- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

Despite unrelenting hot and humid weather, the bass fishing in the upper and tidal Potomac River can be good. Waders in western Maryland’s portion of the river can find smallmouth bass that will snatch a smartly popped surface lure or some kind of fringed tube, spinner or short plastic worm. In the tidal sector from Wilson Bridge down to Virginia’s Potomac and Aquia creeks the largemouth bass who hang out in sunken wood or along marsh banks and grass beds haven’t been the least bit bashful about striking a loud topwater popper or soft jerkbait when the river is still relatively quiet and “cool,” followed by a wacky-rigged plastic worm after sunup

Our friend Christy Henderson at Buzz’s Marina on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, has seen a steady stream of customers return from the Chesapeake Bay with bragging-size croakers, plenty of young bluefish, rockfish, even some Spanish mackerel and gray sea trout. But the best part comes from Father Daley, a local priest who fishes from a small boat within a stones’s throw of the creek’s mouth. “He went out yesterday, just in the front of the creek in about 7 to 10 feet of water and caught so many nice croakers, two at a time, so fast that he ran out of bait in an hour,” she said. “He was pretty happy.” I suppose he was because he might have gotten a bit of help from up above, if you know what I mean.

In the ocean waters from Delaware to Maryland and on to Virginia, fishermen have had to endure strong currents and rolling waves because of Hurricane Bertha, which now has been downgraded to a tropical storm. That doesn’t mean she’s turned into a pussycat. Bertha’s winds can continue to make things miserable for deep-sea fishing boats, but if Bertha continues to turn away from our general coastal area, perhaps the weekend will see productive fishing. But, please, listen to weather advisories before heading out.

Now here’s this week’s fishing outlook:

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


POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (****) - At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) the river is in good fishing shape and enterprising anglers can hook channel or blue catfish, along with largemouth or smallmouth bass, “if you know what you’re doing,” said an unidentified staffer at the tackle shop. One thing is certain: the bass fishing can be fantastic downstream of the District. Early morning topwater lures or soft jerkbaits, followed by wacky-rigged plastic worms, shallow crankbaits and 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits can result in fine bass catches in the weeds and along regular or marshy shorelines from below the Spoils Cove to Broad and Piscataway creeks, then on to all the Virginia and Maryland feeders or quiet side coves of the main stem below the Piscataway including parts of Dogue Creek, the Gunston Cove and Pohick Bay, Pomonkey Creek, Occoquan River and portions of Occoquan Bay, Powell and Quantico creeks, Chicamuxen Creek, also Mallows Bay, Arkindale Flats and Wade’s Bay. The only place that has disappointed bass hunters this year has been the Nanjemoy Creek. In the saltier waters from the Route 301 Bridge down to Swan Point you’ll find some perch, spot and croakers, but things really perk up between the mouth of the Wicomico to St. Clements, Piney Point, St. George’s Island, Tall Timbers, Blackiston, Virginia’s Coan River and all points south to Cornfield Harbor, Point Lookout and across the river to Smith Point. You’ll find bluefish and some rockfish action along with croakers and spot. The lowest parts might turn iup some tasty Spanish mackerel for silver spoon trollers, but be sure it’s a 3- or 4-inch spoon, nothing bigger.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (***) The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) continues to hold numbers of croakers and spot, as well as white perch. But the best croaker catches come before sunrise and after sunset.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) Plenty of bass can be found up and down the creek, along marsh banks, sunken wood, or in the massive weed beds. A zoom Fluke or loud Pop-R or Rico topwater lure can score during low-light conditions, but switch to soft plastics when you can feel the sun on your back. Liver strips or clam necks work well if it’s catfish you want in the creek’s channel waters.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) - Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows fair sunfish action, even some small bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass catches are pretty good, with well-fed sunnies delivering fun catches for the kids.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (***) - The waters of Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) are getting warmer by the day, so try and fish for bass, catfish and bluegills before the sun bakes the lakes.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) - (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Rockville’s Jack Redding had a fine catch of bass, using 4-inch junebug color Berkley Bungee worm. Redding said he fished sunken wood in Rocky Gorge and did well even after the heat made things uncomfortable. The same thing can be done at Triadelphia. Besides, flyrodders can score on early hour bass and bluegills.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) - Local fisherman Andy Croley says he was fishing from shore at the Patuxent Naval Air Station and caught a dozen spot, five croakers, five bluefish and a 19-inch rockfish. You can do it if you fish from a boat or pier inside the river. Tide drifters in their small boats connect on spot, some flounder, croakers and bluefish with cut bait, peeler crab or squid strips. The white perch are all over the place inside the feeder creeks, and some hefty croakers have been caught by low-light anglers as far up as the channel waters near Sheridan Point.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) - From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, “Topwater baits fished early and late continue to score well on bass. It’s the time in between that is a lot tougher. The 5-inch smoke/pearl Yum Dinger and the Gary Yamamoto Swim Senko, fished slowly in deep mainlake blowdowns have also produced well. The crappie bite remains strong. Several citations were brought in this week. Flyrodders, using small poppers, are catching some nice bluegills and catfish were taken on chicken livers. The reservoir is still at full pool, clear, with surface temperatures in the low to mid 80’s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) - (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) If you can make it to the lake before the sun boils the water, do so. Some decent bass, crappies, catfish and bluegills inhabit this lake. There used to be muskellunge and walleyes in here, but lately we haven’t heard of anyone hooking either one.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) - Waders from Knoxville downstream to the shallows at Brunswick (be careful because Brunswick has some deep-water pockets) and on to Lander, Point of Rocks, Dickerson, White’s Ferry and Edwards Ferry can score on smallmouth bass with fringed tubes, paddle-tail grubs, small crankbaits and topwater propeller lures.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) - Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds a nice combination of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, even some evening hour walleyes. Don’t forget that this lake is home to some of the biggest yellow perch and bluegills in the entire state of Maryland.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) - Plastic worms and spinnerbaits are the lures of choice as bass boaters pick a fair tide to work shoreline blowdowns outside Havre de Grace, such as the Apartment Cove and other river pockets that deliver good bass fishing now and then.


MARYLAND: 45-75 (***) - The Chesapeake turns up bluefish, some stripers and evening hour croakers, maybe a Spanish mackerel or two, from the Point Lookout State Park Pier over to the Southwest Middle Grounds and on to the Hooper’s Island Light, the loading docks at the Gas Plant to offshore Chesapeake Beach and Herring Bay. Add also the deeper sides of Sharps Island Light and Stone Rock, then head up toward the Diamonds, Bay Bridges and channel ledges from Hackett’s Bar across the upper Bay to the Chester River’s Love Point. From Buzz’s Marina (www.buzzsmarina.com) on St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County, Christy Henderson reported, “Big blues and croakers have been caught all week.” Henderson added that Spanish mackerel and gray trout were landed by anglers using jigs on the Middle Grounds, but one regular, a priest named Father Daley, finds fat croakers right outside the St. Jerome’s Creek mouth.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) - Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]) says the bluefish his customers are hooking appear to be getting bigger with each passing day, plus they’re biting more consistently. “Blues up to four pounds are feeding between the Northern Neck Reef and Buoy 62,” he said. Pipkin said a long-shank bait hook tied to 30-pound testline reduces cutoffs when you’re chumming. Pipkin always recommends to stay away from crowded areas. Instead he believes you should fish away from the others because when too much chum is dumped into the water, there’ll come a time when the fish are stuffed and will quit biting. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Northern Neck boaters troll east of Buoy 62 during both the morning and evening hours and they’re doing very well. The same action also happens across the Windmill Point bar at the Rappahannock River mouth, Buoy Number 1 just off the Great Wicomico River, Buoy 68 and the area around the “Hannibal” target ship near Smith Island. Small silver spoons can produce plenty of blues, as well as a Spanish mackerel. From the lower parts of the Chesapeake Bay Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) said plenty of 2- to 5-pound spadefish are going for suspended clam baits near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s islands and also at the Cell. Flounder appear to be everywhere, including a few big doormats, but the season is closed closed from July 21 through July 30. If it’s sheepshead you want, small specimens are caught around the Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s pilings and rock piles.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) - (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Still a consistent producer of some kind of fishing action, be it spot, croakers, white perch or small bluefish and stripers. The catches even occur as far up as Cambridge’s Fishing Bridge during changing tides.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) - (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The bass catches have definitely not improved since last week. Things are slow as far as bass are concerned.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) - (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The Vienna area again has seen visits of marauding stripers, hoping to catch up with a shool of baitfish. Rat-L-Traps, hard jerkbaits and 4-inch Sassy Shad lures will work very early in the morning around river points and sand bars. The bass fishing has taken a nosedive.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) - (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early and late periods are best for bass. Use Carolina-rigged finesse worms or even an out-of-production Pulse Worm. Deep-water coves with cover, lake points and bridge abutments as well as adjoining rip-rap can hold some well-fed largemouths. Crappie fishing can be good if you find a sunken bruish pile. Stripers more often than are a waste of time if you hunt them after sunup.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) - Upper river smallmouth bass like tubes in green or charttreuse with black specks. The Rapidan junction has been a good place for some local waders. In the tidal water you’ll hear various stories. One of them is that there are very few bass in the river, but others do quite well. with plastic worms and rattle baits scoring from Hicks Landing downstream to Port Royal and inside the Potobago Bay. The Leedstown area has been turning up more catfoish than anything else.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) - (Route 793, off Route 29) Check out the early morning bass bite. A small buzzbait or splashy popper can see action, but be sure to switch to deep-fished soft plastics

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) - (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Catfish are the most predictable catch. The bass fishing stunk this week.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) - (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone said for us to find baitfish and grass on the flats and then we’ll have exciting topwater activity. “Get out early and throw any Chug Bug-type lure near feeding bass, then hold on. When 8:30 a.m. rolls around try jig worms and Chatterbaits in the same areas.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) - (Route 58, Clarksville) The bass fishing has been pretty good in flooded shoreline waters, but deep-fished, weighted bottom rigs are what visitors prefer because they want to hook a monster catfish. Crappie catches weren’t very good last week.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) - (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Even the catfish catches have slowed during these hot days, but cut baits can bring a mighty hit from a flathead catfish..

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) - (Williamsburg area) Good bass catches are made, but many of the bass are small. White perch, some crappies, and catfish round out your chances in the middle to upper river portions.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) - (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox has been doing quite well on smallmouth bass in waters that are so shallow, it’s best to wade or use a canoe.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) - (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Slow going for the lake’s striped bass unless you fish in the middle of the night and then it’s best to use a whole sunfish or fresh cut bait. The largemouth bass prefer a 4-inch plastic worm inside boat house and around stickups and rocks.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) - (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The weekend once again will prove to be fruitful if you wade and cast small grubs or tiny topwater baits. Heavy rain will hurt.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) - (Route 50 to Ocean City) If the wind slows to a crawl there’ll be tunas, bluefish, sharks, dolphinfish and a few billfish hooked in the next several days. Hurricane-turned-tropic-storm Bertha can still cause problems with wind and high waves if it does an about-face and comes back to within shouting distance of the beaches. The more protected backwaters are home to plenty of flounder, but many are undersized.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) - Don’t know if Tropical Storm Bertha will affect the Virginia waters, but keep an ear opoen for weather reports. Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) says tarpon have been seen on the Eastern Shore. “Sightings of silver kings motivate tarpon hunters to head for the shallows out of Oyster,” she said. Offshore, the billfish bite has slowed but some are available between the 800 line and the Triple 0´s. “Gaffer dolphin are abundant, and a few nice wahoo have also hit the dock. Good bluefin action is coming from the inshore lumps. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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

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