- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2008

Before getting into area fishing, a truly worrisome picture has developed in Maryland. The state’s Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in the lower Susquehanna River. That can spell bad news for Maryland waters and perhaps even those in neighboring states.

The DNR said the zebra mussels were discovered on a boat docked in Harford County.

“By taking a few simple precautionary steps now, boaters and anglers can help prevent the devastating economic impact and ecological havoc caused by this invasive species,” DNR biologist Ron Klauda said.

The zebra mussel is a tiny Caspian Sea mollusk that was inadvertently introduced to the Great Lakes region by foreign ships. Since free-swimming mussel larvae will attach themselves to any hard surface and start to grow, their presence eventually can cause great damage. As they grow, they begin to encrust boat bottoms and clog water systems and any permanent water structure. They’ve severely damaged power plant intakes and even forced entire municipal water systems in the Great Lakes to change the way they operate. Zebra mussels also kill native mussels and have been suspected of increasing toxic microorganisms that can affect duck populations.

Zebra mussels have spread into freshwater habitats from Louisiana to New Hampshire. Some of the culprits are owners of small and large boats who unknowingly carry the insidious mussels and/or their larvae in bait containers and bilges, on boat hulls or in marine vegetation that is picked up when a boat is pulled up onto a trailer.

The answer: Thoroughly wash boat hulls, clean bilges and remove vegetation from trailers and motor props before moving to new waters.

Now to the fishing - Things were slow in the upper tidal Potomac River and its tributaries this week. The weather turned from tolerably cold into an Arctic chill, then sudden springtime warmth and back to a near deep-freeze. It played a number on the tidal bass, perch and other species that normally would be caught in such productive waters as the Mattawoman Creek in Charles County. Instead, three of us spent a long day in the Mattawoman, casting drop-shot rigs and Sting Ray grubs, and never got a bite. Nada. Nothing.

However, word has it that the Spoils Cove just above the Wilson Bridge turned up a few crappies and bass, while some of the creeks on the Virginia side gave up small numbers of resident white and yellow perch - the Occoquan River and Aquia Creek among them.

Rockfish boats fought wind - The Chesapeake Bay’s striper trollers faced angry winds most of the week, although the big ocean rockfish are still around. One Maryland troller landed a striper that weighed over 50 pounds just south of the Bay Bridge. However, when the wind dies down, the Southern Maryland areas will turn up better action.

Down at the mouth of the Bay, Julie Ball (drjball.com) said 40- and 50-pound striped bass continue to come into local waters.

“Even a few 60-pounders are beginning to show,” she said. “The larger fish usually are hooked by boaters who drift eels along the channels and shoals of the bayside Eastern Shore or they’re dipping eels along the high-rise section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.”

Remember that regulations for Virginia’s Bay rockfish change Dec. 21. After that date, it will be one fish between 18 and 28 inches per person or one over 34 inches.

Virginia’s Gaston shows fish - From Lake Gaston, in south-central Virginia, where Marty Magone has a shoreline home, comes word of a mixed bag of fishing choices this week.

“Uplake grass lines are active with bass , pickerel and stripers. Spinnerbaits and jig worms have done the trick,” he said. “In the [tributary] creeks, slab-sided crappies can be caught around shallow humps near the creek channels.”

Magone said the crappies favor small sinking Rapalas or little jigs and grubs.

— Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Visit Mueller’s Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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