- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

I don’t believe anyone will complain if the nearly daily rainfall in the D.C. area stops. The influx of these sweet waters has had an effect on certain saltwater species.

One of my steady fishing friends, Dr. Peter Malnati, again went after croakers in the St. Clements area of the Potomac River because he heard the hardheads were biting, but only very few took the baits. He was disappointed.

Even the usually optimistic Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box agrees.

“The excess of rain has tricked up the fishing in some ways,” he said, pointing out that the normally good white perch fishing in the tidal creeks has slowed.

However, the largemouth bass in the upper tidal Potomac River are saving the day for many. Take, for example, local fishing guide Dale Knupp, who wanted to show his friend Lonnie Weaver a good day. They fished in a Charles County feeder creek on Tuesday, using Chatterbaits or plastic worms and ended up with over 60 bass. Then a reader sent an e-mail to say he was getting one bass after another in the Pomonkey Creek, just below the Greenway Flats. He used plastic worms. Another bass hound was getting good action on the Arkindale Flats, and my friend Dick Fox did very well in the Chopawamsic Creek on the Virginia side.

Even under the murky water conditions that currently are the norm in the tidal Rappahannock River upstream of Port Royal, the bass fishing has been fairly good. The same is true for the Pocomoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

As far as the mountain rivers are concerned that smallmouth bass anglers prefer, it appears the upper Potomac River might be able to deliver the goods this weekend. The Shenandoah River is stained but fishable. However, the upper James River again is not a good choice.

Either way, go fishing and enjoy nature’s beauty.

(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 the water was clearing. “It’s not crystal-clear but definitely fishable,” he said. Ray wants local anglers to remember that his section of the Potomac right now is home to large blue catfish, stripers, an occasional good-sized bass and even a northern snakehead now and then. In the waters below the District, the bass fishing is simply superb. Some one-day bass tournaments are won with a five-fish limit that can weigh as much as 24 pounds. Bass are caught from the Fox Ferry rockline clear down to the Nanjemoy Creek in western Charles County on the Maryland shore. If you prefer the Virginia side of the river, all the feeder creeks are giving up bass, too. A variety of lures, depending on the clarity of the water or the brightness of the day, will do the job. We like Chatterbaits trimmed with a Shadalicious swim bait. We also like “fat” worms, including the Zero and Senko. Don’t forget to cast a Pop-R, Rico, or Frenzy Pop’R early in the day or all day long when it’s overcast. The bass will smash surface baits around weed pockets, stick-ups and river gravel points. The croaker fishing that was supposed to be picking up steam from the Nice Bridge down to Point Lookout apparently has lost much of its promise because of all the freshwater rain. The fishing has been only fair. Some are caught; many more are not. Small rockfish and snapper bluefish are possible from St. George’s Island south to the junction with the Chesapeake Bay.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — The croaker fishing is not very good. It should be, but it’s not and many blame the almost daily rains in the area that add too much fresh water into the river.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Good bass catches are the order of the day. Don’t forget to use your topwater baits alongside weed edges or in the inside pockets of milfoil while the sun isn’t visible or before it rises.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) continues to produce good numbers of sunfish and a few bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) a boater, even a shoreline walker, can use a flyrod for fat bluegills, but it’s the bass most johnboaters come down here for and they like finesse worms, small crankbaits or spinnerbaits.

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) Rain hasn’t helped, but bass will slam a soft or hard jerkbait or a 4-inch PowerBait plastic worm, alongside sunken wood and grass edges. Flyrodding for bluegills is at its peak now.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Good bass and crappie opportunities now. For the bass, try a Senko worm and cast it toward the wood or brush found in many of the coves. You’ll score if you stick with it. The crappies will jump on a 1/16-ounce white or yellow hair jig held from bottom snags by a plastic float, some three or four feet above the lure.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) The bass fishing is fine. Johnboaters and shore walkers can score with soft plastic baits that simply are known as “craws,” which actually are nothing more than two claws and a bit of a body. You feed a worm helmet to your line and insert a worm hook to the “bait,” then cast it around dropoffs next to lake points or sunken trees. Crappie and sunfish catches are holding up very well.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — There are flounder that like drifted shiners and bull minnows aroud the three-legged marker in the mouth of the river. Rockfish have been busting topwater lures around the Cedar Point Light, and Norfolk spot are all over the river mouth, which is ideal for live-liners hoping to use the spot as bait when striper fishing. Croaker catches are up-and-down.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the lake, ranger Smokey Davis said, “The reservoir is calming down a bit from the recent heavy rains, but the bass bite remained sluggish this past week. Small bass, 13 inches and under, were taken from the grass beds on 3-inch Yum Dingers and Senkos, but quality fish of 3 pounds and up were very scarce. The crappie bite, however, was very good with fish up to 15 inches taken off the pier and boardwalk on medium minnows under a slip bobber. Bluegills are everywhere now and our catfish love shrimp or chicken livers. The reservoir is at full pool, still somewhat stained, with water temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The bass like scented PowerWorms or Senko worms that have been dabbed with a bit of garlic Smelly Jelly. Cast to stickups, sunken wood and around lake points for good results. The bluegill and crappie fishing continues and it is productive.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*) — There’s a chance that the weekend smallmouth bass fishing could be on from Knoxville down to the Seneca Breaks in Montgomery County. Everything depends on the rain — better yet, let’s pray for a lack of rain.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds bass under floating docks, pitching tubes and finesse worms into the dark waters under the wood or metal dock material. He also ties into decent-size largemouth bass alongside grass beds, while the lake’s smallmouth bass have been found among the stones and boulders around lake points. Crankbaits and pig’n’jig combos will do the job on the smallies. The deeper waters near rocky lake points hold walleyes.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood says there is a bit of rockfish action to be had below the Conowingo Dam whenever water is released during the evenings. However, most of the fishing now points to channel catfish, white perch and largemouth bass. The bass catches have been impressive on the Susquehanna Flats. A 7-pounder was hooked and released in the dense grass mats by local angler Josh Smith.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box isn’t very optimistic this week. “The excess of rain has tricked up the fishing in some ways,” he said. “The reliable white perch [fishing] in the creeks hase slowed some. I think they’ve gone into the rivers seeking higher salinity, and will return when the tides have cleansed the backwater.” Lamb also talked about two of his store employees live-lining spot for rockfish. They got the spot, which are plentiful, in the mouth of the Patuxent. Here’s what happened as one headed south out of the river mouth, the other north: “One got skunked on the rockfish, the other did very well,” Lamb said. Meanwhile, the DNR reports that the outside channel edge at the Gas Docks (just around the corner, heading up the Bay, from the Patuxent River mouth) has been the place to be for anybody hoping to catch a keeper-size striper. Another good area has been western edge of the shipping channel off Parkers Creek. Ditto for the channel edge below Thomas Point Light and the waters a good distance above the Bay Bridge, at Love Point in the Chester River, where chummers have scored on rockfish. Look, let’s face it, there’s a chance of hooking a striper or slowly increasing numbers of bluefish while trolling bucktails or surgical eels almost anywhere on the Chesapeake Bay. Go enjoy your summer outings.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — From Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.captbillyscharters.com) comes word that the Reedville Bluefish Derby last weekend had 152 boats competing. The blues were spread over a wide area from southern Maryland down to the lower Virginia bay waters. “Sizes remain modest with most weighing two pounds or less. The largest, a 3.38-pound fish earned Robert Hyman of Stafford, Va., the $8,000 top prize,” Pipkin said. The captain mentioned that croaker fishing has been on fire but also reminds us that the striped bass season in Virginia ended this week. As far as flounder are concerned, Pipkin said they’ve moved northward this week with more frequent catches being made at the lower Cut Channel, the east side of the ship channel above Buoy 62, atop the hill east of Buoy 68, and at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Long strips of squid and even similarly shaped cut bait from bluefish or spot are bringing legal fish over 19 inches. From the lowest parts of the Bay, Ken Neill reports that a potential world record spadefish of 14 pounds, 14 ounces was caught at the Cell. “Cobia continue to be the most sought-after fish in the Bay,” he said. Cape Henry is the hot area for Spanish mackerel and big red drum continue to be caught around the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. “The Buoy 10 area remains a hot spot,” Neill said.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The croakers should be going wild in the river, but they’re not. Things are slow. A few are caught in the mouth, as are some spot, but this river has seen better days.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Bass catches have perked up nicely. Fish fast-sinking “fat” worms, such as a Zero or Senko among the flooded tree roots and edges of spatterdock. Crankbaits and Chatterbaits also do well.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Bass and small rockfish are available from Vienna upstream to Sharptown area. The Federalsburg sector of the Marshyhope Creek is home to crappies and bass. Some anglers have done OK here.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early hours or overcast days are perfect for topwater poppers and chug baits aroud obstructions, grass, riprap or rocky points where the bass tend to hang out. Plastic worms should follow your topwater fishing. The landlocked rockfish of the lake are moving between the Splits and down past the nuclear plant. Early hours might find them in shallows and a loud chug bait will see action.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (**) — Word has it that the tidal bass fishing in the waters above Port Royal has been quite good, despite the murky color of the water. Upper river is iffy for smallmouth hunters. Rain is forecast again and the river already is at least 3 feet above normal.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Discolored, but good for crappies, sunfish and some small bass.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) The bluegills are still on the beds and a flyrodder using size 8 and 10 popping bugs and slow-sinking gnats and ants can score big-time. The bass and crappie fishing is OK but not as good as it should be this time of year.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) I just returned from the lake, and the fishing for bass was wonderful even in a rather steady rain. A friend and I fished the middle to upper lake area, in Hawtree Creek and Sixpound Creek, popping surface lures for some of our fish, but hooking the majority of 17 bass on garlic-scented Zero worms or plain Senko worms.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Everything has been biting — bass, crappies and stripers. Catfish love cut baits in deep channel waters. If it’s bass you’re after, the locals like green pumpkin color Carolina-rigged plastic worms.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) The recent blue catfish of 102 pounds has been officially approved as a state record. Other blue catfish await your visit, but fair warning: I drove past the Richmond section of the river, and it was stained a light-brown.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) It’s mostly catfish for visiting boaters. The few bass that are hooked are on the small side, but if you don’t care what you catch, this is a fine place to be.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (*) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said, “River in fair shape with a medium stain, very fishable now but with rain predicted, who knows?” Shortly after Fox told me this, it began to rain again. Don’t know what to tell you.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Topwater poppers, chuggers and flukes fished close to shorelines and around points during low-light hours will result in strikes from bass and stripers. The water temperatures generally have gone over 70, so dark hours are recommended for your fishing.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) It probably will be useless for smallmouth anglers because more rain has been forecast and the river already was discolored and swift.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Surf fishermen score on snapper bluefish, kingfish and a few sharks, while flounder drifters can find a smattering of keeper flatties in the back waters. Offshore headboats find sea bass, with the more distant waters finally producing some billfish, tunas and dolphinfish.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association member Ken Neill said: “Virginia is experiencing its best yellowfin tuna bite in years. Boats are coming back with limits of tuna ranging from barely legal to pushing 70 pounds. This action has been best in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon. Gaffer dolphin are also in the catch along with an occasional wahoo or a blue marlin adding to the action. Closer to shore, some bluefin tuna have been caught by anglers fishing the 20-fathom curve and some of the inshore hills.” King mackerel are possible on the Hot Dog or 26 Mile Hill. Spadefish continue to be caught at the Chesapeake Light Tower. 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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