- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For the next three months, fishing fanatics who work the upper tidal portions of the Chesapeake Bay’s feeder rivers will busily cast scent-covered plastic grubs that do a fair job of imitating a wounded bait minnow. Or they will flick 1- and 2-inch-long curly tailed grubs around sunken trees and rocks that sit in more than five feet of water. The object is to attract a bass, a crappie, a young striper or a yellow perch.

During the cold months, this type of fishing has been effective in the tidal Rappahannock, Potomac, Choptank and Pocomoke rivers. In fact, at this moment anglers are likely zipping their flat-tailed grubs into the concrete rubble-filled waters of the Spoils Cove, near the Wilson Bridge and finding beautifully marked largemouth bass and crappies.

In the case of the upper tidal Patuxent River in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties area, the bass fishing has seen better days (although I did hook one there two days ago), so it has become the job of the resident yellow perch to take up the slack when the nights are cold and the days are blustery.

“The fishing for these perch has been tough,” Silver Spring’s Vic Mercogliano said Tuesday. “We find skinny buck perch in deep holes, but locating a few roe perch is a different story.”

Mercogliano and a friend, who launched at Jackson Landing in the Croom area, sat over a 20-foot-deep hole in a bass boat, using Sting Ray grubs on drop-shot rigs, gently jigging them up and down. Now and then a skinny male perch would inhale one of the rubbery lures. The two fishermen did manage to set the hook to three female perch, but the fishing for fat keepers was slow.

“I’m not leaving until we get five good females,” said Mercogliano, who usually fishes for bass.

Good news for smallmouth fans — From the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, biologist John Odenkirk sent a hopeful note about the smallmouth bass population in the upper Rappahannock River. Odenkirk said recent studies suggest angling for the “brown” fish soon might be rated as fantastic. Two excellent year classes (2004 and 2005) were followed by an average spawn this year.

“This three-year string links together the strongest consecutive year class grouping documented to date in this river system,” Odenkirk said. “Fish should be getting more abundant and larger. Near perfect environmental conditions [primarily rainfall during the month of June] occurred in 2004, which resulted in record numbers of juvenile bass, providing sample young-of-year electrofishing catch rates of 43 per hour.”

Odenkirk believes that larger smallmouth bass should be noticeable this spring and summer.

“Forage increases due to shad migration above Embrey Dam should result in increased growth and higher biomass at upstream sites,” he said.

Virginia’s bay and ocean red-hot — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says, “Fish are everywhere.” Rockfish and bluefish are feeding on menhaden, as are some fish not normally though of right now. Flounder have been caught along the oceanfront on lures meant for rockfish. To illustrate the odd catches, Neill says one fisherman was trolling a Mann’s Stretch 30 lure south of False Cape in 45 feet of water when he hooked a 150-pound bluefin tuna.

“The bluefin fishery is open, and as long as you have your offshore permit, you can keep two bluefin a day in the 47 to 73 inch range per vessel,” Neill said.

In the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, rockfish are caught just about everywhere. Neill says Bluefish Rock and York Spit have been productive, as have the Hump and the Baltimore Channel from buoys 34 to 36. Farther up the bay, Buoy 41A has been good. The Plantation Light gives up rockfish in the 50-pound range, and big stripers have been willing under the high span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and the fishing for tautogs has been good on the wrecks at the mouth of the bay.

Virginia looks to lower flounder catches — Virginia’s saltwater fisheries managers are thinking about reducing recreational flounder catches by more than 50 percent. Look for higher minimums and various closed seasons next year. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is also working on regulations for sheepshead, tilefish and grouper. The year 2007 could be full of surprises.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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