- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2008

Big black drum have come on strong in the lower Chesapeake Bay, near Cape Charles and the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Check out buoys 13 and 16 where the fat brutes have been hanging out. Drumfish also are hooked on the Virginia seaside in the Great Machipongo Inlet. They’ll be in Maryland waters within 2½ weeks.

Meanwhile, the trophy striper season is still open in Maryland and now also in Virginia. Widely scattered fish are trolled up from near the Rappahannock River up to and past the Bay Bridge, near Annapolis. The best trophy striper chances are found in the Potomac River, from Piney Point past St. George’s Island and south toward Point Lookout.

Delicious Atlantic croakers are available from the mouth of Virginia’s Rappahannock River to Maryland’s Choptank River, but the hotspot again this week is the Potomac’s Wicomico tributary. Croakers are also available at Buoy 7 in the Potomac, not far from the Virginia shore.
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Tidal water bass fans will have a great time in the Potomac anywhere between Wilson Bridge and the Aquia Creek in Virginia. That’s a huge piece of river, but the bass are turned on in all the feeder creeks. Shallow crankbaits, plastic worms, topwater poppers and buzzbaits turn the trick.

Here’s this week’s 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) things are getting back to normal. Rockfish, white perch and some shad are in the Fletcher sector, while downstream bass anglers do well from Fox Ferry Point clear south to the Aquia Creek. It seems all the feeder streams are home to bass willing to look at a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus, chatter bait, Pop R, Rico, soft plastic worms and c reature baits around the edges and in the holes of massive weed beds, sunken wood and sharp marsh dropoffs. Hotspots this week included the Piscataway, Chicamuxen, Aquia and Potomac feeders. Blue catfish, meanwhile, like a juicy slab of herring or menhaden at the dropoff ledges in front of the Piscataway Creek, also the Greenway Flats and the area between Dogue Creek and Gunston Cove. As you go farther south on the river, there should be some croakers available at the Potomac River Bridge (Route 301), but we haven’t heard of any catches, although south of there there are croakers in the river, especially around Buoy 7. Trophy rockfish begin to inhale trolled parachute bucktails and umbrella rigs from Piney Point and St. George’s Island down toward Point Lookout. Catches can be quite impressive.

WICOMICO RIVER:55 miles (***) - Croaker fishermen who play the tides and use fresh baits, including squid, shrimp and bloodworms, can score nicely from the Chaptico Pier down to Bushwood, just off the shore where Quade’s store is located.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) - Bass catches have been very good, but too many tournaments out of Smallwood State Park have absolutely ruined the recreational opportunities for the very people who paid for the park and its boat ramps. Some days you’ll have a tough time even finding a tow vehicle or boat with Maryland numbers affixed to it.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) - Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) delivers sunfish and mostly small bass, although there are some whoppers in the upper lake right now, laying on spawning beds. St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) visitors have caught crappies galore. Give them a try. A plastic float with about 3 or 4 feet of line under it, holding a small 1/16-ounce white/red dart or a plain hook with a 2-inch-long minnow will work. Some bass and a few pickerel are also caught.

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) offers plenty of sunfish, crappie and bass activity. Most of the bass are small.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) - (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Early mornings are fine if use medium depth crankbaits or plastic worms that are cast to sunken brush or sharp drops around lake points. Fine catch-and-release bass cane be the resut. Don’t overlook the backs of coves where the bass spawning is not over yet. Crappies are found inside brushy areas that show at least 4 feet of water.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) - Lexington Park’s Ken Lamb said, “Some big white perch have come in from the river. [Local angler] Matthew Welch landed one that weighed 2-pounds, 1-ounce. It was 15½ inches long.” The big perch was caught in 25 feet of water at the Hawk’s Nest, near the mouth of Cuckold Creek. Lamb reminded us that the perch are now starting to bite in the Patuxent’s creeks. Use Beetlespins and other small spinnerbaits and even inline spinners. Expect croakers to bite along the drops near the mouth.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) - From Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) ranger Smokey Davis said Carl Martin and Mike Isner, both of Mananasses, won the latest Fountainhead Club bass tournament with a 6-fish limit weighing 19 pounds. The big fish of the tournament was one that weighed just one ounce shy of 5½ pounds. The crappie have been in a biting mood around almost any brushpile. The reservoir is clear, at full pool, with water temperatures in the high 60s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) - (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Largemouth bass are cooperating now and then and they like shallow crank- and jerkbaits, as well as 4-inch finesse worms in the deeper pockets of coves that show some structure. Crappies are willing if you are.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (**) - After high, swift water the river is slowly getting into shape. Smallmouth bass are possible, but it’s a hunt from Knoxville to Dickerson. Grubs and tubes have been best in the rock beds and eddys.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) - Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) says the bass catches actually can be quite good as these cold-weather fish are going into the spawning mode. Yellow perch and walleyes are sure to please.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) - Deer Creek’s shad fishing is just about over, but bass and white perch are available in the main stem of the Susky. The fishing, however, should be much better.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) - Serious catches of croakers (hardheads) are made in Southern Maryland waters, says Ken Lamb from Lexington Park’s Tackle Box. Even the pier anglers in Point Lookout State Park have been scoring. Real bloodworms to be used as bait, however, are prohibitively expensive and many anglers use FishBites, grocery store shrimp or strips of squid.

“The trophy rockfish season continues at a gangbuster pace,” said Lamb, who pointed out that a steady flow of big rockfish were weighed in at his store. Some charter boat fishermen and private anglers say that the northern parts of the Chesapeake can be a hit-and-miss affair. To be sure, large rockfish are taken on trolled umbrella rigs and parachute bucktails from west of Tilghman island up to Bloody Ppoint and beyond, but the lower Maryland Bay areas have been best.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) - In the Northern Neck, charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) and other charter fishing captains are after trophy rockfish of at least 32 inches. The season is open now. Croakers are found from the Great Wicomico up to Smith Point, but catches can be spotty. The black drum have turned on in the buoy 13 and buoy 16 areas and juicy sea clams are the best baits. Virginia Beach’s Ken Neill says, “The flounder bite has been spotty. Fishermen are awaiting the arrival of cobia and spadefish.


CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (**) - (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croakers should inhale bottom baits in the river mouth by the weekend. There’s a chance of hooking a rockfish now and then, but they are generally on the small side. Upper river in Cambridge might give up some perch, but bass fishermen must start as far up as Denton and Martinak before they can see a little action.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) - (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) The dense flooded root systems you encounter below Snow Hill can be great for bass that like shallow Baby 1-Minus lures. If that doesn’t work, cast a 4-inch plastic worm to the edges of spatterdock fields. This river is rich with bass.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) - (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Bass fishing has been up and down and a lot of that can be blamed on the spawning activity in the backs of river coves, but some decent largemouths are hooked on hard and soft jerkbaits, as well as plastic worms.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) - (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Good bass chances now. The same holds for the crappies that have schooled around boat docks, beaver huts and flooded brush. Roadrunner lures can score on either species, but the bass also like Carolina-rigged worms.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) - The upper river is getting into shape again and the smallmouth bass will cooperate tomorrow and Saturday. In Fredericksburg the word is that catfish are taking cut herring bait, but if it’s bass you’re after you need to get into the tidal Hicks Landing sector. Rat-L-Traps and shallow crankbaits work in the mouths of small creeks and tidal cuts.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) - (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappies and bass are in the mood, but this can be a busy place on weekends. Catfish are biting, too.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) - (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Crappie anglers score nicely in timber and in sunken brush, using minnows under a bobber. Some fine bass are hooked on jerkbaits and plastic worms.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) - (Route 46, Gasburg) Bridge abutments and deep-water pockets inside the upper ends of feeder creeks deliver crappies and some decent bass. Main-lake bass tend to be around points and emerging weeds.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) - (Route 58, Clarksville) Crappies are the hot ticket right now, but bass are also taking a good share of the limelight. Find flooded bruish and sunken trees, as well as sharply declining lake points and you’ll be in business. Catfish are everywhere.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) - (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish are taking center stage, but look also for scattered rockfish. Bass catches are not the best.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) - (Williamsburg area) Bass catches are improving, but the catfish are the better bet. That and a few perch or crappies.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) - (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Slowly improving, but overall bass catches are not the best. Catfish and carp will bite.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) - (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The bass fishing has been very good for bass boaters who confined their fishing to the deeper backwater coves. Boat houses and brush piles deliver crappies.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) - (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass will be back in a biting mood by the weekend. Tubes, spinners, soft jerkbaits and the like will do well.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) - (Route 50 to Ocean City) The backwaters of the resort town shows increasing flounder catches. The stretches around Route 90 and Route 50 can deliver fair to good action. The Inlet and tghe Route 50 bridge section shows a fair presence of tautogs and a few rockfish are possible in the same stretch. Even surf fishermen are hooking a striper now and then. The offshore wrecks and reefs hold good numbers of sea bass and a few large tautogs. The headboats are cashing in on that bounty.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) - Ken Neill, of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, said big black drum have taken sea clams as have some large redfish in the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. The seaside’s Great Machipongo Inlet has been hot for drum anglers. Virginia’s offshore fishing provides mostly sea bass, tilefish, and grouper. The Eastern Shore’s Chincoteague and Wachapreague show some flounder action, but it could be better. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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