- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Typical summer fishing has arrived in the Washington area. In the Chesapeake Bay, it is not unusual to spot a sudden surface eruption that can spread over several acres of water. The commotion will be caused by juvenile bluefish and striped bass that swim together in huge schools hunting baitfish.

As far as the popular croaker fishing is concerned, much of it has been moved to nighttime hours. Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box reported, “The croaker fishing in the Patuxent River all went nocturnal.”

After sunset and well into the night, boaters and shoreline anglers in the Patuxent, Potomac, Choptank, lower Nanticoke, Rappahannock and James rivers simply do better than they might when a scorching sun and temperatures in the 90s are the rule.

Virginia and Maryland ocean action is definitely looking up. From offshore bluewater hangouts like the Norfolk and Washington canyons, you will find blue and white marlin, yellowfin tunas and dolphinfish. Occasionally, deep-sea boaters’ efforts are rewarded with a fine mako shark or a bigeye tuna.

Closer to home, the mountain rivers that smallmouth bass anglers seek out are an iffy proposition because of all the heavy thunderstorms we have had. Quite often, discolored or outright muddy water is the rule. However, in the upper, tidal waters of the Potomac, Choptank, Susquehanna, Pocomoke, Rappahannock and James rivers the bass and catfish are cooperating.

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

0-35 miles (***) — In the area of Fletcher’s Boat House (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461), catfish and scattered bass and walleyes are possible, but the fishing is not red hot. Frequent, heavy thundershowers in the nontidal parts of the Potomac have been taxing the patience of local anglers. Meanwhile, the tidal waters from downtown Washington clear to western Charles County prove exceptional for catching topwater bass. Guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) say buzzbaits, Pop-Rs and other surface lures draw strikes from bass in and around weedbeds almost anywhere on the river and in the creeks. Overcast skies or early mornings are necessary. When the sun starts baking the water, you must switch to soft plastics. Andrzejewski likes Berkley Pulse Worms; I work with Strike King Zero worms and use them without a slip sinker around marsh banks and in weed beds. Knupp likes 4-inch Senkos with or without a slip sinker. You will encounter some discolored river water up around the District and down toward the Piscataway, but things clear up quickly as you come into Charles County or the Virginia counties opposite Charles. At the Route 301 bridge, pontoon boat captain Steve Riha (804/224-7062) will find some croakers and white perch but don’t expect catches of 100 an angler. That won’t happen. Quade’s Store in Bushwood reports fair to good catches in the Wicomico. Quade’s has boat rentals 301/769-3903.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Spatterdock field edges and adjacent channel drops can spell the difference between bass or skunk trips. Some of the weedy parts in the creek promise early hour topwater action. Catfish like clam necks in channel bends.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows sunfish, a few bass and even crappies if you happen to find a brush pile in deep enough water. In St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), there are bass that like topwater poppers early in the day and plenty of bluegills. Catfish appear to be awfully small, though.

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 above average bass chances now in weedy parts and along sheltered shorelines, but you must be there when the sun isn’t standing straight above you. Plastic worms, grubs and small spinnerbaits can be used to good advantage. Catfish and sunfish round out most catches.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Largemouth bass are staging along deep drops around various lake points. Try dropping a Senko or Zero “fat” worm down to them and see what happens. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits also work, and if you fish early in the day a Pop-R surface lure will be looked at around fallen trees or rocky points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says, “The croaker fishing all went nocturnal in the furnace that greeted those who ventured outdoors.” He means that whether you fish from Benedict to Broomes Island or from Solomons to the mouth, there are croakers, spot, scattered bluefish, stripers and flounder to be caught during the day, but most species are more active at night.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — For the stretch of the impoundment from Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) to Bull Run, early hour topwater bass bites can come if you throw a popper or chug bait alongside sunken wood or around lake points — and don’t overlook the backs of coves where the sun hasn’t baked the water yet. Sunfish and catfish are not tough to find.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Located on Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Four-inch-long Berkley Power Worms will do the job early in the day around points and stickups. Also try a buzzbait before the heat hits you. Sunfish, catfish and a few white perch will keep worm bait users busy.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — Maryland biologists say the upper river will be fishable so get going and cast 2- and 3-inch-long tube jigs into the riffles and rock beds from Knoxville to Brunswick and from Point of Rocks to White’s Ferry and beyond. Small spinners, topwater poppers and quarter-ounce crankbaits can do the job, too.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Smallmouth bass are hanging around rocky lake points in depths of up to 15 feet. Minnow drifters catch them frequently. Big, fat bluegills and yellow perch are available along the dropoffs of many shoreline stretches. Cast a light line with a few split-shots a few feet above a small hook that holds a quarter-inch-long piece of nightcrawler. The sunfish will do the rest.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — Bass hounds can locate a little action on the weed beds that are found on the Susquehanna Flats. Inside the river, clear up to Conowingo Dam, it’s mostly white perch, catfish and carp with only a small number of bass.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — In the upper bay, trollers who use small spoons and bucktails find some keeper rockfish between Love Point, the mouth of the Chester and down to Swan Point and other Eastern Shore areas above the Bay Bridge. Heading south toward Tilghman Island, expect a smattering of rockfish, even a few blues in the Sharps Island and Stone Rock sector. Several times this week, there have been catches of black drum there, but these bottom feeders are tough to predict. One day they will bite, the next it’s lockjaw time. They should hang around until next week anyway before heading back down toward the ocean. Trollers between Deale and the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant can find keeper rockfish, but some day you will have to work hard for them. If your catches consist of 12- to 15-inch rockfish, slow the boat to a crawl and drop Hopkins jigs or weighted Sassy Shads down and pump the lures up and down. Bigger rockfish often travel beneath their small cousins. In the lower ends of the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake, chummers on the Middle Grounds find enough rockfish and croaker action to make outings worthwhile. Some bigger rockfish are scored by trollers between Buoy 77 north and the Patuxent mouth. In the Tangier Sound, the croaker catches have been good. The Hardheads are found in less than 30 feet of water over hard bottom. Flounder are also available outside Crisfield, as are some Norfolk spot, but the spot schools are still sparse.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association is hoping for more cobias. Some are hooked down between Cape Charles and the Bridge-Tunnel, but more are needed. Perhaps this will be the weekend when it happens. Lots of Spanish mackerel are seen between the Bridge-Tunnel and Cape Henry, and, of course, there are bluefish and throwback rockfish. A few flounder are taken along the Bridge-Tunnel pilings. Heading up the bay, Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (Ingram Bay Marina, 804/580-7292) says bluefish have become more plentiful, but most are small, with 3-pounders considered fine keepers. Chummed menhaden will find them on the channel edge between Buoy 62 and the Northern Neck Reef. Striped bass are there, too, but they must be released because the season is closed in Virginia. Bottom fishing for croakers is fine. If you wonder about fish weights, a 19-inch croaker can weigh 3 pounds. The Cut Channel up to Buoy 62 holds such specimens, as well as small sea trout.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croakers aren’t in good supply, but you will find white perch, spot, some snapper bluefish and small rockfish from the mouth of the river almost to Cambridge. Bass fishermen report good catches of largemouths between Denton and Greensboro. Early hour topwaters do well around spatterdock, but plastic worms are the best all-around lures.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass have been willing to snatch up 4-inch plastic worms and Mann’s Baby 1-Minus lures. Catfish can grow big here. Use stout tackle and clam neck or cut herring baits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass catches have been pretty good if you use Berkley Ribworms or Power Pulse Worms. Marshyhope Creek has been below average as far as bass are concerned, but the main stem of the river can be pretty good.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Along Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Soft-bodied topwater jerkbaits, such as the Zoom Fluke and others, have been responsible for good catches of bass. They work especially around weed beds, lake points and stickups but when the sun bakes the water, switch to deeper-fished plastic worms. Crappie fishing has been better than expected.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) The tidal river between Hicks Landing and Leedstown is giving up catches of bass, but it’s simply not as good as the Potomac River. Blue catfish are expected to start biting again after weeks of spawning activities. Lots of juvenile white perch are in the river.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Early and late hours are best for bass now, but if you slowly, deliberately fish a plastic worm in layered, deep ledges of the lake, you will catch bass. Catfish and sunfish are biting almost any time.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: Darrell Kennedy, 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 just before entering town of Orange) Catfish have been most cooperative, but bass, sunfish and crappies are also available. Get here early for best results.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass catches have been better than expected, considering this is a hot period when the fishing usually slows down. Catfish are also in a biting mood.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The Nutbush Creek area has been good for striper trollers and jiggers. Topwater lures have been fine for largemouth bass in the upper ends of the lake. The water level is at full pool, maybe a little above it.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Topwater poppers and buzzbaits can score on early hour bass, while some visitors also score on fat bluegills and catfish with bottom baits.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are starting to bite again between Dutch Gap and the Appomattox after the big brutes had a case of lockjaw during spawning time. Some flathead catfish are also available, as are a few keeper bass.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas are said to be fishable, and largemouth or smallmouth bass should take tube jigs, small plastic worms or spinner lures of various types.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Located on Route 122, east of Roanoke) Slow going for most fishermen. A few bass and crappies are taken, but daytime hours have been tough. Night hours are better, and that includes stripers that like live shiners or sunfish on bottom rigs slowly drifting along.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, at town of Scottsville) It probably will be slow going for smallmouth bass again this week after fairly strong thunderstorms visited here.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Wind has been hampering tuna boaters who wish to reach offshore fishing grounds but can’t reach them because of the big, dangerous swells. One thing is sure: Tunas are all over the Washington and Baltimore canyon waters, as well as the Fingers. The canyons also will deliver the occasional billfish, mako shark or dolphinfish. A 198-pound mako won last weekend’s Ocean City Mako Tournament, but makos can reach 600 to 700 pounds. The Jackspot holds plenty of large bluefish, and Mann’s Strech 20s or deep-trolled spoons will catch them. The surf in Ocean City gives up some flounder and kingfish, while there are a few big sea trout in the inlet and flounder in the backwaters behind the resort city.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Check the Triple O’s or the offshore canyon waters for tunas, marlin, dolphinfish and huge sharks. The wind has been making trouble, but it won’t last forever. Large bluefish, 12-pounders and up, along with big amberjacks are taken at the South Tower. The Chesapeake Light Tower gives up a few spadefish, while up along the Eastern Shore from Chincoteague down to Oyster, the backwater drift fishermen who use minnows, flounder belly or squid will connect on a few big enough for dinner. For charter information call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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