- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

Strong breezes along the middle Atlantic Ocean fronts last week kept many boaters tied to their docks, but those who went out scored mightily on yellowfin tunas, dolphinfish, bluefish, scattered billfish and wahoos. This is particularly true of the Virginia coastline.

Good fishing also was had up and down the Chesapeake Bay, and the merry parade of fish-catching boaters continues. From Poole’s Island in the upper Chesapeake down to Tangier Sound and the Northern Neck of Virginia, scads of rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel are hooked by trollers. Occasionally, surprisingly large redfish (red drum) are hooked by crab bait drifters around the Maryland/Virginia state line.

Inside the saltwater portions of the Rappahannock, Potomac and Patuxent rivers, you will find great numbers of fat Norfolk spot, white perch and various sizes of bluefish. As you head up into the tidal rivers, the Potomac holds the spotlight for bass anglers. Good catches of largemouths are seen by topwater and plastic worm users from the District’s waters down to western Charles County.

Only the mountain rivers have been a little disappointing, but that’s to be expected because there hasn’t been enough rain to raise the water levels and allow better fishing access with johnboats and rafts. All the same, a few fighting smallmouth bass are hooked from the low waters of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania down to Virginia’s James River.

…. = Excellent … = Good .. = Fair . = Poor

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — The Boathouse at Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road, 202/244-0461) and adjacent river areas are good mostly for catfish, but some bass and occasional walleyes are seen. Bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) said, “We are still finding quality bass in grass beds. We start with topwater poppers during low-light conditions and while the tide is high work over the flooded vegetation. As the sun rises and the tide drops, we move to the outside edges of the grass and fish with stick worms and finesse worms rigged on a 1/8-ounce or 1/4-ounce slider head. Bass also will hit small crankbaits in firetiger or blue/chrome colors as well as white spinnerbaits with tandem Colorado blades in gold/chrome. Trees extending into the water beyond the grass edges have been producing some good size bass. Flipping boat docks with Berkley’s 4-inch Pulse Worms in the blue fleck color has also worked. The outgoing tide is by far the best, but some decent bass can be caught during incoming tides.” The lower Potomac has plenty of good spot fishing and a chance for scattered keeper rockfish and tasty young bluefish. In the Wicomico River, rental boaters who start at Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) continue to hook perch and some spot. Forget the croakers. They’re gone.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — If you can work a shallow and medium depth crankbait in crawfish or firetiger colors along the edges of a weed bed or marsh bank or around sunken wood, you might hook a bass. But soft plastic worms still are the most productive lures.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is fine mostly for sunfish fanciers, although bass can be hooked and released here, too. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) has shore walkers connecting on a few bass and plenty of sunfish.

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) are good for bass, sunfish and catfish especially if you fish as early or late as possible. Plastic worms on light slip sinkers or even weightless worms, rigged in “wacky” style, can produce bass catches.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood tells us about Laurel’s Peter Shumacher, who latched onto a 38-inch tiger muskie with a large Mepps bucktail spinner, then had a 36-inch rockfish a day later that struck a swimming bait. Meanwhile, early hours and lake points are a good combination for bass. Work topwater poppers around the edges of a point, then switch to plastic worms and you will score.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says, “Norfolk spot are still in the river and on the Chinese Muds. Perch fishing is as good as it gets. If you can see water, you are in the presence of white perch. Mixed with the perch are some 14- to 16-inch puppy drum that will take your spinnerbaits (orange Beetle Spins are my favorites). Puppy drum have to be 18 inches to keep in Maryland waters. A bit of peeler crab on the lure will drive the fish crazy as will a tiny piece of the bloodworm-flavored Fishbites and genuine bloodworms, too, of course.”

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From the area of Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “Buzz baits will take bass very early, but the bite doesn’t last long, so then go to deep blowdowns with jigs or brush hogs. Low water conditions have moved the crappies off the [Fountainhead] pier and boardwalk to deep blowdowns on the main lake. Catfish still are biting well on cut bait or chicken livers and bluegills remain plentiful. The reservoir is down five to six feet. Care must be taken when launching a boat. The water is still stained with surface temperatures hovering at the 80-degree mark.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Rebel and Rapala jerkbaits can draw a strike from a bass if you cast it around shoreline stickups and such. Plastic worms are fine when worked slowly around jutting lake points, but you need to drag that worm down slowly from shallow to deep water.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — The water is low again this week. Only some of the deeper pockets hold catchable smallmouth bass anywhere between Washington and Montgomery counties. The fishing will get a lot better when rain comes and raises river levels.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326 or check out fishdeepcreek.com) finds largemouth and smallmouth bass skipping plastic tubes or soft 4-inch worms under floating docks. Edges of weed beds also hold some decent fish. Coves are good for fat sunfish and some yellow perch.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — No water discharges are coming through Conowingo Dam; hence, there are clear and low water conditions. If you make it to the areas outside of Havre de Grace, you will find bass and baby rockfish in the weed beds. Wacky worms and topwater grass rats and frogs work well.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson reports, “Over the weekend the full moon made the bay come alive for night fishermen. One of them, George Hashman, anchored below the Southwest Middlegrounds close to Smith Island and caught 12 citation croakers. He also kept eight bluefish in the 6- to 8-pound range and topped it off with two red drum in the 44-inch range. He released the big redfish. Capt. ‘Walleye’ Pete Dahlberg did it again as he fished the eastern side of the channel north of Buoy 72 to the western side. His party used a variety of techniques from jigging to surface plugs and even flies. They caught a large number of Spanish mackerel, many bluefish in the 6-pound range and stripers in the 26-inch class. Trollers found their share of rockfish not far from Point Lookout, at the oyster sanctuary. The Point No Point lighthouse and the Middlegrounds have been great for chumming. Closer to home, we find breaking fish right outside St. Jerome’s Creek.” Meanwhile, Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301/863-8151) agrees with Christy, saying, “Big bluefish are breaking from Point No Point to Point Lookout, and trollers and lure casters have boated fish from 5 pounds up to 10 pounds. There also are keeper rockfish in excess of 20 inches breaking in the lower bay from 72A to below the Target Ship, but are camouflaged by small blues, Spanish mackerel and under-sized rockfish. Trollers pulling small Drone, Clark or Tony spoons at a fast pace are picking up respectable Spanish mackerel most everywhere, including Cedar Point Hollow, the PR buoy, Hooper’s Island Light and points south. Chummers are doing poorly on keeper rockfish but are getting plenty of snapper blues.” In the middle and upper bay, it’s pretty much the same story: Trollers find rockfish, blues of various sizes and a few Spanish mackerel. The fishing is fine. In fact, the Pooles Island area is filled with rockfish, charter captain Jeff Popp (410/790-2015) says.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Northern Neck charter captain Billy Pipkin (captbillyscharters.com or call 804/580-7292) reports, “A fall migration pattern is beginning to shape up. Thanks to cooler night temperatures, rockfish and bluefish are beginning to move south out of Maryland waters. With the fall migration progressing at a slow pace, it will likely result in a tremendous October fishing season [in Northern Neck waters]. Weekdays provide the best action with fewer boats competing for the fish. Trolling for bluefish has been good this week from Smith Point to Buoy 68. These fish are averaging a healthy 3 to 5 pounds. Other locations bearing surface feeders are the lower Potomac river from the Number 5 marker to the river’s mouth. Large Norfolk spot are becoming more plentiful along the channel edges in the bay and rivers. The western shoreline has been productive, as has the edge along the lower Tangier Sound. Similar locations like Butler’s Hole in the Rappahannock River from the bridge to the mouth are showing. Grey sea trout are running small in the lower rivers and western shore of the bay. Some larger 14- to 18-inch specimens came out of the upper saltwater stretches of the Rappahannock and Potomac this week. Speckled sea trout show occasional signs of a strong run. Anglers coming out of Ingram Bay Marina have had mixed luck on the larger trout this week while fishing the mouth of the Great Wicomico River and around the marshes.” Down the bay, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association reports, “Some big flounder are hanging around the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The tunnel area also is the location of some very impressive croaker.” For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river holds snapper blues, small rockfish and perch. In fact, the perch are biting clear up to Denton. Bass fishing in the Denton area has been fair. Bass are sticking to sunken wood, and plastic worms are a good way to get a strike.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Some decent bass are taken on small spinnerbaits and plastic worms. Try a wacky-rigged worm and cast it over the spatterdock found all through this river. A bass might rise and try to take the rod out of your hand.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313) Shoreline logs, fallen trees and stickups are the things to look for if you’re using 4-inch scented baits, such as the Berkley Power Worm. But don’t overlook the many marsh banks for bass. Catches are possible in both types of terrain.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early hour topwater lures can score on bass around weed bed edges and inside pockets, as well as around lake points. Switch to soft plastics — worms, tubes or lizards — when the sun warms the upper layers of the water.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Bass are possible from Hicks Landing down to the Leedstown Campground. You won’t find the number of bass you expect in the Potomac River, but the fishing has been pretty good. Plastic worms, spinnerbaits and Rat-T-Traps have been the lures of choice. Upper river smallmouth bass need more water. Rain will help. The fishing can be good if you find some deep holes and use 1/8-ounce jig hooks with a chartreuse-and-black-specked tube bait.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Bass, sunfish and catfish are available, but this place needs some rain.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Stickups and old sunken wood provide good bass fishing opportunities. Fat sunfish and catfish are biting.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) If you arrive early and fish before the waterskiers and jetskiers show up, a plastic worm and spinnerbait is all you need to find bass along weed edges and in some of the spatterdock fields up-lake. The creek points and boat house pilings turn up decent fish to plastic worms and even crankbaits in some cases.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish galore if you use bottom-fished herring or sunfish cut baits. Bass fishing is fair around creek points. Use plastic worms and slow-rolled spinnerbaits.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) The bass catches are perking up. Visiting anglers find bass on soft plastics or on shallow-running jerkbaits fished around marsh edges and sunken wood.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish are biting pretty well. They love bottom-weighted herring baits. We’re not talking about a 3-pound channel “cat” here. No, these are 30- to 40-pound blue catfish or flathead catfish. It won’t be long before there will be some rockfish hooked on Sassy Shads as the stripers head south from Maryland.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville sites are good for smallmouth and largemouth bass, but they’re usually a bit on the short side. Sunfish and small catfish also are taken.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Some decent largemouth bass and occasionally a smallmouth bass are taken by boaters who concentrate on boat docks. Deep-water jig users come up with a striper now and then.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The water is low and clear, but some smallmouth bass, sunfish and catfish are hooked by waders and johnboaters.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Overnight boaters have done well on yellowfin tunas that hang around the Hot Dog and the Baltimore or Washington canyons. Dolphinfish are plentiful, as are the bluefish when you come closer to the Ocean City skyline. Floating weed patches have made trolling a chore, though. It requires a frequent check of the hooks to clear them of the vegetation. Surf fishing wasn’t good over the past week because of strong wind, but that might change this weekend. One thing is certain: The stripers and bluefish likely will cooperate in the Ocean City inlet and inside waters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “We got some nice weather giving us a chance to get out there to see what was biting after all of that [recent] wind.” The offshore fleet found a lot of grass and a lot of fish. It is a good time to fish offshore out of Virginia. Yellowfin tuna, albacore and wahoo are here in numbers. Dolphin are extremely plentiful. They are almost pests at times. Decent numbers of billfish are around and even a few bigeyes. Inshore, there has been a good cobia catch by anglers intercepting fish getting ready to head south. The number of flounder was down, but the size was not. For charter boats, call Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected]


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