- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Despite recent heavy rains and all-around poor weather much of this summer, the fishing can be surprisingly productive. It begins in the tidal Potomac River and its feeder creeks where discolored, even muddy, water can sometimes be found, but once you locate a grass bed, or a marsh edge that falls into four or five feet of water, bass can be yours. The same goes for sunken trees, boat docks and rocky rip-rap.

Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski said, “I’ve found a number of bass in grass beds where they’ll hit buzzbaits and soft plastic worms.” The guide also recommends that you try a floating worm, then switch to shallow-lipped crankbaits as the tide recedes.

In the Chesapeake Bay, it is generally agreed that the croakers are heading south, thus some areas will be devoid of them, while Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore spots might turn up a bunch of the tasty fish. However, they will not hang around much longer. Meanwhile, the rockfish and bluefish are available in good numbers, and few boaters are complaining.

From the offshore regions of the Atlantic comes word of Maryland and Virginia anglers finding billfish, tunas, dolphinfish and plenty of well-fed blues. The only complaints are made by flounder drifters, who say the throwback vs. keeper size ratio of the flatties is about 10-1. Surf fishermen aren’t happy, either. They say the fishing action has dropped off quite a lot, but that is only temporary. The moment cooler weather arrives, the surf fishing will be fine.


0-35 miles (***) — In the District, in the Fletcher’s Boat House (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461, fletchersboathouse.com) stretch, there’ll be some discolored water, but by the weekend you’ll hook channel catfish, a few bass, maybe even a walleye. River guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) find bass action despite murky water conditions in some of the creeks. The moment they locate a grass bed near a channel or a little deeper water than the vegetation is in, they’ll throw buzzbaits, poppers and floating worms. If that doesn’t elicit a strike, a Zero worm or a shallow-lipped crankbait might. “Considering the weather we’ve had, I’ve done quite well,” said Andrzejewski. In the Route 301 bridge area between Charles County, Md., and King George County, Va., pontoon boat captain Steve Riha (804/224-7062) has just about given up on the croakers. The “hardheads,” as locals call them, are heading downstream and south into Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. The area where Riha operates does deliver some fine channel catfish and fat white perch. Even in lower Potomac portions like Piney Point to St. George’s Island, Tall Timbers and Blackiston Island, you’ll have to work for your fish. Some spot, croakers and flounder are possible but never guaranteed. Rockfish are found by trollers and bait drifters, but many are under the required 18-inch minimum.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Scented worms, often fished without a slip sinker alongside marsh edges and inside sunken wood, can result in good bass action. In a few areas, you can get away with using a hard jerkbait and medium-depth crankbaits, but there’s a lot of grass in this creek, so think weedless lures.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for small bass, bluegills and now and then a leftover trout from a springtime stocking. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is ready to deliver sunfish, scattered small crappies, and a few bass worthy of your effort. Short plastic worms, shallow crankbaits and 3-inch broken-back jerkbaits, made by Rebel or Rapala, will do the job.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 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). Even in discolored water a loud, splashy surface popper or buzzbait can convince a bass to strike. Four-inch plastic worms and small spinnerbaits can do the job along grassy edges. Sunfish and catfish are plentiful.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Rains haven’t helped the fishing, but good bass anglers find action all the same. They use loud poppers and buzzbaits around weedy pockets in low-light periods, then switch to soft plastic worms and grubs, even jig ‘n’ craw combinations. Catfish and sunfish are willing if you want to drown some bait.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The upper river is still suffering from recent rains, but lower saltier parts from Benedict south to Solomons will turn up a mixed bag of Norfolk spot, white perch, some snapper blues and small rockfish when the tide is right. There might even be a flounder or two between the Solomons Bridge and the mouth of the river.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (**) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area toward Bull Run, the water is still a little unsettled but getting much better as long as no further rains arrive. Lake points, brush tops and sunken stumps will give up bass if you use plastic worms, small crankbaits, spinnerbaits or early morning/late afternoon topwater lures. The catfish like bottom-fished clam necks, liver strips or cut fish chunks.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (**) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Catfish are the best bet if you use fragrant baits on the bottom of the lake. Recent rains haven’t hurt as much here as they did elsewhere. Bass fishing has been a little slow, though.


@Text.sans.8:UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — Mixed reports are coming in about the upper river. Some say the bass are biting and the water is fishable, but others say it hasn’t been all that good. Our guess is that by the weekend, barring unforeseen heavy rains, the smallmouth bass, even some largemouths, will be hooked in the Montgomery County portions, with smallies dominating from Knoxville down to Brunswick and Point of Rocks. But if powerful rains visit again, forget it.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Tubes and worms in soft plastic are doing well on the smallmouth bass that hang around rocky points and under floating docks. Some fat sunfish and yellow perch are taken on worm baits fished under bobbers in the backs of coves.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — Near the Conowingo Dam, the water is murky and not very productive for anything other than catfish. But as you come toward Havre de Grace, the bass fishing picks up, and some of the Susquehanna Flats anglers are using jerkbaits and topwater poppers to hook stripers and largemouths. Early and late hours are recommended.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — In the upper Chesapeake, between Love Point in the Chester River and Hackett’s Bar on the western shore, small rockfish and snapper bluefish are possible. White perch are in the creeks and rivers and also available from rocky rip-rap in the main body of the bay. In the middle Maryland parts, the Gooses and other sectors still are turning up rockfish for chummers, but lots of small fish are the rule. Occasionally, surfacing bluefish make things interesting for boaters who use spinning rods with a short metal leader at the end of the line where a popper or small Rat-L-Trap serves nicely. If you’re good at reading a depth sounder, consider looking for bunched-up schools of rockfish and then slow the boat to a crawl, jigging with silver spoons or small bucktails. The Southern Maryland and Tangier Sound waters continue to deliver rockfish and some decent bluefish for chummers. Occasionally, large numbers of croakers are available as they head down the bay. The surf fishing and pier action at Point Lookout State Park will perk up again after a slow period. Evening, night and early-morning hours will produce rockfish, blues, some croakers, spot and occasional flounder that usually are too small to keep.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck captain Billy Pipkin (804/580-7292) says his area received far less rain last week than expected, but the salinity levels in the rivers and creeks have dropped to a point where some of the saltwater species are now only found near the Chesapeake, not in the upper rivers. The mouth of the Rappahannock River, for example, is full of croakers and some nice spot. Croakers also are caught from Buoy 62 up to the Northern Neck Reef. Some scattered bluefish and Spanish mackerel make things interesting, with surfacing schools of blues and rockfish seen between buoys 62 and 72. The Coan River area on the Virginia side of the Potomac has been good for fat white perch and some croakers. In the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Sport Fisherman’s Association finds flounder, spadefish and bluefish around and below the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The upper river is very slow for bass anglers, with the lowest parts downstream of Cambridge turning up some white perch, rockfish and occasional visiting snapper blues.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Snow Hill to Shad Landing shoreline obstructions and spatterdock edges hold bass, but most are bank-runners in the 1-pound range. Some decent fish are possible, however.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Discolored water may be the rule in the upper river, but down toward Sharptown the fishing should pick up a little this weekend as bass will look at plastic worms and spinnerbaits in sunken wood and spatterdock fields. The mouth of the river has been turning up croakers, flounder and some bluefish.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Fish with Senkos and Zeros around boat docks and sunken brush. Early hours will give up topwater bass around lake points and creek areas where brush peeks from the water. Landlocked rockfish are found at the Splits, Pigeon Creek; also heard of stripers in Contrary Creek this week as they jumped on trolled Cordell Redfin lures.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (.) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Catfish, yes. Bass, no. It has been simply awful in this river as far as consistent tidal water bass catches are concerned. With recent rains, the smallmouth bass picture hasn’t looked much better above Fredericksburg.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass like soft plastics during the day, but try loud topwater poppers or buzzbaits early or when cloud cover keeps the sun away. Catfish and bluegills are crazy about worm baits.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Channel catfish like liver strips, clam necks or cut fish chunks on the bottom. The bass will look at a small spinnerbait around lake points and sunken logs, but also try a 4-inch plastic worm.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (**) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass catches simply have not been very good. Some are caught around boat docks and rip-rap very early in the day, but the fishing has been as unpredictable as the unsettled weather.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Higher water has flooded shoreline willow bushes, and some decent bass are hooked on slowly retrieved crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Some bass are taken around the dropoffs of lake points on crankbaits and plastic worms. Catfish continue to bite very well.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Slow going for all species, but some decent catfish are brought in by visitors.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (.) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The catfish hunt might be better this weekend, but recent rains and runoff from above have really done a job on water clarity and raised levels.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (*) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas show some smallmouth bass, but constant weather changes haven’t helped. We need steady, dependable weather. Maybe this weekend will see a change for the better.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Stripers are taken on fresh cut baits or live herring and shiners, but be prepared to fish in deep water if you want to hook a fish.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Overall fishing successes are not what they should be this time of year, but some decent smallmouths are taken on grubs and fringed tubes. Rain will hurt.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Bluefin tuna, scattered billfish and some well-fed dolphinfish are hooked. A few large sharks are taken. Closer to land, large chopper bluefish are hooked by trollers and occasionally even by sight casters. Inshore fishing has been unsettled by recent weather changes, winds and rains. It might perk up by the weekend, but surf anglers have complained that few fish are biting. The backwater bay behind Ocean City delivers flounder, but most are too small to be away from their mothers.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association says tuna, billfish and wahoo catches continue. Within 10 or 12 miles of shore, the light towers deliver spadefish and a few amberjacks. Bluefish are roaming near and far in the Atlantic, and trollers usually have no trouble getting them. Eastern Shore flounder drifters can’t find many keepers. In fact, the Bay Bridge-Tunnel area in the Chesapeake has been better than the Shore as far as big flatfish are concerned. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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