- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Here’s a sincere wish that you have a wonderful 2004, and while we’re on the subject of yet another start to a new year, long-time readers will know where I’ll be today. As has been an annual custom for more than a quarter century, Southern Maryland tidal river fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski will again wet a line on New Year’s Day. For the seventh consecutive year I’ll be in the boat with him.

What will transpire is anybody’s guess. The two of us have had some memorable happenings on past New Year’s outings, like the time there was a hard freeze on Jan.1 and the local creeks and rivers didn’t look very inviting. We headed instead to the warmed waters of Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg. Anna is home to a nuclear power plant and there are times when steam can be seen rising from its cooling lagoons behind the generating station.

Unfortunately, on a deserted backroad to the lake that morning, a grumpy Virginia state trooper stopped us to write a speeding ticket. On top of that, the rockfish we planned on catching didn’t bite. It was a total wipeout.

There also was the New Year’s Day when we attempted to launch a boat in Charles County’s Nanjemoy Creek, but instead had to chop ice from the ramp for an hour or more. When Andy finally got the boat to slide from its trailer, we spent more precious fishing time crushing sheet ice with the slowly moving craft. Eventually, we found enough open water in the creek’s upper portions to drop a line. We caught yellow perch and bass on scented, plastic grubs.

And what about the New Year’s trip when we arrived at the boat ramp and, thanks to my stupidity, locked the key inside the truck with the engine still running. Happily, a man who lives nearby brought a coat hanger and deftly worked it to pull up the door handle. Pop! It opened and we went fishing — albeit late.

My wife says I’m nuts; she’s not sure about Andy’s sanity, either.

If the weather and tides cooperate, today’s outing will be on the Nanjemoy to search for resident yellow perch. (No, the migratory spawning schools won’t head that way until mid to late February and early March.) We might also be up around the Potomac’s Wilson Bridge. Andy’s friend and fellow Reel Bass Adventures guide, Dale Knupp, said he’ll join us. If we fish with grubs or Silver Buddy lures between Wilson Bridge and Fox Ferry Point, including the Spoils Cove, we absolutely will hook some bass and crappies. Take it to the bank.

What about fishing elsewhere — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association in the Virginia Beach and Hampton area says, “Striped bass action has gotten a lot better in the ocean. The Chesapeake Bay remains pretty pitiful. There are some nice fish at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but you have to work for them. The 4A Buoy to the Smith Island area has produced good numbers of big rockfish lately. [Along North Carolina’s Outer Banks] the Duck to Kitty Hawk stretch has been loaded with large numbers of stripers in the 30- to 40- inch range. Some speckled trout are being caught at the Hot Ditch.”

Neill also points out that tautog and sea bass are available on the ocean wrecks in Virginia and North Carolina. An added bonus is provided by the slammer bluefish that continue to hang around. The Carolina boats that leave Oregon Inlet to find offshore action aren’t disappointed. Yellowfin tunas are available in fine numbers. Neill also says bluefin tunas are swarming the offshore waters east of Morehead City and the Hatteras Inlet fleet says yellowfin and bluefin tunas, as well as king mackerel, make for great fishing.

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

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