- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004


At 7 a.m. on a November day, running up the Potomac River from Marshall Hall to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, it is wise to dress like an Eskimo on polar bear patrol. Even if the weatherman, who we doubt has ever done this, says the temperatures will hover in the 50s, during the morning run it will feel more like 30 below.

All I had to do to be convinced of this was to take a quick look at Marty Magone and fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski as they prepared to check on the fish “uptown.” Yes, they know the Wilson Bridge sector isn’t really uptown D.C., but it’s close enough.

Magone and Andrzejewski were covered in knit caps, wind-shielding glasses, gloves and thick “floating” zip-up jackets that actually double as life preservers. Both allowed that under the heavy pants and sweaters they also wore thermal underwear. They’ve been there, done that, and knew what was required.

I climbed aboard, dressed in cold-protecting waterfowl clothing that is so warm, at least the jacket had to come off the moment we arrived in the bridge construction zone’s slow-down portion.

November is magic for bass and crappie fishermen and guide Andrzejewski is one of the fellows who’s made cold-water tidal bass fishing popular in these parts.

Admit it now. There was a time, around the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when nary a soul could be seen on the river after Labor Day. All that changed when a tidal water bass population explosion began and anglers like Andrzejewski dabbled with various ways to hook bass and other winter dwellers.

No matter who makes the claims, it was the “Fishing Pole,” Andrzejewski, who introduced us to the wondrous effect a Mann’s Sting Ray grub has on fish.

“I can’t take all the credit for that,” says Andrzejewski. “Actually, it was the bass pro, Roland Martin, who showed me how well these grubs work many years ago when I fished in tournaments.”

That November day a little more than a week ago, Andrzejewski arrived inside Spoils Cove on the Maryland shore just above the bridge, slipped off his jacket, pulled off the ski mask and gloves, and a minute later inserted a 1/4-ounce round-headed jig hook into an avocado color Sting Ray and pushed it down until the barb finally emerged out of the broad side of the grub’s midsection. He dabbed a bit of creamy Smelly Jelly (crawdad flavor) onto the rubbery lure and made a short cast toward a ledge inside the cove that dropped off into 8 or 9 feet of water.

Without a word of warning, the ex-Marine and former Prince George’s County police officer stuck the hook to something. A bass boiled up from the depths very close to the boat. Andrzejewski flicked it into the boat, removed the hook and slipped the fish back into the water. “That’s number one,” he said. “There’ll be more.”

Magone, whose service and police histories are virtually the same as his pal Andrzejewski’s, flipped his Sting Ray lure close to the place where the bass surfaced. Bingo! He set the hook to a feisty crappie, while I caught a yellow perch. When I finally hooked a bass — using the same Sting Ray and fatty fish-attracting cream — Andrzejewski chuckled and said, “Mueller is on his vitamin pattern: One a day. He caught one bass.”

That actually was wrong because I caught more than one, as did the man with the Polish name. But it was Magone who suddenly caught fire. In one stretch of the cove, gently lifting and lowering the rod, retrieving only small amounts of line, he set the hook to a number of largemouths and some decent crappies — all of whom believed the green grubs to look close enough to a bull minnow to be worthy of an attack.

We were delighted with a day that began cold with threatening clouds but turned into a bluebird day with plenty of sun.

That’s what bothers me more than a little. Why do so many local anglers put away their gear when the first real chill arrives? Heck, there are days when the winter catches easily outdo those we make in the summer. All it takes is to be willing to endure a bit of, what I call, “Delectable Misery.” Your body is chilled to the bone and the fingers sometimes turn numb, but when the fishing begins, things can become frantic, red-hot and truly wonderful.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday andThursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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