- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

With the Maryland trophy rockfish season coming to the Chesapeake Bay April 18, dozens of private and charter fishing boat owners are out checking the likelihood of hooking a whopper. The chances are good — very good — say many of the trollers who drag lure-loaded umbrella rigs through the green waters of the Bay, from up around the Annapolis area down to the broad expanse of the Chesapeake where Maryland and Virginia statelines meet.

For example, from his Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said that trial outings have resulted in plenty of stripers.

“The size and quantity of fish caught and released has been terrific,” he said. “The reports come from the mouth of the Patuxent, Point No Point, Point Lookout in the Bay, [also] Piney Point and St. George's Island in the Potomac.”

Elsewhere, one of the nation's best tidal bass rivers, the Potomac between Washington and western Charles County, has felt the colder nighttime temperatures, but feisty largemouths are biting nonetheless. In just about every feeder creek where emerging milfoil, hydrilla and spatterdock is noted in 3- to 5-foot-deep flats and coves, the bass are frequently found, willing to attack shallow- to medium-depth crankbaits or soft plastic “craws.”

With the current full moon and hopefully warming water temperatures the bass should begin to think of spawning. If you hook a female that's on her bed, please handle her carefully, then release her. She'll swim straight back to her “nest” and finish the spawning process.

(Ratings key: ★★★★=excellent fishing; ★★★;=Good; ★★Fair; ★;=Poor.)

AREA 1: D.C. AND VICINITY

TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (★★★) — Around the Fletcher's Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) warmer weather and warmer water is sorely needed. As my friend Carl Brown discovered upon checking with Ray Fletcher. Ray told him to pick another day to come fishing. He said the cold front that moved in had the fish on “lock down.” That's not to say that something positive could not suddenly happen for fans of shad, white perch, huge blue catfish and the scattered herring in that part of the river. Elsewhere, the bass fishermen who launch their sparkle craft in the river have scored nicely even though the nights have been colder than normal. Firetiger or blue/red crankbaits and soft “craws” in dark green have done well over 3- to 5-foot-deep flats that show emerging marine grasses. Try it in the Chicamuxen, Pomonkey, Aquia and Powell creeks, or Pohick Bay and Gunston Cove, as well as upstream areas including the Fox Ferry rock line and adjacent Spoils Cove. There's no rockfish action yet in the Route 301 Bridge area, but when you reach the St. George's Island stretch and then head downstream toward Point Lookout you'll find cooperative stripers and some of them are large specimens. The numbers of fish will increase with each passing day. Here's another reminder of the upcoming trophy season that runs April 18 through May 15: one 28-incher per day is legal downstream of the Harry W. Nice Bridge (U.S. 301), including the Maryland and Virginia tributaries downstream of the bridge. Starting May 16 through Dec. 31 it's legal to keep two 18- to 28-inch fish per day. Call the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (800/266-3904) for further information.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (★★) — The upper portions of the creek have declined as far as perch bites are concerned, but some can be caught.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — Catches of largemouth bass continue despite cooler water. You might have to check out deep dropoff ledges along marsh banks, but quite a few fish are taken on crankbaits in blue/red/chartreuse patterns or dark-green “craws” that you fish with slip sinkersa and worm hooks. I had a bass suck in a 4-inch red worm the other day around a sunken tree branch, but most of our fish came on crankbaits.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★) Gilbert Run Park's Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) offers some stocked trout and a number of ususally small bass. Sunfish are waking up. At St. Mary's Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) steady crappie catches are possible if you use live minnows or plain tiny jigs under a bobber. A few bass are starting to choose nesting sites in the upper lake portions.

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) Crappies and some fair bass are possible. With warmer weather forecast, bottom baits will entice fat catfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Both lakes show slightly stained waters in some parts, but don't let that stop you. Crappies, bass, pike and catfish are going to bite. Bass will be on the beds within a week or so.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★) — The upper parts of the river have been strongly discolored from recent rains, but some white perch are possible. Not much is happening downstream until you reach the mouth and then a presence of freshly arrived rockfish is noted.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the reservoir, ranger Smokey Davis said, “A number of trophy size bass were caught as the fish are starting to get serious about the spawn. Buzzbaits, white spinnerbaits and shad-colored crankbaits have taken bass over 5 pounds. If the wind, rain and cold weather stay away the coming weekend should provide a good opportunity to get a citation bass. The crappie bite has finally fired up off the pier and boardwalk, with medium minnows under a bobber doing the trick.”

The water is stained; surface temperatures are in the mid 50s.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) One of the better places to fish for crappies if you can locate a sunken brush pile. Drop a small white bucktail-dressed dart, jig, or plastic grub over the obstruction, but use a bobber to hold it above the snags. The crappies usually do the rest. Don't be surprised to notice some early spawning activity in the backs of coves by the largemouth bass.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — Recent rains have helped raise water levels and there's a good chance of walleyes cooperating in the Dam No. 4 and downstream stretches near Taylor's Landing in Washington County. The entire upper river could turn up smallmouth bass this weekend for those who know how to fish a jig'n'craw or various plastic grubs and spinners between the rock pools and in the eddys along the shorelines.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) joins DNR biologist Alan Klotz in agreeing that various shallow coves are seeing largemouth bass and fat yellow perch. The DNR reports that the Mt. Nebo Fisheries crew collected some northern pike males for the propagation of tiger muskies.

“They found the male pike cruising the shallow coves in search of the larger females,” Keith Lockwood said. “The crew also reported many good-sized walleye were in shallow during broad daylight — a good sign for the April 16th walleye season opener in the lake.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★★) — The Havre de Grace waters, parts around Garrett Island and the Susquehanna Flats will give up catch-and-release rockfish if the weather cooperates. The water temperature has been steady at 52 degrees. The state reports that local angler Jonathan Harris had a 54-pound striper in the lower parts of the river last week. Meanwhile, white perch are in the deeper holes of the river. Hickory shad are caught in Deer Creek, but the run has not entered high gear just yet. Catches have been meager.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★) — Let's pass it along one more time: The trophy rockfish season begins April 18 and continues through May 15. One 28-inch-and-over striper per day is allowed; charter captains and mates cannot keep fish for themselves. The trophy fishing is restricted to the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay from Brewerton Channel to the Maryland/Virginia state lines and the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds (but none of their tributaries). Rockfish are now being caught during practice runs by the professional captains and dozens of private boaters. Of course, they must be released. Currently, the Calvert Cliffs power plant waters give up catch-and-release stripers on Bass Kandy or Sassy Shad lures and, believe it or not, the Sandy Point State Park (take the marked access lane to the right of Route 50/east before entering the toll lanes of the Bay bridges) rock jetty has had fishermen casting baits and lures and actually hook rockfish, some of which might be legal on April 18.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]) and his fellow captains are finding cooperative striped bass that are released right now. Until the May 1 through June 15 Virginia trophy season for stripers arrives, most Virginia boaters will be in Maryland waters April 18. However, the lower Chesapeake offers a chance at some decent flounder, quite a few over the minimum required 19 inches. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman's Association also says the bay water temperature has reached 55 degrees and it's time to think about the red and black drum that will arrive within a couple of weeks. Until that happens, there'll be flounder caught that hang around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's third island, as well as at Buoy 36A, on the Hump and at the Back River Reef.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) With the water temperatures hovering in the mid 50s, the DNR says some rockfish spawning took place last Saturday inside the river. In the far upper portions, there's a good chance for bass between Greensboro and Denton, and some white perch should be around for casters of small darts and jigs.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Good bass fishing is possible if you use shallow to medium depth firetiger and crawfish pattern crankbaits, 4-inch plastic worms or craws.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Just like in the Choptank River, the DNR biologists believe that striped bass spawning occurred here last weekend. The Marshyhope Creek and nearby Delaware Broad Creek have been good for a smattering of largemouth bass and crappies.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Crappies, bass and stripers are possible and in good numbers, too. Find brush piles, shoreline docks in some of the creeks, or beaver huts and you'll score on bass and crappies. The landlocked rockfish are out in the open and if you can be there when a feeding window occurs among the stripers, a rattle bait or soft jerkbait cast into the frenzy can turn the trick.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — We connected on hickory shad in the Fredericksburg sector above Route 1 a few days ago, but our catches weren't nearly as good and plentiful as was reported by others a week ago. All the same, the fishing might turn frantic by the weekend as long as heavy rains stay away. Some white perch and blue catfish are in the Fredericksburg parts. In the tidal portions near Hicks Landing and Port Royal, a few bass have been hooked, but it's not comparable to the Potomac's bass riches.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good bass and crappie opportunities now, even if the water is a bit discolored from recent rains.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Just as in Lake Brittle, this lake will give up crappies and bass, sometimes on the same lure, such as a small Beetlespin lure or a jig under a bobber. But if thick grass hasn't started yet along a point and its adjacent dropoff, cast crankbaits for bass.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Chuck Murray of Louisburg, N.C., won the BASS Federation Nation Southern Divisional tournament here with an overall live bass weight of 44 pounds, 11 ounces. Murray, the North Carolina BASS Federation Nation president, caught most of his fish with a crawfish color Bomber Fat Free Fingerling crankbait that he cast along the rocky points and flats of the lake.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bottom-fished herring slabs and even just the heads of herring will bring hits from tackle-busting catfish. Bass catches point to the backs of some of the coves where spawning is beginning or fast under way. Crappies like small minnows on a shad dart or plastic jig, fished under a bobber.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The shad fishing at the Richmond falls line has been good and the blue catfish around Dutch Gap and other deeper river pockets love fresh-cut herring or alewifes.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★★) — (Williamsburg area) Quite a few bass are taken on shallow- and medium-depth crankbaits, but most of the bass are small. Up around Walker's Dam, there are some herring, crappies and yellow perch.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Dick Fox of Front Royal says the water is stained and running a bit high, but he bets the fishing for smallmouth bass will be pretty good by the weekend.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Lake points and sunken brush piles around boat houses hold bass and in many cases decent-size crappies. Rockfish hookups occur now and then around the “S” Curve and other areas where the stripers might suddenly surface and go on a feeding spree.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Smallmouth bass will make up the majority of catches this weekend if the rain stays away. Heavy rains can mess up this river.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The DNR's Keith Lockwood says Ocean City fishermen are carefully watching the water temperatures that are now in the low 40s.

“A few tautog and striped bass have been caught in and around the inlet area and surf fishermen have to settle for a mix of spiny dogfish and skates at the moment,” he reported.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman's Association says tautogs continue to be active on the coastal ocean wrecks.

“Offshore bottom fishing is still producing as long as you are willing to fight through the dogfish,” he adds.

Neill also says that some really good news is coming from a little south of Virginia Beach where yellowfin tuna are being caught in good numbers in the offshore waters of the Outer Banks. Yellowfin and blackfin tuna are hooked by some Hatteras boaters and yellowfin and bluefin tuna are taken by Oregon Inlet charters and private vessels. For charters, call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

*Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller*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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