- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The weekend fishing for ocean species, such as marlin and tuna, depends entirely on Ophelia. Chances are there’ll be strong winds, rain and general misery for Atlantic and lower Chesapeake Bay boaters. Perhaps it’s best they stay in safe harbors. Even if the storm moves a great deal farther east, there’ll be remnant winds that would make fishing a real chore.

Affected to a lesser degree, but still not very inviting, might be the waters of the Chesapeake Bay around Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the general Hampton Roads area. However, with a little luck, upper bay parts in Maryland should be fishable.

Meanwhile, the upper portions of tidal rivers in Maryland and Virginia will present a variety of sport fishing. It begins with the tidal Potomac from Washington south to western Charles County, where largemouth bass catches can be very good. This time of year it’s mostly the use of topwater lures early in the day and soft plastics as the sun drives the fish down that will deliver good outings.

While forecasts of heavy rains greet anglers in eastern North Carolina and Virginia, the fishermen in the mountains of the Middle Atlantic states could use a nice, prolonged, soft rain to help raise water levels in all the rivers where smallmouth bass, sunfish and walleyes thrive.

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


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461) and vicinity shows continued low water conditions and mostly catfish and a few bass for rental boaters and shore walkers. Bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are using early-morning topwater lures and cast them around the edges of hydrilla and milfoil beds on the main stem and in the feeder creeks. Occasionally, good surface catches are seen. As the sun rises, the guides switch to a variety of soft plastics that include Berkley Power Worms, Strike King Zero worms, Senkos, and some finesse worms. Marsh banks in the feeder creeks can hold excellent numbers of bass as long as it’s a type of bank that goes from very shallow to deep quickly. Downriver, especially toward the lower end, Cornfield Harbor near Point Lookout has shown to hold flounder for minnow drifters, and mid-river trollers and sight casters score on a mix of rockfish and blues. Some of the ditches and drops near shore and in the feeder creek mouths are home to Norfolk spot. In the Wicomico River, rental boaters who start at Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) find perch and spot, maybe an odd catfish on baits.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Check out the areas where wood is found along the banks but also work the marshy sides of the creek with plastic worms and very light slip sinkers. The bass will do the rest. I’ve done well on Green Pumpkin/Red Flake Zero worms, but others score on junebug and blue fleck colors. Occasionally, a shallow crankbait can be worked along a grassy edge and get results.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows mostly sunfish and some small bass, but this lake surprises with some real whopper bass now and then. The bass must be let go. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) has been slow for most bass angling visitors, but the low water and no rain have made a difference.

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) will deliver some fat sunfish and catfish, but you can hook bass if you concentrate on slow, easy fishing around weed edges and waterlogged obstacles with 4-inch Senko worms and the like. I prefer a 4-inch blue fleck Berkley Power Worm that is very effective. However, finding the blue fleck color in local stores might be a problem. In that case, use a junebug color or green pumpkin.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Both lakes need a little rain to help spark up the water, but for the bass locate some sunken wood or rock-filled lake points, then cast spinnerbaits and slowly retrieve them. If that doesn’t work, be sure to fish with a 4-inch ring worm or Berkley Bungee worm and slowly move it around underwater obstructions. You’ll get “bit,” as they say down South.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that breaking rockfish of 12 to 15 inches are in the mouth of the river daily, with birds wheeling and diving for scraps, but legal 18-inch-and-over are scarce. There is good news for bottom fishermen. Norfolk spot and white perch are plentiful in the river from Benedict to the Chinese Muds. The perch are big and eager most everywhere you fish. Spot are hanging out from the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek to the Three Legged Marker, (No. 3), which also delivers some flounder. Ken Lamb says the perch love to chase after the whirling blades of Beetle Spins, Mepps spinners and 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits of any manufacture. He says a tiny bit of artificial Fishbites in the bloodworm flavor enhances the strikes.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) area, park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The reservoir is down 4 feet and with the return of warm weather the bass bite has slowed considerably. The bass have moved back into deeper water off mainlake points or are suspended in the river channel. Carolina-rigged soft plastics or soft stickbaits pitched into deep blowdowns work best right now. The catfish are hitting cut baits or clam snouts, and the crappie bite remains strong off the pier and around boat docks. The water is still dingy with surface temperatures ranging between 79 and 82 degrees.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early and late hours are best for a chance to hook bass. Small plastic worms and various jerkbaits, including soft Zoom Flukes, will attract a largemouth if you fish around brushy areas or lake points.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — Extremely low flow conditions were reported as this was written yesterday. Smallmouth bass are possible mostly in the deeper river pools found anywhere from Knoxville down to the Edwards Ferry area of the river. But don’t get your hopes up about having a banner smallmouth day.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326 or fishdeepcreek.com) finds numbers of smallmouth and largemouth bass by skipping plastic worms under floating boat docks or fishing the very early hours with a topwater lure across or alongside various lake weed beds.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — The lower Susky’s weed fields are thick and tough to penetrate with lures, but there are some whopper bass hiding under them that can be coaxed into striking with a Texas-rigged scented, fast-sinking worm (don’t use a slip sinker). The water from the Conowingo Dam to Port Deposit and on to Havre de Grace is very low, but spinnerbaits and plastic worms or grubs will catch bass.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek, St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson reports, “Rockfish in the 25- to 28-inch range were caught trolling in the Triangle. Trollers also took a number of Spanish mackerel around the Targets, while the chummers from Buoy 72 to Buoy 68 caught mostly 5- to 6-pound bluefish mixed in with some rockfish. There were breaking fish from Point No Point to Point Lookout. Charter captain ‘Walleye’ Pete Dahlberg got into them and caught a bunch casting top water lures. He and his party got a fish on nearly every cast. Some good-sized spot and a few croakers were taken from the mouth of St. Jerome’s Creek. We’re curious to see how Ophelia affects things later this week.” Meanwhile, Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301/863-8151) says, “The bigger rockfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel are moving up and down the edges of the ship’s channel with almost blinding speed. If trollers find some decent fish and call a buddy on the radio, the fish are gone before anyone can get there. But this does not mean you can’t get some rockfish up to 27 inches or blues up to 6 pounds trolling medium-sized spoons and double bucktail rigs anywhere from the Gooses down to the Target ship. Chumming on the Middle Grounds still works, but it’s hit or miss for decent-sized rock.” The upper and middle bay delivers a mix of rockfish and various sizes of bluefish, occasionally also a Spanish mackerel. Chummers and trollers score from Pooles Island south clear down to the Thomas Point area and on toward the deeper waters east of Herring Bay, as well as across to the eastern side of the ship channel.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (captbillyscharters.com or 804/580-7292) says, “There are still many bluefish in the chum lines. The stronger the tide flows, the more prevalent the bluefish become. The Buoy 62 and Northern Neck Reef areas continue to hold 2- to 5-pound bluefish during times of easy tidal flow. My charters have been landing bluefish up to 10 pounds this week while trolling the lumps and edges. The chopper-size blues have brought back vivid memories of the late 1970s, when these tackle busters were running rampant in our waters. The channel edges have seen action some mornings and most evenings. Drone spoons fished behind small planers are all you need to land the blues. Croaker and spot are beginning their southward journey. They’re schooling at the mouths of creeks and moving toward the bay waters. The mud leads off Smith Island are producing a fair haul of spot this week as has the mouth of Tangier Sound, where a mix is available. The effects from Hurricane Ophelia should move out of our region by Friday and clear the way for good weather this weekend.” Down the bay, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association reports, “Some nice flounder and croaker were caught at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.” But no one knows for sure yet how strong the winds will blow down that way this weekend.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river is sure to provide some catches of snapper bluefish, rockfish and perch, with occasional forays by the same three species clear up to Cambridge’s fishing bridge. The bass fishing slowed down again this week in the Denton to Greensboro areas, but skilled plastic worm users can score in shoreline wood and around spatterdock fields.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Just below Snow Hill, on the way to Shad Landing, occasional e-mailer Jack Alfredson told us he had a fine day hooking average size bass on Baby 1-Minus lures and small plastic worms. Catfish are easy to find with worm or clam neck baits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Seaford, Del., area bass anglers have done well alongside marsh banks and spatterdock patches using plastic worms and early hour topwater poppers. The Marshyhope Creek hasn’t delivered real well this week, but who cares as long as the rest of the river turns up some bass action.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Finding underwater humps and ditches between main lake waters and creek entrances has been a winner for plastic worm anglers who aren’t afraid to drop their baits into 15- and 20-foot depths., but during the early hours before the sun warms the water, topwater lures can score up and down the lake’s many points. Trollers find some early morning rockfish not far from Anna Point Marina.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Everybody’s talking about it. The tidal water bass are biting from around Hicks Landing down to Port Royal and on toward the Leedstown stretch. Most of the fish come from shallow wood and spatterdock that sit near deep water. Upper river smallmouths need some rain. The river is very low above Fredericksburg.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Catfish and bass aren’t bashful about taking a lure or a minnow bait. Surprisingly, some of the channel catfish will jump on a Berkley Gulp! grub. The chartreuse grubs seem to work best when slowly hopped around the bottom.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Plastic worms do well but use small finesse models on drop-shot rigs or Texas rigs with light slip sinkers. You don’t want to use anything that’s too bulky now. Catfish like clam necks in the deeper channel, even from the little pier near the concession stand.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Up- and down-lake, the plastic worm is the better bass producer, although topwater poppers and buzzbaits continue to draw hits in and around weedbeds before the sun gets too high. Catfish are caught in good numbers.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Land-locked rockfish and largemouth bass turned on during the past week, but with the arrival of hotter, humid weather, we don’t know if it will continue. However, catfish catches go on unabated.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Will wonders ever cease? Somebody hooked a bass that weighed more than 6 pounds, and some of the visiting anglers this week actually did very well on bass. This is the river that’s supposed to be devoid of bass.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue and flathead catfish provide 90 percent of the action here in water so clear you can nearly see the bottom. Rain will change that in a hurry. It might arrive this weekend.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch have been good to bass fishermen who find live baits such as minnows more productive than lures, but grubs and tubes work nicely, too. Water is super clear.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) It’s strictly summer pattern bass fishing now. Early hours call for topwater lures and jerkbaits, followed by a water-warming sun and anglers switching to plastic worms that are cast around boat houses and stickups. Rockfish catches haven’t been very good this week.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) is low and very clear. Smallmouth bass anglers wade or drift and make long casts with light outfits, using 1/8-ounce jig hooks with chartreuse/pepper tube baits pulled over the hooks.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Everything depends on Ophelia and the direction into which she’ll track. A lot of “ifs” come into play. If the storm heads far east out into the Atlantic, there might be some inshore fishing, although remnant winds probably would put a crimp even into that. If there is no wind at all, the offshore canyons would turn up skipjack tunas, yellowfins, wahoos, dolphinfish and some marlin. The Jackspot shows false albacore and bluefish. Bluefish, stripers and some croakers are in the inlet at Ocean City, with many throwback flounder taken in the backwaters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says, “Wind and more wind has brought fishing to a near standstill.” Whenever the chance presented itself before the wind blew, there were marlin, tuna, dolphin and wahoo catches in fine numbers, but now it’s all up to Ophelia. Flounder fishing in the backwaters of Chincoteague and Wachapreague hasn’t turned up much action. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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