- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Today marks the start of our cold weather fishing reports. With some of the boat rentals closing down and certain parks restricting access to their waters, we now highlight the places where some fishing is possible throughout the winter months. The standard Weekend Fishing Report will resume in early spring.

So here goes:

From his Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says striper fishing around the Patuxent River shoreline was good this week if you stayed near the mouth of the river. Rockfish were breaking on the surface during falling tides in the late afternoons, with lure casters connecting on mostly sub-legal fish but also enough 18 inch-and-over specimens to provide fine dinners.

The Patuxent’s rockfish also were seen chasing minnows from the Solomons bridge on the St. Mary’s shore clear to the Naval Air Station. Diving seagulls often showed the movements of the striper schools.

Meanwhile, some stripers and sea trout are hooked inside the river, with Cuckold Creek turning up trout a few days ago and some of the river’s jutting points offering rockfish in the early mornings. Rat-L-Trap, Sassy Shad lures, even topwater poppers can score when these fish are in the shallows.

The chumming for rockfish in the bay continues to be successful for fish up to 24 inches, adds Lamb. Though some of the upper and middle bay chummers also score, it has been the Middle Grounds from Buoy 72A down to the Target Ship that has provided the most predictable catches.

Virginia’s side of the bay — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbillyscharters.com or [email protected]) says the fishing pressure continues to be on striped bass, which are available in great numbers just outside Ingram Bay. The Northern Neck Reef and the Asphalt Pile Reef yield easy limits of 22- to 28-inch specimens for bait chummers, although lure trollers also connect on rockfish and fair-sized blues.

Pipkin says jumbo rockfish have started to show up, though these 32- to 40-inch-long fish are seen in only limited numbers. More will come as the temperatures drop. Large schools of menhaden are currently seen between Smith Point and the lower Cut Channel.

Tidal rivers — The best tidal river on the East Coast, the Potomac, has been playing cat and mouse with bass fishermen. The fishing is only fair in most of the creeks and the main stem.

River guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and I worked hard Tuesday trying to find some willing bass around the Woodrow Wilson Bridge area, including Belle Haven Cove and Spoils Cove. We caught some largemouths and a handful of yellow perch on crankbaits, spinnerbaits and grubs, but the fishing wasn’t spectacular.

“Fish the ledges and the outsides of grass beds,” Andrzejewski urged. “They like crawfish color crankbaits and chartreuse/white Glamour Shad spinnerbaits, Storm’s Hot ‘N Tot crankbaits can work well on ledges in five to 10 feet of water, while a Rattlin’ Thin Fin or Wiggle Wart can score on deep grass edges.”

In the Rappahannock River, blue catfish are on the menu. Fauquier County angler Mark Graves had one of more than 44 pounds, but the bass fishing in slightly discolored water has been only fair.

In the James River, it is understood that the blue catfish catches are exceptional from Deep Bottom to Dutch Gap and beyond, but stripers also are hooked. The rockfish are of good size in the Deep Bottom area. The Chickahominy River near Williamsburg has been good for some bass, catfish and increasing visits by stripers.

Lake fishing — Virginia’s Lake Anna offers scattered bass catches with topwater or shallow lures. Bass are found in stump fields and around docks of all types, with some catches made at the edge of grass beds. Crappies are hooked in a mixed bag of water, some in less than five feet deep, others in more than 10 feet. Smartly fished grubs and live minnows do well.

At Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake), rockfish are possible from around Clarksville up to Bluestone Creek. Even the bass fishing has improved around creek points, wood and main lake bushes. At neighboring Lake Gaston, the bass catches aren’t as good as in Kerr, but some are hooked on deep crankbaits or plastic grubs and worms.

Tuna bite continues — Offshore Maryland and Virginia anglers need to watch the wind, but when it doesn’t blow too hard the yellowfin tuna are willing to slam a bait chunk or lure from Poor Mans Canyon and all along the 50- to 100-fathom line down to Virginia’s Norfolk Canyon.

Angel Bolinger of the Maryland DNR says the inshore fishing scene continues to be dominated by the excellent sea bass fishing and many large bluefish. The blues are interfering with anglers who want to swing a seabass into the boat, because sometimes the blues tear into the hooked fish.

Surf casters are catching some legal sized striped bass on finger mullet, along with snapper blues, sharks and skates.

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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