- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Independence Day weekend promises wonderful fishing, but we are sad to report that the waters of the tidal Mattawoman Creek around the Smallwood State Park’s launch ramps have been littered with dead largemouth bass for a number of days. These are bass that were part of the “live release” program by the FLW tournament group that conducted a large bass-fishing tournament last weekend.

There is no doubt that many of the bass that are caught in near 80-degree water, kept in confinement in a bass boat’s livewell, later weighed and then released, may look like they’re fine after being turned loose, but there is such a thing as delayed mortality. Many of the fish have been severely stressed and within a day or two succumb.

In the Chesapeake Bay’s feeder rivers, the Norfolk spot and white perch are thick as fleas. Check out the lower parts of the Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank, Nanticoke, South, West and Magothy rivers in Maryland and also the Coan, Great Wicomico, Rappahannock and James rivers in Virginia. The number of croakers in these waterways is steadily increasing, but the best “hardhead” catches continue to be made after sundown in the main Chesapeake Bay, around the lower Maryland buoys and various underwater humps, channels and ditches, such as those found on the Middle grounds.

Rockfish are hooked by trollers, chummers and lure casters from as far up as the Chester River south to the Point Lookout area of the lower Potomac. Bluefish and slowly increasing numbers of Spanish mackerel make their presence felt in southern Maryland and Northern Neck Virginia waters. Surfacing stripers that boaters can cast a topwater popper to have been noted at sunrise from Little Cove Point north to Cove Point, also at the Gas Docks north to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

The largemouth bass fishing will be fine in the upper tidal Potomac, and if it’s smallmouth bass you’re after, with a little luck and no heavy thunderstorms, you’ll score in the mountain parts of the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James rivers, as well as Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna.

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


TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles (***) — At Fletcher’s Cove (Georgetown, off Canal Road; call 202/244-0461) bottom-fished cut baits will attract big, fat blue catfish — and we mean big and tough “cats.” The waters from the District down to western Charles County deliver bass in good numbers. Work the grass carpets in the creeks and the main stem with weedless topwater lures, soft plastic baits and weedless swim baits. Many shoreline pockets that contain sunken wood also will produce. From the mouth of the Wicomico down to Point Lookout you’ll have a chance of hooking at least small croakers, Norfolk spot, some stripers and flounder, but the farther south you fish the better the catches. Check out St. Clements Island, Piney Point, St. George’s Island, Tall Timbers, Cornfield Harbor, Virginia’s Coan River and river ditches and channels throughout.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — The croaker picture is improving, especially in the lower portions of the river around Bushwood. White perch are along all bulkheads, duck blinds and grass-bed edges.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — The waters adjacent to the Smallwood State Park’s boat launching ramps have been filled with the stench of dead bass that died after being released during last week’s FLW tournament. It’s not a pretty sight, but as you fish the various grass bed away from the facility (and hold your nose) you can find bass that go after topwater poppers in the morning or plastic baits after sunup.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is always good for bluegills and a bass here and there, but if you want really good bass fishing launch your johnboat or walk the shores of St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) where 4-inch plastic worms, small crankbaits and poppers have done well.

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). Early hours are good for topwater lures around obstructions or grassy edges. Both lakes are home to good-sized largemouths and catfish or bluegills are in excellent supply.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County.) Even shoreline walkers can score at either lake, but johnboaters have the luxury of being able to quickly move to other locations. Bass are active in early hours and various topwater lures, soft plastics and jerkbaits can score nicely in deepwater coves and various lake points and sunken wood or brush. To people who sometimes wonder where all the bass are, let me remind you of a remark a fisheries biologist once made regarding these reservoirs. “There are bass in here that are dying of old age,” he said. Go after them before they do. Crappies have been tough to find this week, but bluegills and catfish are willing.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Liberty and Prettyboy have turned up decent numbers of smallmouth bass, especially for those who fished with live crawfish, light line, and no more weight than a splitshot or two. Cast the bait around the sides of jutting lake points and watch what happens. Largemouth bass like jerkbaits and poppers, also spinnerbaits, early in the day.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports: “The spot are thick everywhere in the lower river as far up as Benedict.” Moving tides are required if you want Norfolk spot from the mouth of Cuckold’s Creek, Helen’s Bar, Town Creek, Green Holly, Sandy Point, Kingston Hollow, the fishing reef off the “O Club,” the 3-legged buoy, Second Beach and other areas. Most of them are small, but occasional jumbos are caught. Ken Lamb said the croaker catches are good for bottom fishermen using bloodworm, peeler, squid or shrimp baits in the river during the afternoon hours. Rockfish tend to hang around the Cedar Point lighthouse base before the sun rises.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the lake, ranger Smokey Davis said: “Plenty of 12- to 14-inch bass are taken on small Texas-rigged soft plastics, fished in the grass beds in the main lake. The larger bass are in their full summer mode and are harder to come by. Now is the time to fish long, deep points with a Carolina-rigged lizard or creature baits. Black/blue jig’n’pigs, pitched into deep laydowns, are also a good choice. Crappies have moved a little deeper and flyrodders are having great success with the bluegills.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Try to get here as early as possible, then work a Pop’R or Rico popper across a lake point or some kind of obstruction where a bass might wait to ambush whatever looks like food. You’ll score, and if that doesn’t work flick a 4-inch plastic worm to whatever brush or obstacle you see. The bass will do the rest. Sunfish and catfish are here, so are the crappies.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — DNR biologist and upper river specialist John Mullican said the upper river has finally returned to normal flows with water temperatures running in the mid-70s. Smallmouth bass have been taking a variety of lures. Quarter-ounce long-lipped crankbaits can do well among the river’s bottom rock piles. Bonus catches can include walleyes. The DNR also reminds walleye fans not to overlook the entire stretch of river between Harper’s Ferry and Point of Rocks.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) promises bass if you stay with the floating docks. One more time: Learn how to skip tubes and other soft plastics under these docks and slowly work them through the shaded water. Yellow perch, crappies, some largemouth bass and sunfish are taken in the backs of the deeper coves.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — If you’re willing to cast and retrieve a plastic Shadalicious swim bait you can probably hook a rockfish when water is coming through the Conowingo Dam. There are stripers waiting for a snack at the bottom of the dam. The Susquehanna Flats has given up steady numbers of largemouth bass to boaters who work with weedless topwater baits early in the day, or Zoom Flukes as the sun rises.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — This weekend will have trollers, chummers and lure casters score on a variety of fish, including striped bass in the 18- to 23-inch class, though now and then a bigger specimen comes along. There’ll be increasing numbers of snapper bluefish in the same waters that stretch from the upper Bay, around the Magothy River mouth, down to the Calvert Cliffs area, Cove Point and Point No Point on the western side and from the Chester River south to Bloody Point, the deeper waters west of Tilghman Island, Stone Rock, Hooper’s Island Light and Tangier Sound in the east. Look for appearances by Spanish mackerel, especially in southern Maryland and along the Virginia state line. Nighttime croaker action has been fine on the Middlegrounds and the ledges between Buoy 72 and north to Hooper’s Island Light.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — From Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) comes word that bluefish are being taken with topwater lures or simply by trolling spoons or surgical tubing, as well as chumming. “Chumming action continues to offer modest catches of 2- to 3-pound specimens along the channel edge from the Northern Neck reef and Buoy 62. Surface-feeding schools of blues have been found below the Tangier target ships, and some are scattered from the Wolf Trap Light up to Windmill Point at the Rappahannock River mouth.” Spanish mackerel occasionally are found among the blues, said Pipkin, and croakers are being caught in creeks and tributaries of the rivers as well as in the deeper water of the Bay. Flounder catches are not very plentiful.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) From the mouth of the river up to the Cambridge fishing bridge, you’ll catch small spot, but also croakers and white perch. The fishing has been pretty good at the bridge if you have bloodworm and/or peeler crab chunks to be used as bait. Upper river bass will cooperate upstream of Martinak State Park. Work the spatterdock and blowdowns with spinnerbaits and short plastic worms.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Outgoing tides will produce a bass here and there on small spinnerbaits, Baby 1-Minus crankbaits and finesse worms when pitched into river cover, which is in ample supply. This is probably the most gorgeous river on the East Coast.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Lots of saltwater action at Roaring Point and the general mouth area, including croakers, spot and mixed bags of bluefish and stripers. Upper river from Maryland’s Marshyhope Creek across to Delaware’s Broad Creek will turn up largemouth bass that go for soft plastics or shallow crankbaits and jerkbaits.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Use Carolina-rigged lizards and Power Worms along deeper ledges at lake points and humps inside the creeks or the main lake. Crankbaits and jig’n’craws will work. The bass will do the rest. Trollers might score on a striper here and there, but if you happen onto a breaking school of rockfish, watch out. Jerkbaits such as a Zoom Fluke or swim baits, including the Shadalicious, will be hammered because they look so much like the real thing. Jim Hemby’s Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (540/967-3313) says the stripers are now schooling from the Splits down to the dam.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — Let’s keep our fingers crossed. The weekend might be the one when even wading anglers can connect on smallmouth bass. Water levels are falling. There’s been simply too much rain. The tidal parts below Fredericksburg will give up largemouth bass on soft plastics and spinnerbaits.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good panfish action, but large bass are hard to come by.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass, crappies and catfish are caught. Even walleyes that have been stocked here make a showing now and then. A 4-pound walleye was hooked recently. If heavy rains stay away, the water conditions will be ideal.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone said: “The bass are starting to move into the emerging grass beds in the flats above Hawtree Creek. Early morning topwater action can be lots of fun for all ages and skill levels. Lures of choice are chuggers and poppers. When the sun rises, break out the plastics and fish the deeper points.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Many of the lake’s bass are in deep water, and if you can locate a few, use soft plastics. The crappies are hanging out on deep-water brush piles. Big catfish like almost anything, from bottom-fished liver to slabs of cut-up fish.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish, catfish, catfish. They are the big drawing card for visitors to the Dutch Gap area and beyond. The largemouth bass population isn’t exactly on par with that of the Potomac River, but there are bass to be caught in backwater pools, eddies and blowdowns.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Fair bass chances, but even better opportunities for channel and blue catfish.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) There’ll be smallmouths hooked on crankbaits, flukes, topwater poppers and small tube jigs.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Typical lake bass fishing patterns are in for there summer. Pitch plastic baits under boat docks and boat houses, or run uplake and find a stump field, then zip a topwater popper across the surface. It works quite often, so let’s not knock it.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) I know I sound like a wimp, but again we hope that the rain stays away and only then will you have a chance at catching nice smallmouths.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Ocean City provides fair to good flounder fishing opportunities in the bay behind the resort city. Not all that far away from shore, the headboats and private craft find sea bass and some flounder on the underwater wrecks, while the canyon waters and general far-off blue-water fishermen are happy with yellowfin and bluefin tunas, dolphinfish and sharks. In the Ocean City surf, expect sand sharks, some kingfish and snapper blues.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association member Ken Neill said: “Offshore fishing remains very good. It has shifted a bit in that the numbers of yellowfin tuna have decreased but they have gotten larger. Dolphin catches have picked up. Billfish encounters are becoming more common.” Neill also said a few wahoo are caught and some bigeye tunas are available in the Norfolk Canyon area. Bluefin tunas are hooked around the Fingers and on the inshore hills, he said and added that king mackerel and bluefish are found in these same areas. For charter bookings, check with 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 washingtontimes.com/sports and click on

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