- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

A number of the Chesapeake Bay’s Maryland boaters are out right now trolling lures, hoping to catch (and quickly release) a striped bass. It’s an annual ritual for rockfish hunters, who are filling time before the April 21 trophy rockfish season by checking to see where the best areas might be.

The upper Bay’s Susquehanna Flats season for stripers really hasn’t gotten into full swing yet. Colder-than-usual water temperatures are to blame, but after this week’s warm weather, the rockfish catches should begin.

A number of white perch anglers in the Potomac’s Marshall Hall area say they were catching the tasty fish without any trouble. The problem for some of them is the high price of bloodworms. However, perch will gobble up lures, such as the Silver Buddy or artificial Fishbites in bloodworm flavor.

In the District, Potomac River fans who like to fish from boats or from shore at Fletcher’s Cove, off Canal Road, will find white perch and the first hickory shad and herring of the year. Call ahead to see whether the river is low enough for boat rentals (202/244-0461).

White perch spawning runs are either under way or will be by the weekend in the upper Chester, Pocomoke, Choptank, Patuxent, Rappahannock and James rivers.

State record tautog — Sam Beauchamp, visiting from Brooklyn, N.Y., last week, went offshore to bottom-fish aboard an Ocean City headboat and caught a Maryland state record tautog of 20 pounds, 11 ounces, beating a 27-year-old record 191/2-pound ‘tog.

Big blue “cat” hooked — Tidal Potomac catfish guide Tim Hagan was alone when he tied into a 61-pound, 49-inch-long blue catfish last Thursday morning near the Wilson Bridge. But that changed quickly as Hagan had a tough time holding the rod while slipping a net under the heavy fish. Another angler, Woo Ming, saw what was happening and approached Hagan, took his net and managed to lift the whopper catfish into Hagan’s boat. For his kindness, Ming and a friend will get a free fishing trip with the guide. Hagan’s catfish tournament group will have an outing Saturday. The weigh-in is at Smallwood State Park at 3:30 p.m.

I am not in favor of catfish, rockfish and the out-of-towners’ big money bass tournaments. The striper and catfish tournaments usually turn out to be “dead” fish contests, and the large cast-for-cash bass outings are detested by local residents who paid for the boat launches and parks but are told, “You can’t put your boat into the water because the tournament boats are being launched.”

Occoquan Reservoir delivers — Ranger Smokey Davis said Carl Martin and Mike Isner, both of Manassas, won the weekend’s Fountainhead Bass Club tournament with six fish that weighed a respectable 241/4 pounds.

“Spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps and jigs accounted for most of the fish,” Davis said. “The crappie bite is just now starting, but no word yet on catfish. The reservoir is full, water is slightly stained and the water temperature is in the low to mid-50s.”

Shenandoah turns up bass — “The river is still stained and a bit high but great for fishing,” said Front Royal’s Dick Fox, who also mentioned that a few days ago he didn’t get many bites but hooked three smallmouth that approached the 4-pound mark on the scale. That’s comparable to a catching 6-pound largemouths.

Kerr Reservoir offers fish — The water is high at Kerr Reservoir on the Virginia-North Carolina border, but bass can be caught. Pitch jigs and plastic worms into flooded brush. A 9-pound, 1-ounce bass was hooked in a recent tournament. The crappie bite is also picking up, but anglers must find sunken brush piles. Kerr’s land-locked rockfish will gobble up live shad.

Gaston is good to go — Gaston expert Marty Magone said lots of “buck” bass are moving into the shallow bays in creeks and on the main lake. The male bass are searching for bedding sites.

“It’s not unusual to catch 15 to 20 bass on a variety of lures,” said Magone, who has been getting bonus catches of white bass and pickerel. “The female bass are close by and will move into the shallows when water temperatures hit the 60s.”

The North Carolina Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League will be at Gaston on Saturday.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says large tautogs are caught on structures from Cape Henry on out to the Triangle Wrecks. Offshore wrecks are holding big sea bass and blueline tilefish are available along the 50 fathom curve. Back inshore, puppy drum and speckled trout are being caught inside Rudee Inlet and in Willoughby Bay and at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. The Virginia flounder season opens Sunday.

Help clean up the Potomac — A cleanup of the watershed that drains into the Potomac River is planned Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Join other volunteers at sites in the District, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The event is part of the Trash-Free Potomac Watershed Initiative (www.potomaccleanup.org) that hopes to see a trash-free river by 2013.

In Virginia, meet at Bull Run Regional Park’s Occoquan Trail in Centreville. You also can show up at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Lorton.

Marylanders can go to Seneca Creek State Park’s Clopper Lake in Gaithersburg or Colmar Manor Park’s Dueling Creek in Bladensburg.

In the District, Fletcher’s Cove is the place Saturday as the Washington Metro Area Corporate Counsel Association is holding its Good Deed Day, hauling trash from the river and its banks. Fletcher’s Cove is located between Chain and Key bridges. Call 202/244-0461.

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

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