- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

Although local meteorologists predict hot, sticky weather for the Independence Day weekend, it actually could be beneficial as far as fishing is concerned. Croakers and Norfolk spot love hot weather, and now they’re really beginning to show up throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

The water temperature in most of the Bay and the lower parts of the feeder rivers is around 80 degrees, which the spot and hardheads apparently like better than the cooler water we humans prefer. The spot that serve as such perfect live-lining baits for striped bass and bluefish (and also provide tasty meals for anglers) are caught on small hooks, baited with tiny bits of bloodworm, in practically all parts of the Bay around duck blinds and the deeper waters wherever piers and bulkheads are seen.

All the Bay’s lower ends of feeder rivers show spot and croakers in varying numbers. The fishing begins in the mouth of the James River in Virginia and travels north to the Rappahannock into Maryland’s Potomac, Patuxent, West, Rhode, South and Magothy rivers, then to the Chester, Choptank, Nanticoke and Pocomoke rivers on the Eastern Shore.

Friendly arguments ensue about which bait is best on the weighted bottom rigs if it’s croakers you’re looking for. I prefer small pieces of peeler crab; others like strips of squid, thumb tip-sized chunks of fresh, unpeeled shrimp, bloodworms and even bloodworm-flavored artificial FishBites. Take your pick.

Because the water is warm and the schools of spot now are readily available, many of the Chesapeake’s boaters are drifting over underwater humps and through dropoffs and channels, using a small live spot on a 3/0 or 4/0 hook that is connected to a fish finder rig. It simply means a quarter- or half-ounce barrel sinker is fed onto the line, followed by a two-way swivel. One end is tied to the line that holds the freely sliding sinker, and the other end has a 3- or 4-foot piece of monofilament line to which you add the hook that is pierced just under the dorsal fin through the back of the spot. If a blue or a rockfish sees this rig, hang on because you will be reeling soon.

Schools of rockfish also have been noted by trollers in the lower portions of the Potomac River, from near Ragged Point clear down the Virginia shoreline to Smith Point, says Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box. But if it’s chumming you prefer, stick to the Middle Grounds, where rockfish, blues and croakers have been active. Chumming for stripers, incidentally, is now being done by boaters all the way up to the Bay’s Love Point at the Chester River’s mouth.

By the way, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has proclaimed Friday Take Me Fishing Day, and he’s encouraging citizens and visitors to take a young person out for a fun, fishing adventure.

- Even during the heat of summer the bass fishing in the Washington area has been nothing short of fantastic, headlined as always by the tidal Potomac River anywhere between the District and Virginia’s Aquia Creek. Early morning topwater lures produce wonderfully well, as will deeper fished lures like wacky-rigged, sinking Zero or Wacko worms. Wacky-rigging simply means pushing a worm hook through the center section of the worm and allowing either end to flop about. The bass love it when you drag it through a maze of wood or the edges of a marsh.

- Northern Virginia teenager A.J. Godeaux fishes the Occoquan Reservoir, and he writes, “I’ve been having lots of success throwing shad-colored lipless crankbaits (Strike King’s Red Eye Shad) at the mouths of minor tributaries in six to nine feet of water.”

Then along comes Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis, who says 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.

- Dick Fox says the Shenandoah River is low and shows some stain.

“We’ve been using a canoe, or we’re wading and catching lots of fish,” Fox says. “Tubes are good, but flukes catch the bigger fish. Green is preferred color, and bite has been consistent all day. Fast water produces the most fish, but slack water will hold a few.”

His methods easily can be applied to the James, Potomac, Rappahannock and others.

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