It doesn’t matter whether you chat with charter fishing captains and private boaters, or happen to be on the water yourself with friends and relatives, the current fishing outlook elicits much praise and optimism.
“It couldn’t possibly get any better and the big rockfish haven’t even arrived yet,” said one charter skipper who operates out of the lower Patuxent River in Calvert County. He was talking about ocean-run striped bass that normally come into the Chesapeake Bay to gorge themselves on menhaden and other baitfish in preparation for occasionally lean winter months. They’ll begin to arrive in large numbers ususally after a fair frost touches Chesapeake Bay Country’s fields ashore.
Currently, from the northernmost regions of the Chesapeake Bay down to its junction with the Atlantic Ocean, there is a broad variety of fish that can be caught, starting with blues and striped bass, flounder, redfish and sea trout. It all depends where you drop a baited line or retrieve an artificial lure. In the middle and northern parts of the Bay, trollers who use small spoons, bucktails or down-sized umbrella rigs, continue to attract striped bass and bluefish, but the Spanish mackerel bonanza is pretty much over, although some are still hooked in the southern parts.
As always, the best producing rivers include the Patuxent and Potomac where the lower ends of both continue to offer flounder and quite a few blues and rockfish. In the Potomac’s upper tidal waters, the largemouth bass fishing is very good and the smallmouth bass in the mountain rivers from Virginia to Pennsylvania are hoping to eat, so start “feeding” them your lures.
(Ratings key: ****=excellent fishing; ***;=Good; **Fair; *;=Poor.)
AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: *** — Around the Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) there’ll be some noteworthy catfish hooked on clam necks, fish slabs or liver. Largemouth bass and occasional walleyes are also available. In the District proper, catfish, large carp, off-and-on hookups with stripers, and some decent largemouth bass are possible around Hains Point and parts downstream toward Blue Plains and the Fox Ferry rockline and the outside waters of the Spoils Cove. Bass are hooked on medium and shallow crankbaits, plastic worms and smartly retrieved buzzbaits or poppers from Broad Creek down to the Pohick Bay area and from the Occoquan’s Belmont Bay sector to the Mattawoman, Chicamuxen and Potomac creeks. Below the Route 301 Bridge in western Charles County, buoy rock piles, long river points, and channel stretches hold striped bass in the 18- to 23-inch class and now and then even a smattering of bluefish is encountered. This type of fishing continues from Swan Point to St. Clements to Tall Timbers and on to Point Lookout and all the river areas on the Virginia side to the Coan River mouth and well into the Smith Point vicinity. The Cornfield Harbor area of the river also gives up a late flounder if you hold the proper drift with your live minnows and squid strips, but they won’t hang around much longer now.
WICOMICO RIVER:** — Pretty much the same story as last week: white perch and catfish inside the river and some stripers just outside the mouth.
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: *** — Work 4-inch finesse worms and fat Senkos or Zero worms along marsh bank drops and shoreline wood. Bass will inhale them eventually as long as you have a good outgoing tide. Shallow crankbaits and various topwater lures also work.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: **Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is a fine place to fish for sunnies and bass that normally are small, although some whoppers are in there. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) we must continue to repeat that lake levels will be drawn down to make repairs to the dam. The launch ramp will be closed. However, there is enough water to let you go after bass, crappies and sunfish. You are allowed to carry a small aluminum boat to water’s edge.
LITTLE SENECA LAKE: *** — Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127) should be a prime choice for weekend anglers. The bass, sunfish and catfish are on the “feed,” so to speak. Get busy and drop some lures or baits to the lakes’ inhabitants.
WSSC RESERVOIRS:***(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Again, let’s repeat that repair work is being done at Rocky Gorge’s dam, resulting in a drawdown. Expect closed boat ramps, but shore walkers or those who carry small cartoppers on their backs can fish. At Triadelphia Lake expect fair to good bass and crappie catches.
PATUXENT RIVER: *** — The river channel from Benedict down to the mouth can deliver rockfish if you troll bucktails or drift baits smartly. A few flounder remain near the mouth’s channel marker and bluefish are always a possibility.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: ***In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) stretch of the reservoir, expect to catch good-sized bass in the deeper coves and creeks. One reader did very well casting crawfish-color Deep Little “N” lures around lake points and sunken wood. It’s time for the crappies to cooperate and our friend, the park ranger Smokey Davis, said, “They’re biting.”
BURKE LAKE: *** — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Crappies, bass and sunfish, not to mentioin catfish and perch, make this lake a joy to spend a day on.
AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: ***Floating grass from Washington County’s Knoxville down to Montgomery County’s Edwards Ferry can make the fishing a chore, but a worthwhile chore. The smallmouth bass hop on tubes, small plastic worms, crankbaits (if you can keep from fouling the hooks), and small topwater propeller lures.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: *** — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds willing largemouths in deep-water coves, around marina docks, and under some remaining floating docks. Skipped tubes, or smartly-retrieved crankbaits or jerkbaits can do the job. Fat yellow perch and occasional walleyes round out good weekend fishing.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: ***If the water flows from Conowingo Dam, you’ll hook stripers on Zoom Flukes and the like. Largemouth bass catches are improving down around Havre de Grace and the Flats, but loose, dying grass can be a problem.
AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY
MARYLAND: *** “It couldn’t possibly get any better and the big rockfish haven’t even arrived yet,” said one charter skipper who operates out of the lower Patuxent River in Calvert County.
He was talking about ocean-run striped bass that normally come into the Chesapeake Bay to gorge themselves on menhaden and other baitfish in preparation for occasionally lean winter months. They’ll begin to arrive in large numbers ususally after a fair frost touches Chesapeake Bay Country’s fields ashore. Currently, from the northernmost regions of the Chesapeake Bay down to its junction with the Atlantic Ocean, there is a broad variety of fish that can be caught, starting with blues and striped bass, flounder, redfish and sea trout.
It all depends where you drop a baited line or retrieve an artificial lure. In the middle and northern parts of the Bay, trollers who use small spoons, bucktails or down-sized umbrella rigs, continue to attract striped bass and bluefish, but the Spanish mackerel bonanza is pretty much over, although some are still hooked in the southern parts. In the lower Maryland portions, especially in the Middle Grounds area, not all that far from Virginia, the chance for nighttime redfish and croakers, also rockfish and blues is above average.
*** — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Rockfish are in the mouth and after sunset the bridge fishermen in Cambridge find some willing stripers, as well. The Denton area delivers the goods for bass boaters working the spatterdock edges and sunken wood. Jerkbaits and early hour topwater poppers can score.
*** — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The crappie and bass fishing can be good inside the Marshyhope. Main-stem bass are mostly in sunken trees and smartly-fished plastics can bring them out.
*** From the low waters of Remington down to rock pools and ledges outside the Rapidan’s mouth and on toward Fredericksburg, there’s a good chance of finding smallmouth bass, although the overall numbers are not nearly as good as they used to be. The same goes for the tidal river below Fredericksburg where largemouth bass once were so plentiful people talked of the river rivaling the Potomac’s bass riches. Not so these days. There are bass that will look at a 4-inch PowerWorm or other scented plastics, as well as crankbaits and small spinnerbaits in various creek mouths from around Hicks Landing down to Leedstown, but don’t expect to catch 50 bass on every trip. Five or six is more like it.
*** — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The crappie bite is getting better every day, but don’t overlook the bass that hang around the lake’s waterlogged tree stumps, points and brushy areas. Catfish like clam snouts.
*** — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass have been jumping on early hour buzzbaits and splashy poppers, but after the sun rises high, crankbaits are recommended. Large flathead catfish have been inhaling live sunfish on bottom rigs. The crappie fishing can be wonderful. Look for brush piles in 12 to 20 feet of water and also check out bridge abutments with your live shiners or jigs fished under a plastic float..
***— (Williamsburg area) Large catfish have become the rule here. Cut fish slabs on weighted bottom rigs have been responsible for blue catfish from 30 to 60 pounds. The largemouth bass has been fine and most of them have been fooled by crawdad color crankabits and soft plastics.
*** — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Nighttime temperatures are in the 50s and the water is getting cooler every day which will trigger feeding forays by largemouth bass and rockfish. However, the lake level is down at least 4 feet and that can be tough on people who want to launch a boat. Rain is needed.