- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Fisheries biologists have been sampling major reservoirs in Northern Virginia to see which one showed the most promise for largemouth bass populations.

The lake that ranked No.1 in the preferred 15-inch-or-bigger bass category? Burke Lake in Fairfax County. The 218-acre impoundment outdid neighboring 2,100-acre Occoquan Reservoir.

The samples were conducted during day hours with electrofishing gear that targeted bass and allowed several comparisons among fish populations.

Since many anglers seek largemouth bass more than 15 inches in length, what was discovered might be surprising.

Biologists use the term “RSD-P,” which means “relative stock density of preferred fish.” It shows the proportion of bass in a given population that are more than eight inches long and those that are also at least 15 inches long.

Spotsylvania County’s Motts Reservoir (160 acres) was No.3, followed by Lake Orange (124 acres) in Orange County. Fauquier County’s 77-acre Lake Brittle was No.5, with the 9,600-acre Lake Anna in Spotsylvania County coming in at No.6. Stafford County’s 185-acre Lake Abel ranked No.7, and the 411-acre Ni Reservoir was eighth; The 350-acre Beaverdam Lake in Loudoun County rated No.9, with Fauquier County’s 109-acre Germantown Lake being No.10.

With the exception of lakes Anna and Occoquan, all the survey waters are considered small impoundments. We know catch rates at large reservoirs usually are lower than in small impoundments, which makes Occoquan’s second place impressive.

Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk said the best lakes for big bass per hour of effort were consistent producers year after year. Burke Lake, a public fishing impoundment that is owned and intensively managed by the state, continues to have a phenomenal bass population. Motts Reservoir outside Fredericksburg has been producing amazing bass sizes and catch rates for a number of years. Especially noteworthy at Motts was the number of 20-inch-and-over bass. The scientists “shocked” up eight citation-size bass an hour at Motts. No other reservoir came close.

Sadly, Odenkirk said Virginia anglers are losing lakes to municipal closures for a variety of reasons. Public access has been eliminated at Lake Manassas and Goose Creek Reservoir.

Make menhaden comments — Mid-Atlantic anglers, particularly those who fish the Chesapeake Bay, long have complained about the precipitous decline of a baitfish known as menhaden. The oily fish is a major food source for striped bass, bluefish, sea trout and other species.

Over the years, however, we’ve been told the menhaden was in good shape. As it turned out, the menhaden did OK in some areas but not in others. Virginia, for example, has permitted the menhaden to be netted in huge numbers. Plants in Northumberland County process the little fish for a variety of purposes, including medical products and animal feeds.

All along there was reason to believe old-fashioned population surveys of the menhaden aren’t sufficient because they do not show particular areas where the little fish are lacking. With that in mind, coastal states from Rhode Island to North Carolina (Maryland wasn’t on the list) have scheduled dates and times of hearings on the Atlantic Menhaden Addendum I by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to gather public comment on an Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for the species.

Chesapeake Bay anglers might want to look into the hearing conducted by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission on July8 at 7p.m. It will be at the VMRC offices, 2600 Washington Ave., Newport News. Information: Rob O’Reilly, 757/247-2248.

Addendum I proposes modifications to the plan’s biological reference points, schedule for stock assessments and habitat section. The assessment uses a new modeling approach and biological reference points to determine stock status. These reference points are more accurate and take into account the number of mature ova (eggs). This is a significant departure from the way menhaden assessments have been conducted in the past.

Fishermen are encouraged to provide input on the draft addendum. Get a copy from the commission’s Web site, www.asmfc.org under breaking news, or call 202/289-6400. Comments will be accepted until July14 and should be forwarded to Nancy Wallace, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, 1444 Eye Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20005; or e-mail comments@asmfc.org with subject line: menhaden. For more information, call Wallace, 202/289-6400.


Meet Lefty at Bass Pro Shop — Saturday and Sunday, Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor World, Hanover, Md. The world’s best known fly fisherman, Lefty Kreh, will talk about fly casting, fishing and photography, 2 to 4p.m. Information: leftykreh.com.

Surf fishing school — Sept.9-12, Oct.21-24, Outer Banks, Nags Head, N.C. Information: Joe Malat, 252/441-4767; joemalat.com.

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

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