Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In the Potomac River’s upper D.C. waters at the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove — a new name for what used to be simply known as Fletcher’s Boathouse — the shad fishing has declined somewhat, but the crew at the Boathouse says some of the American shad that have been hanging around are magnificent, weighing up to five pounds.

A patient, skilled angler could hook 10 or 15 in an outing — enough to make for sore arm muscles. Fletcher’s carries shad darts, District fishing licenses, bloodworms, nightcrawler and herring, plus it offers boat rentals. In addition to the shad, some legal-sized striped bass are possible, as are catfish.

The tidal bass waters of the Potomac is home to yet another large tournament this weekend. You’ll see 200 competition boats running up and down the river, hunting for 15-inch-and-up keeper largemouths. This week, we did well over submersed vegetation, rigging scented plastic worms in the “wacky” style, which means inserting a hook with a weedguard into the center of the worm and slowly dragging it through the green coonweeds and milfoil up in the river’s various feeder creeks.

In the Chesapeake Bay, the big stripers are slowly departing. The lack of large rockfish is being noticed up in the northern sectors around the Susquehanna Flats and other areas, but as you head down the bay, toward Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck, the trollers continue to strike it rich with trophy rockfish. Croakers are now inside the Patuxent River mouth, also at the Point Lookout State Park pier (especially at night) and inside the Potomac up to the Wicomico.

Fishermen who’ve been looking for black drum around Cape Charles, Va., and the famous Cabbage Patch waters in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake have been disappointed with the spotty action. However, the flounder fishing is going great guns, with Buoy 36A and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel showing plenty of action.

(Ratings key: ****]=excellent fishing; ***=Good; **=Fair; *=Poor.)


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — In the Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461) Dan tells us the big white shad (also known as American shad) are still available, just not in as great a number. But shad can be caught, along with keeper size rockfish, catfish and a few bass. Local angler Ernie Rojas put his boat into the river at Reagan National Airport last Friday and headed up toward Fletcher’s, where he and his pal John Casale caught more than a dozen small white perch that were converted into bait. The two eventually hooked six rockfish, more than a dozen channel catfish, and two blue catfish. Local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) use small plastic worms, such as the 3-inch Senko, and find bass action galore in grass beds, sunken wood, docks and rock piles. Now and then, the Baby 1-Minus crankbait delivers the goods when high, tidal water barely covers the submersed vegetation. White perch, bluegills and catfish are plentiful and available from the District down to western Charles County. Downstream, past the Route 301 bridge in Charles County, the Wicomico River around Bushwood wasn’t all that good to croaker fishermen last week, but we’re told that plenty of hardheads would be there this weekend. Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) has rental boats. Croakers and rockfish are caught below the Wicomico, from St. George’s Island down to the mouth.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — If you can find room on the water, what with another big tournament showing up in town, there’ll be bass caught with wacky-rigged plastic worms or very small Senko worms if you work the soft baits across weed pockets. Shallow-running crankbaits also do well. The bass are widely scattered from near the mouth clear up to Hancock’s gravel pit. Some fat crappies are caught.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (**) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) bluegills have been taking flies and poppers from flyrodders checking out the shoreline shallows. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) is extremely shallow while dam repairs are made, but Ken Lamb reports that crappies can be caught as some jonboaters slip their craft into the lake from a bare shore that currently is hard enough to walk on. Heavy rains can change that quickly, however.

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) sees flyrod poppers catching sunfish and some bass. Catfish like cut baits or clam necks are on bottom rigs.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Catch-and-release bass continue to provide sport around lake point dropoffs and some of the sunken wood in the lakes. Soft scented worms, such as Strike King’s Zero or Berkley’s Power Worm in pumpkinseed, electric blue, or junebug, will do the job. Stick with it; be patient. You’ll enjoy success. Crappies and sunfish are plentiful.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says, “Croakers are caught nightly from the shore off Cedar Point on the Naval Air Station.” Daytime croaker hunters are not doing all that well. Lamb also added that boat renters at Bunky’s in Solomons (410/326-3241) will be loading up with croakers this weekend. Let’s hope he’s right because this has been a screwy croaker season so far.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, ranger Smokey Davis said, “Last week’s rains have left the reservoir high and discolored. That, coupled with the post-spawn period, have slowed the bass catches. They still can be caught in deep channels and points, or in blowdowns.” Soft plastics have been best for bass. Small shad darts fished two or three feet under a bobber will deliver crappies in flooded brush. Bluegills and catfish are biting.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappies and bluegills are quite active, as are catfish, but the bass have been playing tough to get.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the upper river is in great shape — 21/2 feet deep on average, clear, with 70 degree water temperatures. Smallmouth bass have been found in fine numbers below dams No.4 and No.5. Jerkbaits, small spinnerbaits and tubes work well on the bass there and downstream toward Montgomery County. Walleyes have been widely scattered, but crankbaits, such as a Shad Rap, can find fish occasionally. Try and fish the last hour before darkness sets in, advises Mullican. Mullican also landed a 44-inch tiger muskellunge on a topwater lure last weekend. From the White’s Ferry to Edwards Ferry stretch in Montgomery County, Daniel Wissinger writes, “I caught about 50 fish Sunday: mostly smallmouths, two largemouths, and a few bluegills.” Wissinger used 31/2-inch white Producto grubs on a silver jighead.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 210 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (301/596-5712, evenings) says the lake’s water temperatures are still in the high 50s and the smallmouth bass are bedding on main-lake flats where rocks are found. Largemouth bass are getting ready to spawn. Look for bass to be positioned under the dock walkways near the banks in shallow water. Walleye fishing continues to be good in gin-clear water. Use medium-size shiners on a brightly colored jighead. Crappies are still shallow and big bluegills are being taken on nightcrawlers under a slip bobber.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — Some striped bass are hooked on the Susquehanna Flats, but the bigger specimens are beginning to leave the northern bay now. Largemouth bass fishing will attract the next batch of boaters who’ll work from the Flats into the river to Havre de Grace and Port Deposit. White perch are everywhere.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Christy Henderson sent a note to inform us that she and her husband, Michael, bought Buzz’s Marina down in St. Mary’s County. She wrote, “We are located on St. Jerome’s Creek, minutes from Point No Point on the Chesapeake Bay. The fishing here has been fantastic. We have seen record numbers of large stripers caught. The croakers, sea trout and flounder [should] start to show this weekend. We have fresh ground chum and other assorted baits for anyone wanting to come try us out. We are a full service marina, with a small store, bait, ice, ramp and gasoline. Our phone number is 301/872-5887.” There you go. Welcome, Hendersons. Meanwhile, Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, thinks every rockfish on the East Coast is hanging around in the Southern Maryland parts of the Chesapeake Bay. “Trollers steadily brought in big fish all week,” he said. Even shore-bound anglers have scored from beaches and the Point Lookout State Park pier, as well as boaters who work the adjacent Potomac River. The only low point among trollers is the upper Bay where the big breeder rockfish have mostly left and only a few are hooked between the Bay Bridge and Deale. Small stripers, however, are in good supply.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Capt. Billy Pipkin (Ingram Bay Marina, Heathsville, Va., 804/580-7292) finds rockfish of note all around the deeper waters of the Northern Neck, while small-boaters connect on croakers closer to land around dropoffs, duck blinds, channels and points from the Great Wicomico north to Smith Point and south to the Rappahannock River. Black drum fishermen who set up their weighted rigs and clam baits around Cape Charles, or Buoy 13 and the Cabbage Patch, are disappointed with the numbers of big drum. Catches have been sparse, but some locals say when the drum bite is poor in May, the big bottom feeders will take up station along the abutments and rock piles of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in June and July and the fishing will be great then. We’ll see.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) White perch are biting and so are the channel catfish, but we can’t get a decent bass report from anybody.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass in the 1- to 3-pound range like 4-inch Senkos and 5-inch Zero worms, fished without a slip sinker in the sunken wood along the shorelines and along spatterdock edges. Some fine bluegills and catfish are caught on baits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Marshyhope Creek on the Maryland side and Broad Creek on the Delaware side have given up a fair number of bass to casters of soft plastic, scented worms, spinnerbaits, shallow crankbaits, even some topwater poppers. Check out all the main stem drops (marked by channel markers) with deep-running crankbaits.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Bass like Carolina-rigged worms and lizards, but Senkos and Zeroes also do well when fished Texas-style around lake rock piles, points and brush piles that also hold plenty of crappies. The bass action can be good all over the lake.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Smallmouth bass are taking tube grubs and jigs, as well as spinners and small buzz baits, from the Rapidan down toward Fredericksburg. In Fredericksburg, catfish and some perch are possible, but the shad run has slowed to a crawl.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappie fishing would be my choice for the weekend — that or flyrodding for sunfish. The bass like small crankbaits or 4-inch scented worms in junebug or pumpkinseed colors.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Good numbers of fat bluegills await you if you like to “pop” for the sunfish using a light flyrod and reel, with the line tied to Nos.8 or 10 poppers or Black Gnats, Bumblebees and Spiders.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) “Fished last Friday,” said Gaston specialist Marty Magone. “I caught and released some spawner bass on a weightless wacky worm in a number of bays up in Hawtree. I found large concentrations of threadfin shad being herded and devoured in emerging pads all the way back to Hawtree. We caught them on a weedless frog lure or on a Johnson Silver Minnow.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie catches are really doing well, with bass numbers slowly increasing. The backs of creeks and around secondary points have been good for turning up largemouth bass for boaters who cast soft or hard jerkbaits, plastic worms, or spinnerbaits. Nutbush Creek area anglers connect on a few stripers during the dark hours.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) Catfish, bluegills and a few fat crappies are here. Where are the keeper bass?

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are hooked now and then, with a few strong stripers seen inhaling large jerkbaits or Sassy Shad lures below Hopewell. Bass fishing in the feeder creeks and back coves on the river has been fair.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (*) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas deliver plenty of smallmouth bass, but many have lesions and some are found floating, dead. We will temporarily discourage the fishing there until the state comes up with a definite source for the fish kills and ailments.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Bass love 4-inch scented worms, or medium-depth crankbaits around boat houses, stump fields and lake points. Some fat crappies are taken on live minnow baits or with white curly-tailed grubs fished in brushy spots.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Good smallmouth bass catches are made with tubes, jigs, spinners or streamer flies. Only heavy rains will ruin what appears to be a great weekend.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Tautog fishing inside the Ocean City Inlet and the backwaters behind the resort city’s skyline has been terrific. Pieces of green crab or sand fleas are the best baits. Surf fishermen from Assateague to Ocean City occasionally hook up with large chopper bluefish but also smaller ones known as “snappers.” A Bishopville, Md., angler, Allen Sklar, hooked a 52-pound, 14.4-ounce rockfish in the surf at Assateague, using a fresh menhaden as bait. It might be a state record in the Atlantic Division, which is kept separate from rockfish caught in the Chesapeake Bay.

VIRGINIA : 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — The Atlantic barrier islands near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay have been attracting fresh arrivals of channel bass (red drum). Sea bass are at the Triangle Wrecks. Eastern Shore flounder boaters score fairly well most days. When the wind lays down, offshore boats venture out looking for tunas, but none are taken just yet. Near the North Carolina state line, wahoo and dolphin already cooperate, but the tuna bite has slowed, says Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fishermen’s Association. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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