- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Just as they’re supposed to every autumn, big rockfish have arrived in the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay.

From his Tackle Box store in St. Mary’s County’s Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports that captain Charlie Christman, on the charter boat Our Way with Bill Bonner and Chris Staley aboard, found five trophy rockfish near the HS Buoy, east of the Targets, on Tuesday. Water depth in that area jumps from 64 feet to more than 100 feet. The lunker stripers hit white and chartreuse umbrella rigs, as well as individual parachute lures.

Not to be outdone, at the mid-channel’s HI marker outside the Patuxent River, charter fishing captain John Montgomery landed four stripers in excess of 40 inches. The fish weighed about 25 pounds each and took trolled umbrella rigs that were presented in a zig-zag fashion across the ship channel.

Lamb says smaller breaking fish are seen daily at the PR marker at the Patuxent River’s Cedar Point during flood and ebb tides, especially in the evenings. Most of these fish are less than the required 18 inches, but keepers can be hooked if you’re patient.

Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, said, “Down in the lowest parts of the bay, lots of stripers are found at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, but none have been reported to be carrying sea lice [a sign that they’ve come in from the Atlantic]. Local anglers believe them to be resident fish, not newcomers.”

The fact that most fish are being found around the rocky islands seems to support this theory. One went 46 inches and was caught on a plug. Typical sizes run from 26 to 30 inches.

There also have been reports of stripers in the surf along Virginia’s barrier islands on the Eastern Shore. Most are being caught from the more northerly islands, but one 48-incher was landed in Smith Island’s surf, in the southern end. Neill also mentions some surf-caught black drum, puppy drum and a few big redfish.

What’s in the rivers? — Potomac River guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) of the Reel Bass Adventures guide group says water temperatures are in the 50s, but the fishing has gotten better with the warmer temperatures. That will change quickly this weekend, however. All the same, the guide finds decent bass along grass beds as he casts shallow crank baits in shad or crawfish colors, or spinnerbaits as well as jig’n’craw combos and Mann’s Sting Ray grubs in avocado color. Yes, he’s using Smelly Jelly on the grubs. Whenever Andy locates wood that reaches out to 10-foot depths, a deep-diving crankbait turns the trick.

“We’ve caught a few stripers from the rock jetties between Mattawoman Creek and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge,” he said. “Rat-L-Trap lures work well, but most of the rockfish are less than 18 inches.”

In the tidal Rappahannock River between Hicks Landing and Leedstown, Va., expect fat blue catfish, fair crappie and bass chances, but the upper river’s smallmouths should go on a rampage this weekend unless the rains become serious downpours.

The tidal Chickahominy River, near Williamsburg, also shows blue catfish, but the crappies are hungry, too. Stripers up to 28 inches are hooked by Redfin-using trollers. Bass catches aren’t very good.

In the tidal James River below Richmond, large catfish, striped bass and crappie are taken, while smallmouth bass should be hopping onto the hooks up around Scottsville.

Shenandoah River smallmouth bass anglers should know that the water was in perfect condition as of late yesterday. Soft plastic grubs and jigs will produce fair to good bass action.

Looking at the lakes — Kerr Reservoir on the Virginia/North Carolina border offers catfish and striped bass around Bluestone Creek and Buoy 24 and also down around Clarksville. Bass catches have been minimal, but the crappie fishing is coming on. Several 2-pound-plus specimens already have been registered. At adjacent Lake Gaston, the bass are biting fairly well and the bridge abutments and rip-raps are turning up crappies.

Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, sees its bass biting nicely in the early mornings when surface lures can do well, and later in the day they will look at spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastic worms. Check out stump fields, brush piles and grass edges from Dukes Creek up to Sturgeon Creek, then head up to Terry’s Run. A few stripers are hooked around Jetts Island and Terry’s Run.

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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