the Spoils Cove near Wilson Bridge, the Fox Ferry Point stretch, and the Blue Plains treatment plant; also some of the midway portions of the Mattawoman Creek. However, a Tuesday outing into the Mattawoman to hunt for bass and crappies yielded little but cold hands. We saw a thousand mallard ducks, but the fishing was very unproductive.

Elsewhere, things are fair — In the tidal James River below Richmond, blue catfish continue to deliver jolting hits, but stripers are also possible even though the water is murky and not very inviting. Over the past several days, some of the blue catfish that were caught weighed well more than 30 pounds.

At Kerr Reservoir on the Virginia/North Carolina line, the bass have gone after crankbaits, pig’n’jig combos, plastic crawdads and grubs. Much of the better fishing comes around feeder creek and main-lake points.

At neighboring Lake Gaston, the bass fishing also has improved as visitors use the same kind of lures and tactics as in Kerr. Occasionally, you’ll see an eruption of feeding stripers, and if you have one rod ready that carries a sassy Shad or Rat-L-Trap lure, simply cast it past the breaking fish and then begin a steady retrieve. The fish will do the rest.

On the subject of stripers, several readers have wanted to go after the landlocked rockfish at Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, because they heard how good the fishing was right now.

Friends, you can catch stripers at Anna, but it’s very unpredictable. In freshwater lakes, you have to be in the right spot whenever a school of rockfish begins to feed. Quite often such a feeding window is less than 10 minutes long. So if you’re not there at the precise location when it happens, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and gasoline.

Trout fans, now hear this! — The Fort A.P. Hill Military Reservation on Route 301, near Bowling Green in Caroline County, Va., has a trout fishing program that is supposed to start Jan.10. Anglers pay $5 a day or $55 for the season. Trout will be stocked until April30, with typical sizes running from 12 to 14 inches. For more details, call A.P. Hill, 804/633-8244.

Lower Bay has wind and stripers — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says between the blows there has been some decent striper action in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay and adjacent Atlantic stretches. Neill says the ocean season will get a lot better.

“Typically, Christmas week is a banner week for large stripers,” he said. “We’ll see how it pans out this year.”

Tautog can be caught on structure at the mouth of the bay and on the ocean wrecks. The ocean wrecks, like the Triangles, Ricks, and Powell, are good locations to find seabass, bluefish and bluefin tuna. All three are a possibility as close in as the Chesapeake Light Tower.

About that deer cookbook — In answer to our Dec.7 deer hunting page that included recipes and recommendations for a good venison cookbook that might be out of print, Tim Palmer says the “Venison Book,” by Audrey Alley Gorton, is available as a used book at www.abebooks.com.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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