- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let’s face it: Anyone can drop a line into the water in hopes of catching a fish when it’s warm outside, but not everyone is willing to chip ice from a boat ramp and hold a cup of scalding hot coffee while wearing thick gloves.

The ones who don’t mind the latter are men and women who care little when the mercury drops and icicles hang on a roof’s eaves; there are fish waiting along deep river and creek ledges.

The same holds for a particular clan of blue-nose anglers down in the lower portions of the Chesapeake Bay and the adjacent Atlantic Ocean that nowadays offer heavy rockfish. The cold weather gang also will scour the offshore depths for a delicious creature known as tilefish.

Let’s begin with the local doings and share how Front Royal’s Dick Fox feels about his favorite river, the Shenandoah.

“The river is high and muddy, cold and not very productive,” he said. “But I went to Lake Anna, where I was jigging for bass in 40 feet of water. Caught some, too, as well as jumbo yellow perch and crappies.”

Fox said he used a 1/2-ounce Mann’s Legend spoon for the deep-water jigging over underwater bluffs in the mid-lake area of Anna below the Route 208 bridge.

Who would believe this story? - Lake Gaston, Va., reporter Marty Magone sent a wild report but not the kind bass fishermen generally expect.

“On Tuesday, the lake kicked my butt,” he said. “I caught only one bass, but a strange thing happened. I thought I had another bass on the line - a big one this time - and I fought it to the boat. It was a large turtle that had slammed into my spinnerbait.”

A turtle on a spinnerbait? What’s next, a beaver on a plastic worm?

The striper situation - The Maryland striped bass (rockfish) season ended Tuesday, but it’s not over for the Potomac River anywhere south of Wilson Bridge, which is governed by the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. The striper fishing can continue through Dec. 31 with two fish a day allowed, but they must be at least 18 inches long (only one can be over 28 inches).

In the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, the striper fishing also can continue through Dec. 31. The fish must be between 18 and 28 inches long, but if you catch one that measures 34 inches or more, you can keep one of those a day.

When the Virginia striper season ends in the Bay, terrific outings usually are the rule in the Atlantic stretches that come under Virginia’s jurisdiction. Ocean stripers can be caught from Jan. 1 through March 31. There’s a 28-inch minimum, and two a day make up the limit.

Meanwhile, dentist Ken Neill, a well-known sport-fishing activist in the Virginia Beach area, reports that large stripers are found up in the Bay’s feeder rivers, the Bay itself, along the Atlantic Coast and even as far out as 20 miles in the ocean.

“They seem to be everywhere,” he said. “Most of the largest fish are being caught [on] live eels at the high rise section of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, along the bay side of the Eastern Shore and on the seaside at Fisherman’s Island. It may be that is because more anglers are fishing these areas with live bait.”

To prove how scattered and plentiful the rockfish are in the ocean, Neill and some friends headed 20 miles offshore. They caught bluefish up to 36 inches long and some whopping stripers.

“We kept a couple of bluefish but released everything else,” he said.

c 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. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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