- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

Don’t pay too much attention to the dropping temperatures. The one thing that matters right now is that there are plenty of rockfish for trollers and lure casters in the Chesapeake. Ask Ken Lamb, the proprietor of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park. Fishermen come in to his store to show off some of the stripers they catch and have their pictures taken. Lamb says, “The rockfish range from less than the legal 18 inches to 30 inches and they seem to be everywhere.” The fishing has been exemplary whenever the wind was kind enough to permit the boats to leave their harbors.

Bluefish are still in the bay, as well. They appear to be swimming inside the rockfish schools and anglers occasionally get a surprise as they cast a soft-bodied Sassy Shad or Zoom Fluke to breaking or sub-surface feeding stripers only to feel a hit and then reel in half a lure. The blues bit off the rest.

Lamb hopes the big ocean stripers arrive soon. It will happen after a couple of serious frosts on the Atlantic sides of Maryland and Virginia chase the baitfish into the Chesapeake. When that happens, the big ocean rockfish will be right behind them.

Largemouth bass hunters are doing very well these days despite much floating vegetation on the Potomac and other tidal bass rivers. If you see an open pocket in the weeds, a fallen tree, a rock pile, or a clear stretch of water alongside tidal creek marsh banks, start casting and retrieving shallow and long-lipped crankbaits. The bass will do the rest.

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) there’ll be catfish galore, some bass and maybe a walleye or two. Below the city, tidal water bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are doing just fine. “We’re fishing dropoff ledges in the creeks, as well as the river’s main-stem wrecks and rockpiles,” said Andrzejewski, who said he was catching good-size bass on crankbaits. “We use shallow-running 1/4-ounce crankbaits in water no more than three feet deep, but if there’s a dropoff nearby I’ll switch to deep-running crankbait. The incoming tide has been best for us.” In the more saline portions of the river, small-boat rockfish hunters sometimes score around the rocks of river buoys, such as numbers 5, 8, 32, and others — all of them in Charles County. Trollers do well from St. Clements south to Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Nothing much, except for an occasional striped bass at the mouth and it might prefer a Sassy Shad or rattle lure close to the rock piles around the river’s entrance’s buoy.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Creek ledges adjacent to the marsh banks have been good for bass fanatics. Throw crankbaits or scented plastics.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (..) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will turn up sunfish and a few bass. St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) is good for bass, crappies and sunfish. Water is high enough to launch a boat last time we checked.

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) is giving up hungry catfish and some very nice bass. The “cats” like liver, worm, or clam neck baits. The bass would just as soon see a broken-back Rebel or Rapala twitched around stickups and such, or a scented Power Worm while the water is still warm enough.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (..) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia remains closed; Rocky Gorge water levels are down, making boat launching difficult, but there are bass, crappies and sunfish to be caught.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park says rockfish continue to be hooked from Point Patience up to and past Sheridan Point. Some days you’ll find the stripers in shallow water; the next day they’ll be deep. Bucktails, spoons, Sassy Shads and even some surgical tubing produces. And don’t forget to visit the river points at daybreak and sunset. Cast loud popping lures and see what happens.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (..) — At Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “There’s not much happening at Fountainhead. The biggest news last week was a fisherman named Pan who caught a 25-pound carp off the pier, using sweet corn.” Mr. Pan took the carp home. Enterprising bass and crappie hounds should score if they work on the brush piles, creek entrances and blowdowns.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (..) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass and crappie chances have improved a bit. For some reason, there’s not a lot of fishing pressure.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — DNR biologist John Mullican says the river is in good shape for fishing. Water temperatures are in the mid-50s. Small crankbaits, tubes, jigs, grubs will find smallmouth bass and some walleyes.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) agrees with the DNR’s Keith Lockwood who passes along that walleyes are being hooked in up to 30 feet of water by anglers using jig’n’minnow combinations. The lake’s floating docks are slowly being hauled up on dry land in anticipation of winter and the inevitable ice. The docks that are still seen on the lake are good for some fat largemouth bass. Use crawfish-pattern crankbaits and plastics now because that’s what the bass are feeding on. Lockwood said last week that fisheries biologist Jody Johnson said the lake was close to “tunring over,” meaning the time is near when surface waters become colder than the waters below and a flip occurs, with warmer water eventually found under the cold layers. When the turnover begins, fishing often slows down for a little while.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — A few decent-sized stripers are taken below Conowingo Dam. The rockfish have struck anything from Sassy Shads to bucktails, even topwater lures. The upper tidal parts of the river also hold fat white perch. Stripers, some of them keepers, are found on the Susquehanna Flats, but don’t even think of keeping one under 18 inches. “The Man” is watching, using binoculars. By the way, Conowingo Dam has been releasing water twice a day, but no one can say how long that will last.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — Christy Henderson (www.buzzsmarina.com) says she’s seen stripers come into her marina, with at least one weighing 25 pounds. “It was the prettiest fish I’ve seen since the spring, so I guess the fall run begins.” The big rockfish came from the Middlegrounds. Christy also said, “Another customer of ours was anchored in 90 feet of water in the bay’s channel and he brought back a cooler full of fish, all varieties. What surprised me was the number of jumbo croakers that measured 20 inches. I haven’t seen them in a while. I guess most of our guys don’t anchor in deep [enough] water.” Meanwhile, Ken Lamb, of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, agrees with the DNR’s bay report that says rockfish are found up and down the bay along with some fat bluefish, from above the Bay Bridges south to Bloody Point, Eastern Bay, mouth of the Choptank, plus the western shore at the Gooses and many other locales. Trollers do well. Now and then sight-casting for breaking fish produces excellent results.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — In the lower Chesapeake Bay, the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association’s Ken Neill says, “Inshore flounder action is picking back up with nice fish being caught along the Baltimore Channel, at the Hump and on Hampton Bar. Speckled trout are being caught on Poquoson Flats, in the Back River and in Lynnhaven inlet. Schooling striped bass are being caught at these same locations. There are plenty of stripers at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and you can find them around any dock with a light on it. Closer to the Maryland state line, trollers, sight casters and jiggers are finding rockfish and bluefish without any great difficulty — if the wind isn’t blowing. The Smith Point area of the bay, just around the corner of the Potomac’s mouth, has been fine for rockfish and bluefish. The stripers, in fact, appear to be getting bigger.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) There are plenty of sub-legal and legal striped bass at the mouth of the river, while upper river bass hounds are doing quite well using shallow crankbaits and plastic craws from Denton to Greensboro. Outgoing tides have been best for bass.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Just below Snow Hill, where spatterdock and sunken brush is found in abundance, the bass catches have been fine. Some of the largemouths weigh up to 3 and 4 pounds and they’re suckers for a crawfish-pattern Little “N” lure or a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) Marshyhope Creek fishermen have scored on medium size bass, using soft plastics and shallow crankbaits. One e-mailer told me that he’s getting good action on 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits even in sunken main-stem Nanticoke brush and trees.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Some boaters report improved early morning striper catches as they use white or chartreuse 3- and 4-inch Zoom Flukes or Sassy Shads around the Splits. Bass fishing has been good for many boaters who know how to crank a bait down around rock piles and sunken brush in some of the creeks and the main lake.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) Upper river smallmouth catches can be made. Use chartreuse/pepper speck tubes or brown jig’n’pigs, also crankbaits and spinners. In the tidal portions, the largemouth bass have been playing a little harder to get last week. But keep working crankbaits, soft plastics and lipless rattle baits around blowdowns upstream of Port Royal.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappie fishing has been fine for most. Small white grubs or darts under a bobber have been jigged successfully in sunken brush. The bass will look at a crawfish pattern crankbait or scented plastic worms.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Not super for bass, but pretty good all in all. Soft worms, crankbaits and small spinnerbaits work. Catfish are fond of clam necks or liver strips.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass and crappie fishing is getting better with every passing day in the creeks and even some main lake portions.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Catfish are taking cut fish chunks on the bottom, but many are drawn here for the big crappies. Live minnows under a cork will draw strikes in a zillion brush piles on this lake. The bass fishing is perking up.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The blue catfish continue to deliver the goods in the Dutch Gap stretch, but some nice river stripers are also hooked downstream of the Appomattox River mouth.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (…) — (Williamsburg area) Surprisingly good bass fishing is reported by visitors. One of them, Glenn Wells, told us he had 11 bass that might have weighed 23 or 24 pounds had he kept and weighed them. The catfish are biting big-time.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch can deliver the goods. Front Royal’s Dick Fox says, “The water should be fine for the weekend fishing. The water temperature went from 64 to 50 degrees. We caught five smallmouth bass that hung out in 12 to 20 feet of water. Dragging tubes across those spots worked for us.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (…) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Locals are catching stripers early and late in the day. The largemouth bass are cooperating nicely now around boat houses and submerged stumps and rocks.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (..) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass like chartreuse pepper grubs, small crankbaits and Zoom Fluke baits.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) There’s a chance of hooking tautogs from the north and south jetties at Ocean City’s inlet. Sand fleas and chunks of green crab do the job. Rockfish are hanging around the Route 50 bridge waters. Sassy Shads, Flukes, live eels — all can work. The surf delivers snapper bluefish, and an outside chance for a big red drum. Offshore boats are into tunas, including yelowfins and bluefins, even some wahoos, but don’t look for many dolphinfish to remain in the cooling waters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “Offshore tuna action is very good from Maryland to North Carolina. Now is the time to get out there and stock up on some tuna steaks. Plenty of wahoo are around and there are some dolphin and an occasional billfish still being caught. Closer to shore, there is a lot of bait on the humps like the Hot Dog and the Fish Hook. These would be good places to look for kings and false albacore.” For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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