- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

Despite strong breezes earlier this week that kept many anglers from wetting their lines, fishing in the tidal Potomac River is about to bust wide open. A friend and I fished the Mattawoman tributary Tuesday and found willing bass hanging around already sprouting submersed vegetation. All we did was cast and retrieve medium-depth crankbaits across the emerging bottom weeds and the bass did the rest.

We also found a few bass on 4-inch-long red plastic worms with light slip sinkers and had several good-sized chain pickerel attack a dropshot-rigged Berkley minnow in one case and a plastic worm in another.

Locally, the best bet for bass would be the Woodrow Wilson Bridge area, Fox Ferry rockline, Spoils Cove and the “junk” shore before reaching the Spoils. The lures point to a Mann’s Sting Ray grub on a ball-head jig, or a deep-diving gold or red crankbait.

Yellow perch fans will find most of the perch are done with their egg-laying ritual and will waste little time leaving their usual spawning hangouts. But remember that spawning white perch will follow right behind them. Allen’s Fresh in Charles County is one such place that will see white perch runs, and so will the upper Patuxent, upper Chester, Rappahannock and Susquehanna rivers.

Susky Flats action about to start — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood says a number of fishermen have begun to hunt rockfish on the Susquehanna Flats now that the catch-and-release season is open. Water temperatures are still in the 40-degree range amid strong water flow coming down the Susquehanna from Pennsylvania and the Conowingo Dam, which has been releasing water well above average levels. So far only small fish have been found. Anglers who are looking for hickory shad action in the Susquehanna, particularly Deer Creek, might as well wait a little while. They’ll be available by the end of the month and well into April.

Occoquan still slow — From Occoquan Reservoir on the Fairfax/Prince William counties line, Fountainhead Regional Park ranger Smokey Davis wants readers to know that the park is open and boat rentals are available, but fish catches weren’t easy to come by last weekend.

“The fishing was extremely tough,” said Davis. “The reservoir is high, muddy and full of debris, with water temperatures in the low 40s. The Fountainhead Bass Club held its first tournament of the season. Only five boats out of the 38 that entered caught fish. The winning weight was 8.2 pounds for three bass that were caught on a jig in the back of a cove after the sun warmed the water a little. High winds caused the water to whitecap, forcing cancellation of boat rentals for most of the day.”

By the weekend, though, the bass will bite a lot better, and so will the bluegills and crappies.

Lake Gaston perks up — On the Virginia/North Carolina border, Lake Gaston’s water temperatures have increased to the mid 50s, sending the fish farther up into creeks and coves, said Gaston specialist Marty Magon.

“The bass are nailing the full spectrum of lures, from spinnerbaits to plastics,” he added. “Stripers are following baitfish schools on main lake and will slam a Rat-L-Trap or jig. We took a break from the bass yesterday and had a ball with slab-sided crappie up to two pounds. They struck 1/8-ounce spinner jigs in the backs of main lake coves.”

Good offshore and bay action — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association in the Virginia Beach area said big ocean stripers have entered the Chesapeake Bay, preparing for the annual spawning that will bring many into Maryland waters.

“There can be some good catch-and-release fishing [now] inside the bay,” he said. “The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is loaded with them. Big stripers are being encountered around Bluefish Rock and near York Spit as they stage for their runs up the James and York Rivers. They are also found along the eastern side of the bay as they move up toward Maryland waters.”

Neill said fat tautogs are caught on coastal wrecks and on structures in the lower Chesapeake, adding, “The offshore wrecks are holding big sea bass. Flounder, gray trout, and croaker have all returned to the bay and have been caught in commercial gear. Gray trout are here in numbers which have not been seen in years,”

By the way, the Virginia flounder season will not be open until April 1. Then, a fish will have to be 181/2 inches long before an angler can keep it.

North Carolina tuna catches — Yellowfin tuna are hooked by offshore boaters who return to Oregon Inlet with limit catches. The wind has been awful, and many days the boats must stay inside safe harbors.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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