- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

You couldn’t pick a better time to fish the Chesapeake Bay than this weekend. Up in the Tilghman Island area, at Stone Rock and Sharps Island, there’s a good chance you will hook a fat black drum if you watch your depth finder and use generous portions of soft-shelled crabs on bottom-fished 5/0 and 6/0 hooks. Along with the drum, you will tie into large croakers and occasional keeper rockfish.

Whether you prefer to fish for tasty Atlantic croakers from a rental boat or a large cruiser, the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers are loaded with them. Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says the “hardheads” in the Patuxent are biting big-time at the Hawk’s Nest, near the mouth of Cuckold Creek, at Hog Point and other spots. In the Potomac, fine catches are made at St. George’s Island, Piney Point and Breton Bay. Doubleheaders are not unheard of.

To round out some of the best saltwater fishing on the entire East Coast, check out Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake. From the Northern Neck, where croakers, stripers and bluefish are possible, down to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, where it’s time to hook monster cobias, stripers, bluefish, spadefish and flounder, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Our tidal water bass hounds, particularly those who fish the Potomac River, are doing quite well in the main stem of the river as well as the feeder creeks. Early hour topwater lures, followed by a variety of soft plastics and smartly retrieved spinnerbaits, will result in bass.

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

0-35 miles (***) — Near Fletcher’s Boat House (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461), fishing will depend on the runoff from upstream. You might find discolored water. On Tuesday night, there were flood warnings for Montgomery County, and some of that muddy water will end up in the District. By tomorrow it might not be all that bad, and catfish, stripers or bass again will cooperate in the area of Chain Bridge. Meanwhile, fishing guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are doing well on largemouth bass in the Broad Creek to Piscataway Creeks, as well as the Occoquan, Powell, Chopawamsic and Quantico creeks. Soft, heavy plastics without slip sinkers are working in weed pockets and around sunken wood, but early hours or overcast days see bass slamming buzzbaits or blunt-nosed poppers. By the way, bottom fishermen along the shore at Marshall Hall are getting bites from beautiful channel catfish, small white perch and occasional bass. In the space of 10 minutes at midweek, I saw one youngster with a surf rod (he used half a white perch on a weighted bottom rig) catch a 7- to 8-pound channel cat, while another angler dragged in white perch. It was fun to see shoreline anglers doing well. Downstream around the Route 301 bridge, pontoon boat captain Steve Riha (804/224-7062) is having good and bad days. By bad we mean he will find only a dozen croakers on some outings, then load a cooler the next day. The croaker anglers in the Wicomico around Bushwood say the same thing. One day the fishing is good; the next day it’s poor. Quade’s Store in Bushwood has boat rentals, 301/769-3903.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Catfish and small white perch are hooked by shore anglers around Slavin’s ramp on Mattingly Avenue in Indian Head, while catfish and bass are taken by dock walkers at Smallwood State Park. Bass boaters find action with Senko or Zero worms in weedy areas and alongside marsh bank drops from the “Slow Zone” past Slavins. Topwater lures do well early in the day, especially when cast into open pockets in spatterdock fields.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) provided me with bluegills on flyrods and several bass a few days ago. In St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, Camp Cosoma Road), the same type of action can be found, but bass are more plentiful.

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) show good sunfish action, as well as catfish and more than one keeper bass. The bass like plastic worms, even wacky-rigged ones, or early hour buzzbaits but see if you can find 1/4-ounce or even 1/8-ounce models. They will be struck a lot quicker.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass like soft plastic worms, grubs, tubes and the like. Fish them around wood or rocky ledges. Quite a few of the bass are down in 15 to 17 feet of water, although overcast days will bring them up to look at a surface lure, such as a Pop-R. Flyrodders can still score with bluegills with popping bugs inside most of the coves.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says, “Croakers have invaded the mouth of the river in force. Bottom fishermen found the big hardheads at the Hawk’s Nest near the mouth of Cuckold Creek at high tide, even at noon. The fish were coming in two at a time on double-hook bottom rigs.” Some anglers are hooking croakers on curly tailed plastic grubs with a hook that has a tiny bit of bloodworm on it. In fact, some of the bigger fish are caught that way. As you head into the river, the Solomons Pier and waters upstream will have some croakers and increasing numbers of spot. Some keeper flounder have been hooked in the mouth of the river.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — For the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) to Bull Run stretch of the reservoir, expect good numbers of bass to lurk around the secondary points of coves and the main lake’s underwater structure. Grubs and tubes, Senkos and Zeros all work well. Even topwater chug baits and the like can do the job when the sun isn’t baking the water. Bluegills, crappies and catfish are fairly active.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) This is Northern Virginia’s best bass fishing lake with the most 15-inch-and-up bass an acre of water. Short plastic worms, grubs, tube jigs and spinnerbaits do well before the crowds arrive. Weekdays are best.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — Talk about us hedging, this is it. Strong rain again visited the mountainous portions of the river. Flood warnings were issued for parts of Frederick and Montgomery counties, so expect cloudy water. Catfish don’t mind, especially if you use liver or nightcrawler baits. If there’s a mulberry bush or a tree dropping berries you will see carp come up and suck them in. Match the food with a mulberry fly and you will nail carp.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Smallmouth bass are at 15 feet, but tube baits on 1/4-ounce jig hooks will get them around lake and cove points. Bottom-drifted shiners also will find bass, walleyes and yellow perch.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — A few rockfish are hooked by anglers live-lining white perch from the Susquehanna Flats into the mouth of the river. White perch are abundant inside the river to Port Deposit. Some bass are hooked, but the fishing could be better.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Glory be! Black drum are here. I was on John MacEwen’s boat (410/867-3273) a few days ago, and all aboard got black drum, including some of more than 60 pounds, while slowly drifting with half and whole soft-shell crabs over Stone Rock and the general Sharps Island area in 20 feet of water. We also hooked rockfish and croakers. Meanwhile, rockfish and the first arrivals of bluefish are seen on the Gooses and heading to Calvert Cliffs. Many of the inshore spots on either side of the bay in at least 15 to 20 feet of water also hold croakers. The lower Eastern Shore and the Southern Maryland waters near the Virginia state line have been best for fishing. For example, in Tangier Sound, boats out of Crisfield are loading up on big croakers, while St. Mary’s County chum boats are doing well on the rockfish at Buoy 72A, the Targets and Point No Point. Point Lookout State Park pier fishermen are doing quite well at night on rockfish, croakers, spot and scattered bluefish.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says it’s cobia time in the lower bay with fish in excess of 80 pounds. At the mouth of the bay, big red drum and juvenile black drum are hooked on the shoals. Bluefish, flounder and some rockfish hang around the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Farther up the bay, Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (Ingram Bay Marina, 804/580-7292) says the bluefish have arrived, but most are in the 1- to 3-pound range. Breaking blues are showing up along the eastern channel from Buoy 62 to the Northern Neck Reef, near buoys 66 and 68. Meanwhile, striped bass are chummed up at the reef. Virginia’s rockfish season closes Tuesday.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Cambridge) The river at Cambridge has seen a strong decline of croakers for some inexplicable reason, but they’re still at the mouth around Cook’s Point and Black Walnut Point. Bluefish and rockfish might show up at any moment in the same area. It’s also time for Norfolk spot. The bass fishing from Martinak and Denton to Greensboro hasn’t been great.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (Snow Hill to Shad Landing) There’s mostly small bass but plenty when the tides are right. Also expect hits from channel catfish and bluegills.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass fishing has improved in the feeder creeks and main stem from Vienna to Seaford. A few stripers are in the Vienna area early in the day. Topwater poppers will catch one now and then.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Along Route 208, Spotsylvania County) “Fat” worms will find bass in sunken brush, around lake points and in the backs of creeks and coves. The earliest hours of the day usually allow some topwater fishing. Stripers are in the lake, but predicting where they will be and when they will bite could be a thankless full-time job.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) The river still isn’t in the best of shape, and the bass fishing in the upper freshwater or the tidal parts reflects that. The weekend might see a pleasant change for smallmouth bass waders and johnboaters above Fredericksburg.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass like Senko and Zero worms, small crankbaits and spinnerbaits. If it’s cloudy, throw a topwater buzzbait across a lake point and see what happens. Bluegills and catfish will cooperate.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: Darrell Kennedy, 540/672-3997; left turn on Route 20 before town of Orange) Some decent bass are hooked on spinnerbaits and plastic worms, with channel catfish, crappies and bluegills possible if you work with worm baits.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Early hours are a must for bass success. On weekends after 10 a.m. waterskiers and jetskiers will make a nuisance. Songbird Creek has seen a few decent bass, as has Hubquarter. Lots of grass is seen, and that can provide early hour topwater fishing.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie chances are good with slip-bobber rigs and live minnows in 12 to 15 feet of water with some kind of brush or rock piles. Bass have been busy in flooded bushes, striking shallow-lipped crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms or lizards.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (***) — (Williamsburg) More catfish action than bass action. Up near the old Helen’s Hideaway, some of the sunken shoreline trees have given up keeper bass on blue fleck plastic worms.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Stripers are still here, and they will hit a Sassy Shad or trolled bucktail with a pork rind trailer. Catfish are slowly beginning to look at baits again.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas might turn up a largemouth or smallmouth bass, but the fishing hasn’t been good.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Night striper fishing in the “S” Curve can be good for bottom jiggers and occasionally even topwater casters if a school of stripers surfaces. Bass catches aren’t bad. Plastic worms can bring hits inside boat houses and around lake points.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, town of Scottsville) Maybe bass fishing will be a little better this weekend, but weather will dictate.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (**) — (Ocean City) The offshore canyons have been fine for yellowfin tuna and dolphinfish. The first white marlin of the season was taken last week, and you can bet the ballyhoo baits will be rigged up and trolled by weekend skippers from Ocean City and elsewhere. The Jackspot area has been the scene of terrific bluefish catches by trollers using a variety of spoons, stretch lures and the like. The inshore wrecks have given up more sea bass this week than last, and surf fishermen are hooking a few kingfish and sea trout. Flounder drifters are scoring in the back bays.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (**) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says there are fish everywhere from Norfolk Canyon to the Cigar. “It’s mostly yellowfin tunas, but gaffer dolphins are also mixed in,” he says. Amberjacks and big bluefish are at the South Tower, with spadefish hanging out at the Chesapeake Light Tower. Flounder drifters from Chincoteague to Metomkin and on to Wachapreague and Oyster are finding a few nice keepers as they drift with bullhead minnows and strips of squid or flounder belly. For charter information, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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