- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

The dog days of summer apparently haven’t bothered the freshwater or saltwater fish in our region. In fact, the hotter it gets in the lower Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the more willing it seems certain fish species take to lures and baits.

For example, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said cobias are the top catch in the lower Bay, not all that far from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

“Large fish are being caught by sight casting [and even] larger fish are being caught by anglers fishing chum slicks,” he said. Top spot has been the Bluefish Rock area. If it’s flounder you want down that way, concentrate on the Cell and Buoy 36A. “Large flatfish are available at the Bridge-Tunnel, but a lot of undersized fish were the main catch there this week,” added Neill.

Master angler Julie Ball has been setting hooks to big amberjacks at various navigation towers scattered off the coast of Virginia.

“Although it is a long run to the south tower — about 65 miles — that is one of the best amberjack holding towers anywhere,” Ball said, and she proved it as she and friend Skip Feller, a charter captain, caught 30 large amberjacks.

If it’s largemouth bass you prefer, you couldn’t be in a better area than the District. Ask La Plata’s Dale Knupp, who fishes in the upper tidal Potomac River with his wife, Nancy.

“I’ve yet to return home from a Potomac bass outing without having hooked and released at least 20 to 30 largemouths,” he said. “We can be up at Belle Haven, the Pomonkey, or the Chicamuxen, it doesn’t matter. The bass are everywhere. They love topwater poppers early in the morning, then we switch to small plastic worms later on.”

(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) it’s mostly big catfish and a few bass. Much the same is available as you head downstream. Bass are found from Roosevelt Island down to Washington Channel; the catfish and huge carp are everywhere in the river. If you see a weed line or open pockets in a bed of milfoil or hydrilla, try a Pop-R surface lure early in the day and hang on. The bass will react to your gentle popping, stopping, and popping again. Once the sun burns down, switch to Texas-rigged finesse worms or take a Strike King Zero or a Senko worm and fish it wacky-style. You’ll catch fish from the District down to western Charles County and across to Virginia’s Prince William County. That includes the main stem and all the feeder creeks. Downstream, from the Route 301 Bridge to St. Clements, there’s a chance of hooking a mixed bag of spot, perch and some croakers. Even an occasional keeper striper and baby bluefish is possible. But the fishing doesn’t really heat up until you get past St. George’s Island and head toward the Cornfield Harbor sector of the river, which is not far from Point Lookout. The flounder catches in water from 15 feet to 30 feet and more can be astounding. Drifted or slowly trolled strips of bluefish or live bull minnows can be amazingly effective. If you troll deep water, you’ll need up to 10 ounces of inline sinker weight. The inline sinker doesn’t get hung up as much as a bank or drop sinker.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (★★★) — Quade’s Store in Bushwood says there is no reason why you can’t hook croakers and spot most any day. By the way, the weed lines along shore and any riprap stones are home to fat white perch that love 1/8-ounce Beetlespin lures.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (★★★) — The Paralyzed Veterans of America tournament is coming out of Smallwood this weekend, so things will be busy. Will these tournaments ever come to an end? Meanwhile, bass and catfish catches can be very good inside the creek.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (★★★) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is sizzling in the daytime, and even the sunnies are sometimes hard to find. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) try to get here early and cast small topwater popper lures, followed by 4-inch PowerWorms. You’ll score on bass.

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) are going through a hot-weather phase, but early birds will get their bass, catfish and sunfish.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (★★★) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) has turned up some fine bass catches. It requires a bit of work, sometimes even working plastic craws, worms or pig’n’jigs in water around lake points as deep as 20 feet. But the bass are there and you have to adjust. Of course, early hours will find them closer to land in shallower situations around stickups and sunken wood where a wacky-rigged worm or even a topwater lure can do the job.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (★★★) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) These lakes can be quite productive, but these days you’d better be there before the sun bakes the water. Shoreline structure, sunken wood or stones hold bass and smartly fished worms, jigs, grubs, or crankbaits can do the job.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (★★★) — Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reports that big jumbo spot are caught daily in the mouth of the Patuxent between Sandy Point and the southwest entrance marker to Solomons Harbor. White perch, croaker, and spot are at Green Holly, Hawk’s Nest and Second Beach. “Some great catches of perch are coming from the creeks by working the brushpiles with jigs tipped with peeler crab,” Lamb said, but I know that a 1/8-ounce spinnerbait can also turn the trick. Flounder can be found at the three-legged marker in the mouth.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (★★★) — Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said: “The bass bite this past week was good, especially in the upper areas of the reservoir. From Turtle Cove to the Splits and on up into the river and Bull Run, fine bass were taken on shad-and-crawfish-colored, medium-running crankbaits. Topwater baits also worked well during the early morning hours. The crappie bite also picked up as evidenced by two citations caught off the pier on medium minnows. The reservoir is slightly stained with surface temperatures in the low to mid-80s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (★★★) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Daytime heat is brutal, but bass can be caught by working deep brush piles with Texas-rigged finesse worms or jig’n’craws in junebug or green pumpkin colors. The crappies have been tough to find, but when you do, they can be nice specimens. Live minnows are best this time of year.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (★★★) — The upper river will give up smallmouth bass to waders, but be sure you’re in the water before 10 a.m. After that the entire area from Knoxville down to Point of Rocks gets hot, and the water will make you feel like you’re in your bathtub. Some of the quiet stretches will have a smallmouth rise to a little topwater popper or propeller lure. The main producer, though, will be a tube bait, or a small brown pig’n’jig, maybe a 1/4-ounce crankbait in crawfish colors.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (★★★) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) once again reminds us that the summer heat is bringing in the jet skiers and water skiers like swarms of locusts. It’s best to fish on weekdays, when it’s not all that crowded. The Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood said deep-fished leeches (where do you buy those?) will find walleyes over deep-water grass beds. A drifted live shiner will get them, as well as some smallmouth bass. The guide Nelson says to keep on skipping tubes under floating docks for largemouth bass.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (★★) — Whenever water is released through the Conowingo Dam, there’s a chance of finding a rockfish that has come upriver and now will look at a hard jerkbait or Sassy Shad. Some of the boaters troll hard baits with success.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (★★★) — Depending on whom you speak to, the fishing in the Bay can be great or terrible. Hey, the summer doldrums have arrived, so a little slack must be given to the various reports we receive. We do know that there are a zillion Norfolk spot in the Bay spread out from the Point Lookout area clear up to Kent County and those little rascals are used by live-liners at Cove Point, the Gas Dock, Calvert Cliffs and dozens of other rockfish hangouts with occasionally great success. There are also traveling schools of barely legal rockfish and small keeper bluefish up and down the Chesapeake, with freshly arriving Spanish mackerel seen at least down in the St. Mary’s County waters. Small chrome spoons trolled with a 4-ounce inline sinker and a long leader will find action if there’s a “Spanish” around, as local fishermen call these mackerel. The Target Ship, the Middlegrounds and the Buoy 72 area have been good for bluefish up to 5 pounds as well as fat croakers and even some whopper red drum. Flounder also show up on the humps of the Middlegrounds, and if you’re near the St. Jerome’s Creek mouth, give the flounder that hang out there a try.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (★★★) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) finds a mixed bag of breaking bluefish, some good striper action and new arrivals of Spanish mackerel. Add to that the flounder and croakers that can be found near his Great Wicomico River mouth, and you’ll understand that this is a fine place to wet a line. At the bottom of the Bay, Neill said, “Cobia remain the top catch in the lower Chesapeake Bay.”

“Large fish are being caught by sight casting. Larger fish are being caught by anglers fishing chum slicks,” he added. “The Bluefish Rock has really heated up this week. Flounder catches have been pretty good up in the bay around the Cell and 36A. Large flatfish are available at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but a lot of undersized fish were the main catch there this week. Spadefish and some sheepshead and triggerfish are available around the islands of the bridge-tunnel. Spanish mackerel are being caught throughout the lower Bay and along the oceanfront.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) If you care to dunk a bottom and bloodworm or peeler crab baits, you’ll hook croakers, spot (some of them jumbos) and a few rockfish. Buoys 10 and 12 have been good, and check out Black Walnut Point. Spot and perch are hooked from Cambridge’s fishing bridge, and word has it that the bass fishing above Denton has been fine.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (★★★) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass catches have been good during moving tides. Soft Zoom flukes and various plastic worms, worked among the myriad flooded wood and spatterdock patches, will work.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (★★★) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) The Marshyhope Creek is good if you can catch it during an outgoing tide, when small crankbaits and soft plastics do the job on fat largemouth bass in stick-ups and old pilings. Other river spots produce similar results.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (★★★) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) There are days when striper trolling produces good results, but be also prepared to suffer from the heat and lack of bites. It can happen. Deep-fished jigs and crankbaits that are worked around points, bridge abutments and underwater rock piles or weed edges will find largemouth bass.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (★★★) — Much depends on heavy thundershowers. If it pours continuously, the smallmouth bass fishing will be affected. But if it stays dry, get your waders on and fish the area around the Rapidan mouth with tubes, grubs, jigs, crawfish-pattern crankbaits, even small topwater lures. In the tidal portions below Fredericksburg, you’ll find catfish and some white perch, but the bass fishing has seen better days.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (★★) — (Route 793, off Route 29) It has been so hot down here that one man swore the crappie he caught was sweating. Could be. Either way, bluegills are found in fine numbers, but not the bass. Catfish will inhale a chunk of liver or night crawlers.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (★★) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The water is very warm, so don’t be disappointed if the bass don’t climb onto your lures the moment they see them. Some nice catfish and plenty of sunfish are available.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (★★★) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Marty Magone, who lives on Lake Gaston’s shore, said the bass are still herding schools of baitfish in the upper lake grass flats. “Start out with a topwater chugger or a jerkbait at first light,” he said. “Later in the morning, the wacky worm will take over as my lure of choice. It’s not unusual to catch 25 to 30 bass. The trick is to find grassy areas near 4 and 5 feet of water.”

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (★★★) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Main-lake points that have sharply dropping water next to them hold bass. Use Carolina-rigged plastics. Long-lipped crankbaits can do well. The crappie catches can be fine, but you must find deep brush piles, with bridge abutments also turning up action. Of course, large catfish can be found. As one report had it, they’re “scattered from Clarksville all the way up both the Staunton and Dan rivers.”

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (★★★) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Some bass action has been noted in the backs of small inlets and around river wood pilings and such. Soft plastics have worked best. Yes, the blue catfish continue to rule the waters from Dutch Gap south to the Appomattox and beyond.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (★★) — (Williamsburg area) River’s Rest is the place to call if you need information. Call 804/829-2753. Slow bass fishing right now for some reason, but if you can secure some cut bait like herring or alewifes, you’ll hook fat catfish on the pier’s bottom.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (★★★) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) We expect the smallmouth bass catches to remain good, but if it prolonged, heavy rains arrive, forget it.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (★★★) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Surface lures are finding the bass when the sun remains hidden, but after it bakes the water for a while, switch to soft plastic worms or creature baits. In some of the lake’s deep waters (and there is plenty of that) the striped bass can suddenly erupt and begin to feed. If you’re there, a smartly cast and retrieved Rat-L-Trap or Sassy Shad will catch the fish.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (★★★) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Fly fishermen and users of conventional tackle have had a ball catching smallmouth bass. Only extremely heavy rains can change that this weekend.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (★★★) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Lots of undersized flounder are caught in the backwaters of Ocean City and Assateague Island, but occasionally you’ll find an 18-inch keeper. The Ocean City Inlet shows a few croakers, triggerfish, flounder and tiny sea bass, while surf anglers are happy with some whopper sharks that come into the shallows during evening tides. Headboats find sea bass and a few flounder. Congratulations to Chris Toner of Joppa, Md., who was fishing for sharks near Great Gull Shoals when the boat crew spotted a large cobia in the middle of a chum slick. Toner was the lucky guy who hooked it — a 72-pounder that turned out to be a state record. By the way, the offshore canyon waters turn up some billfish, bluefin tunas and dolphinfish.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (★★★) — Said Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association: “Spanish Mackerel are being caught throughout along the oceanfront. A bit further out, shark fishing has been very good in the Southeast Lumps and Hot Dog area. Bluefin tuna continue to be available on the Hot Dog and 26-Mile Hill. The southern towers remain loaded with amberjack. The offshore waters between the Norfolk Canyon to the Cigar produce good numbers of white marlin and dolphin. Yellowfin tuna have become an occasional catch. There are some wahoo and big blue marlin crashing the party.”

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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