- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

In response to outraged citizens who complained about a recent bass kill after a fishing tournament was held out of Maryland’s tidal Mattawoman Creek, the state has decided to immediately implement a number of new rules and take a hard look at future regulations regarding bass fishing contests.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Service has decided to immediately begin registration of all large bass tournaments to see who uses the resource and to get in touch with tournament directors so procedures and catch data can be discussed and statistics that may otherwise not be known can be developed.

The service also will require that the water temperature in live-release boat tanks (that now will have to contain at least 100 gallons of water) be within 5 degrees Fahrenheit of the temperature measured at an approximate depth of 3 feet in the water body to which the fish will be released. The usual temperatures are 75 degrees — plus or minus 10 degrees, depending on the months, May through September.

If a live-release boat is not available, the tournament-caught bass must immediately be transferred to the water they came from and oxygen in release boats will need to be high.

The icing down of livewells can significantly drop water temperatures and cause immediate stress to the fish, hence it is not recommended. Instead, better aeration in livewells is called for, but the state says keeping fish in the condition of their home water is the best way to keep them alive.

I’ll have more details about this development in the coming week, including suggestions by local anglers who would strengthen these new rules even more.

Now, check below for a wide-ranging rundown on the local and distant fishing.

(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: “Same old, same old,” which means the river is eminently fishable, clear and good for big catfish, maybe a few bass and walleyes.”

Downstream, early-bird topwater lure casters who switch to soft plastics or spinnerbaits after the sun hits the water can connect from the Fox Ferry Point section clear down to Virginia’s Aquia Creek. Pick a stretch of submersed grass, a river or feeder creek point and gravel bar, or sunken shoreline wood and other obstacles, and you can connect on largemouth bass. Midriver bait dunkers find willing channel and blue catfish from Wilson Bridge down to and past the power lines at Chicamuxen Creek, while white perch of all sizes are now taking up station in rip-rap nooks and crannies and in sunken wood from Marshall Hall down to Point Lookout. The rockfish trollers have been doing fair along channel edges from above the Harry W. Nice Bridge downstream toward Piney Point and beyond. The biggest excitement currently is delivered by the flounder in the Cornfield Harbor area. Bait minnow drifters score in various depths. You’ll have to do a bit of searching, but the fish are there and quite a few are above 16 inches long.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (***) — Quade’s Store in Bushwood reports outstanding croaker, spot and white perch catches made by bottom bait-using boaters and pier anglers all around the lower Wicomico and also practically in front of the store.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — If you get out early enough, the topwater bite can be quite good in the midst of the many grassbeds inside the creek. Spinnerbaits or wacky-rigged soft plastic worms score after the sun rises. Remember, outgoing or incoming tides are a necessity. Water that sits still, doing nothing, can be unproductive.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) offers mainly sunfish, but also a couple of bass now and then. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) bass and bluegill will jump on a variety of lures and baits. Even topwater poppers have done well early in the day or when it’s overcast. Hot, humid weather isn’t helping, though.

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) should turn up bass and sunfish, maybe a feisty catfish or two, even if it’s sweltering. The secret is to get out as early as possible and quit as early as possible.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) One Montgomery County bass fan called to say he’s been scoring on fair-sized largemouths using a quarter-ounce brown-on-brown jig’n’pig combination. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. A jig with a chunk or pork on the hook can be a highly effective summertime bass catcher.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Start and quit early during this humid hot spell. Deep-fished lures or baits will produce bass and catfish on the drop-off sides of lake points and in the lakes’ channels that border shallow flats.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb said big white perch are caught on Helen’s Bar in the river, but I’ll bet a week’s wages that the perch will strike a 1/8-ounce spinnerbait or an inline spinner, such as a white or chartreuse Roostertail or Shyster, anywhere on the river where rip-rap, fallen trees, or the inside of feeder creeks with grass bed edges are seen. Croakers and mixed sizes of spot are in the mouth up to the Route 4 Bridge. Rockfish will oblige on topwater chug baits before the sun climbs over the Eastern Shore treeline. Pay attention to the Cedar Point Lighthouse base’s rocks during moving tides, but also work some of the river points as far up as Sheridan Point, not far from Benedict.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR:25-30 miles (***) — Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said: “The winning weight in last week’s Fountainhead Bass Club tournament totaled 19.76 pounds for six fish. Participants in the 31 boat event reported the fishing was tough. Only six limits were weighed in. The topwater bite was good early in the morning, but after sunup the bass moved into deeper water and were hard to come by. Carolina-rigged plastics and jig’n’pig combos pitched into deep main-lake blowdowns took a few quality fish. The crappie and catfish bite has also dropped off. Water temperatures are in the low to mid 80s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Early birds catch bass, bluegills, even a few scattered walleyes and heavy catfish, but now you have to really work on your fish. The summer heat is taking a toll and man and the fish.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — The upper river will deliver smallmouth bass and a walleye now and then for weekend kayakers, waders and shoreline anglers from Washington County down to the Seneca Breaks in Montgomery County. The water is low; there’s lots of grass, but weedless-rigged tubes, jigs and small worms will score. Flyrodders are looking for white miller insect hatches and consequently will flick white-patterned dry flies or streamers to the plentiful smallmouths.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) reports continued good success with bass as he flips tube baits and plastic worms under floating boat docks. Nighttime walleye anglers score easily.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — The DNR said largemouth bass are willing on the Susquehanna Flats where some of the structure that sits near deep water holds fish, especially early in the day. A variety of lures, from topwater poppers to spinnerbaits and soft plastics can do the job particularly well on the Cecil County side. Whenever water is released through the flood gates of the Conowingo Dam, there’s a chance of rockfish being in the swift water.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — In the upper Bay, the Love Point and Swan Point are still producing plenty fo rockfish for chum baiters, but many of them are too small to keep and some, according to one reader, contain lesions and poor-looking skin. The rockfish and a smattering of snapper blues are available down around Hackett’s Light, Bay Bridges, Bloody Point, Eastern Bay and southward to Thomas Point, and all the channel edges on the western shore from Herring Bay to Cove Point. However, many boaters report wildly fluctuating successes. Some days, nothing is biting; other days you can’t keep them from striking trolled bucktails or hammering an early-hour topwater chugger lure. For those who like bottom fishing, Angie and Reginald Baylor boarded the Hooker headboat out of Chesapeake Beach at 8 a.m., paid $55 each (which included a dozen bloodworms) and had a ball catching medium- to jumbo-size Norfolk spot in the general mouth of the Eastern Shore’s Choptank River. “We had a few croakers, too,” said Mrs. Baylor, “but they weren’t very big.” Elsewhere, if it’s fast action you’re looking for, the bluefish are willing pretty much everywhere some days, but the chummers over around Buoy 72 and the Middlegrounds seem to do best. The Target Ship area continues to give up large red drum to trolled medium-size spoons, but redfish are an unpredictable species, so be prepared to come home skunked.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — From Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) comes word that bluefish and stripers will strike trolled lures, but look for some Spanish mackerel now, as well. His Northern Neck waters, including Smith Point, deliver action, including croakers that come into chum lines along with snapper blues. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, said, “Both cobia and flounder are going full force in the Bay. Trophy-sized flounder are coming from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Cell and Buoy 43, around the Back River Reef, and Buoy 36A. Some flounder fishermen have been in for a surprise when a big cobia decides to eat one of their flounder baits. Cobia are being caught by both chumming and sight fishing. The Inner Middle Ground and the Hump have been good cobia spots lately. Large red drum have been a surprise catch for some cobia fishermen. Black drum are schooled up around the islands of the Bridge-Tunnel. Sheepshead and spadefish are both available along the Bridge-Tunnel. Spanish mackerel are available all over the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the oceanfront.”

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river is the place where the professional headboat captains come to when they want to load up on Norfolk spot, some croakers and occasional rockfish or blues. Up inside toward the Cambridge fishing bridge (recently named the Bill Burton Fishing Pier), perch, spot and scattered croakers are available, while the bass boaters from Denton and above find some action on largemouths as they work plastic baits and early hour topwater lures around sunken wood and spatterdock edges.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Considering the daytime heat and humidity, the bass fishing is actually pretty good when tides are moving. The area above just above Pocomoke City has been best for bass boaters. As an aside, you see quite a few Delaware-registered boats here.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Vienna river points can deliver a vicious strike by a striper if you fish in the dawn hour and throw a Rat-L-Trap or Chug Bug. In the Marshyhope Creek sector, here, too, the early hour is a must if you want to catch a bass.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early-hour striper fishermen can occasionally score on surface-feeding stripers, wildly popping artificial lures among the surfacing rockfish, but later in the day the stripers are caught on trolled bucktails and such. Bass are deep in most cases, and that includes the main lake drop-offs on each side of jutting points, as well as creek structure in the form of brush piles, boat houses or channel ledges.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper river smallmouth bass will bite this weekend if heavy thunderstorms stay away. Tidal water largemouths have been tough to find, but there are some nice specimens above Hicks Landing.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (**) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Daytime heat and humidity is tough on humans. but the sunfish, catfish and bass are here. All you need do is show up early when the fish are still actively seeking food, but don’t expect record catches.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (**) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The bass fishing has been slow, but sunfish and channel catfish are willing. The crappies are tough to find right now.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Lake resident Marty Magone said: “Grass flats are heating up above Hawtree Creek. Bass up to 7 pounds are striking spinnerbaits and wacky-style Zero and Senko worms. Look for patches of grass at points on the inside of the islands protecting the flats. Early morning topwater is also an option with Pop R’s, Frenzy Pop’rs and Ricos the lures of choice.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Big catfish, some stripers in the upper end of the main lake, and scattered bass in the brushy corners of feeder creeks make this large reservoir a good weekend choice.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) This is beginning to sound like a broken record: Catfish and more catfish are here for anybody willing to drop thick chunks of cut herring or menhaden bait to the bottom around Dutch Gap and below. The blue cats will do the rest.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (**) — (Williamsburg area) River’s Rest can be called if you need information, 804/829-2753. Some catfish and not all that many bass are taken right now. Blame the heat.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal angler Dick Fox said, “The grass is thicker than it ever has been, and with water down I have been wading, but smallmouth bass are plentiful along with lots of bluegills that love in-line spinners.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Good early-morning bass chances in structure water, wherever stumps, boat houses and rock ledges are found. Stripers like cut baits after sunset down around the “S” Curve.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Fine chances for smallmouth bass on a broad variety of lures and fly-rod bugs and streamers. However, if strong rains threaten again, it could be a washout.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Bluefin tuna are biting in offshore waters. They’ve been chasing after trolled lures at the Parking lot and long stretches to the south, but also bit at the Jackspot and the Fingers, Masseys, Chicken Bone and Hambone. A few white marlin are caught in canyon waters. Some of the offshore wrecks, close to land, turn up sea bass and flounder. If it’s rockfish you like, they’ve been caught at the Ocean City Inlet and the Route 50 bridge waters.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association member Ken Neill said: “A few large king mackerel have been caught along the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Amberjack continue to swarm the southern towers. Offshore action is a good mixed-bag fishery. Billfish are turning on with white marlin popping up everywhere.” Neill also mentioned that bluefin tuna are being found from some of the inshore humps on out to the 30 Fathom Curve. “Yellowfin tuna have become a more difficult catch, but the ones being caught are a nice class,” he said. By the way, dolphinfish are being hooked, and good numbers of wahoos are being seen. 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 www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.

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