Despite the daytime heat and high humidity, Chesapeake Bay boaters are scoring nicely on a variety of species, including stripers, snapper bluefish, large chopper blues, croakers, spot, small numbers of Spanish mackerel and gray sea trout. A fair warning, though: Better fishing likely will be found in the Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore waters, although rockfish chummers can do well at times in the northern portions of the bay.
Bass fishermen who braved this week’s heat are learning to start early and stop before noon. The tidal Potomac and Susquehanna rivers continue to give up astonishing numbers of largemouth bass. Most are hanging out in submersed aquatic vegetation where weedless topwater lures, plastic worms and a little bit of good fortune generally are all that is required to catch them.
In the Atlantic Ocean, yellowfin tuna action has been widely scattered, but the tasty fish can be hooked, with trollers doing a little better than bait chunkers. Marlin, bluefin tunas and king mackerel also are showing up in the mix, particularly in the Virginia parts of the Atlantic.
If you want to see how strong your arms are, try an amberjack outing with a Virginia Beach charter boat. Amberjacks look like bluefish on steroids, and their strength is legendary. Our friend Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says the amberjacks are taken in the normal spots from the offshore southern towers to any number of wrecks along the coast. The Chesapeake Light Tower, only 11 miles east of Virginia Beach, sees happy amberjack anglers who also tie into large spadefish.
(RATINGS KEY: =EXCELLENT FISHING; =GOOD; =FAIR; =POOR.)
AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — Near the boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461), you will find some fine catfish, bass and even occasional walleyes. Downstream bass and catfish catches are assured from Roosevelt Island to Columbia Island and on toward Hains Point and the Washington Channel, as well as the Fox Ferry rock line and the waters below the Wilson Bridge. What you need to enjoy success is submersed aquatic vegetation. Charles County bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) run up and down the river and also visit the creeks. Wherever they find aquatic grasses, they also find bass on early hour surface poppers, followed by wacky-rigged or Texas-rigged worms without slip sinkers. The top areas have been river portions anywhere from the Pamunkey Creek down to and past the Chicamuxen Creek and over to Virginia toward the Potomac and Aquia creeks. Farther downstream, one of our readers, a fine fisherman named Ernie, says he recently put a boat into the water at Shymanski’s on Cobb Island and found large white perch in the Wicomico River close to the island, as well as over in Bushwood on the St. Mary’s County side. Some croakers and spot are available there, too, but the catches are good one day, lousy the next. Quade’s Store in Bushwood, 301/769-3903, has rental boats and bait. Back out in the Potomac River, look for scattered flounder, a few croakers and increasing numbers of Norfolk spot.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Spatterdock fields, submersed milfoil and hydrilla or sunken shoreline trees can harbor bass, and a smartly fished plastic worm or an early hour topwater lure could work like magic. Catfish are hungry for real food like cut fish chunks or clam necks.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is a hot place to spend the day right now, but all the same, bluegills and some fair bass are hooked. Here’s hoping you won’t grow tired of us telling you St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is still way down during construction on the dam.
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) is feeling the heat, but if you visit as early as possible, sunfish, bass, catfish and maybe a tiger musky can be yours. Best bets include early hour topwater bass or worm-and-bobber combos and fly-rod bugs for bluegills.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass will look at a scented plastic worm, such as Berkley’s Power Worm. Fish around lake points where water descends in staircase-like fashion. If you know how to fish a pig’n’jig combination, try it for bass.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Croakers, spot and small rockfish are all over the lower end of the river from Solomons Island to the mouth. As you head upstream toward Benedict, you will see trot-lining crabbers or white perch fishermen. All you need for the perch is a tiny spinnerbait, a really small Mini Rat-L-Trap or an inline spinner if no grass is present. Fish the shorelines, fallen trees, duck blinds and such. If you want a rental boat on Solomons Island, call or visit Bunky’s, 410/326-3241.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The rains stayed away, the reservoir cleared up nicely and the fishing has been very good. Bass anglers scored well with Carolina-rigged soft plastics, especially 3-inch crawfish, and Texas-rigged lizards or power worms in deep water off mainlake points. Some fine channel catfish were taken on chicken livers. Even the crappie bite returned. Several nice stringers of crappie were caught off the pier and boardwalk on small minnows. Fly-rodders, using small yellow or white poppers, are having great action with some nice bluegills.”
BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The fishing can be pretty good if you get there as early as possible. Plastic worms, slow-rolled spinnerbaits and even low-light hour topwater baits can catch bass. Catfish are hungry. Use bottom rigs with a sinker and put chicken livers, clam necks or gobs of nightcrawler on the hook.
AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — It rained earlier this week and some water could be discolored in Washington and Frederick counties, but if the rains stay clear and you fish before the sun is high in the sky, you will find smallmouth bass attacking tubes, grubs, small crankbaits and topwater poppers and chug baits.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) connects on largemouth and smallmouth bass as he pitches plastic tubes and worms under floating docks. The man is a magician when it comes to finding bass. Bluegills and yellow perch are hungry in the deepwater coves.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — The river around Havre de Grace and the not-too-distant Susquehanna Flats has plenty of grass beds, and if you’re good with a Grass Rat or any other weedless topwater lure you can score. After the sun gets up, switch to plastic worms, standard Texas rig or a wacky-rigged worm, which means you insert a hook through the center of the worm and use no slip sinker. Cast it out and drag it slowly across the weeds, let it fall into an opening and hold on. The bass will do the rest.
AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY
MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) in St. Jerome’s Creek (St. Mary’s County) reports that the rockfish chummers had success at Point No Point Lighthouse, as well as buoys 72 and 72A. Bluefish and croakers were mixed in with the stripers. Bluefish in the 3- to 5-pound range were chummed up on the Southwest Middle Grounds, and large schools of bluefish were spotted on top of the water. The bottom fishing has picked up on the Mud Leads and Butler’s Rock, from Point No Point lighthouse to the Point Lookout State Park fishing pier and in the Potomac in Cornfield Harbor. Bottom anglers in all those places are finding croakers and large spot. In the upper bay from the Chester River’s Love Point down to the Bay Bridge, some of the chum boats do quite well now and then on rockfish and snapper blues. Much the same happens in the middle Maryland parts of the bay, including the Radar Towers, Gooses, and portions near Sharps Island and Stone Rock.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com or 804/580-7292) says most of the fishing this week centered on bottom fishing. “Flounder action remains good with the Cell area between buoys 41 and 42 continuing to offer fair quantities of fish. Other areas holding flounder are found around the White Stone bridge on the Rappahannock, the bar at Windmill Point, the south edge of Smith Point Bar and the eastern channel edges from buoy 66 up to 72. Spanish mackerel are once again teasing us with short spurts of action, but typically they make a strong showing in August.” Bluefish schools are showing up as they head north. It begins with the Windmill Point bar and Dividing Creek, then heads north to the Great Wicomico river, where 1- to 2-pound bluefish are erupting on the surface now and then. More gray sea trout have been hooked in Northern Neck waters, but catches are not yet dependable. Croakers and spot, however, are found in good numbers near the Maryland state line. The lower bay around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is full of chum slicks as anglers target big cobias, says Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. “The bite has been pretty good this summer,” he says. “Large sheepshead are being caught off the pilings of the bridge-tunnel. Spanish mackerel are available along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and throughout the lower bay. Cape Henry has been red hot.” Meanwhile, flounder fans find the “doormats” around the bridge-tunnel pilings and dropoff edges of the tunnel islands.
AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE MD.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) In the mouth of the river, look for early and late hour croakers, spot, small rockfish and snapper blues. Up the river toward Cambridge, there’s a chance for a few spot, perch and croakers.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The heat is taking its toll. Bass catches are possible, but not many bass boaters are willing to drive this far on 90-plus-degree days.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Bass catches have dropped off, but this has a lot to do with less effort being applied. The daytime heat here has been brutal. Still, early hours and shallow crankbaits or plastic worms will find some bass in feeder creeks and main stem.
AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) The earliest possible hours are best for bass and stripers. There’s a chance you will run into a sudden surface eruption by feeding stripers near the Splits. Have a rod ready with a hard or soft jerkbait tied to at least 14-pound line. The bass will be up against some of the rip-rap and around lake points before the sun really heats up your day. So give them plastic worms or walk the dog with a Zoom Fluke.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Some tidal water bass are taken between Hicks Landing and Port Royal, but the catches are nothing to brag about. Yes, the heat has a great deal to do with the lack of anglers on the river. Even the catfish aren’t biting as well as they should. Upper-river smallmouths will jump on tube lures and Zoom Flukes from above Fredericksburg to the Rapidan junction and beyond.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (..) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Start early and go home before 11. Bass are possible, but you must work hard with scented plastics and small spinnerbaits. Catfish and sunfish lie worm baits.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Early bird anglers can score on bass if they use topwater poppers and buzzbaits around stickups and lake points. Plastic worms and tubes do well after sunup.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (..) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass fishermen have seen better days. The tremendous heat is putting a damper on fishing efforts. However, main lake rocks and points coupled to early hours and plastic worms can produce some largemouth action.
KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish and striper catches actually have been pretty good. Some of the flathead and blue catfish run much more than 35 pounds. Bass numbers haven’t been good.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) This place is OK for catfish and a few perch, but bass fishing is so poor that a stocking of largemouths is planned, and the state has begun a study to see why the bass aren’t doing as well here as elsewhere.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Everybody down around the town of Varina is talking about the 75-pound blue catfish a Richmond bait dunker caught. Not many people are trying, but the catfish at least are biting.
AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (..) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville area see quite a few small bass, nice sunfish and catfish. The bigger smallmouth bass seem to have taken a powder.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (.) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Late-night hours can result in rockfish for boaters who fish with fresh herring baits, but otherwise not much is happening. Daytime fishing has come to a standstill.
UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (..) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Recent thunderstorms and heavy rains discolored the water, but if no further rains occur, the fishing for smallmouths, catfish and fat sunnies will resume.
AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN
MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore boats return with bluefish, some tuna and even a marlin now and then. The fishing has been quite good when boats can get out before thunder squalls occur. In the surf waters at Ocean City, it’s mostly small kingfish, occasional snapper blues and some sand sharks. Flounder fishing has come to a grinding halt in this heat.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says the yellowfin tuna action has been decent but scattered. Fish are being caught all over the place mostly by trolling, although bait chunking accounts for some. You just have to cover some water to find a concentration of fish. More marlin are showing in the mix. Bluefin tuna and king mackerel can be found from the Fingers on in. Amberjacks are at the normal amberjack spots. The southern towers are your best bet, but these fish can be found over any number of wrecks off the coast. The fleet of boats at the Chesapeake Light Tower is happy. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.
Gene Mueller can be reached at email@example.com.