- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

The holiday weekend promises to be hot, steamy, and very good for fishing. It begins with ever-increasing numbers of Norfolk spot and croakers from the Northern Neck of Virginia clear up to and past the Chesapeake Bay bridges near Annapolis. Add to that widely scattered schools of stripers and bluefish that sometimes can be seen chasing baitfish to the surface. When it happens, have a spinning rod ready with a popping lure and begin casting and retrieving. The fish will do the rest.

Those who enjoy fishing for largemouth bass could not possibly pick a better venue than the Potomac River below the District. The bass are jumping on buzzbaits and loud popping lures very early in the day and when the sun warms the water you’d do well to start fishing the various creeks’ marsh banks and sunken wood that sits near deep water, which might be as little as 5 feet. Remember, the best fishing usually occurs during a receding tide when baitfish flee the marshes, lest they be stranded. The bass know this and they’ll be ready to feed.

If you’re heading to the Atlantic Ocean, the offshore waters between Ocean City and Virginia promise a mixed bag of bluefish, tunas, maybe a few billfish and seabass, while inshore surf and bay fans will find flounder , snapper blues and small sand sharks.

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), Ray Fletcher said, We’re in a summer pattern and the fishing can actually be pretty good. Fletcher said large catfish, including some blue cats over 30 pounds, have been biting well. There are also bass and a few leftover stripers. Downstream, bass are the main fare for boaters from the District south to the Wilson Bridge. All the feeder creeks hold good numbers of bass, many of them immature youngsters, but occasional whoppers are hooked on toopwater poppers, buzzbaits and grass rats, with plastic worms rigged wacky style turning up good numbers of fish when the tide drops around marsh banks and sunken wood. Catfish are everywhere, especially in the creek and main stem drops and channels. As you head downstream past the Route 301 river bridge in Charles County, begin looking for white perch, croakers and spot. The river between Swan Point and St. Clements has been productive, but you must locate a school on a good depth finder, then use fresh shrimp, peeler crab, or squid as bait. The Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb said spot are very active at Piney Point, Kitts Point, Ragged Point, Cornfield Harbor and most anywhere else on the river. Rockfish in the 17- to 24-inch class can be taken on trolled bucktails between Ragged Point and Smith Point.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (★★★) — The Bushwood area near Quade’s Store (301/769-3903) sees croaker and spot catches from the lower end of the river up toward Chaptico Wharf.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — The back of the creek, above the Slavin’s area on Mattingly Road, can be very productive for plastic wormers and topwater lure casters, although some of the grass beds toward the mouth and in front of Sweden Point Marina have been good for largemouths and fat catfish.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) The bluegill fishing continues to hold up, but that’s about it. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass and pickerel fishing with small crankbaits or plastics has been fine, while fat bluegills are great for flyrodders and their popping bugs.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (★★★) — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) will be great for the Independence Day weekend. Catfish, bass, sunfish and some crappies are waiting for you.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Get there as early as possible and cast a loud whirring or popping topwater lure around sunken wood or rocks. These lakes have big bass and when things are quiet, they’ll cruise around looking for food. Later in the day, use weedless-rigged plastic worms. Flyrodders will connect on well-fed sunnies in the backs of coves.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — This river has it all. White perch in the creeks that like little spinnerbaits and Tiny Traps; rockfish around the stone formation of the base at the old Cedar Point Light; croakers, spot, snapper bluefish and some flounder inside the river from the mouth of the river past Solomons and up the channel toward Clarks Landing.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said, Larry Bibbs, of Fairfax, caught beautiful crappies last week, including three citations. Bibbs fishes with large minnows under a slip bobber in deep mainlake lay-downs. The early morning top water bass bite has been good but doesn’t last more than an hour. After that, savvy bass anglers go to deep running crankbaits, swim baits or Carolina rigged plastics fished off long points and the mouth of large coves. Meanwhile, Northern Virginia’s A. J. Godeaux, 14, fishes the reservoir and he writes, I’ve been having lots of success throwing shad-colored lipless crankbaits at the mouths of minor tributaries in 6 to 9 feet of water.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Great place for a picnic and some fun fishing. The bluegills, bass and catfish are wating. Even a couple of crappies are available, but they don’t appear to be as bunched up now as they were last month.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — Nothing has changed. The smallmouth bass are likely to jump on any small tube, jig, grub or spinner anywhere on the river, from above Knoxville down to White’s Ferry. Remember to bring a flyrod and pop for fat red-breasted sunfish. Channel catfish numbers are good, too.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) is finding smallmouth and largemouth bass in fine numbers now that the fish hjave left the spawning areas. Nighttime bait drifters can find willing walleyes, but they’re tough to catch in the bright sun.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★★) — Upper tidal river toward Conowingo has been slow for most species. but early hours around the Havre De Grace area, including the river parts just outside the marina have been good for largemouth bass that like spinnerbaits and soft plastics.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — Rockfish in the 17- to 24-inch class are widely scattered over the entire Bay, from as far up as Love Point at the Chester River’s mouth down to the Virginia state line. In Southern Maryland, steady numbers of schoolie stripers (up to 32 inches in some cases) are found from the Gas Docks to the Calvert Cliffs and the nuclear plant. Live-lined spot have been more productive than lures. Chummers have seen mixed success on blues and rockfish in the upper Bay, although some are hooked, but it appears that things get more reliable when you come into the Middle Grounds sector of the Bay, which is best reached by boaters coming out of the lower Potomac. Croaker catches are possible up and down the Bay, with evening or early mornings perhaps best for most fishermen.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (captbilly@captbillyscharters.com) says bluefish action continues to improve as the blues are responding to surface lures and chum along the channel edges from the Northern Neck reef and Buoy 62. The area outside the Rappahannock River shows a mix of Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Rockfish are scattered along the shipping channel from Buoy 70 to 72 this week. Croakers are found throughout the region, with larger specimens located in creeks and tributaries, but also along the channel edges where gillnetters are catching them by the thousands. Some flounder are caught at the Cell and a few are hooked at the edge of the shipping channel. Drifted strips of squid, sometimes sweetened with a bull minnow, will entice these flat fish, said Pipkin. Farther down the Bay, Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported that big cobia can be found at the Eastern Shore side of the Bay, with a 90-pounder caught by Steve Maupin of Midlothian, Va., as he fished near Buoy 13. Flounder catches are improving around the first island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.


CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croakers and spot have been taken in excellent numbers in the mouth of the river, some even up to the Cambridge fishing bridge (adjacent to Route 50). Perch are biting up and down the waterway.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The heat has slowed down bass catches. Catfish and some white perch are always available.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Upper river near Seaford, Del., has turned up better bass catches than the waters down near Federalsburg, but forget it if you think this place can rival the upper tidal Potomac.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) This will be a busy place over the holiday weekend as waterskiers and jetboat nuisances will make a fisherman’s life miserable. But if you arrive very early and leave before noon, there are bass, stripers, catfish and crappies waiting in coves and brushpiles, also around lake points and rip-rap.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — The upper river is good to waders casting tubes in chartreuse with black specks, also known as pepper grubs or tubes. Use a -ounce jig hook and hop it over and alongside rocks. The smallies will do the rest. In the tidal waters below Fredericksburg there are fair numbers of bass available, particularly near Hicks Landing. Short plastic worms and shallow crankbaits do well.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good sunfish, maybe crappie and some bass are possible. Actually, flyrodding for bluegills can be a ball here.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) This, too, will be a busy place over the holiday weekend because of its close proximity to the towns of Orange and Gordonsville. There’ll be picnicking and some fair fishing for sunfish, catfish and crappies — maybe a bass or two.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Good uplake bass chances nearing Interstate 85. Topwater lures, including soft Zoom Fluke jerkbaits, and also plastic worms as the sun warms the water.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies, catfish and bass will bite if the stripers won’t. The weekend will be crowded here, but it’s a big lake. You could get lost here.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Bluecatfish and some bass are hooked between Richmond and the mouth of the Chickahominy River, but catches aren’t the best.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★) — (Williamsburg area) Better bass activity than out in the main body of the James. Try short finesse worms and topwater buzzbaits around duck blinds and blowdowns.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said that wading and canoeing is the best way to hook smallmouth bass now — and quite a few anglers are finding action.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttimes are best for bait soakers hunting for rockfish in deep water. The bass catches are fine, but start eary and work topwater and shallow crankbaits. When the jetskiers arrive, find a shady place on land and think about going next week, after the holiday period.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Again, waders are scoring on smallmouth bass with an assortment of lures, even flyrod streamers and poppers.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Bluefin tunas are taken in the offshore region, in places like the Rockpile, Massey’s Canyon and the Hambone. A little closer in you’ll find bluefish and headboats working the wrecks connect on sea bass, even a few tautogs and flounder. The backwaters behind Ocean City are good for a few flounder, eve some real whoppers. If you fish from the rocks at the Ocean City Inlet during the dark hours expect strikes from scattered stripers and small tautogs. The surf delivers plenty of sharks, cownose rays and some kingfish.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Ken Neill believes the holiday weekend will bring good fishing for bluefin tuna that are caught on the inshore lumps like the Hot Dog and the 26 Mile Hill. They are also being caught on the Fingers along with dolphin, king mackerel and some yellowfin tuna. Dolphin and marlin are available in the area southeast of the Cigar, he said, with tilefish and grouper hooked in the area of the Norfolk Canyon. Sea bass, tautog and triggerfish are biting on the inshore wrecks. 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: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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