- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Local waters are slowly clearing and returning to normal. By the weekend, you should see decent fishing in most area lakes and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

It begins with the bay, where, according to Lexington Park’s Ken Lamb, the water temperature has fallen 5 degrees in one week. That means various fish species begin to prepare for colder weather and will feed heavily. That’s good for fishermen. White perch, rockfish, spot, bluefish and Spanish mackerel all are likely to be more active.

Local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski says the fishing has been good throughout the river. Whether you fish the weed carpets of the tidal Potomac’s main stem or the fallen timber and grass beds in any number of creeks, the largemouth bass have been striking hard for soft jerkbaits, buzzbaits, poppers, some medium depth crankbaits and, of course, plastic worms.

The only waffling we will do concerns the upper mountain rivers, including the Potomac, James, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Susquehanna. As of Tuesday, many parts of western Maryland’s Potomac looked murky and swift. The same holds for the James River, but by the weekend a big change for the better is possible.

Remember that National Hunting and Fishing Day will be celebrated Saturday. Many Izaak Walton League chapters and fishing/hunting clubs are inviting the public to visit and see how they pursue their recreational activities. Want to help? Next time you see a hunter or angler, give him or her a hug and thank them for being true leaders in the conservation movement. America’s hunters and anglers spend plenty when it comes to preserving and enhancing wildlife and fisheries. Their license and user fees, plus special taxes levied on sporting equipment, account for a large share of what it takes to pay the bills.

(RATINGS KEY: ****=EXCELLENT FISHING; ***=GOOD; **=FAIR; *=POOR.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — In the District, Danny at Fletcher’s Boat House (off Canal Road, 202/244-0461, fletchersboathouse.com) said, “It’s still a little muddy, but it will clear more by the weekend. Perhaps murky would be a better word by Saturday.” There you have it. Some catfish will be caught for sure. Bass and crappies are another story. They won’t be easy to find. However, the farther you get from the District, the more the fishing will improve. Main stem grasses, shoreline rocks and fall trees will offer some action during one tide or another. Guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) say main stem grasses and those inside the creeks produce bass if you work with a variety of topwater lures or various soft or hard jerkbaits. Also, plastic worms and crankbaits can produce bass strikes and even occasional stripers. From the Route 301 bridge downstream to the Wicomico, St. Clements, Tall Timbers and Piney Point — as well as on the Virginia side, which looks similar to Maryland’s shoreline — you will find a mix of Norfolk spot, a few small flounder, rockfish and bluefish and even Spanish mackerel that were hooked as far up as Piney Point and St. George’s Island.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Bass will look at topwater lures of all kinds early in the day, then switch to soft plastics or even crankbaits. Stay along spatterdock fields that have a sharp dropoff nearby or look for sunken wood. Catfish are available, and once in a while bass anglers connect on school stripers down around the mouth.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) soon will be stocked again with trout but in the meantime expect some decent sunfish and surprisingly nice looking bass that have been hanging around near the dam’s rockline. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), use 4-inch ribworms or small spinnerbaits to find bass in stickups and along the dam’s rip-rap. Small crankbaits also do well, especially if they are of a crawfish pattern.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (***) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) should give up some decent bass that like Senko-style worms, shallow crankbaits and Rapala jerkbaits. Catfish enjoy a bottom rig loaded with a fillet (skin-on) of bluegill, perch or herring.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Check lake points and any sunken wood with scented plastic worms, such as the Berkley Power Worm or the Zero Worm. If you fish early or under overcast skies, try a loud surface popping lure. Eventually, bass will be yours.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The upper river takes longer to clear than most tidal rivers, so the bass catches will be on hold, but catfish will cooperate whether you cast a bottom-fished liver or cut fish bait or a medium depth crankbait along spatterdock edges. In saltier water, spot, rockfish and blues can be yours. For example, spot like bloodworms in the mouth of the river, breaking rockfish are all over the Cedar Point Rip and snapper bluefish are everywhere. Some of the best rockfish catches, Ken Lamb says, come between 7p.m. and 10p.m. over the oyster bars near the mouth of Cuckolds Creek as bottom fishermen drift with pieces of peeler crab. Squid and freshly cut fish strips also work.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) up to Bull Run, the bass fishing can be fine on a variety of lures, including “do nothing” baits like Senko and Zero. Sunfish and catfish are plentiful.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early hours can turn up surprisingly good bass fishing. Around lake points, use a topwater popper or soft Zoom Fluke jerkbaits and see whether a bass will inhale them. Some fat catfish also are landed.

AREA 2: CENTRAL/WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) — The smallmouths might be back on the bite by Saturday. As of late Tuesday, there was plenty of murky water in the river in western Maryland from Allegany County to Washington County. The District’s part of the river, according to Fletcher’s Boat House, continues to report discolored water coming down from up above.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — There’s fair to good bass catches under and around floating boat docks and at lake points, with decent sunfish, perch and catfish being pulled from the backwater coves. The bass like spinnerbaits and tube lures.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — Murky water is still a problem. Some catfish and occasional bass are taken, but the fishing is not yet what it should be.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) —Trollers from Deale to the mouth of the Potomac are finding occasional keeper rockfish and scores of young bluefish. Even the Spanish mackerel are still around and will slam into a small silver or gold spoon trolled way behind the boat without much inline weight. From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says chummers are still finding plenty of rockfish on the Middle Grounds as well as buoys 72 and 72A. Bigger stripers should be showing up soon. In fact, some of the bay trollers already have started dragging multiple-lure umbrella rigs behind their boats.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck captain Billy Pipkin (804/580-7292) reports good trolling and chumming for rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel between the mouths of the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. Spot and some decent flounder are seen inshore toward land. In the lower Chesapeake, cobia catches are still made, with the onset also of red drum fishing on the Eastern Shore side of the Bridge-Tunnel, where decent flounder hookups are also possible. Rockfish and bluefish are all over the lower bay area, with larger striper specimens soon to arrive from the ocean.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) There’s fair spot and bluefish fishing inside the mouth, with some perch and spot action noted in Cambridge at the fishing bridge. Bass numbers are not good for boaters in the Denton area, but a few healthy largemouths are caught.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The stretch shows good bass numbers, and catches have been pretty good. Crankbaits are best if you can retrieve them without picking up weeds. Senko and Zoom worms also produce.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass fishing is only so-so, including at the popular Marshyhope Creek.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) The past several cool nights have enticed bass to come into shallow points and shoreline areas that have a sharp drop nearby. Various early morning topwater baits can do the job, but switch to spinnerbaits, crankbaits or soft plastics after the sun rises. The bass action has been equal up and down the lake.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Upper river smallmouth fishing might happen by Saturday if further rains stay away, but I’m not all that hopeful for really good catches. In the tidal parts, catfish are your best bet anywhere from Port Royal down to Leedstown. Expect to see murky water.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass, sunfish, crappies and catfish are going to cooperate this weekend. This is a fine place to fish, but heavy rains will mess up the water.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) We expect good fishing to be delivered by this lake over the next several days. The bass will look at plastic worms and small spinnerbaits around lake points and brush. Crappies and sunfish ought to strike small grubs or shad darts, fished several feet under a bobber.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (**) — (Route 46, Gasburg) The bass fishing simply isn’t up to par right now but should improve over the next several weeks. Catfish and crappies are taken from around bridge abutments in the feeder creeks.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie action is improving in a lake that is just a little over its normal pool. However, bass catches are way down.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Again, no real good reports of bass catches, but blue catfish are making news here.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (*) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) A handful of blue catfish are hooked on herring-baited bottom rigs, but the river still isn’t back in shape. Murky, swift water has been the rule.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (*) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas have not turned up any decent catches.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Stripers are taking lures and fresh herring or sunfish baits. Catfish are also hooked, but the bass fishing has been lacking in excitement.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (*) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Still no good. Too much discolored and swift water.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Wind can be a problem this week, but there are tunas, bluefish, sharks, and even a few leftover billfish available. Closer to shore, expect bluefish and seabass. In the surf waters, there will be snapper blues, a few flounder or kingfish. Don’t be surprised if a red drum (channel bass) shows up now and then, especially toward Assateague Island.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says excellent tuna and billfish action is possible. Yellowfin and bigeye tunas, also albacore and king mackerel, are out over the canyon waters and the 35 fathom Curve. In the nearby offshore waters, closer to Virginia Beach, the light towers produce amberjack and bluefish, with the wrecks holding seabass. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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