- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

After the recent rains, muddy runoffs and floating debris in rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, the weekend fishing outlook is a veritable roller coaster of possible skunk outings and productive trips. Many waters are still a bit unsettled, but others are turning up good catches of fish.

It begins with the tidal Potomac River, where bass hounds in their fast boats find plenty of action mostly in the feeder creeks. The main stem of the Potomac continues to be an obstacle course for boaters as tree branches, stumps, buckets and other flotsam can make navigation a chore during certain tides.

The opposite appears true of the tidal Patuxent, where trotliners find crabs and small-boat users connect on white perch, fat Norfolk spot, some rockfish and croakers. We fished the PAX River, as locals say, on Independence Day and encountered no navigational hazards.

The Chesapeake Bay has been a huge question mark for trollers, chum boaters and lure casters. One of the top fishing areas in the bay unquestionably begins at the mouth of the Patuxent River, runs across to Hoopers Island Light and continues south to Tangier Sound in the east and the Point Lookout and Smith Point sectors to the west. However, in recent days the fishing in those parts has been less than exciting. Some of the charter fishing captains even have switched to other parts of the bay.

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; 202/244-0461), Ray Fletcher said the water is fishable. Things are getting back to normal, but the water isn’t gin-clear yet. However, catfish, smallmouth bass, even a couple of walleyes were hooked. From the District downstream, bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) confine their activities mostly to the creeks, which survived heavy rains nicely. Early hour topwater poppers and buzzbaits are the way to start out before the sun climbs high, followed by plastic baits, such as green pumpkin/red flake worms fished along marshy dropoffs with a tiny slip-sinker. In open pockets of grass and spatterdock, a spinnerbait or a Baby 1-Minus crankbait might see action. In the saltier parts of the lower Potomac, including the St. Mary’s River and St. George’s Island area and Ragged Point, you will find plenty of spot. Ken Lamb says many are 12 inches long and weigh as much as a pound.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — From Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side, boat renters and bait buyers say croaker, spot and perch fishing can be fine one day, lousy the next. You will have to pick a day and hope for the best.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Early bird popper users will find willing bass around small spatterdock points and grassy pockets, followed by steady bass action if you use short, scented plastic worms around marsh banks and along channel cuts and dropoff edges. Catfish like clam necks or chunks of herring on the bottom of the creek channel almost anywhere up or down the creek.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers sunfish, skinny crappies and a few bass. St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), continues to be refilled slowly, but johnboaters can slip their craft into the water and find some bass and fat crappies or sunfish. There’s no chance yet of launching a trailered boat.

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 come up with some bass, catfish and sunnies. Days are hot, so try to fish early and late.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (.) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Haven’t heard anything good about bass catches — or anything else for that matter. Recent rainstorms played havoc here.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — White perch by the hundreds are present in every feeder creek, around bulkheads, duck blinds and grassy river edges from Chalk Point downstream to Battle Creek and across to Greenwell State Park. A friend and I hooked more than 100 on Tuesday using only small Mini Trap and Tiny Trap lures, as well as 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits. We kept enough for dinner and let the rest go. The lower river also is loaded with Norfolk spot, including the Southwest marker and dozens of other places that show deep holes and shallow-to-deep ledges. These spot often weigh a pound each and measure up to 12 inches long. Rockfish catches have declined over the past several days, but they will turn on again, as will those of croakers that have been playing hard to get.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), park ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The recent heavy rains have left the reservoir high and muddy, and as a result fish are scattered and hard to pattern. The best bets for bass have been long, deep, grassy points and rock walls with deep water close by. Jigs ‘n’ pigs and medium running shad-colored crankbaits have worked well. The catfish and bluegill bite has been strong, but the crappies have developed lockjaw. The water is high and stained, and much debris is still floating around. The 14-inch minimum size limit is no longer in force. Bass of any size may be kept, but the five-fish daily limit still applies.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good bass, crappie, sunfish and catfish action has been reported.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — The fishing is returning. We expect that by the weekend, barring unforeseen storms, smallmouth bass, catfish and sunfish will be feeding actively, and you will be able to cash in with baits, tubes, spinners and jigs from Washington County down to Montgomery County.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or fishdeepcreek.com) finds largemouth bass under docks and at lake points or grassbed edges as he skips tubes and jigs under the floating contraptions or jerkbaits and poppers to the greenery. Evening hours seem to be best for walleye drifters.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (.) — The tidal Susquehanna River bass fishing will be off its mark for a few more days. Debris is heavy up this way, so watch it, boaters.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, “Bluefish are plentiful for trollers in the mid-bay region. When things go right you could catch 100 in the best locations, and Point No Point has been one of them. Use small spoons on these 2- to 3-pound fish. The flounder are making a small comeback, but rockfish have disappeared. Where and when they’ll come back is anybody’s guess. Chumming is awful. A few stripers were taken by trollers above Punch Island this week.” Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “Not very many people are fishing, so it’s hard to know what is out there.” Small craft advisories during the first parts of the week kept a lot of boaters in port, and even “Walleye” Pete Dahlberg, a professional charter fishing captain who works from a smaller, faster boat than most, has had to run all over the lower Maryland parts of the bay to find fish. He seems to find croakers, spot, flounder and small rockfish when times are tough for the oldest hands on this bay. Henderson said one of her marina customers fished near Buoy 72 on Monday and found some nice croakers during the evening bite. “Others have gotten into a lot of small trout but nothing of any size. Lots of little bluefish are around but nothing to brag about,” she added. As you head up the bay, watch out for floating debris, thanks to the recent monsoon rains and the waters that empty in the Chesapeake. The trollers find a few rockfish, but chumming has been poor.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Upper Virginia bay parts deliver some croakers and rockfish, maybe a couple of bluefish and perhaps a Spanish mackerel now and then, but the fishing has been kind of slow from the mouth of the Rappahannock up to the Potomac mouth. The 109-pound cobia that was caught in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake has been approved as a state record. Down in the Virginia Beach area, Ken Neill says all the cobia spots are producing. “Bluefish Rock, York Spit and the Inner Middle Grounds are all hot. Red drum are still around, and many are being caught by cobia fishermen. There are some big black drum scattered around also. A big one was caught off of the Gloucester Fishing Pier and was brought to Grafton Fishing Supply in the back seat of the guy’s car. It was not in a cooler or anything.” Flounder fishing seems to be picking up, with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel hot one day, cold the next, but some big fish are being caught if you use live shiners and such. If you like sheepshead fishing, the fourth Island of the bridge-tunnel is delivering the goods.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Maybe a few perch, spot and croakers will cooperate from the mouth up to Cambridge’s fishing bridge, but upper river bass catches haven’t been great.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Baby 1-Minus lures and 4-inch-long plastic worms, jerkbaits and poppers are all you will need to catch good numbers of bass, but many are small.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp of the Marshyhope Creek) The bass fishing is not great for the second week in a row. Maybe the Marshyhope and some of the Delaware feeders will turn on this weekend. Blame the tremendous shift in pressure systems over a two-week period.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early Times Kentucky Whisky, the sponsor of professional tournament angler Kevin Wirth, is sponsoring a tagged bass challenge at Lake Anna this month. Fifty bass have been tagged, including some $1,000 tagged bass and one largemouth worth $25,000, plus tags that will win merchandise prizes. Anyone 21 and older who catches a tagged bass and registers it at www.earlytimes.com will win a prize pack. Meanwhile, the bass fishing has been pretty good for plastic wormers and crankbaiters. The early hours can deliver a sudden striped bass school coming to the surface.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Even if the lake doesn’t look as clear as tapwater, crappies, channel “cats,” sunfish and some decent bass will bite.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The catfish are hungry, but we haven’t heard of any real bass success stories. Bluegills and some crappies are hooked.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass are possible inside the feeder creeks around secondary points and weedbed edges. Soft plastics are best, but topwater chug and popper baits also do a fine job early in the mornings.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The catfish parade continues. This lake is going to rival the tidal James River one of these days as concerns the presence of large blue catfish. The bass have been hanging around flooded brush and the like where spinnerbaits and plastic worms or tubes will coax them from their lair.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Some catfish, perch and sunfish are caught, but not many bass tales are heard.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The water is murky in the tidal parts, but blue catfish don’t care. Drop a chunk of juicy herring or a whole sunfish down to the bottom and see what happens if you’re in the Dutch Gap area or the Hopewell sector.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — From the Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas, local angler Dick Fox reported, “The river is only a few feet up and shows a mild stain, but [two days ago a friend and I] caught a dozen smallmouth bass in the 10- to 13-inch range. The river is perfect right now to get around on by boat. Crankbaits in bright colors were the best, and dark tubes were OK, too.” Fox said the state fears the recent high water washed a lot of the smallmouth fry away, which would be terrible for future bass populations.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttimes are for rockfish fanciers around the “S” Curve. Some of the stripers come up and bust bait on the surface, so get ready with a good rod, strong line and a jerkbait or Rat-L-Trap and cast it into the fray. Bass catches are fair, but some nice specimens are caught.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) If heavy rains stay away, there will be smallmouth bass hooked in good numbers. Tubes, spinners, jigs, grubs, topwater lures and streamer flies — all will work.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) If the wind is kind, offshore canyon waters will deliver tunas, marlin, sharks, dolphinfish and a few wahoos. Closer in, the Bassgrounds and Jackspot show bluefish and small dolphins, with farther-in wrecks giving up sea bass. Ocean City’s inlet has been turning up a mixed bag of bluefish and stripers, with the backwaters delivering a few keeper flounder, although most of the flatties are small. Surf catches point mostly to kingfish, sand sharks and small bluefish.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — From the Virginia Beach area, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association, says the blue marlin and dolphin seem to be popping up anywhere in the distant offshore waters, including the Triple 0s area at the 500 fathom curve. Tuna are caught in the same vicinity, but Neill says the best yellowfin and bigeye fishing has been along the 100-fathom curve from the Norfolk Canyon up to the Washington Canyon. Some of these yellowfin tuna weigh more than 70 pounds. “The Fingers are loaded with false albacore, and the bluefish can be a problem, but there are also plenty of bluefin tuna, dolphin and some yellowfin there as well. Some wahoo have shown in our offshore waters also, with fish more than 80 pounds caught. The Triangle Wrecks are loaded with sea bass. Spadefish can be found over many wrecks. They are still at the Chesapeake Light Tower, but the average size is small,” Neill added. Eastern Shore flounder drifters do quite well when the wind doesn’t blow. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.


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