- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2009

Don’t expect great fishing during the first four days of the new year. Unsettled weather is throwing too many monkey wrenches into local anglers’ plans. In some places, rain and/or sleet is forecast; others will have to contend with strong winds and biting cold. On top of that, the Chesapeake Bay’s striped bass fishing has come to an official end, although some hardy boaters continue to play a catch-and-release game with the striped beauties.

All the same, as you read this a small group of us loonies will be out fishing just as we’ve done for more New Year’s Days than we care to remember. I’ll report on the outing Sunday.

Depending on wind speed or whether certain boat launching ramps are free of ice, we might show up on the main stem of the upper tidal Potomac River; maybe also an area near Colonial Beach, Va., or any of the river’s tidal feeder creeks. A visit to Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, also is not out of the question. Plans will not be finalized until the last possible moment.

Meanwhile, from the lowest parts of the bay, angler Julie Ball reminds us that many blue-nose fishermen have switched from striper to tautog fishing or are searching for other cooperative winter species.

“Tautog anglers find good hauls of fish on lower bay structures and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel proper,” Ball said. “One boat scored with a nice batch of ‘togs while fishing [pieces of] blue crab at the bridge-tunnel’s second island, with the largest tipping the scale at 9 1/2 pounds. Good numbers of tautog and seabass are also concentrated on offshore wrecks when boats can venture out to reach them. One boat found plenty of nice sea bass up to around three pounds at the Triangle Wrecks [last week].”

Whenever the wind slows enough to permit leaving a harbor, Virginia’s offshore fans will try to make it to certain spots near Norfolk Canyon to hunt for deep-water blueline tilefish and grouper. Ball mentioned that bluefin tunas provide some action off Morehead City, N.C., but here, too, the weather can cancel the fishing on short notice.

Smallmouths are biting - Dick Fox said smallmouth bass are biting in the Shenandoah River. He’s dragging Manns Sting Ray grubs or hair jigs tipped with pork rind across the river’s rocky bottom to hook his fish.

Elsewhere, some decent smallmouths were caught in the tidal Potomac just below the Blue Plains waste treatment facility, but that can be an off-and-on thing that not many are willing to sit in the cold for. And Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk said now is a fine time to hook a good-size smallmouth bass in the upper Rappahannock River, a fair distance above Fredericksburg.

Charles County park gets help - Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that Charles County’s Gilbert Run Park will receive $338,000 to renovate the park’s visitor center, picnic pavilions and restrooms. Gilbert Run’s 60-acre Wheatley Lake is a fishermen’s magnet. It holds sunfish, bass, crappies, now and then even stocked trout.

The park is the county’s largest and most popular. It is located off Route 6, east of La Plata, Md.

Fly fishing show- A free event tagged Tie Fest will be held 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 14, at the Kent Island Yacht Club in Chester, Md. Tie Fest will feature many of the area’s top saltwater and freshwater fly tiers. There’ll also be a number of seminars, various fishing-rod manufacturers and fly-shop displays.

More deer possibilities - Maryland deer hunters who prefer to use modern guns instead of more ancient weapons such as muzzleloaders and bows will have the opportunity for more venison Jan. 9 and 10 in all counties except Allegany and Garrett.

This two-day whitetail deer hunt, the state Department of Natural Resources said, provides additional opportunities for landowners to manage deer numbers. Just remember that Deer Management Region A (Allegany and Garrett counties) is closed and that sika deer anywhere in the state are not part of the January modern firearms hunt.

cLook for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/ sports.

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