- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2004

The croakers are here. Beautiful, tasty Atlantic croakers have been caught from Point Lookout Pier in St. Mary’s County. And wouldn’t you know it, the first one seen by Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park came after last week’s fishing report ran in The Washington Times. A Southern Marylander, Michael Fahey, caught what is believed to be the first one from the public pier, located in Point Lookout State Park at the end of Route 5. Fahey and others eventually hooked about a dozen “hardheads,” as local anglers call them. Most of the fish were in the 16-inch range.

Then came Lee Bishop of Dale City, Va., who fished at 3 a.m. Monday and found 21 croakers that went crazy over bottom-fished bloodworm baits. Not only that, Bishop also hooked seven rockfish that measured 30 inches or more. The stripers had to be released, but on Saturday the Chesapeake trophy rockfish season begins in the Maryland portions of the bay.

Virginia biologist John Odenkirk sent a happy message that will become part of local fishing history. “Anadromous fish were documented for the first time above [the Rappahannock River’s] Embrey Dam in over 100 years,” he wrote. “Hickory shad were very abundant in an electro-fishing sample conducted between I-95 and the dam.”

About 60 shad were netted by the electro-shocking crew in five minutes and a number of shad were subsequently hooked on sporting gear. A portion of the Embrey Dam, you may recall, was recently reduced to rubble to allow migrating fish species to enter heretofore closed-off waters.

On a sad note, the heavy rains we’ve seen in the Washington area and elsewhere have made a mess of things primarily in fresh water and that situation will last a few days. Forget the mountain rivers for now because waters are high and fast. Forget smaller local lakes such as the Occoquan Reservoir in the Fairfax/Prince William counties corridor, where water temperatures are in the 50s and the lake is high and muddy.



AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — The Fletcher’s Boat House stretch (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461) will be discolored, swift and have above-average water levels. However, fish are there, including white perch, hickory shad, white shad and catch-and-release rockfish. Some might be fished from shore by Sunday, but Fletcher’s will not rent boats until the water slows down. The District’s rockfish season begins May1 and continues through July31 and runs again Sept.1 through Nov.14. Two rockfish a day, 18 inches minimum, 36 inches maximum, are legal. Downstream, from Columbia Island to the Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant and Fox Ferry Point, as well as the Spoils and Smoot Bay, don’t expect great bass fishing. Even guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says the going will be tough. “I’ve had a slow week,” he said yesterday. “All that rain made fishing a chore, and the wind isn’t going to help today or tomorrow.” The bass Andrzejewski and his clients did catch came on Glamour Shad spinnerbaits, Mann’s Sting Ray grubs or Berkley Pulse worms, and most of the catches were spread evenly between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge sector and the general Mattawoman to Quantico Creek areas. Pontoon boat charter captain Steve Riha (804/224-7062) is awaiting the croakers now that they’re in the lower Potomac by the thousands. Commercial netters have scored heavily. A little warmer water this weekend will move what’s left toward the bridge over Route 301.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Bass have been taking crankbaits, Sting Ray grubs, worms and spinnerbaits, although some days are useless as far as catches are concerned. We did hear that some hefty fish are hooked on Rat-L-Traps and lipped crankbaits on the south side, near the mouth. That’s not to say that you can’t score way back inside the creek. Start working crankbaits in firetiger and shad colors at the edge of marsh banks and work them down into the dropoffs and ledges. The crappie fishing hasn’t been the best. Upper creek is muddy.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6 east of La Plata) will turn up some crappies and sunfish, maybe a stocked trout. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) has been very good for crappies, a few fat bass and the beginnings of sunfish that are coming shallow enough to interest flyrodders.

30 miles (..) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) will be discolored and wind will be a problem, but some of the bass and catfish in these lakes are used to seeing murky water. The bass should look at a slow-fished grub or plastic worm, especially ones that are scented.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Upper lake will be strongly discolored. The fishing will not be at its best, but those who know how to fish for bass in stained water with bright, more visible spinnerbaits and scent-laden worms and grubs can score. Use live minnows around waterlogged brush and see if you can’t entice a crappie.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Don’t expect good perch or bass fishing in the Jug Bay area — it’s muddy. But near the mouth of the river, the croakers and visiting stripers should make their presence known this weekend.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (.) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) to Bull Run stretch, park ranger Smokey Davis reports high and muddy. The worst thing is the water temperature. It should be rising steadily but has been in the low 50s. When will spring really show up?

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (..) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Burke can take the rain a lot better than most lakes and reservoirs. It won’t be so bad that you couldn’t catch a stringerful of crappies. Even a few bass are possible and certainly a fat catfish now and then.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (.) — Muddy and fast, with raised levels. The upper Potomac is a poor choice.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (..) — With a little luck and considerable fishing skill, a good grub fisherman will hook perch and smallmouth bass. Live shiners and such will attract pike, but the wind might become a problem. Early forecasts say it will blow.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (..) — Yes, there’ll be some more Deer Creek hickory shad, but expect the water to be stained. That goes for the main stem of the Susky as muddy water comes over the Conowingo Dam. The Susquehanna Flats delivered good numbers of rockfish last weekend, but with runoff and strong winds forecast, I’m hedging. It should be difficult to fish there this weekend.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — With the striped bass trophy season starting Saturday, slow and easy trolling with parachute lures or umbrella rigs loaded with chartreuse or white Sassy Shads will be struck by the big fish. Middle areas of the bay’s Maryland portions will see the best action. The Tackle Box shop in Lexington Park (St. Mary’s County) also promises good lower bay catches on parachute lures, even Mann’s Stretch diving plugs. At the Point Lookout State Park’s public pier, expect croakers to take bloodworm or shrimp baits on weighted bottom rigs. The fish are definitely in that area, including the Potomac River side of the state park. In fact, the Cornfield Harbor area has been a busy place for commercial netters who have cleaned up on croakers.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) —The Peninsula Sport Fishermen’s Association’s Ken Neill says although the weather hasn’t been kind, the flounder bite has picked up considerably. The mouth of Back River, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and Buoy 36A near Cape Charles have been hot spots. Croakers are biting in the rivers in fairly shallow water (as little as 12 feet), with bloodworm pieces the best bait thus far. Near the Maryland state line, the usual Virginia hangouts around Smith Point and close-by sectors show stripers and more croakers every day.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Murky water up and down the river. The bass fishing isn’t very good, but some perch remain in the upper sectors above Denton.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Water here is in better shape than most Shore rivers, but the bass fishing still isn’t anything to write home about. Things will perk up when the water warms up more.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Despite the rain, bass catches haven’t been all that bad. Marshyhope Creek is discolored, but scented Power Worms and bright spinnerbaits will be looked at here as well as other river spots. Some fat rockfish are in the river, so hold onto your rod.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Along Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Before the heavy rains and winds arrived, some fat, bedding bass were caught in stump fields and such, but then the temperature dropped again and the fish probably went deeper. However, we’ll bet the weekend will again show bass and crappie action.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) In Fredericksburg, fishing for shad, herring and white perch might be back on by Saturday, but now the river looks a mess.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Murky water from the rain, but despite that crappies, bass and catfish can be caught because these fish are used to discolored water and are not as spooked as mountain trout in crystal clear springs.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: Darrell Kennedy, 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappie and bass fishing slowed considerably earlier this week but might turn on again with the arrival of sunny, warmer weather.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (..) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Slow going for bass earlier this week, but things might turn around by Sunday. The creeks are discolored.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The rain hasn’t helped, but minnow dunkers are finding crappies, while some fat bass are taken in shoreline brush on brightly flashing spinnerbaits and noisy, rattling crankbaits.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (..) — (Williamsburg area) This place is turning into a blue catfish river. Quite a few are taken, some weighing as much 40 pounds. Scattered bass and striper hookups are reported, but it’s the “cats” that make the news down here.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catches of large, spawning rockfish continue to be made. Even though the stripers must be released, imagine fishing for a 2-pound largemouth bass when a 30-pound rockfish inhales a crankbait — or while fishing for blue catfish, one of the huge female stripers sucks in a piece of your cut herring. The water is muddy.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (.) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch needs more clearing and slower water before good bass fishing can resume.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (.) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Slow fishing for stripers, but a few bass are taken on grubs and worms.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (.) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, town of Scottsville) Smallmouth bass catches slowed as the river rose and the water temperature plummeted again.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (..) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Headboats chase after tautogs and seabass when the wind is kind enough to allow the boats to leave the harbor. The headboats: Bill Bunting Dock, 410/289-7424; Miss Ocean City, 410/213-0489.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (..) — Flounder will be hooked from Chincoteague to Wachapreague if the wind slows down along the Eastern Shore. Ocean wrecks hold seabass and tautogs, and as you come near North Carolina waters, the offshore boats find yellowfin tuna. For charter information, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

Want to reach us via e-mail? It’s gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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