- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

The croakers that have played so hard to get finally are in good supply in many of the Chesapeake Bay’s feeder rivers. The Potomac and the Patuxent are the best choices for the weekend, but other areas also deliver the goods.

Anglers who have launched their boats in the Point Lookout State Park (Route 5 south until it ends) public launch ramps, then headed to a nearby lower Potomac spot known as Cornfield Harbor found action on squid- or bloodworm-baited hooks in the waters just outside the pound-net stakes — no more than a mile from the park’s boating facility — in 25 to 28 feet of water. Ken Lamb, whose Tackle Box store in Lexington Park is frequently visited by successful anglers to have their pictures taken, has shown us photos of a number of such successful croaker fishermen. Lamb said the croakers have been taking baits in the Potomac clear up to the Harry Nice Bridge (Route 301). Other catches have been made at Ragged Point, Piney Point, St. George’s and St. Clements islands.

Along with Norfolk spot and perch, nice croakers are hooked inside the Patuxent River. The better spot and perch hangouts have been Drum Point, Fishing Point, Sandy Point, Point Patience and Hawk’s Nest. Then, if you move out into the Chesapeake where bluefish and rockfish dominate this time of year, the croakers are on the Middlegrounds and at Buoy 72A, as well as portions of the Choptank River mouth.

Rockfish, by the way, take chum baits, live-lined spot, trolled or cast lures from above Hackett’s Bar, near the Route 50 Bay Bridge, down to the channel edges east of Chesapeake Beach, Deale, Calvert Cliffs, Little Cove Point and down at Point No Point and Point Lookout, Smith Point and toward the Rappahannock River mouth.

The fishing for largemouth bass in the upper tidal Potomac has been fantastic. Many of the bass are taken in any number of feeder creeks along wooded shorelines, marsh banks or in the open-water pockets of massive milfoil beds. Chatterbaits, soft swimbaits, scented Power Bait worms, weedless surface lures — all work during outgoing or incoming tides. But if you want to fish above Great Falls — especially in upper Montgomery County and Washington County, the river is high and off-color once again.

(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) the water is murky and will probably stay that way for a while what with upper-river runoff coming our way. However, the Fletcher’s area holds large catfish and surprising numbers of herring and stripers. The herring should have been gone long ago. In the tidal waters below the District, the bass bite has been nothing short of fantastic. Fish the weed beds of the main stem or the various creeks’ wood or marsh banks and you’ll catch bass. Chatterbaits, soft plastic swim baits, 4-inch finesse worms and weedless topwater baits will see action during moving tides from the District south to western Charles County. Word has it that the croakers finally arrived around the Route 301 Bridge and in all the usual hangouts from St. Clements to St. George’s islands, and many drop-offs and channels from there to Point Lookout. One hotspot has been Cornfield Harbor in 23 feet of water. Barely legal rockfish and scattered snapper bluefish are in the river below St. George’s Island.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — The croaker fishing should perk up by the weekend around Bushwood and elsewhere inside the river. After all, the hardheads have been hooked just outside in the Potomac even far above the Wicomico mouth.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — The bass fishing has been wonderful. A variety of lures work, whether you fish sunken wood, weed carpets or various garvel bars, such as those found at Burn Point and Deep Point. We’ve done well with Chatterbaits or 4-inch finesse worms. The bluegills are on their spawning beds and we had a ball catching a mess with fly-rod popping bugs.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is fine for bedding sunfish, especially if you use fly-rod bugs. Some bass are hooked. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the same holds if you like “popping” for bluegills with a fly rod. But a worm and bobber rig probably is best for youngsters who want to hook a fish. The bass catches continue here at this fine lake.

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) Bass catches are good, and after June 15 you’re allowed to keep legal specimens. Until then it’s catch-and-release only. Sunfish continue to sit on their spawning beds and some are just now sweeping out shoreline areas to prepare for the spawn. Fly-rod bugs are the answer.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Weekend bass, crappies and sunfish fans will do well in either of the lakes even if the water is murky. Remember, fish who normally see water colors change because of inclement weather aren’t nearly as bothered by it as the humans who come here.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — (A lake guide is available by calling the Baltimore City’s Reservoir office at 410/795-6151. A $50 annual permit is required from the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Frederick angler Tyler Moon latched onto two smallmouth bass that weighed well over 3 pounds each in the Liberty Reservoir. He used a quarter-ounce brown/red jig’n’pig along a lake point’s drop-off. The Prettyboy waters have turned up some decent bass, as well, and there are plenty of sunfish for the hook-worm-and-bobber set.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Ken Lamb said the croakers are common in the river. Spot and perch are at Drum Point, Fishing Point, Sandy Point, Point Patience and at the Hawk’s Nest. White Perch are plentiful in most of the creeks right now.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the lake, ranger Smokey Davis said: “Heavy rains really messed things up this past week, but Larry Bibbs, of Centreville [hooked] the largest crappie of the year. Bibbs caught a 16 1/4-incher in a blowdown near the Sandy Run Marina using a medium-size minnow some 11 feet down in the blowdown. Other than that, fishing overall was not good due to the rains throughout the week. The reservoir is two to three feet above normal pool, very stained and still full of debris.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Excellent bass, sunfish and crappie opportunities. The water is in good shape, but weekends get busy here.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*) — Water conditions are not ideal and will not improve unless the daily rain storms cease. Fishing for smallmouth bass has not been good.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) has played with the walleyes using curly-tailed jigs and craws, but the DNR’s Alan Klotz said: “Walleyes are feeding heavily in 10 to 12 feet of water. Try fishing with minnows and a slip bobber or trolling Rapalas at this depth. The pan fishing has been excellent during the last week.” Klotz said he and his boy have been catching and releasing a lot of big pre-spawn sunfish, smallmouth bass and rock bass.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — The Susquehanna Flats give up some very nice largemouth bass if you enjoy fishing in heavy weeds, but the inside of the river has been slow because Conowingo Dam water releases have been few and far between. Low water affects the striper fishing.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Boaters and even some pier and jetty anglers are finding rockfish up and down the Bay and some are of typical summertime keeper size: 18 to 25 inches long. In addition, there are ever-increasing numbers of snapper bluefish, with occasional 3- and 4-pounders seen. The fishing with chum, bucktails or surgical hose, or live-lined perch or spot starts as far up as Swan Point in Kent County, then moves south to practically all the channel edges and humps from Thomas Point lighthouse across to Poplar Island and back to the western side from Deale to Calvert Cliffs and from Stone Rock to Hooper’s Island Light. The fish are on the move, and there’s no telling where they might show up next, but my favorite areas would be the Middlegrounds over to Point No Point and down toward Point Lookout. By the way, some of the lumpy bottom areas like the Middlegrounds also hold good numbers of croakers.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]) reminds us that the striped bass are scattered throughout the region with fish running in size from a meager 16 inches to more than 23 inches in length. “The eastern channel edges from Marylands Middle Grounds down to the Northern Neck Reef just outside of Ingram Bay, are holding fish as well,” he said. “Catches have been less in number than in recent years but remain consistent enough.” Pipkin also said that bluefish chances are improving daily. “The smaller taylor-size blues have made a showing in the chum lines over the past week.” He also said the croaker fishing remains red-hot during the evening hours with 12- to 16-inch fish aggressively feeding at and after sunset. Daytime hours find these fish in 50 to 60 feet of water along the shipping channel edges and along the river and creek channels. In the lower Bay, Ken Neill of Virginia Beach said the cobias have entered the Bay in force. “Massive ‘brown’ fish are being caught throughout the lower bay. Grandview, Rock Pile, Bluefish Rock — all have been good for anglers anchored up on a chum slick. The run of large red drum remains very good,” said Neill. He said they can be caught by trolling spoons around the shoals at the mouth of the bay and along the oceanfront during the day and by anchoring in these same areas and fishing bait at night. Neill added that the flounder fishing has been good. Anglers fishing live bait on hard structures in the Bay have managed some limits of trophy-sized flounder. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been a fine area for this kind of fishing.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Upper river might deliver a few bass this weekend, but rainstorms have upset the river’s normal behavior. Even the Cambridge fishing bridge isn’t giving up the numbers fish it should. A few croakers and rockfish are available in the mouth of the river.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Slow going for bass in the upper river parts, but we’re told that the waters a good ways below Shad Landing and into Pocomoke City can deliver the goods.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Check out the land spits, points and sand bars of the river around Vienna and below during early morning hours and see if the rockfish won’t gobble up a Rat-L-Trap or similar lipless rattle baits. The bass waters from the Marshyhope up toward Delaware can be OK one day, lousy the next.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) During the dark or overcast hours your chances of hooking a striper is pretty good, but most of the visitors here are after bass and they’re doing well in the creeks, around lake points, sunken brush or weed lines. Carolina-rigged worms are popular methods here, but Texas-rigged scented worms or tubes also turn the trick.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — Most likely the fishing will be no good in the upper waters because of rains, but the tidal waters around Hicks Landing should give up a largemouth bass or two.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Try a flyrod popper on the bedding bluegills, or a 4-inch plastic worm on the bass that hang around in sunken wood or lake points. The crappie fishing should be better.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Here, too, the sunfish flyrodders can score nicely along lake shores where bluegill beds dot the underwater landscape like honeycombs. Bass and crappie catches are only fair.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Start early and try to fish on weekdays whenever possible because of weekend water skiing crowd. The bass are in sunken wood and at the edges of weed beds, and a smartly fished jerkbait or swim bait will see action. Crappies are on the riprap and around bridge abutments in the backs of creeks.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The bass fishing can be very good for boaters who work the center portion of the reservoir, casting plastic worms and lizards to the sides of points or onto waterlogged stump fields. Early hours can be good for topwater chug baits. Cut bait on weighted bottom rigs results in fine catfish catches.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Blue catfish again are your best bet from Dutch Gap down to the Appomattox River mouth, but some good bass are possible in sunken wood and side pockets, coves and such.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) The bass fishing has been good for plastic wormers targeting duck blind footers and sunken wood. Cut baits will draw strikes from fat catfish.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (*) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said the river is still a little high with a heavy stain. “Unless we get a lot of rain, it should be OK by the weekend,” he added.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Dark hours of the day are recommended for stripers down around the general area of the “S” curve. Bass are hanging out in boat dock pilings and rock beds where they’ll take a hard look at a soft plastic craw.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) There’s simply no way of knowing how good the fishing might be when there are constant thunderstorms that threaten the water clarity and river levels. The weekend might be OK, but don’t bet on it.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Flounder drifters in the waters behind the resort city are finding a fair number of flatties, but few are keeper size. However, in the inlet you might hook a striper if you jig your bucktails properly. The surf fishermen who are looking for rockfish have seen better days, but scattered small bluefish and sand sharks make up for it. The offshore fishing is good for sharks, but not much of anything else is exciting boaters this week.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association member Ken Neill said spadefish are being hooked at the Chesapeake Light Tower, which isn’t far from Virginia Beach, but he also said offshore waters are still on the cold side. “There have been a few bluefin tuna encountered on the inshore humps like the Hot Dog and 26 Mile Hill, and there have been some dolphin caught by boats willing to make very long runs. Offshore bottom fishing for tilefish, sea bass, and other critters of the deep has been good,” he said. 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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