- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How about Montpelier, Va., angler Josh Fitchett? His vehicle was parked on the Virginia side of the Potomac recently, but he was in his boat inside Maryland’s Piscataway Creek with a 651/2-pound blue catfish and no one to help him with a certified scale.

So Fitchett did an unusual thing. He called the promotions manager of Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World near Baltimore. Allan Ellis picked up the receiver, and somebody on the other end said, “My name is Josh Fitchett. Can I bring this catfish to your store and have it weighed? I’m pretty sure it’s a new Maryland state record.”

Ellis quickly called the Maryland Fisheries Service to make it aware of the possible blue catfish record. The trouble was that Fitchett only wanted an official confirmation of the weight, and then he was willing to let the big “cat” go. He was told to find a place with a good scale and have it weighed. Carrying it in the boat was no trouble because Fitchett is a catfish tournament angler and he has a huge livewell in the bow of his center-console. Help came when he arrived at Leesylvania State Park, where an FLW bass tournament was under way, but the competitors had not yet returned with their catches.

The FLW tournament weigh master weighed Fitchett’s beast, and it was indeed a state record. It was taken to Bass Pro Shops, where it now resides in a huge tank so people can see what the fish that ate a 11/2-pound gizzard shad looks like.

Meanwhile, the tidal Potomac’s bass also are willing if you are. Although it blew a gale and rained a lot last weekend, by now things will be back in shape. Just remember, you will encounter some floating weeds. The river’s grass beds are beginning to come apart with cooler water temperatures. But there’s still plenty of action to be had in the vegetation.

In the Chesapeake Bay, expect good catches of rockfish and bluefish, but if it’s spot and croakers you’re after, you might as well switch to other more plentiful species. The spot, especially, don’t like cooler temperatures. They’re leaving with the croakers not far behind.

E-mail Gene Mueller at [email protected]

(RATINGS KEY: ….=EXCELLENT FISHING; … =GOOD; ..=F,IR; .=POOR.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) some stained water will be seen, but fishing for bass and catfish will continue unless a lot more rain falls. Downstream tidal water bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are experiencing a changeover. “Bass have been adjusting to the recent blustery weather during the fall season,” Andrzejewski said. “Grass [can] still be productive, but we have been doing better on submerged pilings, wood, docks and rocks as well as ledges along the main river areas and in the deeper creeks. Many bass are coming on small, deep diving crankbaits, such as the Norman Deep Baby N. We follow up by fishing over the same areas with a plastic worm or a jig and craw combo. In the creeks, we have been doing well by trying the ledges adjacent to marsh banks with jig worms. The Zoom finesse worm has been very productive. Dark colors have worked better for us. Don’t overlook the grass beds, which continue to give up bass on topwater baits early in the morning, especially after a couple of days of stable weather. Ricos followed up with Senkos or Zero worms have been working well.” In lower Charles County and St. Mary’s County waters, recent winds have been awful, but trollers will find a smattering of rockfish. Even small-boat fishermen who cast Rat-L-Traps around points and sandbars with sharp, nearby drops will score on stripers early in the day.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Some rockfish are found by lure casters who concentrate on rock piles at buoy locations or long jutting points near the Potomac junction.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Work the dropoffs along the creek’s marshbanks. The best lures are 4-inch plastic worms with light slipsinkers or small deep-diving, rattling crankbaits.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has bluegills, a few nice bass and many small ones and even a crappie now and then. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road), you can launch your boat and find bass and crappies, but a shoreline fishing outing a couple of days ago produced nothing for us.

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 be good for sunfish and bass now that water temperatures have declined.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia is still closed to fishing, and now word comes from the WSSC that the Rocky Gorge boat launch ramps are shut down because of low water. If you can carry a cartopper to the water, have at it, but the ramps are closed. The bass fishing is fine.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — The mouth and much of the river’s inside areas as far up as Benedict have been loaded with rockfish, but if you’re planning to use live spot for a method known as live-lining, you better hurry up. The spot are beginning to head south to find warmer water.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — At Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) and heading up the reservoir, expect the bass to look at a scented finesse worm, a smartly cast grub or crankbait, especially around sunken brush, wood or rocky outcroppings. Never overlook creek or cove corners. Crappies should be biting.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax) Bass have snatched up soft plastics, as well as medium and deep-diving crankbaits. Crappies are beginning to school.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — Upper river DNR biologist John Mullican found the river low, but that was before the heavy rains came. “The submerged aquatic vegetation that was extensive in many areas this year is dying back, breaking free and can make fishing difficult,” he said. “West of Harpers Ferry the bottom can be clearly seen in eight or nine feet of water.” Mullican said some of the deeper river holes hold concentrations of up to 100 channel catfish. Find one such hole and Mom can heat up the skillet.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or fishdeepcreek.com) finds productive outings for smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleyes, even large, well-fed yellow perch.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — As the water chills down the lower Susquehanna River and the adjacent Susquehanna Flats, the areas are getting increased visits from striped bass. White 4-inch Sassy Shads, Zoom Flukes or Bass Assassins will see action. If there are no weeds to snag the treble hooks, try a lipless rattle bait, such as the Frenzy Rat’lr.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — After a strong recent blow on the bay, the fishing now can be summed up fairly easily. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the upper bay, above the Bay Bridges or the middle and lower bay, most everybody who trolls a variety of spoons, small umbrella rigs, bucktails and so on will connect on rockfish and bluefish. The chum boats in Southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore find plenty of striper and bluefish action and in some cases come up with more exotic catches, such as red drum and even a few sea trout. Live-lining spot can produce outstanding results, but the spot are now leaving, and they can be hard to come by. The Tangier Sound has turned up decent numbers of flounder and sea trout, but if night temperatures drop much more, they will be gone — especially the flounder. The Pocomoke Sound recently gave up a 10-pound flounder for local fisherman Rich Watts.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — The Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association’s Ken Neill says the autumnal striped bass season has begun. “Look for early season fish in the shallows near the marsh grass like on Poquoson Flats, up in the creeks and inlets and around any structure. At night, structures with light will hold them. This is a good time to fish any dock with a light on it,” he reports. “The rock islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel are good places to fish at first light. The flounder bite has been pretty good. The fish are being caught along the Baltimore Channel on both the ocean and bay side of the Bridge-Tunnel where wire-lining fishermen have also been successful.” Closer to the Maryland line, rockfish and some red drum are found by chum boaters and slow trollers. A lot of surface eruptions can be seen, usually made by marauding stripers and bluefish.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river shows plenty of small rockfish and snapper bluefish. In the upper reaches, around Denton and above, the bass fishing has been pretty good. Cast and retrieve small crankbaits or soak a couple of scented 4-inch plastic worms around marsh edges and sunken wood and you will score.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass are in a biting mood. Shallow and medium depth crankbaits are the ticket, but always carry along some plastic finesse worms and a few light slip sinkers.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Bass catches improved quite a bit over the past several weeks. Sunken wood, fallen trees and marsh bank edges are the places to cast worms, spinnerbaits or crankbaits. The Vienna area and water downstream from there have been good for some keeper striped bass that like to chase bait around river points early in the morning.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (..) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Many bass anglers have complained the fishing simply hasn’t been as good as it should be. That will change quickly now that the water is cooling. The bass should be getting more frisky and more willing to look at soft plastics and crankbaits.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) Tidal water portions of the river will be a little murky, but catfish and bass ought to be in a feeding mode from Port Royal up to and past Hicks Landing. Upper river smallmouth chances were ruined by heavy rains. Maybe by the time you read this the fishing for smallies again will be productive.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (..) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Last week’s rain hurt, but by now the bass and crappies might be ready to strap on the feed bag again.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (..) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The only good report I got was about channel catfish and how they will snatch up a piece of liver or a clam neck.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass catches suffered during heavy rains, but the fishing in the creek mouths and main lake grass bed edges will be fine this weekend.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies are hungry. Give them a live, but small shiner or minnow and they will do the rest, especially in the Clarksville area, where brushpiles have been found by visitors. The bass and rockfish are playing hard to get but not the blue catfish.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (..) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The blue catfish are looking at a chunk of bottom-fished herring or fresh sunfish and perch. Recent rains have slowed things down a bit.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (…) — (Williamsburg area) Small but willing largemouth bass are everywhere, visitor Ron Sarotti said. He also caught a 6-pound channel catfish on a Bagley Honey Bee crankbait up near the old Helen’s Hideaway area.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (..) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch might be fishable by the weekend, but the recent rain didn’t improve the fish catches.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttime bait drifters find some rockfish action. The largemouth bass, however, are cooperating better now. Maybe all that rain that fell woke them up.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (.) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Heavy rains last weekend might still show murky effects this weekend. We could not get a decent report from any of our contacts.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) After the blow, Ocean City and Assateague flounder drifters might still score, but be prepared for the flatties to head out into deeper ocean waters now. The DNR’s Keith Lockwood says tautog fishing can be good for anglers inside the Ocean City inlet, even when you stand on land and cast out into the inlet. Surf anglers hope the run of red drum continues along the Assateague seashore. Before the horrendous wind last weekend, good catches of sea bass and limits of croakers were made by headboaters. Offshore waters still should produce yellowfin and bluefin tunas, wahoo, maybe dolphinfish and some marlin, but they will head south when the temperatures drop a little more.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Red drum (channel bass) are found along the seaside of the Eastern Shore, and they have made a good showing at Sandbridge, said Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association. He added that amberjacks and jack crevalle were still available at the Chesapeake Light Tower, where king mackerel and false albacore also should hang out. Neill said this is a good time of year to hit the coastal wrecks for sea bass and triggerfish. If the wind doesn’t blow, offshore fishing can be fine. The tuna bite has really turned on. Wahoo are around in numbers, and decent numbers of dolphin are still being caught. A few of the overnight boats have had success catching swordfish. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.


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