- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Your weekend fishing success will depend greatly on whether you’re into fishing freshwater rivers or the brackish and salty waters of the Chesapeake Bay and some of its tidal tributaries. In the case of mountain rivers such as the upper Potomac, Rappahannock and James, where the water runs swift and muddy, the fishing for smallmouth bass will have to be put on hold for a few days. Heavy downpours earlier this week and perhaps again in a few days have curtailed fishing activities.

Meanwhile, the upper and lower tidal Potomac River and its feeder creeks are good to go even if the water isn’t gin-clear. In Maryland’s Charles County, the Mattawoman and Chicamuxen creeks, as well as some of the creeks on the Virginia shore, turn up good numbers of largemouth bass and catfish. The bass like chatter baits, topwater poppers, plastic worms and rattle baits in a variety of colors.

Farther down the river, it’s rockfish time, particularly in the St. Clement’s Island to St. George’s Island stretch. Trophy stripers (anything 28 inches or longer) have come from that area, but the biggest number of trolling boats is moving up the Chesapeake Bay, aware that the spawning rockfish will try to make it to the northern parts of the Bay.
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The striped bass season will continue until May 13, shut down May 14 and 15, then reopen May 16 when smaller specimens can be kept.

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

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (★ ★ ★) — At Fletchers Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) you’ll find a swift and discolored river, probably not very good to hunt rockfish, perch and shad in. Wait a couple of days. We do know that there have been some fine rockfish hooked here. Downstream, as the tidal largemouth bass begin to respond to living in and just over the submersed beds of water weed, a chatter bait, topwater chug or popper lure, and of course a lightly weighted plastic worm or craw will be gobbled up in the main stem,. as well as most of the feeder creeks, all of which show vigorously growing vegetation. Even if the main stem is discolored — and watch out for floating debris that comes down from western Maryland — the creeks are mostly fishable. By the way, large blue catfish are taken on cut fish pieces just outside the mouth of Piscataway Creek. The white perch have not yet flocked to their shallow warm-water shoreline spots in any great numbers, but some taken. In the portions below the Route 301 bridge, trollers find a few willing rockfish, especially as they come into the St. Clement’s and St. George’s islands stretch. Some of the biggest trophy rockfish this season have been taken in the lower Potomac, several even came from the Point Lookout State Park pier.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (★ ★) — Boat rentals are available at Quade’s store in Bushwood (301/769-3903) if it’s croakers, perch and catfish you want. The truth is that some rental or private boaters find limits of croakers, while others can’t connect on more than two or three.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★ ★ ★) — Bass activity can be terrific during outgoing tides starting with Trash Point and Deep Point, then moving up to the Marsh Island area, the slow zone up to and past the old Slavin’s sector which now has a new, excellent ramp on Mattingly Road. Move on toward Horstman’s Cut and Hancock Cove, even beyond that, and you’ll find bass looking at shallow crankbaits, rattle baits, plastic worms and by Friday also topwater poppers and the like. Fishing can be fabulous some days, lousy the next.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★ ★ ★) — Gilbert Run Parks Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is good for a few left-over stocked trout, plenty of small bass and fat sunfish, even a couple of crappies. St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) has the crappies if you have the time. Small live minnows or a tiny white/red jig or shad dart under a bobber will score. Bass are spawning in the upper lake’s coves.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (★ ★ ★) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117, near Boyds, 301/972-9396) Catfish, sunfish and bass are willing. The water is in good fishable shape. The nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) also was not affected by the strong downpours and crappies, bass, catfish and sunfish are quite active.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★ ★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia don’t like heavy rains and muddy water in shallow areas is common when it happens. All the same, a smartly-retrieved medium depth crankbaits around a sunken log or rock might get a bass to bite. The same holds for crappies that are now inside stickup brush that sits in at least 4 feet of water — wherever you see it.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★ ★) — There’s a chance for croakers inside the river (some were reported near Clark’s Landing), and white perch are also beginning to show up, but the fishing should be a lot better. Within a week or so, you’ll hook shallow water rockfish on topwaters or short-lipped jerkbaits at the Cedar Point Light’s remaining rock base.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★ ★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis agrees that the rain didn’t help fishermen here, but perhaps by the weekend the bass will be turned on once again and the crappies that had finally started cooperating will also get back in the biting mood. Fountainhead has boat rentals.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Spawning bass, crappies and sunfish will make this lake a good choice. It doesn’t muddy up as quick as other waters will.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★) — Forget it for now. It won’t be fishable for several more days.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★ ★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says the water temperature is still in the 50s, but largemouth bass are found around lake polints and inside shallow spawning coves. Catch a walleye if you like. They can be caught on slowly-drifted minnows or spinners with a nightcrawler on the hook.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★ ★) — The water is discolored and cooler, affecting largemouth bass catches, but the Flats are good for a few catch-and-release stripers, although rockfish numbers are not as high as we’d hoped. Deer Creek had shad by the numbers before the heavy rains arrived earlier this week.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★ ★ ★) — The trophy rockfish season continues until May 13 and very few trollers who work the better stretches of the Bay are complaining. Down in Lexington Park (St. Mary’s County), Tackle Box shop owner Ken Lamb said, “The rockfish season is hot as a firecracker. Big trophy rockfish were weighed in and photographed everyday at the store this week, even in the wind and rain on Sunday.” Lamb added that trollers have caught fish on any lure they could drag around in most any body of water they chose. “The biggest fish seem to be in the Potomac from St. Clement’s Island to St. George’s Island,” he said. “A whopper of 51 pounds was caught by Phil Zalesak near buoy 9 in the Potomac, just off St. George’s Island. It’s the biggest so far this season that we’ve seen.” Umbrella rigs are still the favorite lures to catch the trophy stripers. Both white and green are excellent, said Lamb. Remember that the majority of the rockfish will travel north in the Bay, thus making productive outings for charter and private boats from Tilghman Island to Deale and Chesapeake Beach, or up around Kent Island. Some large stripers were boated around Bloody Point and the Gum Thickets, while the catch-and-release fishery on the Susquehanna Flats has gone a little flat. Some rockfish are caught by lure casters around weed beds, but the number of hooked fish is not great.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★ ★ ★) — In the Northern Neck, charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) can easily find rockfish, but a lot of local boaters are looking for croakers and they’re finding them inside the Rappahannock River from Deltaville to Moratico. Numbers and sizes vary greatly, but fish can be hooked. Down around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Eastern shore side of the Bay, bottom fishermen using a variety of fresh cut baits, shiners and squid strips are finding flounder, quite a few meeting the 19-inch minimum size. Black drum should be arrive in good numbers by the weekend. The Cape Charles area’s charter boats are ready. There’s also a chance of hooking a powerful red drum (aka channel bass, redfish) in the Kiptopeke stretch, but most of the redfish now are found inside the channels of the Eastern Shore’s barrier islands.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE, MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 MILES (★ ★ ★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Rockfish are hooked at the False Channel area at the mouth of the Choptan, while the inside portions of the river’s mouth have turned up a few croakers. Upstream, at the Cambridge fishing bridge, white perch that like FishBites or real bloodworms are possible, but don’t expect large numbers. Bass fishing around Denton has only been so-so.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★ ★ ★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Shallow crankbaits and small plastic worms can definitely find some largemouths, many of which are still on the beds. Some white perch are hooked with worm baits in the Snow Hill area.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★ ★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Recent heavy rain hasn’t helped water conditions, but all parts of the river offer catfish by the numbers, while the best bass fishing will be in the Marshyhope Creek.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) The middle portions of the lake, around points, deep-water coves and stickups will deliver bass. Use soft or hard jerkbaits, finesse worms in red or shad colors, rig a couple of worms wacky-style, with the hook being inserted in the center of the worm. It drives shallow water bass crazy as you softly “walk” the worm through the shallows. If it’s landlocked rockfish you’re after, you have a small window during the dawn hour and when dusk settles over the lake. Those who’ve drifted or slow-trolled live herring or large shiners have scored even after sunup, but rattle baits, Hopkins spoons and large Rapala jerkbaits usually work best in low-light conditions.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★) — Upper river fishermen will need to wait a while until the river settles down and the water clears. In the waters around Fredericksburg there have been good numbers of hickory shad, even some white shad, but the muddy runoff will not help. In fact, even the downstream bass fishing will suffer for a few days.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★ ★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies, bass and bluegills had been quite active, but now the water is stained. By week’s end it should be fair to good for lake visitors.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★ ★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish, crappies, bass and sunfish will bite even if the lake is discolored.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Good bass chances now in shallows around lake points and in the backs of coves. Jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and soft plastic worms are the ticket. A few fine freshwater stripers are hooked on Redfins and other slender baitfish fakes.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappie, catfish and bass catches were excellent before the rains came down. It could be in fair shape by Saturday. The bass have liked 4-inch soft plastic worms and spinnerbaits in flooded willow bushes, which are the same type of places the crappies hang out in.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★ ★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Expect a strong muddy runoff from up above, but blue catfish will continue to hang out in side pockets to pick up a slab of cut fish. Shad catches up at the fall line in Richmond had been super before the rains arrived.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Williamsburg area) Good catfish action on cut baits that are fished on weighted bottom rigs. However, the bass fishing has been only fair.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Forge it. It’s a fast moving muddy mess right now.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★ ★ ★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Good bass chances on jerkbaits, plastic worms and slow-rolled spinnerbaits around stump fields, boat docks and shallow spawning areas adjacent to lake or creek points. Some evening-hour rockfish are hooked by trollers.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) No good until the water settles and clears.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★ ★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The Ocean City inlet shows a few tautogs and stripers, while the surf fishermen report an occasional bluefish or small shark. Offshore fishing for sea bass has not been very good.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★ ★ ★) — Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association, finds good red drum fishing in the barrier island channels and ditches near the Chesapeake’s mouth. Fisherman’s Island and Smith Island have been hot. The redfish like whole hard crabs as bait. Offshore hookups over the various wrecks include sea bass, tilefish, snowy grouper, wreckfish and blackbelly rosefish. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

  • Look for Gene Muellers Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].
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