- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The black drum are biting in the lower Chesapeake Bay and it won’t be long before they’ll show up in Maryland around Stone Rock and Sharps Island Light. It will happen within the next two weeks. In Virginia, meanwhile, 20- to 50-pound drumfish are caught near buoys 13 and 16, while striped bass hang around the Bay Bridge-Tunnel abutments and islands. Some optimists believe the next several days will see catches of well-fed spadefish around the bridge-tunnel.

From Virginia’s Northern Neck up to the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the chum boats have started dropping ground bait into the water to attract rockfish. Some of the Tangier Sound and Southern Maryland chum boats connect on stripers, bluefish and croakers.

For bass anglers and others who don’t customarily fish from 60-foot boats, the early week’s strong wind was simply horrendous. It kept most of us in port or back home where our lawns needed mowing. The coming weekend will see a great change what with warmer, calmer weather coming to our region for a while. You’ll have a grand time fishing for bass and stripers, and may even see a big increase in croakers.

Don’t forget this is National Safe Boating Week. For us that can only mean that everybody aboard a boat should wear a life vest.

This also being a holiday weekend, the Superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, Col. Mark S. Chaney, asks that you remember to “boat safe, boat sober, boat smart, and, of course, wear your life jacket.”

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; call 202/244-0461) rental boaters continue to try for shad, but most of them are gone. However, there’s a good chance of getting a fat catfish, maybe a striper, or an errant walleye. In the tidal waters below town, river bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) confine their fishing mostly to the feeder creeks, but even they played tough this week because of strong winds on Monday and Tuesday. They did find their bass mostly with scented plastic worms and with shallow crankbaits. By the weekend, you’ll be competing for fishing room with tournament participants from near and far. This river gets very little rest. Since the wind has slowed down, in the next several days you’ll find a topwater bite around grass beds, early morning creek points and sunken wood from above Mattawoman Creek down to the Aquia Creek. My favorite surface lure is a blunt-nosed popper, but buzzbaits should also attract a fair share of the action. If that doesn’t work, cast wacky-rigged or Texas-rigged Zero worms (without a slip sinker) toward the edges of milfoil and hydrilla patches and weed lines.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Quade’s Store in Bushwood (301/769-3903), on the St. Mary’s County side of this Potomac tributary, reports up-and-down croaker catches. One day they’ll bite, then it stops, only to start up again a day later. Before the wind kicked up a fuss, one rental boater filled a cooler with big croakers that were caught in a cove at Bushwood. The white perch fishing has gotten a little better. But one thing is certain, slow winds and warmer weather is needed. It’ll happen this weekend.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — If you’re not surrounded by tournament boats, look for a stretch of submersed vegetation — hydrilla, milfoil, or wild celery — and start casting early hour surface poppers or buzzbaits. This creek is full of water weeds and don’t overlook the spatterdock patches, either. After the sun gets up good and hard, use scented plastic worms. Mid-channel portions are home to well-fed catfish.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is fine for an assortment of bedding bluegills, which makes for good flyrod popping, and bass that are mostly on the small side. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown, on Camp Cosoma Road), you can walk around the edges and find a willing bass or crappie, maybe a dozen fat bluegills.

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). What a wonderful couple of lakes to take the kids to, bait a hook, pinch a bobber to the line some 3 or 4 feet above and cast the rig toward a grassy edge or sunken brush. Sunfish will do the rest. Bass like 4-inch Power Worms in blue or red.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (…) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia Reservoir water levels need to come up, but Rocky Gorge turns up good numbers of bass, crappies and catfish. The backs of coves can be good for topwater lures, but never go without spinnerbaits and soft plastics.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — At the mouth of the river and inside portions from the naval base up toward the Route 4 bridge, you can expect croaker bites this weekend, especially at night. The upper river, from Hall’s Creek to Hill’s Bridge, has been a bummer as far as bass catches are concerned. We did find some yellow and white perch near Hill’s Bridge a few days ago.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis said, “Topwater lures have produced some nice stringers of bass, especially in the early morning or late evening hours. If the rains stay away and the wind is moderate, this will be a good pattern for the next several weeks. Crappies, including several citations, were brought in this past weekend. Small minnows around sunken blowdowns did the most damage. Catfish are being taken on chicken livers or cut bait and flyrodders can score at will on the bluegills. The reservoir is full and clear with surface temperatures around 70 degrees.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass like scented plastic worms and lizards around brush piles and lake points. Sunfish are in the shoreline waters, guarding their spawning beds. Flyrod bugs and poppers do the job on bluegills.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (..) — Expect smallmouth bass to take tubes and grubs up around Knoxville, Brunswick and Point of Rocks. Catfish should bite, but not much has been happening for bottom-bait bouncers.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) reports, “Just got in from a few cold days on the lake. Water temperatures on Monday were 51 degrees. We had a frost Tuesday night, so I bet it was even colder yesterday. Got plenty of smallmouth bass on Lucky Craft Pointer 78 hard jerkbaits along the State Park shore. The smallmouths are spawning while the largemouths are still mostly pre-spawn with fish cruising the shallows in the afternoons as the sun heats the water. This is one of the best springs in a long time for catching walleyes. Most of the fish range from 15 to 20 inches and hit fuzzy grubs tipped with a minnow or a nightcrawler on a Lindy Rig. Crappies are schooling around wood and sunken brush.”

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — Bass guide Karl Bunch (cell phone 410/459-7445) finds largemouth bass with jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms from inside the Havre de Grace marina waters on out toward the flats, but the wind has been simply awful.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Christy Henderson, of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, reports, “Night fishing was the ticket this week as the jumbo croakers were in the bay.” Henderson says the ledge behind the target ship was the place to be because stripers and croakers took cut bait there without a problem. A charter boat in the same area reportedly got 300 croakers. Henderson also said that over the weekend all those who left St. Jerome’s Creek and headed north had rotten fishing, but everyone who went south between buoys 60 and 72A had a great day. The chummers got jumbo croakers, blues, stripers and a couple of cow-nose rays. By Sunday a wind advisory slowed things down. Henderson also mentioned that a retired priest, Father Dailey, fished the mouth of St. Jerome’s Creek on Tuesday and caught a 19-inch flounder. All this while there’s creek channel dredging going on. From the upper bay’s Love Point down to the Diamonds and the general Choptank River mouth, the chummers have started and they’re getting some decent rockfish, but trolling is still the preferred fishing method for private boat owners.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — In the Northern Neck waters the wind has been absolutely atrocious, but as soon as it calms down you can expect chum boats to find rockfish, bluefish and croakers from the Rappahannock River mouth up toward Smith Point. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fishermen’s Association reports that the drum are biting. It begins with roly-poly black drum in the 20- to 50-pound range that have been picking up sea clam baits on heavy bottom rigs in the vicinity of buoys 13 and 16. Some of the tasty drumfish are also hooked up on 9-Foot-Shoal by anglers who actually are targeting red drum. If it’s rockfish you want, they’re along the bridge abutments, with quite a few in the 40-inch-and-over class taken at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Sheepshead have made their arrival with big fish being caught at the bridge-tunnel as by-catch of the drum fleet, but not many have been hooked by sport anglers looking just for spadefish. Wait until this weekend when it’ll be in the mid-80s. They’ll start biting. Meanwhile, speckled trout are hungry in the Mobjack Bay basin. Fish topping the 5-pound citation mark are being caught and PSSFA member Barclay Shepard had a 12-pound, 1-ounce trophy speck that is leading in the speckled trout division.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (..) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Evening hours can bring bites from croakers inside the mouth, but we haven’t heard much about perch or bass catches as you head toward Denton.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) DNR personnel will be checking soon to see if the oxygen content in the river is dropping as the water warms, which has stopped all bass tournaments here. However, there are bass in good numbers from Snow Hill to Shad Landing. Cast shallow crankbaits and 4-inch plastic worms into flooded tree roots along shore.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (..) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Slow going for bass, according to one angler who was in a club tournament over the weekend and never had a bass. The winner only had three keepers, all caught on short plastic worms in junebug color.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastics are the lures of choice for boaters who find action around stone-filled lake points and in the backs of creeks where brush piles can be found.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) — (Fredericksburg to Leedstown) Upper river should deliver some smallmouth action this weekend. Tidal river below Fredericksburg will give up some bass from Port Royal to Green Bay. Catfish are everywhere, including Fredericksburg’s city park stretch.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies are hungry if you can find a pail filled with small minnows and use a bobber some 3 or 4 feet above the bait. Look for brushy waters and start fishing.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass like plastic worms not far from concession stand. Check out some of the sunken timber to the right of the boat launch. Crappies jump on small grubs and curly-tailed jigs under thumb-sized corks in brushy waters. Catfish like chunks of herring or clam necks.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass, some of them are trophies, are hooked on jig’n’craws, worms, soft jerkbaits and buzzbaits around creek entrance points, boat houses, and weed edges.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) A few rockfish are caught on trolled Redfins during low-light hours. Bass are looking at 4-inch scented worms and, when you find a bit of open water next to wood or creek points, a medium depth crankbait.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 160 miles () — (Williamsburg area) Slow going for good-sized bass this week, but crappies, perch and catfish are willing.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are a given if you sit in a boat from the Dutch Gap to the mouth of the Appomattox. Use herring or cut fish of any type as bait.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (..) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch will deliver some smallmouth and largemouth bass, sunfish and channel catfish.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) shows largemouth bass finally providing better opportunities around stump fields and boat houses. Late hours deliver stripers.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass, channel catfish and sunfish are a sure bet in the next several days. Bass will hop onto a tube or grub in deep rock pockets.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Windy weather has put a serious crimp into this week’s fishing, but expect good things this weekend as the waters of the offshore canyons are filled with warmth, thanks to warm currents from the south. The Maryland DNR reported that a number of boats braved the seas and were rewarded with yellowfin tunas and at least one big blue marlin. Meanwhile, bluefish are all over the offshore area known as the Jackspot and sea bass fishing will be good this weekend because the wind is supposed to slow way down. The DNR’s Keith Lockwood says surf fishermen continue to get large striped bass that are moving up the coast after leaving the Chesapeake Bay.

Sea trout have been reported moving about in the Ocean City at night, which can make for good fishing because bluefish, stripers and flounder are also available. Flounder chances in the backwaters will improve daily now. Use minnow and squid combinations on bottom rigs while you drift along.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Providing the wind doesn’t howl, yellowfin tuna are within range of sportfishing boats. There is also some good water that has moved up on the 100 fathom curve from the Norfolk Canyon on up to the Washington Canyon, says Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. Anglers who bottom-fish in the offshore waters are finding big sea bass and blueline tilefish. “A number of these tilefish have weighed in over 15 pounds but none [so far] have weighed more than the 15.74-pound fish that Troy Warren caught on the Healthy Grin back in April,” added Neill. That fish is still pending as the new All-Tackle World Record. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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