- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

What a difference warmer temperatures make. Three of us fished the tidal Potomac River two days ago and caught bass as far down as the Mattawoman and Chicamuxen creeks to a good ways above the Wilson Bridge.

Local river guide Andy Andrzejewski hooked a good number of bass — including a beautiful 6-pound largemouth bass — on a 4-inch red Ribworm, proving again that it’s never too soon to use plastic worms. An assortment of crawfish imitations, including Mann’s green-and-red flake Craw in the 31/2-inch size, also were productive.

Andrzejewski’s fellow guide, Dale Knupp, also was superb, hooking bass after bass on the short green crawfish fakes. They left me little to catch, but I did manage to hook a few bass, and one took a red Frenzy Rattl’r.

Start the white perch hunt — White perch are coming up the tidal rivers of the Chesapeake, and a few large, fat specimens are caught — with the best yet to come. I’ll take a chance and say the weekend might signal the beginning of the spawning run in the Potomac as far up as Washington, where catch-and-release shad and rockfish are now taking lures, but there are no perch just yet.

But it will happen there, as well as the upper Patuxent, Chester, Nanticoke and Choptank. At the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, you already will see spawned-out perch, and the shad are starting to show. While on the Potomac, I chatted with shoreline anglers at Marshall Hall, and they had not yet hooked anything but small channel catfish.

Occoquan will turn on — Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said, “Cold temperatures and gusty winds have made bass catches tough to come by this past week. The reservoir is three-quarters full, and the water is clear, but the surface temperature still is only around 50 degrees. Bass are staging and can be taken on crankbaits, suspended hard stickbaits and jig ‘n pigs, but the strong wind has made it difficult for anglers to score consistently. As the weather warms the bass will get serious about the spawn.”

Flats show small rockfish — Maryland DNR officials say rockfish hunters in the upper Chesapeake, particularly the Susquehanna Flats, finally found some striper action this week.

“They were not the large spawning fish, but it has not been uncommon to hear of 20 or more fish per man in an outing,” the DNR’s Keith Lockwood said. “These are school-sized striped bass in the 12- to 20-inch size category.”

While we’re talking about the Susquehanna, expect the hickory shad to bite again inside the river in Deer Creek this weekend because of a rise in air and water temperatures.

Stripers in the bay — You can bet your last dime that a bunch of fishermen on charter and private boats will be out in the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay in the next several days, trolling heavy spreader rigs to see whether they can find a couple of catch-and-release stripers in anticipation of the coming trophy season that begins April 15.

Virginia saltwater catches — It is official. The 68-pound, 1-ounce striped bass caught by Clay Armstrong on March 4 is a Virginia state record, according to our friend Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association.

“A few, large stripers continue to be caught on the coast, but most of the fish have moved on into the Chesapeake Bay,” Neill said. “The croaker bite we had has really slowed up due to the cold turning the fish off and the wind keeping anglers from getting out. Look for the croaker bite to pick back up this week as the temperatures warm back up. Impressive flounder catches have been made on the Eastern Shore [including Wachapreague], and some flounder have been caught in the lower bay. Tautog continue to be caught along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and at other nearby structures.”

Kerr and Anna bass finicky — The largemouth bass at Virginia’s Kerr Reservoir and Lake Anna act a bit finicky, but some are hooked. In fact, a Kerr tournament last week was won with five bass weighing 18 pounds.

Shenandoah update — As part of an ongoing effort to determine the cause of dead and ailing fish in the North and South Fork Shenandoah rivers, Virginia’s Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force has resumed collecting fish and water samples. The task force is responding to reports from the Potomac River Smallmouth Club concerning sightings of dead fish and fish with lesions found in the Shenandoah this month. It also will check daily for water quality in the North and South Forks, as well as engage in an extensive fish health study of the Shenandoah, North and South Forks and Cowpasture rivers to seek signs of chronic stress and immune system effects.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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