- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

Local fishing depends in many cases on your willingness to test the rain-loaded waters. It looks messy in some quarters, a little better in others. But enterprising bass anglers can go into the tidal Potomac’s Mattawoman feeder creek and come up with 20 or more largemouths in three or four hours casting grass frogs and grass “rats” across any large mats of aquatic vegetation.

“Those lures, as well as black buzzbaits, have been very effective,” a local bass guide said yesterday.

However, the Maryland departments of Natural Resources, Health and Mental Hygiene, and Environment have advised Potomac River users to take precautions when boating or fishing in the Charles County and Prince Georges/Charles counties border waters of the river and its tributaries. River surveys show that blue-green algae blooms of microcystis are present from Piscataway Creek to Smith Point. The last major microcystis bloom event on the Potomac River was in 2004.

Heavily affected waters look as if bright green paint is floating on the surface of the water. I saw some of it at Marshall Hall two days ago. Tides, wind or rain and the resulting runoffs can affect the location and intensity of the bloom on the river. Recent laboratory tests of blooms that occurred in Maryland tidal waters have detected a liver toxin (microcystin). One-third of the tests showed levels considered cautionary for human contact or consumption.

There have been no confirmed cases of human illness linked to the bloom, but people should take precautions to reduce any risk if they come in contact with algae blooms. Be sure to wash your hands after spending time on the river and be certain not to swim in it. The fish you catch can be eaten, but do not to consume any internal fish organs (viscera). Who would do that anyway?

The wind and heavy rains have slowed the Chesapeake Bay’s fishing in some quarters but increased it in others. Said Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County: “The fishing right after the storm was messed up, but things got better on Monday. By late afternoon the bluefish and stripers were stacked up at Point Lookout.”

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; 202/244-0461), the water might be fishable by the weekend, and some fat catfish will be taken on cut baits or clam snouts. The main stem of the river is discolored with a lot of floating debris (some of it in the form of large tree trunks). Below Washington, bass guides Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) and Dale Knupp (301/934-9062) are staying mostly inside the feeder creeks, looking for weedbeds that will let them cast rubbery grass frogs, grass “rats” or black buzzbaits across the carpet-like vegetation. They’re scoring nicely on largemouths that sometimes exceed three and four pounds, but plastic worms also continue to play a big part in their outings. Downstream of Charles County, some rockfish were caught around the Route 301 bridge’s concrete abutments and pilings before Tropical Storm Ernesto’s monsoon rains and the subsequent heavy rains that fell Tuesday ruined that. In fact, not much has been going on this week in that area. By weekend, however, I will wager that flounder, snapper blues and rockfish will be caught from Piney Point down to Point Lookout.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — Around Quade’s Store in Bushwood on the St. Mary’s County side of the river you will hook white perch in the grassy shorelines, but out in deeper water not much has been happening.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Despite heavy rains and upper creek discoloration, the waters under the many grass mats inside the creek are home to largemouth bass. The bass will come up through the vegetation and slam lures that can slither across the hydrilla and milfoil, such as grass “rats” and grass frogs. Even black buzzbaits have worked but also keep a 4-inch finesse worm on hand. You will score when the tides are moving, especially when they’re dropping.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) has sunfish and some small bass, so go get ‘em. The water levels at St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) are rising enough to make my colleague, Jim Drake, say, “I think they’re high enough to launch a bass boat.” If you recall, the lake water had been low while repairs were made to the dam. Bass, sunfish, catfish, pickerel and crappies await you.

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) need a little time before the water settles and fish activity returns. The latest round of rain hasn’t helped.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97 or Route 650 in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Triadelphia continues to be shut down to fishermen as dam repairs are made. Rocky Gorge is muddy in its upper parts. The fishing has not been good, although cut baits or clam snouts will find a catfish or two.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb said, “Angler Mark Fahey went to the three-legged marker in the mouth of the river on Monday evening and caught his limit of flounder. It appears the flatfish have not been disturbed and are eager to take live minnows, cut spot and squid baits.” Lamb also mentioned that some fine rockfish have been landed around the Naval Air Station waters, and he bets that the white perch again will attack Beetlespin and other lures in the feeder creeks and on main stem rip-rap and grassy points. The upper river around Hills Bridge is a discolored mess.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County), ranger Smokey Davis reports, “The recent rains have filled the reservoir back to its normal levels. The water is stained, and the water temperature is between 77 and 82 degrees. The bass fishing improved drastically as evidenced by a winning weight in a local tournament of 18.65 pounds [for six fish]. The biggest fish weighed 5.06 pounds, and it was caught on a pig ‘n’ jig. Nice-sized catfish were brought in over the weekend. They fell for clam snouts or chicken livers. Some nice bluegill were caught on meal worms. The crappies have been a little slower to return to an active mode, but a few decent ones were caught off the pier on small minnows under a bobber.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) There are good bass chances around lake points and brushy spots if you use scented Power Worms or the like. The water is fishable, to be sure. Sunfish and crappies are available.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MD.

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (.) — Forget it.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Guide Brent Nelson (410/799-9326, office, or check out fishdeepcreek.com) is finding smallmouth and largemouth bass under the floating docks as he skips tubes and worms under them with considerable skill. Some bass are taken with jerkbaits and topwater poppers in and around the lake’s weedbeds.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (*) — No good for a few days. Rain has turned the water muddy.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Reminder: Those of you who plan to visit Point Lookout State Park at the southernmost tip of Maryland’s western side of the Chesapeake Bay need to know that the fishing pier will be closed for several weeks because of recent storm damage. The causeway again is open for fishermen, and the campground should be operational by tomorrow. Meanwhile, from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, “Ernesto was a vicious, sneaky storm that caught us all unaware. The damage was severe enough to close Point Lookout State Park on the Labor Day weekend. The rockfish could make an early return to Southern Maryland as the water temperature has dropped dramatically in the last 10 days. Rockfish love cool, turbulent water and may start taking on fall characteristics in September instead of late October. The real questions to be answered in the coming week will be what happened to the spot and Spanish mackerel. These summer visiting species are more skitterish than the other fish and may have moved from their last locations. Small blues and stripers will be breaking every day on the surface of the bay and rivers as soon as we can launch our boats. Two- to three-pound bluefish are now in the Point No Point area. Big croaker will congregate in the bay as they assemble to make the fall migration to the Atlantic. They will take bloodworms, squid and peeler crab at night.” Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina (301/872-5887, www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County said, “It’s difficult to describe how the fishing has gone. When the wind blew and it rained buckets, hardly anyone ventured out to fish. Those who did returned quickly. But on Monday captain “Walleye” Pete Dahlberg (703/395-9955) left our marina and after searching and burning a lot of fuel finally got into a large number of bluefish and stripers in the Point Lookout area.” The fishing for bluefish, Spanish mackerel and rockfish was turned upside down during the recent storm, but they will be back as you read this. Captain Jeff Popp (410/790-2015) said just before the storm rains arrived, there were lots of breaking fish in the upper bay, around Poplar Island and such, including blues, rockfish and Spanish mackerel. Other boaters, from the Gooses up to and beyond the Bay Bridge echoed Popp’s words.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Hopefully by tomorrow the Spanish mackerel, bluefish and stripers will be back on a roll, biting trolled or cast lures from Smith Point down to the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Down at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the water was turbulent during the storm, probably forcing some fish to make a move, but the sheepshead, spadefish, bluefish and flounder ought to be back in biting form by the time you read this. The flounder bite also has been good on the Eastern Shore side of the bay, just below the cement ships and Kiptopeke.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MD.

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 MILES (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Nighttime fishermen who drop baited lines from the Cambridge fishing bridge will get a perch or catfish bite but little else. The mouth of the river holds some spot and croakers, with occasional forays made by snapper blues and young rockfish.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Maybe scented plastic worms cast around high water tree roots just below Snow Hill will find a couple of bass. The bass fishing has been slow, but with cooler water temperatures it should perk up now.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Federalsburg ramp on the Marshyhope Creek) There’s murky water from Seaford, Del., all the way down to Sharptown. Some bass are caught on soft plastics, but this river has seen better days. The fishing will perk up in the next several weeks. Don’t fret.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Fair to good chances for largemouth bass and striped bass. The rainstorms didn’t hurt here as much as elsewhere. Lake Anna settles down quickly. Be there at daybreak and you might run into a school of surface-feeding rockfish. Always carry a spinning rod with a jerkbait or some kind of noisy lure, such as a Rat-L-Trap.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (*) Forget it for a while. The upper and lower river are not in good fishing shape.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Catfish maybe. Not much else until the weather settles down.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) There are catfish and some sunfish, but murky, high water has not been good for bass anglers.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (**) — (Route 46, Gasburg) It’s slow going in discolored water, although some local bass hounds connect in vegetation that clears the water quickly. Loud surface lures and bright spinnerbaits are the ticket for bass anywhere on the lake right now.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The water levels have risen, but the bass fishing could use a shot in the arm. It hasn’t been great. The catfish, however, would love to get a piece of cut fish into their big mouths.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (.) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Forget it for a few days. Rain has messed up the water.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) A couple of bass are possible, but the overall fishing has seen better days.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — The Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville stretch was good to Front Royal fisherman Dick Fox, who said, “I hit the river for about three hours earlier this week. It was a little high and had a heavy stain, but we caught some nice smallmouth bass, with the biggest weighing close to three pounds. Most fish came on a chartreuse spinnerbait and crankbaits. I think by Thursday things will be close to normal. The water temperature was down to 68, so the fish must think it’s fall.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Largemouth bass anglers find some action among boat houses and sunken brush piles. Scented plastics are best. Early hour topwater baits will be struck on the sides of various lake points.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (*) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The rain has hurt. Better delay your outings for a week or so.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The storm left a messy beach and roiled waters that are not conducive to productive surf fishing. Offshore waters should ease up a bit and allow boats to go after tuna, billfish, dolphin and perhaps a wahoo or two. The canyon waters are best, but if it’s bluefish you want, they will bite from the Bassgrounds on in toward the skyline of Ocean City.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “We had our first swordfish trip of the year, starting the morning cast-netting for bait in Rudee Inlet. We caught all kinds of stuff: spot, bunker, herring, perch, squid, various jacks, some big shrimp and a little barracuda. [Once we] baited up, we ran out to the Cigar to troll with ballyhoo. We had a number of wahoo bites and managed to boat several. We also picked up a few dolphin and then [trolled] a little spoon for a while to see if there were any baby bluefin tunas around. We caught frigate tunas, but [when 8-foot swells arrived], we left and decided our swordfish trip will have to wait.” For charter boats, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/422-5700.

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