- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saltwater fans along the Virginia coast continue to find a fish species that most anglers believe is found only in Florida and other subtropical waters. Yet every year there are tarpon that arrive from the south to feed and fatten up on a rich supply of baitfish in the inshore stretches, inlets and flats of the Old Dominion’s ocean sides. I’ve seen them “roll” on the surface inside the Wachapreague inlet in past summers.

Now here’s Virginia Beach fishing phenom Julie Ball (www.drjball.com), who tells of a fine catch made last week by Keith Cole, who lives in the resort town. Cole was live-lining a small fish near False Cape when a 78-inch-long tarpon snatched the bait.

“After a 2-hour battle, the fish came to net and was quickly measured and released,” Ball said.

Meanwhile, Chris’ Bait and Tackle store on the lower Eastern Shore reported that eight tarpon were landed lately that they know of, most of them coming from near Ship Shoal Inlet, where local boaters dropped live baits into the water to attract the “silver kings.”

- Ken Lamb, the proprietor of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box, said, “The fish are eating out the bottom of the boats down here in Southern Maryland.”

Well, maybe not the bottom of the boats, but they’re certainly not bashful about eating baits and attacking lures.

Lamb said fat croakers continue to hang out on the Middle Grounds and the Target Ship, biting all day and night on bloodworms, peeler crab, squid, shrimp and even artificial FishBites. Although the croakers also can be found in the rivers, Lamb believes the biggest specimens come from the Chesapeake. Meanwhile, big bluefish are in the southern regions from the Target Ship to Smith Point, along with increasing numbers of Spanish mackerel.

“Both species will take trolled spoons [Drone and Clark models],” said Lamb, who also mentioned that the bluefish come in all sizes but average around four pounds.

- Chesapeake Bay fishermen who have been finding their two legally allowed 18-inch-and-over rockfish with ease at the Gas Docks (around the corner from the Patuxent River mouth) in past weeks have a complaint. They say the commercial hook-and-line fishermen who are permitted to keep up to 800 pounds of stripers every week until the end of November are beginning to hurt sport anglers’ chances at this hot spot. Too many rockfish are being removed by the commercials, which is a worrisome development for sport fishermen.

- Catches of largemouth bass continue in the tidal Potomac. It starts from just above Wilson Bridge and continues clear down to the Aquia Creek. The feeder creeks and the main body’s weed beds, marshy edges and fallen wood deliver the largemouths whenever tides begin to drop, especially in areas with deep water nearby. (Deep water for bass hounds is seven to nine feet.) The best lures have been wacky-rigged plastic worms that sink without having to add a slip sinker. Topwater lures can produce in the earliest morning or late afternoon hours.

- Charles County’s Eric Crutchfield was fishing for bass on the Virginia side of the Potomac, south of Wilson Bridge, when a 5-pound, 2-ounce Chinese snakehead ripped into a jig’n’craw bass lure.

The distribution of the river’s Chinese snakehead population is simply astonishing. What started in a small tidal Virginia feeder stream before spreading to the broad, neighboring Dogue Creek has spread throughout the upper tidal Potomac, from the District’s Anacostia River to well below the Chicamuxen Creek in Charles County.

- The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says Lake Thompson, a 10-acre impoundment on the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Fauquier County, is draining and is expected to be nearly dry within the next few weeks. The state is monitoring lake levels and the dam as water levels continue to drop.

After officials get a fix on possible causes, assessments to evaluate long-term repairs will be made. Thus far, the engineers think a bottom drain attached to the base of the principal spillway has failed. The lake’s smallmouth bass will continue to be removed and transported to the department’s Front Royal Fish Hatchery to serve as brood stock.

cLook 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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