- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hot, humid summer weather isn’t always welcomed by area anglers, but the tuna fishermen in the offshore waters of the Middle Atlantic States love it because the fish seem to arrive with the sultry climate. They’re now hooked in the ocean from Virginia’s Triple Os and the Cigar up to Maryland’s canyon waters, where a few billfish and fine dolphinfish also are showing up.

In the Chesapeake Bay, the chumming in Southern Maryland portions can be terrific. Rockfish up to four and five pounds and croakers don’t mind inhaling juicy slivers of menhaden that are cast into the chum line. Despite reports of plenty of bluefish in the bay, during two separate bay fishing trips in the past seven days, I have yet to see one. I’m sure some of you have, but they stayed away from the two charter fishing boats I have been on.

The upper tidal Potomac River will be a madhouse again this weekend when another 200-plus boat pro bass tournament is held out of Smallwood State Park. Are you among those who believes it’s far too hot out there to keep live bass inside a small aerated livewell for seven hours or so? I do.

Before we forget, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will conduct a meeting June29 at 7 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Annapolis to gather public comment on an addendum to the current menhaden management plan. The addendum includes options to limit the catch of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast while research is conducted to determine whether localized depletion of menhaden is occurring in the bay.

The Menhaden Management Board will meet in August to review public comment on the draft addendum and consider its final approval. You are encouraged to provide input on the addendum either by attending the public hearing or providing written comments. Copies of the draft addendum can be obtained at www.asmfc.org under breaking news or by contacting the ASMFC at 202/289-6400.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — In the waters around the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) summer fishing is settling in. You will hook a few hefty catfish, some bass and maybe a walleye or a straggler rockfish. Charles County bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) say the fishing has been fine. Best of all, you don’t require a bunch of tackle. Before the sun bakes the water, try a topwater Pop-R or any other blunt-nosed popper. Fish it over subsurface weedbeds or in open pockets between water weeds or spatterdock. Andrzejewski says the bass have been “crushing” those poppers. Later, as the sun warms the surface and bass will go deeper for a plastic worm, including the usual producers like Senko, Zero and Power Worm. The guides say junebug, watermelon/green fleck or Power Worms in blue fleck can do quite a job on the bass in weed pockets, sunken wood and stone piles anywhere from Wilson Bridge down to the Potomac and Aquia creeks in Virginia. Croaker fishermen are still singing the blues around the Route 301 bridge in Charles County. We keep hearing locals tell us that as soon as it gets hot and humid, the croakers will bite. Well, what are they waiting for? In the Wicomico River, there are rental boats on Cobb Island or on the St. Mary’s County side at Bushwood (call Quade’s Store in Bushwood, 301/769-3903), but daytime croakers anglers haven’t done all that well. Downstream in the Potomac, you will find croakers during the dark hours from St. George’s Island to Cornfield Harbor. Small rockfish are trolled up in the same stretch.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — It’s tournament time again at Smallwood State Park, although by Saturday the competition boats will have been pared down to just a handful. The creek has been quite good for early hour topwater action, followed mostly by spinnerbait and plastic worms that are required when the sun “fries” the top layers of the creek. Catfish catches have been good. Use bottom-fished clam necks.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is sure to provide plenty of sunfish for flyrodders or kids with hooks, worms and bobbers. Surprisingly well-fed bass live here, but you must let them go. This is a catch-and-release lake all year long. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road), there has been unusually good bass fishing despite low water conditions. Fat sunfish also are hooked.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (***) — Arrive early at Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) with flyrod and poppers and you will have a ball in either lake, catching bluegills and small bass. Short plastic worms and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits also attract bass. Catfish like bottom-fished clam necks or chicken livers. How do you keep chicken liver on a hook? Tie a hairnet around the bait and hook, secure it with a rubber band above the hook’s eyelet and cut off any remaining net.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass, sunfish, catfish and crappies can be caught if you observe summertime rules, such as start early, quit early. The heat will take a toll in shallow water but not in deep drops around lake points.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park reports that the Chinese Mud in the mouth of the river gives up croakers during the low-light hours. Nighttime is best, but daybreak also can deliver fish. One report had croakers biting inside the river up at Broomes Island and white perch slapping the daylights out of small Beetlespin and assorted spinnerbait lures around oyster bars in the river. Bunky’s in Solomons (410/326-3241) has rental boats.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The reservoir is full and clear with water temperatures in the mid to high 70s. Topwater action has been good, but when the sun hits the treetops it’s best to go to a deep crankbait or a Carolina-rigged plastic worm on the inside points of deep coves and main-lake points.” Smokey says the crappie bite is still good, with minnows being the best bait. Channel catfish love chicken livers or clam snouts.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) A reader worked the shorelines with a flyrod and popping bug or a Black Gnat sinking fly and caught dozens of fat bluegills and even some young bass. Catfish have shown a preference for clam snouts. If you want a bass, use scented, 4-inch plastic worms.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the river is low and clear with good, steady action seen by smallmouth bass anglers. Crawfish-pattern crankbaits and topwater lures can do a fine job from Washington County to Montgomery County. Think small when choosing lures, though.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) is finding largemouth and smallmouth bass early and late as summer heat is reaching even the normally cooler Garrett County. Look around floating docks, lake points and sunken wood in the backs of coves. By the way, large bluegills are the rule up here.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Conowingo Dam water releases have been slow in coming, the DNR’s Keith Lockwood says. That can affect fishing in the tidal river down to and past Port Deposit, but Lockwood says if you wait until the sun goes down, various topwater lures will do a fine job on smallmouth and largemouth bass. The bass catches, however, are fine on the Susquehanna Flats, as are hookups with awesomely strong catfish now and then.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — The upper and middle bay portions have had a rollercoaster ride as far as catches of rockfish are concerned. One day it’s great; the next it’s awful. The Stone Rock and Sarps Island Light areas, however, turn up occasional large black drum, with the biggest this week weighing more than 70 pounds. Some fat croakers swim around with the big drumfish, waiting for leftovers when a drum chews up clams, crabs and whatever else it can find. Things improve greatly for rockfish hunters when they look for hookups in Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore waters. Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports plenty of fine fishing for croakers and chummed-up rockfish around buoys 72 and 72A. Check out also the area known as the Mud Leads. Chummers are doing well, Lamb says, with rockfish and blues on the edge of the ship channel, while trollers find keeper-size rockfish in the same areas as long as they drag bucktails, spoons, or surgical tubing behind the boat. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) has been busy because her yellow labrador had a bunch of puppies Tuesday, but she echoes Lamb’s report about croakers, rockfish and even blues being on the Mud Leads. She also told us about angler Mike Parsons, who was jigging on the Southwest Middlegrounds with a Bass Assassin when a black drum inhaled it. That’s a rare occurrence, a black drum striking an artificial lure. Check Buzz’s Web site and you can see the fish. A final note: Spanish mackerel have been hooked at the mouth of the Chesapeake. They will be in Maryland before you know it.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (****) — Capt. Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com or call 804/580-7292) is finding plenty of croakers and increasing numbers of bluefish during the closed rockfish season. He’s fishing from the Smith Point Light down toward the Rappahannock River mouth. The biggest action, however, can be found around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel toward the mouth of the bay. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association said large flounder, sheepshead, spadefish and occasional rockfish or croakers make the bridge-tunnel rock piles, abutments and islands the top place to fish in the Chesapeake. The lower bay also shows good chances for cobias, and now and then a whopper black drum is hooked around the bridge-tunnel islands. To top it off, Spanish mackerel have arrived, and they will charge up the bay toward Maryland.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) There were a bunch of croakers and perch in the mouth of the river last week, but locals tell us the croaker bite has slowed down a bit. That could be temporary, so don’t give up just yet. The Cambridge fishing bridge also isn’t turning up red-hot perch or croaker bites. Bass catches are fair from Greensboro down to Martinak State Park.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Local bass boaters are doing quite well with Baby 1-Minus lures, short plastic worms and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits around sunken tree rots and fallen timber or spatterdock pockets.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) The largemouth bass like 4-inch Senko or 5-inch garlic-scented Zero worms on main stem blowdowns and in sunken wood inside various creeks. Rattle baits work along some of the marsh banks below Sharptown.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Main-lake bass and stripers are possible, especially in the early and late hours when topwater popping and buzzbaits can score. Of course, you must fish in deeper layers, using jig’n’craw lures or plastic worms around drops, channels and lake points when the sun is up.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) The tidal water bass fishing is slow for some reason, and the blue catfish haven’t really started yet. But upstream way above Fredericksburg, the smallmouth bass fishing can be fine. Charles Stanley sent an e-mail saying, “I had a great day on the Rappahannock. I floated the 11-mile stretch from Kelly’s Ford to the Rappahannock River Campground [and caught] a number of smallmouth bass, a few largemouth bass, some red-eyes and one chain pickerel.” Stanley hooked and lost two smallmouth bass that were at least 18 inches long. All the fish were caught either on a Murray’s Lead Eye Hellgrammite pattern, a Woolly Bugger or 3-inch tubes in pumpkin pepper or chartreuse.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass like early hour topwater poppers but go for plastic worms later in the morning. Sunfish and catfish are easy to come by.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappie action has slowed but not the bluegills and catfish. They’re willing if you are. Bass like slow-fished plastic worms or 1/4-ounce crankbaits in medium-diver sizes if you can find open water to cast them in.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Here, too, it’s topwater popper or buzzbait time. The bass will crunch a slowly jerked Pop-R around the edge of a weed bed or in the back of a boat house. Soft plastics are productive as the sun heats the water.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (**) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Lots of dead stripers are seen because of gill grub infestations. But the white bass catches haven’t been this good in a long time. If you want to try it, head toward Bluestone Creek. Bass catches are down.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles ([*) [-] (Williamsburg area) Catfish are biting. That’s it. No bass worth mentioning.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Slow going on catfish even. Blue catfish bites have not really resumed since the big bottom feeders spawned.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas are turning up bass for flyrodders and spinning gear users on a number of lures and streamers. Sunfish and catfish are in good supply.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (*) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Slow going for all species. There’s hardly any bass action worth mentioning, and even the stripers have lockjaw.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass catches have been super. A variety of spinning lures and gear or flyrodding equipment works. The only thing that can ruin the great fishing would be heavy rains.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Yellowfin tunas and dolphinfish will make offshore outings worthwhile now that the tunas especially are moving from North Carolina and Virginia waters into Maryland. Bluefish are everywhere around the Jackspot and the Fingers. Shark fishing has been slow. Flounder catches in the backwaters behind Ocean City hasn’t been the best, but rockfish continue to bite well around the Route 50 bridge and the inlet.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association says, “Tuna action is very good right now. Fish are caught from the Triple Os up to the Washington Canyon. Be sure to check the bluefin regulations.” Gaffer dolphin are hooked and some fine billfish are seen on the offshore grounds. The Eastern Shore flounder fishing is good, but keeper-size doormats are way down from Chincoteague to Wachapreague. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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