- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What a difference cooler nights can make. We’re talking about local boaters going out before sunrise and actually feeling a bit of a chill as they run down the Chesapeake or any of its feeder rivers. Here’s hoping it will never stop, because the fish are reacting to these temperatures, and that can make for very happy outings.

It begins with the Chesapeake Bay, where decent catches of rockfish, even unusually fine hookups with redfish (yes, those of blackened redfish fame) and snapper bluefish are made in Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore waters. Trollers can score heading up the bay from the Patuxent River toward the Gooses and points north. Stripers oblige more often than not, and some are beautiful keepers.

In the lowest portions of the bay, around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the flounder fishing has been simply outstanding. Imagine, while Maryland anglers in the upper Bay complain about having few of the flatties on their hooks, Virginians from the Lynnhaven and Virginia Beach areas are latching onto flounder in the 10- and 11-pound range. Sure, not all of them weigh as much, but a bunch of them have this summer, and the good fishing shows no signs of a let-up.

Now move into the tidal rivers — the Potomac, especially — and it’s not a rare event if you tie into a 4-, 5-, or even 6-pound bass. Largemouths are striking lures around grass and wood, with the edges of hydrilla beds producing larger fish. Local bass guides recommend using topwater poppers early in the morning, then switching to 4-inch-long plastic worms. Think thin. I’ve seen 4-inch Zoom finesse worms absolutely whack the bass this week.

Finally, consider the excitement Fairfax County’s Ted Khacht felt Saturday while fishing in Occoquan Reservoir at Fountainhead Park. Ted latched onto what appeared to be a very large piranha — 6 pounds, 9 ounces of it. A biologist is now checking to see which of any half-dozen piranha species it could be, or whether it’s simply another toothsome South American fish related to piranhas.

…. = Excellent, … = Very Good, .. = Good, . = Poor


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — The boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461) has rental boaters and shoreline anglers catching catfish and carp mostly, but some bass are seen now and then. In a report that takes care of pretty much the entire river from Washington down to western Charles County, bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) say, “Bass up to 6 pounds are striking lures around grass and wood, with the edges of hydrilla producing the largest fish. Early in the morning, topwater poppers including Ricos and Berkley Frenzy Poppers work well on the grass edges, especially during the last half of an outgoing tide. Four-inch Wackos or other soft stickbaits in pumpkin/green flake and green pumpkin/gold flake and Zoom Finesse Worms in junebug/red or redbug rigged on a 1/8-ounce ballhead jig have been catching quality bass once the sun becomes a factor. Creek ledges with hydrilla on the edges seem to have an abundance of active bass, and a tree extending into deeper water is a great place to catch a large bass. Spinnerbaits in a Tennessee Shad pattern or all white, as well as Norman’s Deep Baby N crankbaits in a Baby Bass pattern work as well. Spinnerbaits do best around milfoil, and the crankbaits produce on the outer edges of hydrilla. Look for isolated grass beds for more active bass. Farther down the river, rental boat users out of Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) are finding some spot and perch, many of them on the new artificial bloodworms that are selling fast. The Wicomico sees a lot of trotliners looking for crabs, and many are finding them. On the main stem of the Potomac, white perch, spot, snapper bluefish and young rockfish are found from Piney Point clear down to Cornfield Harbor.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Despite heavy tournament traffic recently, it is remarkable how many bass can be caught in this creek. Work with small plastic finesse worms and early-morning topwater poppers around marsh edges, weed beds, open pockets in the spatterdock fields and you will catch bass — especially if the tide is receding. In center channel waters are quite a few bottom-feeding catfish. They like cut herring, clam snouts, or cut perch and bluegill pieces.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has perked up a bit for catch-and-release bass anglers and people who want to hook some sunfish for a good dinner. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road) shows decent bass, sunfish, catfish and even pickerel activity in very shallow water. Boat launching from a trailer is impossible.

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) have improved since cooler nights arrived. Bass fishing can be quite good, and small, scented worms are the best “baits,” although small jigs and spinnerbaits also score. Sunfish are very plentiful. Catfish wouldn’t mind munching on bottom-fished clam necks or cut baits.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Cooler nights have brought some decent bass closer to shallow water around points, fallen trees, sunken brush or rock ledges. Plastic worms, jig ‘n’ craws, spinnerbaits and even crankbaits in some areas can work magic. Sunfish that like bits of worm when fished under a plastic float are cooperating, but be sure to cast your bait into water less than 6 feet deep, particularly around some kind of structure like a flooded brush top. Bass will be around these spots as well.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — White perch are up and down the river’s shores and creeks, duck blinds and rip rap bulkheads. Spot are mostly found between Benedict and Solomons, while rockfish and snapper blues are liable to show up anywhere in the lower river. While fishing Beetlespins or regular 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits for perch, expect strikes from fat channel catfish that are in the perch waters looking for a snack.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “Carolina rigged plastics, fished off long, deep points in the main lake, saved the day for the winners of a local bass tournament last Sunday. The winning bag was 17.9 pounds [six fish], and the biggest weighed a hefty 5 pounds, 2 ounces. On Saturday, two Manassas anglers caught a nice stringer of channel catfish with the biggest weighing 6 pounds. The fish were caught in the main lake channel on cut bait. The crappie bite remains strong off the pier and boardwalk for fishermen using small minnows under a bobber and fly-rodders are scoring big-time on bluegills. The reservoir is full and the water is clear, with surface temperatures in the high 80s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Get there as early as possible and cast 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits, topwater poppers, or 4-inch Power Worms around stickups, lake points and dropoffs, and bass can be yours. Some decent catfish and bluegills are around, but crappies have been tough to locate.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — Low water flow makes for tough john-boating, but waders say they’re finding a few smallmouth bass from Knoxville down to Brunswick and in the Point of Rocks and Dickerson areas. The fishing will get better when autumn arrives.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) says pal Otis Oakum has been whacking the bass with tubes and spinnerbaits around lake points and docks. The fishing is particularly good when the sun begins to hide behind the trees. Big bluegills and some feisty yellow perch are taken in deepwater coves around sunken wood.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Hardly any water is moving through the gates at Conowingo Dam, so expect shallower than normal water levels between Conowingo and Port Deposit. However, plastic worms are finding some hefty bass all the same. The better bass fishing, however, has been out on the Susquehanna Flats and the vast grass beds, where the bass fishing with early-morning topwater lures and soft jerkbaits can be super at times.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com) in St. Jerome’s Creek, St. Mary’s County, says, “Once again charter fishing captain Walleye Pete Dahlberg made our Web page. On Saturday morning at 8, he took out five clients, and they limited out on 25-inch-plus rockfish and large blues by 9:30. They went back out for bottom fishing and caught jumbo croakers from Buoy 72 to the Target Ship. Some big spot were caught near the mouth of St. Jerome’s Creek and in the Mud Leads. Chummers on the Southwest Middle Grounds again limited out on rockfish and blues. This week the chummers were also successful in the Triangle. One customer drifting with squid near the Target Ship hooked large red drum, several over 40 inches. Another customer got into the sea trout in the Mud Leads but caught nothing of any size. Structure really seems to be key. The heat kept a lot of people away on Sunday. We didn’t have nearly the amount of fishermen we normally have.” As you head north up toward the mouth of the Patuxent and on to the Gooses and beyond, chummers find rockfish, as do trollers. The trolled lures, however, seem to find bigger stripers as you get through the Bay Bridge area and toward the Magothy and Baltimore Light. Quite a few legal rockfish are taken, with many as far north as the Chester River’s Love Point.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Charter captain Billy Pipkin (captbillyscharters.com or 804/580-7292) finds bluefish, rockfish, spot, even an occasional sea trout or red drum in Northern Neck waters. The fishing has been very good and is getting better with a little cooler weather making things more pleasant out on the water. Down the bay, toward the bridge-tunnel, the flounder bite has been just unbelievable this year in terms of the big fish being caught, says Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. There was a time when a 10-pound flounder was big news. It is still a big fish but not big enough to win the club tournament. “At our club meeting,” says Neill, “numerous double-digit flounder were entered in our monthly tournament. It took a 121/2-pound fish to win the month of July. Most of these big fish are being caught with live bait [spot, mullet, croaker] on structure. The tube between the third and fourth islands has been the best area, but the bridge-tunnel, Back River Reef and the Cape Henry Wreck — all produced monster flat fish. Another fish that has been unbelievable has been the sheepshead. Multiple citations have been the norm. Crab and clam baits, with fiddler crabs being preferred, have been producing big sheepshead at the pilings and islands of the bridge-tunnel.” Red drum fishing remains good on the shoals. They just don’t want to leave this summer. Cobia fishing is very good, particularly sight fishing, and there are plenty of Spanish mackerel around.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river is a good place to be when tides are moving. Spot, perch, various sizes of rockfish and occasional snapper blues congregate there. Give it a try. Bottom-fished peeler crab chunks will catch all four species. Up the river around Cambridge’s fishing bridge, not much is happening except a few nighttime spot and occasional perch of eating size. Bass catches have been very poor up around Denton and beyond.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Short plastic jerkbaits like the Zoom Fluke will get vicious strikes from bass near the Snow Hill and Shad Landing areas’ stickups and waterlogged tree roots. Soft plastic worms with very light slip sinkers also will do well, especially when the sun shines brightly.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Upper river near Seaford, Del., has been good for bass anglers as pad fields and marsh edges. Four-inch scented worms do well as tides begin to recede.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Most of the bass are still deep, but because of cooler night temperatures, some largemouths have been taken close to shore, around points and stickups. Use soft and hard jerkbaits, poppers, buzzbaits and, later in the day, plastic worms, of course.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good in the upper river, but water flows far up in the river are down, so watch it. In the tidal water below Fredericksburg, expect catfish but not many bass.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bluegills, catfish and some decent bass are taken, but fishing pressure hasn’t been great during hot weather. That will change this weekend.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish may be the best bet as clam snouts or strips of cut fish or liver draw strikes from fat “cats.” Bass are tough to find, but around the stickups and points of the lake, there are some nice largemouth specimens that will look at a spinnerbait or soft plastic worm.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake specialist Marty Magone says, “For the fishermen who are getting tired of running long distances due to the crazy gas prices I suggest they park next to any of the rip rap and bridges and wait for the power generation [to begin]. Stay on the outgoing or incoming sides and sling a Carolina rigged plastic worm to the corners of the rip rap or bridges. Bass, stripers and walleyes are available in this manner.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Flathead and blue catfish make up some of the better catches, although largemouth bass are in the creek mouths and around main lake points, where smartly fished tubes, jigs or worms can draw strikes.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) It’s mostly catfish the visitors are hooking here. Some people are hooking small bluegills on a worm and bobber rig, then using the whole or half of the fish with sinkers on the bottom to find blue catfish or channel cats.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish continue to dominate here in the tidal waters below Richmond. Some bass are found in the “Graveyard” and in the river’s feeder creeks, but the most action comes from catfish.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch shows plenty of fish bites, but most of them come from young smallmouth bass, bluegills and catfish.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Stickups and lake points, as well as boat houses, have made for some fair bass fishing for plastic worm users. Stripers are caught before sunrise and after sundown.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass have jumped on early-hour topwater poppers and buzzbaits, but fringed tubes on 1/8-ounce ball-head jig hooks are deadly when allowed to drift around rocks.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The offshore canyon waters are delivering hits from billfish, bluefin and yellowfin tunas, even some longfin albacores, wahoos and dolphinfish. The wrecks not too far away from shore deliver sea bass and tautogs, while the Maryland DNR says evening hours are good for stripers in the Ocean City Inlet. The surf is providing some action, but most of it is delivered by small bluefish, kingfish, flounder and dog sharks.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, says spadefish, barracudas, amberjacks and jack crevalle are biting at the Chesapeake Light Tower — if you know what to do. The spadefish, especially, are soft nibblers, so anglers must have the “feel” to know when to set the hook. Distant offshore canyon waters are fine for tuna, marlin and wahoo, maybe a king mackerel or two, also big sharks. Boat renters at Chincoteague and Wachapreague are not catching many legal flounder, and it’s a long way to drive for sub-legal fish. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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