- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

Offshore fishing in the Atlantic promises a rich mix of tunas, dolphinfish, sharks, amberjacks, blues and slowly increasing numbers of billfish, including white marlin that in recent times have not been easy to come by. Virginia has been best for the heavy amberjacks, but Maryland shares in all the other fishing fortunes, including the croaker and flounder numbers that anglers find close to shore and in the inlets.

Bass fishermen in the Washington area can find their quarry easily in the Potomac River and its fine tributaries. It’s not unusual for a couple of bassboaters to latch onto 15 or 20 largemouths before the sun climbs over the trees, and the fishing continues even in the heat as plastic worms do a fine job along marshy dropoffs. The mountainous portions of the Potomac, Rappahannock and Susquehanna rivers beckon smallmouth bass fanatics.

The lower ends of the rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay are alive with Norfolk spot, croakers, small bluefish and scattered rockfish. The bay itself delivers rockfish and bluefish to trollers and chummers but not in every corner. Southern Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia are tough to beat when it comes to holding good numbers of all the summertime species.

George Hoch of Olney wasn’t the least bit happy with us not mentioning enough about the state of Triadelphia Reservoir. Access to the lake was shut down because of needed dam repairs. Hector Padilla at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s Brighton Dam office said there will be no fishing from shore or from a boat for some time yet. What that means is that anglers will need to confine their fishing to Triadelphia’s sister lake, Rocky Gorge.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected]

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 good water conditions for fishing with catfish or bass available, but where are the customers? South of the District, local bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) continue to coax bass into striking topwater poppers and occasionally also buzzbaits. Of course, the moment the sun “cooks” the river water, it’s plastic worms and grubs fished on light slipsinkers along marsh edges and spatterdock points from below Broad Creek to the Piscataway and from the Pomonkey clear down to the Aquia. If you see a little open water pocket amid the greenery, try a Little “N” crankbait in crawfish colors and see what the bass and big yellow perch will do to it. In the saltier sections, from St. Clements to St. George’s islands, expect a few rockfish to strike trolled lures in deep channel waters. Shoreliners at St. George’s are able to find evening or early morning croakers, spot and some small bluefish. Flounder and spot have been hooked from the deeper river dropoffs at the south side of St. George’s clear down to Cornfield Harbor.

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 is reported to be good. “We had a good weekend with people catching numbers of croakers and some fine spot,” George Quade said. There’s no reason to believe that has changed, so it should be the same way now. If not, send an e-mail.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Upper and lower sections of the creek continue to produce bass for those who use light slipsinkers and 4-inch scented worms. All anglers need is a marshy creek bank or any of the many grass beds, which also give up good numbers of topwater bass early in the day.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will turn up sunfish and some small bass on worm-and-bobber rigs. This is a fine place. Bring the children and let them have a ball. And for anyone who missed last week’s news about St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), the water level indeed has climbed enough to slip a johnboat into the lake. But remember, it’s still not high enough for heavy boats and trailers with big tires. Shoreline walkers or boaters find fat sunfish, some decent bass and surprising numbers of chain pickerel that like spinners or small spinnerbaits.

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) give up fat sunfish and some fine channel catfish that love clam necks on bottom rigs. Bass can be caught along weedy edges with finesse worms and small spinnerbaits.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) George Hoch of Olney jumped on me for not giving the best information about the recently shut-down Triadelphia Reservoir. Here’s the latest: Hector Padilla at the Brighton Dam office said, “Triadelphia is closed for dam repairs and will remain closed for now. There can be no boating and not even fishing from the shoreline.” Asked whether it would reopen any time soon, he said, “Not that I know of,” which means it’s going to take a while. The adjacent Rocky Gorge reservoir, however, is open and offers early morning bass that like spinnerbaits and plastic worms around rocky and gravel points. Catfish enjoy cut fish pieces or clam necks on weighted bottom rigs.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (****) — The numbers of fat Norfolk spot in the lower river is astonishing. People talk about catching 300 of them an outing. Who would want 300 fish that need to be cleaned? Be sensible; keep only what can be eaten in two or three meals. Croakers are available, too, as are snapper bluefish. White perch are in all the creeks and on main-stem structure, such as fallen trees. If you plan on launching a boat at Hallowing Point, across from Benedict, better get there before 5 a.m. This is a concrete ramp that draws a bunch of crabbers every day. Solomons ramp is also busy but has more room.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The bass bite [over] the past few days has really picked up as shown by the results of the most recent Fountainhead Bass Club tournament.” The winning bag of six fish weighed 18.06 pounds. The biggest was a 5.9-pounder. Most of the bass were caught on Carolina-rigged soft plastics in water 12 to 18 feet deep. Anglers continue to catch channel cats on chicken livers and cut baits, while several nice stringers of crappie were caught off the pier on small minnows or tiny jigs under a bobber.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early hour anglers find bass around sunken brush and lake points, where 4-inch plastic worms will be looked at. Sunfish and catfish are feeding, so give them a shot, too.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the river continues to run slightly above average because of heavy thunderstorms but is in good shape for smallmouth bass fishing. “Look for bass in the usual summer locations: riffles, gravel bars with grass beds and rubble/boulder flats downstream of riffles. With river temperatures above 80 degrees, the best fishing will be in moving water,” he said.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (**) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or fishdeepcreek.com) says the floating docks will turn up bass if you can skip a tube or worm under them. The bass will do the rest. Evening hours can deliver walleyes to boat drifters who use live shiners on spinner rigs. Big yellow perch and bluegills are waiting here.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (****) — Keith Lockwood of the Maryland DNR says, “The lower Susquehanna River is entertaining fishermen once more looking for striped bass.” One angler scored nicely by live-lining small white perch that the stripers would gobble up. Have not heard of any decent bass catches in the Havre de Grace area lately.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports good catches of rockfish, bluefish and croakers in the bay from the mouth of the Patuxent River down to the mouth of the Potomac River and across. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “We went fishing straight out about a mile east of Buoy 72 near the oyster sanctuary on Holland Bar, drifting with minnows, peeler crab, cut bait and squid, and almost immediately caught several 18-inch-long flounder. We then hooked countless croakers, and they were the biggest I had ever seen; [we] also had some small bluefish show up. [One of our] customers came in Sunday night and reported a large school of red drum rolling on top of the water a little south of the area we found the flounder in. He also caught flounder while he was fishing for the redfish. Earlier on Sunday, “Walleye” Pete Dahlberg (703/395-9955) was fishing south of the Power Plant and caught loads of rockfish with the largest 28 inches, but he said he had many in the 26- to 28-inch range. The bluefish are almost everywhere now. Breaking rockfish and blues are showing up between Point No Point and Point Lookout, as well as over the Southwest Middlegrounds. Elsewhere in the bay, the fishing for stripers above the Patuxent River generally points to trolling and occasional sight-casting to breaking fish or deep-jigging with bucktails or shad-like plastics from the Gooses up toward the Bay Bridges. The upper bay, particularly around the Chester River’s Love Point, turns up plenty of undersized rockfish that come to the surface and can be caught on small poppers and spoons. Not much successful chumming is being done.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Lots of surface-breaking bluefish and rockfish are seen around Smith Point and down toward the Great Wicomico River and on to the Windmill Point area of the Rappahannock River. Chummers score on rockfish, blues, even some trout and occasional red drum. Farther down the bay, around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, spadefish, sheepshead, flounder and fat croakers are possible at the tunnel’s third and fourth islands, as well as around some of the bridge abutments. Channel bass and cobias continue to delight anglers in the same vicinity.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Trollers can score on stripers just outside the mouth toward the Sharps Island Light. At the river mouth entrance, Norfolk spot are in ample supply, but white perch croakers and undersized rockfish are also available.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass bite has really slowed, but some can be caught on Baby One-Minus lures and plastic worms. Work around sunken tree roots and spatterdock edges when the tide is high and is about to drop.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) At least one fellow did well on the bass in Marshyhope Creek. He fished with junebug or blue Power Worms around myriad stickups, roots and fallen wood during an outgoing tide.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Two Maryland brothers fished out of Anna Point Marina several days ago and just after sunset got into a pod of surface-feeding rockfish that devoured a saltwater Rat-L-Trap, several Sassy Shads and other lures. But a good time was had Herb and Dave Magerer. Meanwhile, bass chances are good during the early and late hours when topwater baits or shallow-running crankbaits can score. Hot daytime hours generally call for plastic worms.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) There are good chances for smallmouth bass above Fredericksburg, preferably above the Rapidan and wherever else some decent wading is possible. Tubes and grubs in chartreuse/black or small crankbaits in crawfish colors can be deadly. In the tidal waters below Fredericksburg, channel and blue catfish are available on cut baits, but the bass fishing leaves a bit to be desired.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The heat is making itself felt. Only a few bass are hooked, and those come mostly in the early hours or when it’s overcast. However, fly-rodders can score nicely on fat redbreasted sunfish. Some crappies are found, but they ought to grow a bit.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish love clam necks or cut fish pieces on the bottom. Try to do it early or late in the day. Bass catches are few and far between.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) There’s good bass fishing if you confine your boating to the earliest possible hours. The largemouths can be caught alongside weedbeds and around boat houses (the farther back you cast, the better it will be), as well as around some rip-rap found on either side of bridges. Early hour topwater lures are fine, then switch to jerkbaits and plastic worms.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Earliest hours of the morning will be good for surface buzzbaits and loud sputter lures when fished around flooded brush and rock piles at bridge ends. The most reliable catches, however, come from plastic worms and lizards. Catfish are willing to bite deep-fished cut baits.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Archie Gold’s 95.7-pound blue catfish caught here two weeks ago is indeed a state record. More of them are waiting to suck in a bottom-fished cut bait or whole sunfish or perch. The stretch between Dutch Gap and the Appomattox River has been best.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretches are fishable and deliver a mixed bag of bass, sunfish, catfish and skunk outings.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Some bass are taken in early and late hours over flooded stump fields, around boat houses and sunken brush piles. Plastic worms and slow-rolled spinnerbaits are best, but don’t overlook surface lures if light conditions are not too bright.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) There are splendid smallmouth bass opportunities in the early and late hours. The middle of the days are miserable. Various tubes, grubs, crankbaits and topwater poppers will do the job. So will fly-rod streamers and poppers.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Ocean anglers fought strong winds last weekend, but some decent fishing can be had, including fat croakers from the inlet out into the nearby Atlantic waters. Flounder fishing in the backwaters behind Ocean City has been poor, but distant offshore waters provide yellowfin and bluefin tunas, as well as dolphinfish. Mahi-mahi (dolphin) are hooked from the Hambone to the Hot Dog and out over Washington and Baltimore canyons.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Offshore tunas and dolphinfish are almost guaranteed, but now increased numbers of billfish are seen over the Norfolk Canyon and the Cigar. Closer to shore, around the Chesapeake Light Tower and such, brutish amberjacks, bluefish and some Spanish mackerel are biting. The Eastern Shore flounder fishing is doing OK, but big keeper fish are tough to come by. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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