- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just about everybody agrees that the start of the Maryland trophy rockfish season last Saturday began more with a whimper than a bang, but some of the boaters who trolled the Chesapeake’s waters with massive parachute bucktails and umbrella rigs that contained a series of Sassy Shad lures connected.

For example, Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box, said: “Trollers found the going slow. However, there were some exceptions as a good bite of big fish was found north of Parker’s Creek early Saturday; the boats out of the Rod’n’Reel Dock did very well. But that cooled down by 10 a.m., and everyone was just plunking along after that.”

Added Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina, along St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County: “The rockfish were scattered. They seemed to be more concentrated in the Triangle area. Everyone caught fish but some more than others. The biggest one [we saw] measured 46.5 inches.” Henderson also mentioned that some croakers were caught near Buoy 72 on the ledge in 60 feet of water, and she added that the flounder had arrived.

There may be croakers out in the Chesapeake Bay, but after last weekend’s optimistic outlook for the hardheads, fishermen in the Bushwood area of the Potomac’s Wicomico feeder river are saying the bite has come to a screeching halt. Continuous warm weather will change all that.

Freshwater river fans should know that the upper Potomac (and other mountain rivers) should be avoided currently because of recent heavy precipitation. In the case of the Potomac, river levels are hazardous for recreational use on the main stem from Cumberland to Little Falls.

Here’s one more reminder that the American Fly Fishing Trade Association’s will have its annual fishing event Sunday and Monday at Fletcher’s Cove (off Canal Road in Georgetown) on the Potomac River. D.C. children and their families are invited. A Family & Youth Casting Call goes out 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and specially stocked fish in the C&O Canal will await visitors. On Monday, government decision-makers will fish for shad on the Potomac. For more details, go to www.familyandyouthcastingcall.com and www.nationalcastingcall.com.

(Ratings key: **** Excellent fishing; *** Good; ** Fair; * Poor)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) Ray Fletcher said the Potomac was high, swift and muddy.

“But I’ll wager that by Saturday and Sunday, maybe even Friday, things will be good enough for fishing and it will be very productive. The shad will be jumping on shad darts,” he said, adding, “In fact, I believe the peak of the run will occur this weekend.”

Meanwhile, the waters between the District and western Charles County are in fair to good shape, and largemouth bass are taken over most of the flats that contain emerging coontail and milfoil water grasses. All you need is a shallow-running crankbait in blue/chrome and a slow retrieval, and the bass will do the rest. Continued whopping catches of blue catfish are possible along channel edges in the river, from the Wilson Bridge to the Piscataway and on toward the Greenway Flats where deep-water ledges also hold fat white perch. Down below the Harry W. Nice Bridge (Routes 50/301), very few rockfish were caught in the immediate waters, but some keepers over 28 inches were scored south of St. George’s Island across to the Coan River mouth in Virginia and down toward the mouth of the river.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — The croaker bite that we were so happy to report last week has come to a screeching halt. Several of our friends and readers called and sent e-mails, saying they fished with every imaginable bait, including super-expensive bloodworms, in the Bushwood area and elsewhere, but came up skunked. By the weekend, with warmer weather staying here for a while, we’re betting that something will develop.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but the emerging grass beds hold the bass. Jerkbaits, shallow-running Baby 1-Minus lures, even soft craws, will do the job. Some of the wooded shorelines also give up bass, but the underwater grass at high tide have been very reliable. By the way, shoreline and dock walkers at Smallwood State Park’s marina area are catching pan-sized crappies on small jigs and minnows.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***)Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) will turn up fat sunfish and some bass, including one or two of bragging size, now that the females might be in the upper end of the lake and they’d hate seeing a plastic lizard landing in their beds. Remember, you must let the bass go until June 15, when keeper season arrives. The same bass activity is possible at St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) where bedding activity in the coves and upper ends is under way. The crappies will bite small darts, jigs or live minnows if you fish them under a bobber and make your casts toward flooded brush and timber. In a few days you’ll also see bedding activity by the lake’s bluegills and some of them are whoppers — ideal for fly-rod bug casters.

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) Bass and bluegills are either beginning to sit on their spawning beds or making plans to do so. Be gentle when you hook and release a bass. If you do it properly, they’ll immediately return to the beds and continue with their spawning chores.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***)(Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) The backs of the coves in either reservoir will have bass preparing to spawn and some are already doing their thing. Remember, it’s catch-and-release until June 15. Crappies are in sunken brush and a 1/32-ounce or 1/16-ounce white or chartreuse grub or bucktail dart fished under a bobber will see strikes.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (**) — It’s muddy in the upper reaches and few fish are being caught, but near the mouth one fisherman casting Sassy Shad lures into the river from the shores of the Naval Air Station actually hooked a keeper rockfish of 30 inches. I imagine there are others that would bite.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***)In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the reservoir, ranger Smokey Davis said: “Forty-two boats entered the Fountainhead Bass Club tournament this past weekend and almost all of them weighed in fish. The winning weight was 19.85 pounds for six fish. The biggest bass was a 6.2-pounder.

“The smaller buck bass were caught near their spawning grounds, but the larger females are still in the staging areas. These areas included rock walls, the mouths and inside points of major coves, ditches, road beds or any area the fish use as they travel to their final destination to spawn. The bass are ready to spawn but will hold off if conditions aren’t exactly to their liking. Crappies remain a mystery, but the catfish bite is coming on strong.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass are working on their spawning beds or are on them already. Crappies love a small minnow under a bobber anywhere you see sunken brush, but plain grubs or jigs with a little baitfish or crawdad flavored Smelly Jelly on them also work.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*)The following comes straight from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources: “The upper Potomac is currently running hard and is too dangerous to fish safely; it is possible that flows will diminish to some degree by the weekend but even if they do, fishing will be difficult.”

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said the smallmouth bass are turned on, and if it’s a walleye you want, they’re available. The DNR’s Alan Klotz said large yellow perch are possible.The Deep Creek Volunteer Fire Department held its annual walleye tournament on the lake over the weekend, with 47 teams competing. They checked in 189 walleyes; the biggest measured 25.5 inches and weighed 5.6 pounds.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***)Deer Creek holds the hickory shad, and weekend anglers will score nicely. Largemouth bass in area between Port Deposit and Havre de Grace don’t mind looking at a Paca Craw, jig’n’craw or medium and shallow crankbaits. White perch are plentiful in some of the main stem holes.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — “I’ve never seen so many people here at the marina in all the time we’ve had this place,” said Henderson of Buzz’s Marina. “As far as the fishing is concerned, the rockfish were scattered.

“They seemed to be more concentrated in the Triangle area. Everyone caught fish, but some more than others. The biggest one we saw measured 46.5 inches. The guys were trolling their normal spreads with tandem rigs and umbrellas, chartreuse and white.”

Christy also mentioned that some croakers were caught near Buoy 72, on the ledge in 60 feet of water, adding, “The flounder are here as well.” Added Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box: “Trollers found the going slow both Saturday and Sunday. There were some exceptions, as a good bite of big fish was found north of Parker’s Creek early Saturday and the boats out of the Rod and Reel Dock did very well. Most everyone found a few fish in all areas of the bay and the Potomac, but overall it was the slowest opening in many years.”

Lamb also pointed out that some good catches of rockfish were made from shore at Cedar Point on the Naval Air Station. Four big rockfish were checked in by surfcasters using bloodworms for bait.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]harters.com) said rain and windy conditions put a damper on the fishing during the early week.

“But we should have a sunny disposition for the upcoming weekend as a large population of rockfish is moving off the spawning grounds in the upper bay and is holding well north of our area,” he said. “Nevertheless, most of the charter boats and a fair number of private boats were able to gather a limit of one fish per person over 28 inches in length. We had a nice catch of rockfish ranging from 34 inches up to 43 inches in length. It was a slow steady pick of fish throughout the day on Saturday.”

Pipkin said the greatest concentrations on the Potomac have been from the river mouth near the midchannel buoy up the Maryland shoreline to the No. 7 marker. Pipkin also said croakers are available in the lower and middle Rappahannock river, with sizes averaging from 10 to 12 inches from the bridge at White Stone upriver to the vicinity of the power lines. Croakers have also been hooked near the mouths of Dividing Creek, the Great Wicomico River, and up the Potomac at the Coan River. A few black drum have been hooked down around Cape Charles, but the best is yet to come.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The DNR reports that lots of spawning striped bass are in the upper reaches of the Choptank, waiting for warmer water. This weekend should see a major spawn taking place. The Denton to Greensboro area was discolored but by Saturday should deliver some bass to crankbait casters.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Lots of 1 to 3-pound bass in this river and they’re not picky about lures. Use anything from red finesse worms to blue/chrome Baby 1-Minus lures.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The rockfish are in the river and some of the side creeks hold good numbers of bass and crappies. What are you waiting for? The water will clear up enough by the weekend.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) This might be the best time of the year to fish for trophy bass in the lake. Jig’n’craws, Carolina rigs and crankbaits worked off drops in the backs of coves or along secondary points should interest female bass that are not on the beds, but some fat bass are in the shallows doing their reproductive chores. Crappies are in nearly every brush pile and beaver hut you can find.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (*) — Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk said the river is fast, a little high and muddy right, but it might be fishable by Saturday. If it clears, you’ll catch scads of hickory shad and even some white shad. White perch and blue catfish are not in Fredericksburg in the numbers they should be showing up in. Bass catches are meager down toward Hicks Landing.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Even if it’s murky, you’ll attract bass and crappies with a minnow-and-bobber rig.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass are on the nests this weekend but can be enticed into strikes with plastic worms and lizards. Fish the backs of coves or the quiet side of lake points. Crappies are available.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass are on the beds; some, the locals say, are even finished already. The post-spawn females might begin to hunt for food, so think accordingly by throwing jerkbaits, rattle baits and crankbaits.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass are spawning, crappies are biting if you can get a minnow or jig through the brush, and the catfish are hungry.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Bass are on beds in many of the backwater coves and pockets. Big catfish like bottom-fished slabs of menhaden, perch and whatever else you can come up with if you visit the Dutch Gap area.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Bass are active in some portions, spawning in others. Even a smattering of stripers has been noticed inside the river. Fat catfish await you. Bring your bottom rigs and juicy slabs of fish to serve as bait.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said, “The river is high and muddy. If we get rain Wednesday, the water will still have a heavy stain for the weekend, but it should be fishable for smallmouth and largemouth bass.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (**) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) The Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League’s Shenandoah Division tournament last weekend was won by Boogie Atkins of Greenville, Va., with a five-bass catch that weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces. The victory earned Atkins $4,541 and placed him one step closer to qualifying for the Potomac River Regional Championship in Marbury, Md., Oct. 8-10, where he could ultimately win a new Ranger boat and a Chevrolet truck.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) It’s murky to muddy in many sectors. The smallmouth catches have suffered because of it.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (**) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR’s Keith Lockwood said fishermen in the Ocean City area can hook steadily increasing numbers of flounder in the back bay waters. Also expect some tautog bites in the resort city’s inlet. Believe it or not, a few surf fishermen have hooked black drum along with skates and sand sharks.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — “Several local boats found yellowfin tuna as well as some nice bluefin tunas just south of the Triple 0’s this week,” said master angler Julie Ball (drjball.com). “Captain Mike Standing and his crew aboard the Waterman out of the Fishing Center released a bluefin tuna and [also] weighed in a nice 112-pound bluefin.”

• washingtontimes.com. Also check out Inside Outside, Gene Mueller’s blogs about outdoors happenings here and elsewhere. Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.

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