- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

To illustrate how fine the Chesapeake Bay fishing can be, read what my friend Charlie Coates sent me after I had to cancel a day of fishing with him aboard charter captain John MacEwen’s Janet M II:

“Sorry you couldn’t make it,” Coates wrote in an e-mail. “We stopped at Holland Point on the way out [from Deale’s Happy Harbor Marina] to catch spot for live-lining, plus a few bigger ones for the frying pan, then proceeded to the False Channel, which seems to be where the action is lately. Every boat we saw on the bay was there, headed there or headed back from there, and everybody was live-lining. The Tilghman Island boys appeared to be stopping to catch bait at the Choptank River mouth. I was surprised to see Solomons boats that far up when I’ve heard the fishing has been pretty good down your way. Action was steady, and all the boats had their rockfish limit in an hour or two. Also lots of bluefish, some of decent size and fun on a light spinning rig, although they did considerable damage to the spot supply.

“The best news was that we had very few throwbacks, just as the captain promised. Most of the stripers measured 19 to 24 inches, but we didn’t get any of the 30-inch-and-up stuff they were catching last week.”

Meanwhile, if it’s tidal water bass fishing you enjoy, local fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski said, “You’ll find the fishing to be consistent in the creeks as we continue to cast a variety of topwater plugs over and around the grass beds. Buzzbaits, poppers, Horny Toads and floating worms will all catch bass. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastic worms work well during the bright part of the day when fished along well-defined edges near deeper water areas.”

Finally, if it doesn’t rain a lot, now is the time to visit the mountain rivers and cast for smallmouth bass. I like the upper Potomac and Susquehanna, although some of our friends score nicely in the Shenandoah, Rappahannock and James rivers.

(Ratings key: ….=excellent fishing; …=Good; ..=Fair; .=Poor.)


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (…) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) there have been scattered bass catches, but it’s the catfish that usually deliver the goods. Downstream bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) do well, but most of their fishing is done in creeks, and recent strong winds have a lot to do with that. The lures remain the same in all the creeks up and down the river: soft plastics, topwater buzzbaits and poppers, shallow and medium-depth crankbaits. By the way, Marshall Hall and National Colonial Farm fishermen are finding hefty catfish on their bottom clam neck or cut fish baits. In the lower parts of the river, say from Swan Point down to Point Lookout, there will be sudden eruptions from surface-feeding rockfish (many of them tiny specimens) but also some keeper stripers and even bluefish.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (..) — Around Quade’s Store in Bushwood on the St. Mary’s County side and on the Charles County side of the river it’s mostly white perch. Haven’t heard of any decent croaker or spot catches. At the rock-surrounded buoy at the mouth, some rockfish have been hanging around.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (…) — Let’s repeat last week’s good news: The new boat ramp on Mattingly Avenue is open now, but tow vehicles have to be parked a few hundred yards up the road in a small gravel parking lot. The bass fishing can be good right now. Marsh banks and deep holes near brush or fallen trees are sure to turn up bass that love plastic worms and medium-depth crankbaits.

SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (…) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) turns up sunfish and surprising numbers of bass if you stay away from noisy kids in paddle boats. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the fishing is fine for bass, sunfish and catfish. Crappies will start schooling pretty soon now.

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) show good bass fishing, along with good sunfish and catfish chances.

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 not available, but Rocky Gorge bass hounds score around most any waterlogged hiding place, be it a sunken tree or a rock pile. Of course, soft plastic and crankbaits are best.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (…) — Keeper-size rockfish have been caught by casters and trollers from the mouth into the river, clear up to and past Sheridan Point. The white perch are still in the creeks, coves and bays — anywhere you see fallen trees or rip-rap you can cast a small Beetlespin or mini Rat-L-Trap and — boom! — fish on.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (…) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) our favorite ranger in the land, Smokey Davis, reported, “Bright skies and warmer temperatures made the bass bite a little tougher than the previous week. The fish pulled back into deeper water, and anglers had to resort to summer patterns in order to score. Carolina-rigged plastic worms and pig’n’jig combos pitched into deep blowdowns have been the way to go the past few days. Some fine crappies and nice channel cats were taken off the pier and boardwalk on medium-size minnows. Plenty of bluegills were available for fly-rodders. The reservoir remains full and clear with surface temperatures in the low 70s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (…) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Ronnie Davis sent an e-mail to tell about some fat bass he hooked in the lake. “I used a 4-inch black-with-chartreuse firetail Power Worm,” he said. His fish came, just as we predict nearly every week, from around several lake points that drop from shallow to deep and provide ideal hiding and ambush spots for bass.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (…) — Fabulous chances are available for smallmouth bass from Knoxville down to Brunswick and on to Point of Rocks, Dickerson and toward the White’s Ferry area. The white Zoom Fluke has been a fish catcher, but tubes and spinners also do the job.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (…) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) finds bass alongside dense grass beds as he pitches tubes or jerkbaits. His favorite producers, however, remain the floating docks of the lake — that and jutting lake points that sometimes hold the better fish.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (…) — You will find a few rockfish in the grasses of the Susquehanna Flats, but bass boaters also score on largemouths around the edges of the Flats, as well as river shores and blowdowns from Port Deposit and Havre de Grace on out into the main stem.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (…) — The fishing has been wonderfully productive from as far up as the Love Point area of Chester River clear down to the Virginia state line. Only strong, windy days affected it when it became a tough chore to see breaking fish and cast to them or even do some decent trolling in 30 mph winds. At any rate, a fine mixture of bluefish and striped bass is seen pretty much everywhere in the bay, and they can be cast to with topwater poppers or Rat-L-Traps during surface feeding sprees, or trolled and chummed up when they’ve sounded. You’ll find fish just a brief distance from Point Lookout (in fact nighttime pier anglers at the state park score) on over to the eastern side of the ship channel, including the Middlegrounds, Buoy 72 and north toward the Patuxent and Choptank rivers, then up toward Poplar Island, Eastern Bay, Bloody Point and beyond the Bay Bridge into Kent County’s Chester River and Love Point. Deale charter boat captain John MacEwen (410/867-3273) has been whipping butt on the rockfish and bluefish east of his harbor. Southern Maryland waters continue to deliver occasional redfish. The only down note is the slow disappearance of spot and croakers, although some are still caught. The numbers are declining, however.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (…) — In the lower parts of the Chesapeake, big red drum (aka channel bass or redfish) continue to roam the lower bay and around the corner in the surf of the barrier islands. Speckled trout are making a good fall showing in the Back River, on the Poquoson Flats and inside Lynnhaven Inlet. Puppy drum are available at these same locations. Big sheepshead remain available at Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but they will be slowing down any day now and head out and away from the bridge islands and abutments. Rockfish of fine sizes will take their place within the week. In the upper parts between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, hordes of bluefish and stripers are seen erupting on the surface. If they don’t slam into a topwater lure because they have sounded, catch them trolling or chumming.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (…) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The Cambridge fishing bridge hasn’t been all that good about turning up catches, but at the mouth, especially in channels and ditches, there have been plenty of stripers and bluefish. The wind was a problem earlier this week.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (…) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass fishing has been picking up steam. Plastic worms and shallow-running crankbaits are good in sunken wood and spatterdock edges from Snow Hill down to Shad Landing.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (…) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) A Delaware bass club tournament around the Seaford area turned up a five-bass winning catch of 13 pounds, which isn’t all that bad. It shows that the bass are willing if you are. You can start in the Marshyhope Creek area and work yourself upriver to fish blowdowns, the pads, ditches and small bridge abutments.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (…) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Now is the time to visit the lake and throw early hour topwater lures around any obstruction, brush pile, boat dock piling and beaver hut. Then switch to soft plastics and hang on as you crawl the plastic critters over rocks and roots in creeks and main lake points and around bridge abutments and rip-rap. Hard jerkbaits now also come into play.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (…) The plastic worm continues to be a fine catcher of bass between Port Royal and upstream portions toward Fredericksburg. However, don’t overlook the effectiveness of a lipless rattle bait especially during cooler night weather. There’s something about them that drives bass batty. Catfish are also hungry from Fredericksburg downstream toward Leedstown. Upper river smallmouth bass like early hour topwater buzzbaits or poppers, but a white Fluke or fringed tube in darker colors continue to be a top attractor of smallies.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (…) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Four-inch-long Rapala or Rebel jerkbaits, including jointed models, are good for bass. But don’t forget to cast soft plastic worms, especially scented Power Worms. Sunfish and catfish are taking baits.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (…) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Large channel catfish can be found here, so don’t forget to bring some clam necks or liver chunks. The bass like medium depth crankbaits and plastic worms. Crappies are definitely stirring.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (…) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass catches have been good for boaters who use Rat-L-Traps and medium-to-shallow crankbaits. Plastic worms also work well in the creeks and around main lake rip-rap and points.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (…) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass are waking up, and they will take soft or hard jerkbaits, scented worms, even neatly fished topwater poppers in the creeks and around lake points where decent crappies are seen as well. Catfish are always available, and some are heavyweight blue or flathead catfish.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (…) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish and some stripers cooperate in the river. The blue cats are reliably hooked in the Richmond to Dutch Gap stretch. The bass fishing is only fair, but decent fish are taken on plastics in the feeder creeks.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (…) — (Williamsburg area) Bass and crappies are possible, with occasional well-fed catfish rounding out your day here.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (…) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch has been a bit stained, Front Royal angler Dick Fox says. “But it’s in good shape,” he said. “Smallmouth and largemouth bass have been active, and some of the bigger fish have been on the feed.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (..) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Rockfish are taking large shiners at dusk or daybreak in the lake’s channels and deep holes, but occasionally the quiet boaters who wait patiently can connect with surface lures as the stripers chase bait.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (…) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The smallmouth bite has been fine, while catfish and even an odd river muskellunge now and then make things interesting.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (…) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore catches continue to hold up with wahoos, tunas, billfish and dolphinfish heading the list. That can change quickly now if nighttime temperatures drop sharply and chill down the water. However, inshore bluefish and stripers, seabass and some flounder will be around for a while. Tautogs will soon be hunted by nearby ocean boaters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (…) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said another world record has been approved. This time it is for club member Jenny Manus’ 17-pound, 7-ounce blueline tilefish, which now stands as the International Game Fish Association’s All-Tackle world record. It was taken in Virginia waters a month ago. Meanwhile, the wahoo bite in the Atlantic Ocean has been great, and there are a lot of dolphin and good numbers of yellowfin tunas still available. Good numbers of billfish are still being hooked. Neill says as you now notice temperature changes, you will have to find the offshore temperature breaks that vary greatly from warm to cold day to day. Find them and you will find the fish. Inshore, spadefish are hard to catch now, but some are still around. Cobias sometimes can be found just off Sandbridge as they migrate south. For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

E-mail Gene Mueller at gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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