- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The fishing in most of the Chesapeake Bay is slowly returning to normal after abnormally heavy rains and resulting runoffs. In fact, the upper Chesapeake still has to deal with murky waters and much floating debris — a reminder of the recent monsoon. However, the chumming for rockfish and blues has resumed, and it’s getting better each day. Be reminded, however, that even in the middle bay you’ll have to work to find fish. Not so as you head south, toward the Virginia state line.

“What a difference a week makes. The rockfish and bluefish were stacked up at Cedar Point and the oyster sanctuary by Point Lookout,” said Christy Henderson, from Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County. Similar reports are heard from many other portions of Southern Maryland and lower Eastern Shore waters.

If it’s tidal river fishing you like, enjoy the Potomac, particularly where early mornings deliver the goods as bass smash popper lures. Switch to plastic worms as the sun heats the water. In the lower sectors of the Patuxent, Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, you’ll find a lot of Norfolk spot, white perch and fairly decent but not great numbers of croakers, as well as scattered flounder, pan-size rockfish and bluefish.

(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; 202/244-0461), Ray Fletcher said the river is in fine shape. The fishing, of course, has entered the summertime phase, which means things are a bit slow. Fletcher said some bass and fat catfish are biting, however. In the tidal waters of the river downstream of the District, local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are finding cooperative largemouths with popper surface lures early in the day or when it’s overcast, then switch mostly to soft plastics, particularly scented 4-inch rib worms or garlic-and-salt flavored 5-inch Zero worms in red flake/pumpkin or junebug colors. All the creeks will give up some decent bass, but you must work the marsh edges and spatterdock points long and hard some days. In the saltier waters of the river, Ken Lamb says the croakers in the lower Potomac are good-sized, averaging 14 to 15 inches. There are plenty of white perch, and great catches of flounder are made in Cornfield Harbor and on the lumps off Point Lookout. Drifters using live minnows have found several locations that yield big flounder daily.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — From Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side, Norfolk spot are biting big-time. Reports have it that rental boaters average 30 or 40 per trip (after culling out the little ones). Croakers are caught too, but they’re not nearly as predictable as the spot.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Dock walkers at Sweden Point Marina are finding bass that hug the wooden pilings. They use plastic worms and grubs and sometimes do quite well. The boaters in the creek can score early in the day because bass are more willing to strike a surface lure. Be sure to bring scented 4-inch plastic worms to fish the marsh ledges when the sun boils down. Catfish are in the creek channel, and they like cut baits or clam necks.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has bluegills, even some shellcrackers and mostly small bass. It’s a great place to take the kids fishing. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), shoreline walkers and fishermen who have easy-to-carry johnboats connect on bass and a mix of bluegills, crappies and bass.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (…) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) show quality sunfish and unusually well-fed channel catfish. The bass fishing suffers a bit during this heat, but it can be done.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Bass like early-morning crankbaits, jerkbaits or topwater chug baits, but plastic worms are recommended after the sun bakes the water a while.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (….) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that Norfolk spot are present in fine numbers at the mouth of the river. Boat renters at Bunky’s in Solomons find beautiful spot up to 12 inches. A typical catch near Drum Point is 30 to 40 fish in several hours of fishing with baits such as bloodworms, squid, shrimp, or artificial Fishbites. Double-hook bottom rigs with spinner hooks are the best terminal tackle. The spot will be in these waters until October. Also expect some fat croakers in the river, along with plenty of white perch. Some other hot spots include the area off the Navy’s Recreation Center, the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek, the mouth of Town Creek, Green Holly, Sandy Point, and Kingston Hollow. If you want to fish from a headboat, the Marchelle of Bunky’s Charters on Solomons Island will run all weekend starting today. Information: 410/326-3241.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reported, “The reservoir is clearing up nicely from the recent rains, and as expected the fishing has picked up as well. Bass are in their summer mode, but Carolina-rigged soft plastics fished around long points or in the mouths of deep coves can produce some nice fish. The catfish bite has been good, with cut baits or large minnows doing best. Channel catfish up to 13 pounds have been hooked. Crappies are schooling up in their favorite haunts, and small minnows under a bobber have produced some good catches. Bluegills are abundant, with mealworms working well.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (..) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The sun is taking a toll not only on the fish, but also on anglers. Bass fishing has slowed, but sunfish and catfish are willing.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the upper river is beginning to drop down to pre-storm levels, but downstream of Harpers Ferry, the water remains a bit cloudy. Smallmouth bass fishing has been very good for anglers using topwater lures, but be prepared to use tube baits and hair jigs for bass that lie in deeper waters.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or fishdeepcreek.com) Lake waters are getting warmer says the DNR, which means the bass will be wherever there are shade and a bit of deep water nearby where they can flee if necessary. Pitch a tube bait under floating docks and around stickups in the deeper coves. Big bluegills are around, and they love a piece of nightcrawler under a bobber in the backs of coves.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (.) — Fishing is still not back to normal in the Conowingo Dam to Havre de Grace stretch.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb says, “Shore fishermen at Point Lookout are catching plenty of spot and bluefish. Bluefish are plentiful most everywhere in the bay but tend to be in the 13-inch range, not much bigger. Trollers using small spoons are getting plenty of blues. The croakers are lighting up when the sun sets. Bottom fishermen anchoring at Buoys 72 and 72A are getting plenty of action during night trips, with many of the hardheads ranging from 15 to 20 inches. Rockfish are making a comeback. Trollers around Cove Point have caught 18- to 22-inch fish all week using small spoons and umbrella rigs tipped with plastic shad bodies.” Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887; buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, says, “What a difference a week makes. The rockfish and bluefish were stacked up at Cedar Point and the oyster sanctuary by Point Lookout. The chummers did very well at the flats behind Buoy 72 and also on the Southwest Middlegrounds with bluefish up to 3 pounds. The Mud Leads produced a lot of small trout, with the occasional keeper seen. The same area saw local angler Mike Thorne catching a 15-pound black drum on a Sting Silver lure. Jumbo croakers are in a stretch from Buoy 72A all the way down to the Mud Leads, and one man caught several whitings at the Mud Leads. Bottlenose dolphins were again spotted near Smith Island.” In the middle bay, the stripers are biting one day, not the next. Some unsettled behavior continues, but it should abate quickly now that the storms and resulting runoffs have just about stopped. Keith Lockwood of the Maryland DNR says the Gooses, Hackett’s Bar, the Gum Thickets to Bloody Point, Thomas Point and off Parkers Creek are being checked but only with limited success. Boaters say trolling provides some decent catches. Bluefish are roaming the middle bay region.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Chum boats and trollers find willing rockfish and blues. The weekend should see a few Spanish mackerel to smack small silver spoons between Smith Point and the mouth of the Rappahannock. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says, “Despite all of the fresh water being pumped into the bay, fishing remains rather good. The cobia bite is just fantastic. There are a lot of these fish all over the bay, including some real bruisers.” Neill adds that many small cobias have been noted, which will ensure successful future cobia outings. Meanwhile, big flounder are caught along the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and up around the Cell. A few sheepshead have been reported from the Bridge-Tunnel abutments, with large spadefish available at the third and fourth islands of the long span.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) A few croakers and many Norfolk spot, white perch, even snapper bluefish and small rockfish are in the mouth. Can’t get a make on the bass successes farther up the river around Denton.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) If you start fishing as the tide recedes, you should do well on bass with shallow crankbaits cast around waterlogged tree branches and roots. Plastic worms are better on marshy dropoffs and in channel ditches.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp of Marshyhope Creek) The bass catches have picked up. Use small topwater poppers, spinnerbaits or plastic worms early in the day and come back in before the sun fries your brain.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) The early hours, say around 5 and 6 a.m., are fine for surface lures, and they’ll manage to get bass and stripers. You might need to use the boat’s running lights for a while, but it’ll be worth it around the Splits and a short distance uplake. Plastic baits and deep-running crankbaits will score downlake as the sun rises.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Barring unforeseen rains, upper river smallmouth bass catches should be happening. Use grubs, tubes, spinners and surface poppers anywhere above Fredericksburg. The tidal bass fishing simply hasn’t been very good, but catfish are biting.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Arrive and leave early. Fish for bass with shallow crankbaits and plastic worms, maybe a loud surface lure. Worm and bobber users will score on fat sunfish.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass are possible, but your best bet might be the catfish and fat sunfish.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) It’s very hot down here, so be sure to fish early or late. Some decent bass are taken on plastic baits in the creeks and the main lake.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass, crappies and catfish are living in deeper water now and require live minnows or deep-fished plastics around lake and creek points. Summer heat here is brutal.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Mostly catfish and perch, but only a few bass worth showing off.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are biting but not much else.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — From the Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas, local angler Dick Fox did it again. He sent an e-mail, saying, “I went again last night and caught over 30 smallmouth bass with the best one weighing three pounds. Also caught catfish, suckers and lots of bluegills.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Rockfish are available perhaps in the dark hours, but bass anglers are not doing very well.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass, catfish and sunfish will be caught on a variety of lures and baits. Hope that the rain stays away.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR says surf fishermen find a mix of summer species in the surf, such as kingfish, croakers, spot, small bluefish and a few flounder. Sea bass fare taken from the headboats. Offshore action includes bluefish found along the 20-fathom line and known hot spots like the Jackspot. Scattered king mackerel are hooked and bluefin tunas are in the offshore waters along the 30-fathom line and at locations known as the Lumpy Bottom, Ham Bone and Hot Dog. Fishermen are finding larger yellowfin tuna in the Washington and Baltimore canyons. Backwater flounder in Ocean City are mostly small, but some big keepers are found.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — From the Virginia Beach area, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association reports Spanish mackerel fishing has been very good along the Virginia Beach ocean front and around the Chesapeake Light Tower, some 11 miles east of Rudee Inlet. The South Tower is loaded with big amberjack. Offshore fishing has been fantastic. Boats that ventured out past the 100-fathom curve have encountered good numbers of billfish, but not many boats have headed out that far because of the great tuna fishing closer in. Bluefin tunas up to 200 pounds are available on the Fingers. Yellowfin tunas are hooked from the Cigar out to the Norfolk Canyon. Dolphin are everywhere, with good numbers of gaffer fish weighing in over 25 pounds. Neill said, “Throw in some big wahoo and it is a great time to head offshore.” For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

E-mail Gene Mueller at gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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