- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

The tremendous heat earlier this week affected not only on humans but also certain fish species. For example, you would catch fish if you went out before the roosters crow in the morning but forget the noon hours. The fishing wouldn’t resume until the sun went down. This was especially true in tidal waters, where there was a definite let-up in the action as soon as the sun began to bake the rivers and the Chesapeake’s quiet coves. Imagine what it did to the still waters of a lake, pond or slow-moving mountain stream.

Locally, temperatures are supposed to drop somewhat, which will help. However, what will not help is Tropical Storm Beryl, which is somewhere off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. If Beryl heads west and then north, it will hamper ocean fishing for sure.

From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports that Norfolk spot and croakers are found almost everywhere in the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Lamb said boat renters out of Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) are getting plenty of action in the Wicomico River, while boaters of every stripe, including renters out of Bunky’s on Solomons Island (410/326-3241), are pulling in plenty of well-fed spot, with croakers found on the Chinese Muds day and night.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s Fisheries Service has released the seventh $25,000 “Diamond Jim” striped bass north of the Cedar Point Rip at the Patuxent’s mouth. The state’s $1,000,000 Fishing Challenge now has more than 100 anglers who have caught fish that qualify for a drawing of prizes at the end of the contest Sept. 4.

For more information about this tourism/fishing promotion and a full list of anglers who have caught qualifying tagged fish, go to www.state.md.us/fish4cash.

(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 reports clear water, but few fishermen are willing to wet a line in this heat. However, catfish, bass and some crappies are available. Downstream of the District, local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are connecting on early morning bass with plastic worms and topwater poppers, especially when they visit marsh banks and points inside the feeder creeks from near Woodrow Wilson Bridge down to the Aquia Creek in Virginia. The heat, however, has been brutal, and we have a tough time understanding why anybody would fish in a bass tournament in this awful weather. It can’t possibly be good for the bass. In the saltier parts of the river, Ken Lamb says Cornfield Harbor, close to the mouth of the Potomac, has plenty of flounder that hang around the harbor’s stone piles. Spot, perch and some fat croakers are caught from Piney Point down to Virginia’s Coan River.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — From Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side comes word that spot, perch and croakers are more cooperative than they have been.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — I watched bass guide Dale Knupp land at least 20 bass on topwater poppers two days ago. Later, after the sun touched the water, he continued his bass-catching ways using finesse worms on a super light slip sinker. The best places were marsh banks that showed sharp dropoffs close by. The water temperature Tuesday was 87 degrees.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) It has been far too hot to note any decent catches here, but I suppose bait worms would attract sunfish. Good news from St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), where the water has risen enough to allow at least the launching of johnboats but not yet the heavier bass boats. Bass, sunfish, crappies and catfish are possible.

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 sunfish, catfish and bass but be certain to show up early and quit early. The water is super warm.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Early hours might be good for a bass or two, but the overall fishing has suffered in this heat.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (….) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports spot and croaker are almost everywhere in the river, with boat renters out of Bunky’s in Solomons (410/326-3241) finding action all over the mouth of the river. Croakers are on the Chinese Muds day and night, and white perch will smack a small spinnerbait or Tiny Trap rattle lure up and down the river in shoreline trees, coves, around duckblinds and seawalls. Flounder are found at the three-legged marker in the mouth of the Patuxent.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis says, “Topwater poppers will produce some nice fish on main lake flats with deep water near by if you go out very early or very late. Deep-running crankbaits along the sides of main lake points have also taken a few fish in the 2- to 3-pound range in the mid-mornings. From about 9 a.m. on, get on the bottom with a Carolina-rigged or Texas-rigged plastic worm or lizard. The catfish bite is still good, with chicken livers or cut bait being the baits of choice. No reports on crappie activity, but bluegills still love mealworms.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (..) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Not many success stories this week as most regular anglers stayed home because of the heat. Bass could be caught early in the day if you work a plastic worm nice and easy along a sunken brush pile or lake point.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the upper river has returned to normal summer conditions, and despite the heat the fishing for smallmouth bass actually has been very good. River temperatures will be in the mid 80s, but surface poppers and various tubes, jigs and crankbaits will be looked at by the bass. The DNR says the Packhorse Ford area just downstream of Shepherdstown, W.Va., is a good wading area for bass, especially during the White Miller fly hatch.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (..) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) reports that even this far up in the mountains, the hot sun is making itself felt. Stick to the early and late hours and fish around floating docks and any kind of cover, including grass beds, and you will find a little action on bass, maybe an odd walleye now and then.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Conowingo Dam is back to normal late-morning water releases, and stripers are possible at the dam. White perch and catfish are available from Port Deposit down to Havre de Grace. Bass catches, however, have not been great.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, “The croaker [hardhead] bite is very good on the shelf on the Eastern Shore side of Buoy 72. The staff of the Tackle Box went out with charter captain Sonny Forrest on the Fin Finder [800/831-2702] Sunday evening, and 16 anglers aboard boated 124 big croakers in four hours on the Middlegrounds.” The group also hooked Norfolk spot, bluefish and flounder too. Some big red drum are cruising around there as well. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina [301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com] on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “The fishing is really getting better. The croaker bite is awesome, with enormous croakers being caught. The night bite is a bit better, but we have seen a lot of them come in the day as well. They’re being caught in the usual spots, behind the Target Ship and east of buoys 72 and 72A. Small rockfish and bluefish are being chummed up from Buoy 72 to the Middlegrounds, with the occasional flounder also mixed in. Angler George Hashman caught three beautiful red drum during one recent outing.” Elsewhere in the Chesapeake, from the Gooses up to the Bay Bridges, most rockfish seekers are trolling, not chumming. That’s unusual for this time of year, but the chum boats simply haven’t been doing very well, although the area known as the Diamonds sees some chumming.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Chummers and trollers continue to hook small rockfish and increasing numbers of bluefish from Smith Point on down toward the Rappahannock River. But where are the Spanish mackerel? They should be here. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for great sheepshead fishing, get to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, where they have turned back on. What everybody in the lower bay is talking about, however, is the continuing great opportunities for catching cobias. “They show no signs of slowing down,” said Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association. Red drum (channel bass) continue to be available on the shoals at the northern end of the bridge-tunnel, and large flounder are also hooked around the broad spans abutments and channels, as well as the Buoy 42 area.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said the shallows of the river offer good fishing for striped bass in the early morning and evening hours. The water temperatures everywhere have been rising into the high 80s, which will have an impact on the fishing eventually. The channel edges clear up to Cambridge deliver some keeper rockfish for jig users.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (..) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The heat has taken its toll on this oxygen-starved river. Bass fishing has declined quite a bit.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Get to the Sharptown or Federalsburg stretches early in the day and you might latch onto a bass or two using plastic worms, but the fishing has been super slow.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Stick to the dark hours and fish can be yours. From the Route 208 area and deeper uplake stretches, you will see eruptions by feeding rockfish. Keep a good casting or spinning rod ready with a Sassy Shad or Rat-L-Trap on at least 17-pound monofilament line and you can get a fishing thrill. The bass will slam a loud surface popper around lake and creek points before the sun rises

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (..) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Upper-river smallmouth anglers will score with tube jigs and small crankbaits. The tidal parts from Fredericksburg and sectors below report few decent bass catches but some fair catfish numbers. The heat has been hard on everybody and everything.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (..) — (Route 793, off Route 29) It’s slow going for most species, but if you arrive early you will find a bass or two with small crankbaits or soft plastics.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Same old story: Hot sun makes for poor lake fishing. Catfish catches are your best bet right now.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Hotter than an oven, but early mornings can deliver bass for topwater and plastics users in the Hubquarter Creek sector as well as some of the grassy edges inside Jimmy’s Creek.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish galore, even in the summer heat, but bass have been tough to locate. Sunfish are everywhere and provide fun for the kids.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) It’s slow going for bass, but channel catfish and some blue catfish are available for bottom bait users.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish specialist Bill Hilton sent us an e-mail saying, “I was told by a reliable friend that Archie Gold, a local catfisherman, caught a state record blue cat in the James River. It is said to have weighed 95.7 pounds. The fish was weighed on a certified scale, and a biologist verified it.”

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas are very fishable, and some decent numbers of small bass are taken. Sunfish and catfish are also hooked.

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

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) We repeat the same message every week but must do so: This river’s bass fishing is dependent on nice and quiet weather (even hot weather), but heavy rains can change the picture quickly, so let’s hope that this won’t happen at least until Monday. The smallmouths are waiting for you.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) All eyes are on the tropical storm off the coast of Hatteras, N.C., which could bring a blow. The DNR reports surf catches of kingfish, snapper blues, croakers and some flounder. The Ocean City head boats find seabass and a few flounder on the nearby offshore wrecks. The more distant waters provide a mixed bag of yellowfin and bluefin tuna, plus dolphinfish. Some of the yellowfins weigh 100 pounds. The Hot Dog sector appears to be the favorite for Ocean City boaters who are after tunas and dolphin. Blue and white marlin have been raised and hooked in the region of the Poorman’s Canyon south to the Washington Canyon.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — From the Virginia Beach area, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “The offshore tuna bite has slowed up. There are still both yellowfin and bluefin tuna available, but you don’t have boats coming in with a limit of yellowfins like you did a couple of weeks ago.” Neill added that bait chunking for bluefin tunas has been good in the Lumpy Bottom area and if the tuna aren’t biting, the dolphinfish will. Wahoo are also showing up, and Neill believes Virginia will have a banner season with billfish. “Good numbers are already here, and it keeps getting better every day,” he said. Meanwhile, amberjacks can be found over most any wreck and at the Chesapeake Light Tower. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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

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