- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Despite heavy boat traffic, the Independence Day weekend provided superb fishing conditions up and down the Middle Atlantic States. For example, our regular Virginia saltwater informant, Ken Neill, went offshore to search for tunas. His party boated 15 yellowfins and one skipjack tuna. Similar reports are heard up and down the coast, including Delaware, where a state-record giant bluefin tuna of 820 pounds was caught. Think that’s huge? The world record, caught in 1979 in Nova Scotia waters, weighed 1,496 pounds.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake Bay chummers and trollers are scoring on medium-sized rockfish and bluefish, with night hours still best for croakers. Some Spanish mackerel are taken on small, trolled silver spoons. Surprisingly good bass fishing is reported in the tidal Potomac and Susquehanna rivers.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) continues to seek public comment regarding Atlantic menhaden options at public hearings. The closest one for Washington area anglers will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Potomac River Fisheries Commission headquarters, 222 Taylor Street, Colonial Beach, Va.

Chesapeake Bay fishermen are concerned that commercial netters are seining far too many of this small oily bait species, which is a major food source for gamefish. Your presence at such hearings is critical. It is important that sport fishermen show strong support for restoring menhaden populations.

The ASMFC is considering placing a cap on the commercial menhaden fishery, even though some conservationists urge a complete moratorium for a few years to allow the stocks to replenish. For more information, visit www.ccavirginia.org.

Last Sunday’s feature about light tackle charter fishing captain Jeff Popp, who works the St. Mary’s County sectors of the Chesapeake Bay, contained a phone number that doesn’t want to recognize strangers when they call. To alleviate that problem, Popp asked if we might run his cell phone number: 410/790-2015.


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — Around the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461), expect catfish, some bass and walleyes, but things definitely are in a summer pattern for this section of the river. However, fish can be caught. Downstream wherever you spot a weed bed and a few open pockets, work a blunt-nosed popping lure in erratic fashion and bass will be yours. Just ask Charles County bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062), who are scoring big time on bass with topwater popping lures. When the sun begins to “cook” the water, switch to wacky-rigged plastic worms. Of course, never overlook a sunken tree or a rockpile next to deep water that will serve as a sanctuary and also ambush point for bass. Croaker bites are simply not as good as they’ve been in years past around the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, but keeper rockfish have been caught by bucktail trollers just below the bridge along the channel edge near Buoy 33 and farther down toward the Wicomico. From Bushwood in the Wicomico River (St. Mary’s County side) some low-light croakers are possible. Quade’s Store in Bushwood, 301/769-3903, has rental boats and bait. Look also for spot and white perch in the river and the main stem of the Potomac. The St. George’s Island, Blackistone Island and Tall Timbers area shows small rockfish, some blues, croakers and spot, but catches have been sporadic.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Fish weed beds and spatterdock patches from the mouth clear up into the creek past Slavin’s ramp. Early-hour poppers and small buzzbaits will do the job on bass, many of them small. Switch to soft, scented plastics as the sun rises in the sky. Clam necks on bottom rigs find plenty of catfish.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) continues to deliver sunfish and small bass to flyrod poppers. Worm and bobber anglers also do well. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is still way down as far as water levels go, but some bass, crappies and sunfish are hooked by shore walkers.

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) deliver good numbers of catfish, bass and sunfish. Earliest hours are best during 90-degree-plus days.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Now is the time to fish as early as possible or as late as the reservoir allows. Early hours coupled to topwater poppers around obstruction in the water, stickups, points, rock formation, can result in bass. Soft, garlic-scented plastics can do well in deeper water after the sun is high in the sky. Try a bottom-fished live minnow and see if it won’t fool a channel catfish or a walleye.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Continued good success is noted by anglers looking for croakers, spot and young rockfish. Both sides of the mouth can turn up action, but it’s best when you wait for tides to move in the evenings or very early mornings. The Solomons public pier has given up a few croakers, but just above the pier area at Point Patience more croakers are available. Flounder catches have been down so far this year, but that can change quickly. White perch are showing up in some of the creeks and around main-stem points and oyster bars from Cuckold Creek upstream past Benedict. If you want a rental boat on Solomons Island, call or visit Bunky’s, 410/326-3241.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, park ranger Smokey Davis says, “Fishing was very good over the holiday weekend. Deep-running crankbaits in crawfish and baby bass patterns produced well in the mouths of coves and along rock walls. The crappie bite remains strong.” Davis says he saw a stringer of crappies that had 11/2 to 2-pounders. All were caught on live minnows over a deep-water blowdown. He also said the lake’s catfish love chicken livers or shrimp on bottom rigs.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Burke was named as the best bass lake in Northern Virginia after state electro-shock crews sampled the fish population, so get going. Plastic worms, small spinnerbaits, topwater buzzbaits or poppers are all you’ll need. Catfish abound here, as well.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — We can’t say whether strong thundershowers raised water levels any, but the smallmouth bass — although on the short side mostly — will continue to take a variety of grubs, tubes, crankbaits or topwater poppers and spinners from Washington County’s Taylor Landing downstream past Point of Rocks and into Montgomery County’s Edwards ferry and below. Catfish and redbreasted sunfish are available, as are occasional walleyes and a few tiger muskies.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) pitches tubes and spinnerbaits under main lake floating docks and around sunken wood in the backs of coves and connects on smallmouth and largemouth bass. Sunfish and yellow perch are hooked on worm baits in the coves.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Bass boaters are doing very well from above Garrett Island and the I-95 bridge, which are inside the river, then back downstream and out into the Susquehanna Flats. Weeds and fallen shoreline trees are giving up quality bass on wacky worm rigs, straight Texas and finesse worm rigs, as well as on spinnerbaits and various types of topwater lures. A few scattered rockfish are on the Flats, but they’re not very predictable.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — We’ll start with the lower Maryland parts of the bay. Christy Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), in St. Jerome’s Creek, says, “The bay came alive on Monday. Captains were chumming from Buoy 72 all the way down to Marker 7 in the Potomac River. There were large schools of breaking bluefish in the 2- and 3-pound range but also schools of rockfish on top of the water.” Christy also points out that Spanish mackerel have been found in some of the watermen’s pound nets. Some of the crabbers find flounder in their pots, so there’s no reason why minnow drifters shouldn’t score outside St. Jerome’s Creek clear down toward Point Lookout. Croakers and some rockfish are taken on the Mud Leads and the Middle grounds. Meanwhile, chum boats and trollers score on medium-sized rockfish and occasional bluefish from the Hoopers Island Light area across and up toward the Gooses and the Radar Towers, as well as over on the Eastern Shore side at the Diamonds and up around Bloody Point. Rockfish are hooked by chummers from Hackett’s Bar up to the mouth of the Chester River.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com or call 804/580-7292) says bluefish and throwback rockfish are the mainstay for most charter and private vessels. Evenings or early mornings are good for croakers almost anywhere from the mouth of the Potomac around the corner past Smith Point and down toward the Great Wicomico River, then on toward the Windmill Point area and the mouth of the Rappahannock River. In the lower bay, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says the waters are glistening with chum slicks as anglers await the bite of a cobia. The bite has been fairly good this summer. Large sheepshead are hooked around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and along with the sheepshead, fine flounder and occasional spadefish are taken on juicy baits.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river shows some croaker, perch and spot fishing, but not everybody is tearing up the fish here. Complaints are heard from the Cook’s Point stretch up to Cambridge. Still, a few bites are felt every day. Upper river bass fishing has been slow, although diligent bass boaters can score with plastic worms or slow-fished spinnerbaits around drops, ledges and sunken wood.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) This river continues to deliver bass bites from its upper reaches down to and past Pocomoke City. Senko-style worms or scented Power Worms do very well here, as will early-hour topwater baits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Marshyhope Creek bass fans have done fair using hard and soft jerkbaits and scented worms around the many obstructions in this creek. A few rockfish are accidentally hooked by spinnerbaits and crankbait users along marsh points and sand bars down around Vienna.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Typical Lake Anna summer fishing is the rule now. Arriving early and quitting by late morning isn’t a bad way to go. Work lake and creek points with topwater poppers, buzzbaits and wacky-rigged plastic worms when the sun isn’t cooking the water. Then switch over to Texas-rigged worms later. Occasionally, you’ll happen into a school of feeding rockfish above the splits, especially during daybreak. Have a popper or Rat-L-Trap ready when it happens.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Rain might have messed up the upper river water color for a little while, but we don’t think it will hurt the weekend smallmouth bass fishing. In the Fredericksburg stretch, a few large catfish are hooked, but the fishing should be better. Bass anglers from Hicks Landing down to Leedstown are doing fairly well. It’s not the Potomac’s rich bass population, but fish are caught.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass and sunfish are the mainstay and had better be pursued before noon. The fishing can be fine here, including channel catfish.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass like early morning poppers or buzzbaits but will go deep when the sun is up high and hot. Plastic worms and tubes will do well, as can spinnerbaits. Catfish like cut fish baits or clam necks.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Weekend jet skiers do everything they can to make a nuisance of themselves, so start very early and cast jerkbaits or wacky-rigged plastic worms around lake points, grass edges, boat docks and rip-rap. Soft plastics are better as the day wears on.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) From Clarksville up the lake a long way, blue catfish and flathead catfish are possible on fresh cut herring bait. Here, too, it’s summer-style bass fishing. Start early, work your topwater poppers and buzzbaits as long as possible, then switch to grubs or scented worms as the day wears on.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (*) — (Williamsburg area) Talk about a river that’s taken a nosedive, this is it. Bass anglers can’t explain why the largemouths aren’t here in profusion as they used to be. Meanwhile, it’s mostly bottom-rigging baits for catfish.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Some fat catfish are taken on bottom slab baits (usually cut herring or perch) from below Richmond down to Dutch Gap. Not much is heard about good bass catches.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas provide some smallmouth bass but no trophies. Largemouth bass are bigger and sometimes more cooperative.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (*) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Early hours again are recommended. Some decent strings of bass come from flooded stump fields or boat houses and are usually taken on scented plastic worms or spinnerbaits.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (****) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Terrific smallmouth bass fishing on a variety of lures, including flyrod streamers and poppers. Here’s hoping weekend rains don’t mess up the fishing.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) You can expect tuna, bluefish, shark and dolphin action this weekend — if there aren’t any changes in the rain patterns brought about by a tropical storm down South. Inshore fishing can turn up croakers and a few sea bass. Surf catches include kingfish, flounder, sand sharks and smaller bluefish. The flounder fishing in the backwaters simply hasn’t been very productive.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association says it’s a great time for tuna fishermen. “There are lots of yellowfin and bluefin [tunas] off the coast right now,” said Neill. Some of the yellowfins have weighed more than 80 pounds, with bluefins more than 100 pounds not uncommon. Offshore spots such as the Hot Dog, Fish Hook, or the 26-Mile Hill are productive. Big bluefish often are mixed in with the speedy tunas. The close-in towers hold amberjacks, with anglers around the Chesapeake Light Tower, for example, not complaining. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

You can e-mail us at gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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