- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

Are you as tired of the hot weather as I am? How much fun can fishing be when you need to towel the sweat from your brow before the boat is even launched — and I’m talking about at 5:30 a.m.

Despite the heat, however, there is one tasty fish that absolutely enjoys hot water. It’s the Norfolk spot, a diminutive character when compared to species like bluefish and stripers. The spot like warm water — the warmer, the better — and right now large schools of them are found in the lower Patuxent River and up and down the Chesapeake from Tangier Sound to Thomas Point.

There’s more good news for bait-drifting flounder anglers in the lower Potomac — an area known as Cornfield Harbor, not far from the state park. These flounder specialists don’t mess around; they use a whole spot or sometimes the entire fillet of a snapper bluefish as bait and slowly let them bump across the bottom in 10 to 18 feet of water. Even their bottom-rig sinkers are big, as heavy as 10 ounces if a strong tide is running. Big flounder also have been scored in the Cedar Point Rip at the mouth of the Patuxent, the Crisfield area in Tangier Sound, the mouth of Rappahannock River near Windmill Point and the islands and abutments of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel near Cape Charles, Va.

Locally, tidal water bass hounds do quite well considering the brutal heat. They leave the marinas and state park launch ramps when bow and transom lights are still required on the boats, hurry to fish with loud poppers and buzzbaits around weed edges and in the backs of creeks, then quickly switch to soft, scented plastics as the sun rises and the bass begin to relate to sharp drops alongside marsh banks.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected].

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) There’s slow, easy summertime fishing for fat channel catfish and a few bass. South of the District, local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) have been fishing the earliest possible hours to catch bass on topwater poppers, Senkos, Zeros and scented finesse worms. Nearly any river stretch or the inside portions of the feeder creeks are productive. Downstream, the hardhead fishing is good in the river from the Route 301 Potomac River bridge down to Point Lookout. Ragged Point has been excellent during moving tides, day and night. A lot of bluefish are in the mouth of the Potomac. Boat drifters who use whole, live spot are getting blues up to 7 and 8 pounds in Cornfield Harbor. The flounder experts down there use whole spot or 6- to 8-inch long bluefish fillets while drifting for the flatfish. They also snap on heavy weights on the bait rigs — as much as 10 ounces if the tide is strong.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (…) — From Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side the croaker and spot fishing continues. Even in this heat, you will catch spot, but the croakers prefer the low-light hours.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Marsh edge dropoffs are good for bass that like plastic worms or tubes. The earliest hours are good for topwater poppers and even buzzbaits. By the way, the new Slavin’s boat ramp on Mattingly Avenue is finished. It’s a two-lane beauty, but the access road to enter the launch ramp has not been completed.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) gives up small bass, plenty of sunfish and a few crappies. Most of the fish are caught on worm baits by shore and pier anglers. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road) water levels continue to rise. Now you can slip a small johnboat from its trailer into the water while on the ramp. No, it can’t handle bigger boats yet. Bass and bluegills have been active even in the heat.

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) have been good for fly-rod poppers after sunfish. Jerkbaits and soft, scented plastic can draw bass strikes if you concentrate on submerged brush or weed edges.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia continues to be shut down while dam repairs are made. At Rocky Gorge, it has been one hot day after another, and few fish are caught, but those who know how to fish a plastic worm — and who know where the drops and ledges are — will score.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (….) — Ken Lamb says Norfolk spot continue to dominate river fishing from above Benedict down to the Chinese Muds. “The spot are getting really big, and they’ll bite all day. Boaters and shore fishermen are catching plenty of them.” Use pieces of bloodworms, squid, shrimp or even artificial Fishbites. The best locations now are at Point Patience and Kingston Hollow. The hardheads (croakers), Lamb says, are active in the lower river at night, but fishing for them is poor during the heat of the day. Flounder fishermen using traditional live minnows on a double hook rig are scoring on 17- to 21-inch flatfish at the Three-Legged Marker in the mouth of the river.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis reports, “Excessive heat and low water conditions have made bass fishing very tough. The bass are suspended around 20 feet deep in 30 or more feet of water. A few fish are caught on Carolina-rigged plastics off deep points, but conditions call for early or late hours if you want a chance at some of these fish. Catfish are still biting cut bait or chicken livers; plenty of bluegills are available for fly-rodders. Crappie fishing hasn’t been very good.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (..) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The heat has taken a toll. Bass fishing has declined, but sunfish and catfish are available.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — Considering the current heat, the fishing actually has been pretty good. The North Fork has been good for float-tripping trout fishermen, with the main stem between Knoxville and Dickerson delivering fair numbers of smallmouth bass and some tiger muskies. Water is a bit low.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) agrees with his friend, local lake fisherman Otis P. Oakum, who says, “Plenty of smallmouth bass in the 1- to 2-pound range. They’ll hit a noisy surface popper or prop bait near main lake points and flats. The largemouth bass seem to be in solid summer patterns, and many are just burrowing down in duck weed or milfoil patches close to deep water, where it’s a bit cooler. They’ll make quick sojourns to the docks to feed where we skip Senko worms and jigs. Walleyes are hitting trolled Hot-N-Tot crankbaits near the state park. Bluegills and ring perch [yellow perch] will eat a small piece of night crawler under a bobber. Trout are hitting small minnows near the dam in deeper cooler water. Best time is nighttime with submerged lights, which attract both minnows and the trout.”

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (..) — Summertime bass, perch and catfish outings turn up less than exciting catches. The Havre de Grace area down to Apartment Cove gives up a few hefty bass, but it could be better. Inside the river, from Port Deposit to Conowingo Dam, large catfish and a mix of small rockfish and bass are possible.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reported, “Trollers are getting plenty of rockfish from Cove Point to the Power Plant using single or tandem Sassy Shad lures. Tony spoons from size 15 to 18 will catch them as well. A whole spot used as bait produced a 10-pound-plus flounder at the Cedar Point Rip. All this big flounder fishing has been under the radar and is not for everyone. The anglers employing this system are willing to fish all day to catch a single huge flounder.” Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “The big news of the week are the big flounder. Everyone is catching them. They’re plentiful along the sandbar at Point Lookout, but people are picking them up all over the place. Chummers were picking up 2- to 3-pound bluefish at buoys 72, 70 and 68 with some stripers mixed in. The large croakers are hanging out at the Holland Bar, but the night bite is still the best. Rockfish and bluefish are breaking from Point No Point to Point Lookout in large numbers. If you’re looking for spot, the Mud Leads is a good place to fill your cooler.” Elsewhere on the Chesapeake, The DNR reports that trollers find rockfish and bluefish along the ship channel. Keith Lockwood says the 30-foot edge of the shipping channel from Breezy Point south to the Gas Docks has been one of the most popular areas. Check out also the Parkers Creek and Silver Ball vicinity in 28 to 37 feet of water. Chummers doing well on the Gooses as stripers and bluefish come in to sample the “food” with fair success.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — From the mouth of Rappahannock River up to Smith Point and just as you enter Potomac River, trollers find rockfish and blues in good numbers, while bait dunkers from Smith Point to the Great Wicomico connect on schools of Norfolk spot, evening croakers, occasional sea trout and redfish. Down by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s pilings and islands, expect hits from flounder, spadefish, sheepshead and bluefish.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Boaters who find ballast stone piles and other channel edges (the DNR says try False Channel near the mouth of the river) will catch croakers, spot, perch, some rockfish and blues. Upper river at Cambridge delivers perch and spot but few croakers.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) A few bass are possible, but it has been far too hot to fish the tree roots and spatterdock thoroughly with short plastic worms.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) Early bird anglers again found rockfish around the marsh edges and river points from Vienna up toward Sharptown. Use poppers or Rat-L-Traps. This is the kind of fishing that requires you to be on the water before daylight. Bass catches have suffered over the past four or five days.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Rockfish are feeding during predawn hours. Get ready with a rattle bait, jerkbait or topwater popping lure and hold on somewhere around the Splits. Be quiet and don’t run through a school of feeding fish because they will sound and not come back up. Bass catches leave a bit to be desired. It has been hot, and the fishing was tough this week.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) Catfish and some tidal bass are hooked, but this river has seen better days. Up river, you will have good smallmouth bass chances if you fish early and late. A friend of mine waded an area below Remington and said he caught lots of smallies, but they were young, short fish.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (..) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The heat has been relentless. Not much bass action, but evening catfish are willing.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish, bluegills and bass are available, but don’t expect to “wreck” the bass population. Be happy if you can find four or five on plastic worms.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone says, “You have to get out by 5:30 a.m. Run up river toward the mouth of Hawtree Creek. Turn on the depth finder and locate 4- to 5-foot depths, which are in the center of the lake. This area is loaded with grass, bass and stripers. When the topwater bite subsides, break out a spinnerbait. Most of the fish are small, but now and then a 10-pound striper will slam your bait. This grass stretches all the way to the flats. Plenty of room for all fishermen.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies are biting, and they like minnow-tipped jigs in 15 to 20 feet of water around bridge abutments. Big catfish are possible, as are rockfish that have been hooked by trollers from Buoy 4 to the dam. Bass are playing hard to get, but some are caught on soft plastics.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) It’s slow going for blue cats and bass. The heat is to blame.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — From the Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretches, Dick Fox reports the river still has a stain and is low. The bass bite slowed up, although he caught six smallmouths Wednesday night. They struck Tiny Torpedos. The catfish are hungry, so give them a try.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) One small, local bass tournament was won with a 7-pound total weight. Does that tell you something. Nighttime stripers are possible in the “S” Curve.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Water levels stand at 4½ feet, and the smallmouth bass are biting if you parlay the morning and evening hours while ignoring the mid-day sun. Large catfish can be hooked here.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Flounder fishing is better now than it was a week ago, while inlet and close-in shore waters deliver croakers, snapper bluefish and, when things go right, some Spanish mackerel. The Bassgrounds and Jackspot show a mix of dolphinfish, sharks and chopper bluefish. Tunas and slowly increasing numbers of billfish are greeting boaters out in the canyon waters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Amberjacks are taking cut baits and whole spot or mullet around the offshore towers and in the wrecks. Wachapreague’s tarpon specialists are out looking for the giant herring. No kidding: We’re talking about tarpon in the cuts and backwaters of the barrier islands. Ken Neill says croakers are showing up on the ocean side of the Eastern shore, while the Virginia Beach inshore waters deliver spot, croakers, bluefish, rays, some flounder and young sea trout. Distant offshore stretches are good for bluefin and yellowfin tunas, dolphinfish, some wahoos and king mackerel and chopper bluefish that are a bit closer in. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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