- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Maryland striper trollers agree they have seen better days, but at the Bay Bridges near Annapolis a few fishermen pick up keeper striped bass now and then near the center span’s channel edges. These fish are taken by bucktail and spoon trollers, as well as bottom jiggers.

In the middle parts of the bay, trollers work the ship channel hoping to find an 18-inch-and-larger rockfish for dinner, but they come few and far between. The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said fishermen are trolling with medium-sized bucktails in tandem or behind an umbrella rig.

Of course, everybody hopes to tangle with an errant ocean striper that might weigh 50 pounds.

“The fish that are caught tend to be at the surface or down to 70 feet often over water as deep as 100 feet,” Lockwood said. “Places like the channel edges near Poplar Island, Bloody Point, the mouth of the Choptank and off Parkers Creek have been places where a few fish have been found.”

From his Tackle Box store in Lexington Park (St. Mary’s County), Ken Lamb said not much has changed as far as the rockfish are concerned. The fishing has been slow for most, but strong winds can be blamed for some of that. Lamb hopes newer arrivals of ocean rockfish into the Chesapeake will perk up the catches.

“A school of big rockfish could charge up the bay and start feeding in our section anytime,” Lamb said, “So we need to be vigilant, lest they come and go without notice.”

However, trolling for medium-sized rockfish in the 20- to 27-inch class remains good inside the Patuxent River.

“Double-rigged bucktails with the famous 8-ball pattern [black head, white tail] is the favorite lure system,” said Lamb, who also pointed out that Calvin Tyler’s parrot-color lures with the green skirts are coming on strong. “[Tyler’s] bucktails are beautiful and tempting to rockfish.”

Local bass and crappies delight — Strong winds kept Potomac bass and crappie hunters off the water earlier this week, but both species are taken on grubs, jigs and finesse drop-shot rigs from the Blue Plains waste treatment plant down to the Fox Ferry rocks, inside the Spoils Cove, across the river in Belle Haven Cove and in the Swan and Piscataway creeks. Mattawoman and Aquia creeks have been fair to good for bass and some crappies, with the Occoquan around the I-95 crossing also giving up some fish.

James River catfish and stripers — The tidal James River downstream of Richmond is turning up big blue catfish and a few hefty rockfish. Trollers connect on stripers with Redfin-style lures, but it’s the blue “cats” that attract bottom bait users from Dutch Gap to Walker’s Creek. A number of 40-pounders have been recorded.

Lake Gaston bass are biting — Local angler Marty Magone, who has a vacation home at Virginia’s Lake Gaston, reports the lake’s water temperatures are in the 50s and bass are still nailing crankbaits toward the backs of the creeks.

“Striper activity has picked up around the creek bridges when water is being generated,” Magone said.

Magone added spinnerbaits are the lures of choice when fishing remaining grass beds at the mouths of the creek junction at the main lake.

Kerr Lake crappies and stripers — Wind has been tough on fishermen, but some of the boaters find striped bass in Bluestone Creek, while creek and main lake brush piles and trees hold fine numbers of crappies. One of the tackle shops around Clarksville weighed a 21/2-pounder last week.

Ocean inlet produces — Tautogs are found in the Ocean City Inlet, as well as on bulkheads of the back bay and around the Route 50 bridge. Sand fleas and pieces of green crab continue to be the best baits. Watch for tidal changes. That’s when the fish become active. The Ocean City and Indian River inlets also turn up a few keeper striped bass. Use bucktails, Sassy Shads or small live eels if you can get them.

Maryland deer hunt — Maryland deer hunters shot 17,151 deer on the opening weekend of the modern firearm season, slightly down from last year’s first two days. Hunters took home 9,195 antlerless deer (164 sikas) and 7,956 antlered bucks (133 sikas).

This year’s deer hunting season is the first in which hunters can use a telephone or Internet reporting system instead of the traditional checking stations.

Washington County led the opening weekend hunt with 2,183 deer, and Sunday hunters on private lands in Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Washington counties contributed 2,462 of the 17,000-plus weekend total. The gun season continues through Dec.10.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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