- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

Although the fishing in general is good, we must pass along some sad news. A fish kill in the tidal Potomac River has occurred south of the Route 301 bridge, between Colonial Beach and Coles Point, on the Virginia side of the river.

A Northern Neck Virginian who didn’t identify himself but who sent graphic photos of dead fish scattered all over the shoreline, wrote that he saw flounder, rockfish up to 30 inches long, croakers, spot, perch and catfish. The photos proved as much. Reader Ernie Rojas said he saw a large brown mass of water last week and it smelled putrid.

Along comes my friend, Jim Kundreskas, who says, “A power outage at the Blue Plains Waste Treatment Plant in May caused the release of 17million gallons of untreated raw sewage into the Potomac River. By June 3, [many miles] downstream, thousands upon thousands of dead stripers, croaker, perch, spot, shad and cow-nose rays washed up on the Virginia shore. Coincidence?”

The Maryland DNR and Virginia officials are now taking water samples to determine the cause of the kill that is estimated to have affected 8,000 fish, according to the DNR.

Then there’s the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force that is investigating ongoing reports of fish deaths and fish with lesions in the Shenandoah watershed this spring.

In the North Fork Shenandoah, numerous smallmouth bass and sunfish with lesions have been found and a significant number have died. The cause is unknown. These problems began in March and continued through May in the lower North Fork, generally downstream of the Woodstock area. There also was a brief fish kill involving smallmouth bass and sunfish in the lower South River near Grottoes in April.

The U.S. Geological Survey is studying these fish at its laboratory in Leetown, W.Va., and is conducting fish health studies on samples collected earlier from the Shenandoah fish kills.

When will we humans learn to take better care of the environment?

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), there will be hungry catfish, some bass and a few leftover stripers. Below the District, the river bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are primarily fishing the creeks and doing very well, too. Topwater poppers before the sun bakes the water and Senko-style worms when it’s hot and bright on the river have been superb lure choices from the Piscataway down to the Aquia creeks. In saltier water, a fish kill is obvious as the shorelines on the Virginia side from Colonial Beach down to and past Nomini Bay have been littered with dead stripers, perch, croakers, flounder and spot, even some catfish. Water tests are now being run by the DNR, and it hasn’t been established whether a recent Blue Plain Waste Treatment Plant discharge of raw sewage is responsible and if so, why did it wait until it reached Westmoreland County before it did so much damage?

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) on the St. Mary’s County side of this Potomac tributary says croaker fishing has improved, but night hours are best. Pier fishermen are doing reasonably well after the sun sets.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — The bass have been more than willing to pick up a soft plastic “bait” alongside marsh edges that show a nearby drop or milfoil pockets up and down the creek. Try a splashy popper early in the day and hang onto your rod. Catfish are biting. Clam snouts or herring chunks are best.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) offers decent shoreline fishing opportunities for sunfish, bass, even a few crappies. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown on Camp Cosoma Road), the low, low water allows some shore fishing for bass and crappies, but it’s the boaters who are impatiently waiting for higher water.

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) will give up scads of bluegills. some fat catfish and respectable largemouth bass.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Rocky Gorge shows early-morning topwater action for bass, followed mostly by plastic worming and some crankbait fishing around lake points and rocky humps.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park was excited about the fishing. “The white perch are hitting Beetlespins and such in the creeks,” he said. “It’s getting better every day.” Lamb also said that rockfish trollers inside the river, from below Benedict downstream to the Clarks Landing area and beyond, are picking up beautiful rockfish without any problem on bucktails and spoons. Now add the small-boaters who are casting lures to river points and into holes and wrecks as they pick up keeper rockfish on a variety of lures. Some surface popper action on rockfish is found at Half Pone Point in the evenings. Croaker catches can be good at night off the Naval Air Station for shore fishermen on base, so boaters in the vicinity should also score.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis said, “Bass continue to hit topwater baits early in the morning or late in the evening around main-lake points and the inside points of major coves. As the sun comes up over the treetops, switch to shad colored crankbaits or pitch watermelon-colored Senkos or Yum Dingers into blowdowns. The crappie bite has picked up with several nice fish taken off the pier on small minnows. The catfishing has been slow, but fly-rodders are having a ball with the bluegills. The reservoir is full and clear with water temperatures in the low- to mid-70s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The Potomac Bassmasters of Virginia will have their annual youth fishing tournament Sunday, 9 a.m. to noon. Free bait and prizes for the participants. For details, call Arnold Aspelin 301/567-3030. The fishing in the lake currently is really productive for crappies, bass, catfish and bluegills.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — Smallmouth bass and tiger muskie fishing has picked up. Just imagine, DNR biologist John Mullican and Keith Lockwood fished near Williamsport last weekend, using spinnerbaits and loud topwater chug lures. Mullican had a 43-inch muskie slam his surface lure, and the fellows saw six others follow the lures in plain view. Meanwhile, up and down the western parts, smallmouth bass are looking at tubes and grubs, as well as inline spinners and small topwater poppers.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office; fishdeepcreek.com) says the fishing can be dynamite, but it’s probably best if you do it before the jetskiers, fun-boaters, and water skiers get busy after 9 or 10 a.m. That means get out on the lake at first light and catch crappies, perch, bass and walleyes. Live minnows on jig-and-bobber rigs can find all four fish species, but the bass are OK with tubes and grubs fished around lake points and sunken brush.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — The fishing for rockfish on the Flats could actually be good, but unthinking dolts habitually charge through the submersed beds of milfoil and hyrdrilla, scattering the fish in the process. If you can find a quiet patch of weeds, skip a Rat-L-Trap across it or swim a Bass Assassin jerkbait around the flooded vegetation. Inside the river, white perch and some hefty bass are seen.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — From the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb reports rockfish are plentiful for chummers in the Triangle area south of Point Lookout. Stripers in the 18- to 30-inch range are in the chum lines. Lamb adds that bluefish have started to show up, but they’re still not here in dependable numbers, which will happen in the next week or two. Trollers are finding rockfish from 20 to 24 inches on the Chinese Muds, at Buoy 77, the Gas Docks, and many other locations. If you want a bunch of croakers, check out the “HS” Buoy a straight shot out from the Patuxent River mouth. Late afternoons into early evenings are best. Trout were hooked this week under breaking rockfish south of the Targets, north of Point No Point. Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com), on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, agrees with Lamb, saying, “Plenty of keeper rockfish were caught chumming in the Triangle this past weekend. Charter captain Jeff Popp also chummed them up on the ledge at Buoy 72. The croakers are becoming more plentiful, especially during the evenings when you can pick up jumbo hardheads. The Mud Leads and the Southwest Middlegrounds have been good spots for these bottom feeders. Bluefish are showing up in some of the chum slicks. One man caught a 23-inch flounder below Buoy 72, right on the eastern ledge of the shipping channel. The St. Jerome’s Creek channel dredging now is complete, and we already have noticed bigger fish coming all the way to the marina this week.” In the middle and upper bay, trollers and chummers are finding a few rockfish, but it could be better. Black drum fishermen still score off and on around Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — Chum boats are finding plenty of action from the Maryland/Virginia line across to Smith Point and south toward the mouth of the Rappahannock as rockfish, croakers, bluefish and scattered trout or drumfish pick up the baits in the chum lines. In the lower Chesapeake, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “All the summertime, inshore species are here. The spadefish [anglers] are doing their thing, cobia fishermen are sitting on their chum slicks, flounder pounders are catching doormats, and sheepshead are being pulled from the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.”

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Trollers continue to work for rockfish in the mouth of the river, but croaker catches leave a bit to be desired. … The Mid-Shore Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will hold its annual Bill Perry Youth Fishing Derby Saturday on the Cambridge fishing bridge parallel to Route 50. The event is held on the Talbot County side of the bridge. This is for 14-year-olds-and-under and runs from 9 a.m. until noon. A $1 fee covers bait and lunch, but be sure to bring your own rod and reel. Call 410/476-5961.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass catches can be good if you use 4-inch scented worms, shallow-running crankbaits or small jointed jerkbaits.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp of the Marshyhope Creek) The Marshyhope Creek and portions of the adjacent main stem have been fair for bass. Use Senko-style worms, medium-depth crankbaits and such.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early-hour topwater fishing can be productive when a popper or buzzbait is skipped under a boat dock or around a series of stumps before the sun gets too high. After that it’s mostly worms and lizards, maybe some deep cranking with a long-lipped lure. Rockfish are here one moment, gone the next, but it always pays to carry along a rod with a saltwater Rat-L-Trap or a Sassy Shad.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Catfish and some rockfish are in the upper tidal portions, with only fair bass action reported from Hicks Landing down to Leedstown. Upper river smallmouth bass are willing to look at a fringed tube or a small crankbait. Channel catfish like worm or liver baits.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) This lake can deliver the bass and crappies if you’ll put in the necessary time to hunt around sunken brush, fallen trees, lake points and such. Fly-rodders do very well on fat bluegills.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappies can be found around stumps and sunken brush. All you need is a 1/8-ounce curly-tailed grub in white or chartreuse, tie it perpendicular to 8-pound line with a bobber some 3 or 31/2 feet above the lure. Cast it to a fish-attracting spot and shake the rod tip a little to give the lure a little movement. The fish will do the rest. Even bass will suck them down.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Early hour buzzbaits or dish-faced poppers will see action around weed edges and inside boat houses. Plastic worms and shallow crankbaits are the go-to lures later in the day. Some nice crappies can be caught along rip-rap and bridge abutments if you use live minnows.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie, bass and huge catfish action make this huge reservoir a fine choice for the weekend.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Bass catches are only so-so, but catfish and some fat crappies often save the day.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Huge blue catfish continue to dominate the fishing scene between Dutch Gap and the Appomattox River mouth. Bass catches are up and down in the creeks south of Richmond, such as the Chippokes and Walker.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas continue to turn up some fairly decent smallmouths and largemouths, but this river is still being checked for causes of recent fish kills.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Largemouth bass like soft plastics and shallow crankbaits in stump fields and around rocky points. Striped bass fishing seems better after sun sets.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass draw visitors from near and far, but you need to work hard to get some good specimens. Tubes, grubs, streamers and spinners — all work. Catfish and sunfish are plentiful.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Surf anglers say the skates have displaced earlier rockfish catches, but the inlet Ocean City now shows some bluefish and sea trout action while headboats connect on sea bass. In the more distant waters around the Jackspot and Hambome, expect chopper bluefish and along the canyons, tunas and large sharks are hooked. Limits of “football” yellowfins are hooked by offshore boaters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — “It is a pretty good time to be fishing the offshore waters,” said Ken Neill. “We fished around the 100-fathom line [and] found yellowfin tuna throughout that area, boating 17. Had several dolphin bites on the troll also but lost them all.” After hooking tunas, Neill and his boat mates switched to dropping baits to the bottom for tilefish. “Five anglers dropped down, and five anglers were hooked up with double tilefish,” said Neill, who later that day did manage to hook six dolphin, mahi-mahi and 12 nice sea bass. By the way, places like the 26 Mile Hill and other nearby ocean humps are loaded with chopper bluefish, as well as bluefin tuna and king mackerel in these areas. Spadefish are around the Chesapeake Light Tower and over all of the inshore wrecks. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.


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