- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2009

If you’ve never tied into a fish known as a black drum, you are definitely missing out on exciting, muscle-numbing fishing action. The Virginians of the lower Chesapeake Bay call them “big boomers,” and rightly so. A black drum, the cousin of the red drum (or redfish), as well as the Atlantic croaker, can reach weights of more than 100 pounds, but typically an adult drum weighs 50 to 75 pounds.

Virginia Beach’s Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association fished for black drum near Buoys 16, 13, and 10 along the Eastern Shore side of the Bay and found plenty of drumfish. “Any clam bait on the bottom (we were using chowder clams) did not last any time at all,” he said.

Want to learn more about the “big boomers”? There’ll be a Black Drum World Championship out of the Bay Creek Marina in Cape Charles from Friday through Sunday. For details, check out www.esvachamber.org/festivals/drumfish. More information about this super fishery can be found at www.pswsfa.com/Virginia%20boomers.htm.

By the way, beginning Saturday you’ll be allowed to keep two rockfish a day in the Maryland and Virginia waters of the Chesapeake and in the D.C. parts of the Potomac. The stripers have to be at least 18 inches long, and in Maryland one of the keepers can be 28 inches or more. Only one big “rock” per day is legal in Virginia, and it has to measure at least 32 inches; the D.C. sizes run from 18 to 36 inches.

If it’s croakers you want, the news of catches is infrequent. We need continuous hot weather. That will bring the “hardheads” into the rivers.

(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) expect the currently murky waters to clear more and the fishing to resume. There’ll still be some shad, albeit fewer than a couple of weeks ago, and the striped season starts Saturday. You can keep two rockfish a day from 18 to 36 inches. Be careful about that because the D.C. game police will be watching. By the way, during all the high water in the recent days, one Fletcher’s Cove visitor caught an 8-pound Northern snakehead, the fish probably being motivated to go upstream from below the District to enter the Fletcher’s Cove waters for food or spawning purposes. Elsewhere in that part of the river, slowly clearing waters will greet bass hunters from below the Blue Plains Treatment Plant to Fox Ferry Point and on to the Piscataway Creek, where untreated sewage was accidentally spilled this week. But some bass fishermen are back in the creek, and they’re getting fish on plastic worms, buzzbaits, Chatterbaits, and shallow Baby 1-Minus crankbaits. In fact, all the many weedbeds and spatterdock fields available from below the Piscataway to Dogue Creek, the Occoquan Bay way down to the Aquia, and on the Maryland side from the Greenway Flats to the Wade’s Bay area turn up bass of various sizes. The same lures we mentioned above will do the job. In the saltier waters below Route 301 bridge, a few rockfish will be hooked, but the good fishing for stripers won’t really be noted until you get past St. George’s Island. Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box said, “Rockfish are eating the bottom off the boats this week as both the Bay and Potomac River seem to be loaded.” Remember, starting Saturday you’ll be able to keep two 18-inch-and-over stripers per day, but only one can measure 28 inches or more.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — I don’t know what to tell you. One of our friends went into the river and fished near the Quade’s Store area in Bushwood, and he caught 13 croakers of fair size. Another group with plenty of croaker fishing experience fished a day later and couldn’t even catch a cold — never mind a croaker. The croakers are simply not available in prtedictable numbers. We need consistent hot weather. Maybe then they’ll arrive and stay awhile. A few perch and catfish are hooked now.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Some days can be terrific for bass hunters in the creek as long as they work plastic “fat” worms, such as the Senko, among the patches of milfoil and coon grass. Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and shallow crankbaits also do the job. The crappie fishing has been fair to good along the bulkheads of the Sweden Point Marina.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is seeing some bedding bluegills, which is great for fly fishermen working the shorelines. A few bass are hooked, but that’s pretty much it. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) expect fine sunfish, crappie and bass fishing.

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) offers good bass fishing. Many of the bass are still on the beds. The water is higher than normal and is slowly warming eough where plastic worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will attract the fish. The crappie and sunfish bite is also improving.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (**) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Water is clearing, but more rain — as predicted — will not help. The crappies are active in both lakes, and if you fish in the back some of the deep-water coves, you’ll find spawning largemouths. A wacky-rigged plastic worm or Texas-rigged lizard will see action if it lands in or near a spawning bed.

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.) Liberty Reservoir has been turning up some nice landlocked rockfish. One angler nailed a good one while fishing for largemouth bass with plastic worms. Both lakes are good for smallmouth and largemouth bass action right now, with red crankbaits along rocky bluffs and points doping well on the smallmouth bass.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (**) — It’s time to hook a few hardheads (croakers) in the deep holes around Solomons Pier or along the Naval Air Station. The mouth of the river shows some rockfish.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the reservoir, ranger Smokey Davis said: “The recent heavy rains have left the reservoir two feet above normal pool, muddy and full of debris. As a result, the bass have temporarily stopped their spawning activity and have pulled back into deeper water. The catfish bite however, got a big boost because of all the food washed in the reservoir. Shrimp and chicken livers worked especially well. The bass bite should be excellent by the coming weekend.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Fine opportunities for crappie and bass now. Some of the female largemouths have gone off the beds already; some are still on them. Wacky-rigged worms, plastic lizards, or slender Rapala jerkbaits, fished in stop-and-go fashion can draw vicious hits.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (*) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said, “This is certainly not a time to try and go out on the river; most fish are probably holding on for dear life anyway.” That means the upper river is still not the place to be. For the latest information on Potomac River conditions, call the National Weather Service at 703/260-0305.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said his clients find smallmouth and largemouth bass using crankbaits, plastic jig’n’craws, and medium-depth crankbaits. Of course, to hook smallmouth bass check out rocky points and shorelines, while the largemouths will be under boat docks, in the backs of coves and around pilings.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) — Most of the shad are gone in the river’s Deer Creek, but word is out that the base of the Conowingo Dam holds fair shad numbers. The DNR said there is a lot of floating debris in the river after the strong recent rains and powerful runoff, but anglers said there are a lot of white perch to be hooked. In fact, a state electro-fishing crew said the river appeared to be “paved” with white perch.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Beginning Saturday and continuing through November you’ll be allowed to keep two rockfish a day in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake. The stripers have to be at least 18 inches long, and one of the keepers can be 28 inches or more. Stripers of varying sizes are taken by trollers from Bloody Point down to the deeper waters off Sharps Island, and again from channel edges near Deale and Chesapeake Beach down to Hooper’s Island Light and across the Bay to Point No Point and Point Lookout. The state reported that the croaker fishing has improved, but I wish somebody would tell the croakers. Far too many anglers are coming up skunked or with only a few fish. Yes, some score heavily, but the croakers simply aren’t predictable right now.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]) passes along word that Saturday through June 15 you can keep two striped bass a day in the waters of the Chesapeake. Minimum size is 18 inches, and one of the two can can be 32 inches or more. The trollers between Smith Point and the mouth of the Rappahannock River are getting some, and the fishing will only get better in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, down along the lower Eastern Shore side of the Chesapeake, around Buoys 16, 13 and 10, plenty of black drum are hooked. Ken Neill, the well-known Virginia Beach angler, said clam baits were attacked in various depths of water almost immediately. He added, “Large red drum [channel bass] are caught.” Some are hooked right in the middle of the black drum activity near Buoy 10 and on 9-Foot-Shoal. “Large red drum are being tagged at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay,” Neill said. “Returned tags are worth $100. Go to www.pswsfa.com/Bull_Reds.htm for more information. If it’s flounder you like, it is slow currently inside the Bay, but they’ll come on strong in a week or so. Neill also mentioned that fair-sized rockfish are hooked along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, especially around the rock islands and over the tubes.


CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Upper river will slowly clear and deliver some bass if the rains stay away. In the Cambridge stretch down to the mouth, reports reach us of croakers being caught, but we can’t verify it. White perch are beginning to take up stations along river rock jetties and docks. Expect smaller rockfish to start showing up in the mouth of the river.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (**) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Two different bass boaters got in touch, and they said they fished below Snow Hill but the bass catches weren’t the best. One said he had only 11 bass. Is that so bad?

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313 or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Rockfish at Roaring Point, maybe some improved catches of croakers. But the upper river’s bass haven’t been all that cooperative in the murky rain runoff.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Jim Hemby of the Lake Anna Striper Guide Service (www.jimhemby.com) had our friend Carl Brown and two friends out to fish for rockfish, and they loaded up. The fishing was great. John Odenkirk of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said the largemouth bass population in the lake is in great shape. The department did an electroshock study and found the lake’s bass thriving. Crappies are also in fine supply.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (*) — The river still is not in good enough shape in the Fredericksburg area for decent fishing, and more rain has been forecast. Not a good word is heard from the bass fishermen in the tidal parts around Hicks Landing, but a Virginia fisheries biologist said there are good-sized bass in shoreline wood above Port Royal and Hicks Landing.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good crappie, bass and catfish opportunities are here now. Get going. This is a fine lake.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Jed Morrrison, who said he lives in the Gordonsville area, said he did well pitching a black/blue jig’n’craw into shoreline wood and grassy edges uplake, where some spawning of bass apparently is still under way. Crappies are always available in brushy spots and flooded timber.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Bass and striper fishing can be very good right now, but hurry up because it won’t be long and the water skiers will be on the lake to make your life miserable.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) A one-day bass tournament was won with 14-pounds of largemouths. Not bad, not great, but it shows that the fish are willing. Plastic worms, lizards and Paca Craws are the best lures now. Big catfish and some stripers are being hooked.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Catfish are willing, and in some of the coves and backwaters you’ll find a few largemouth bass that are willing to check out your soft plastics and slow-rolled spinnerbaits.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) The bass fishing can be quite good, with catfish and white perch bringing up the rear. Crappies can grow big in this river.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick Fox said: “The river is still up, some waters show a heavy stain and they are predicting rain over the next three days. The forecast isn’t good for fishing.”

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Quite a few largemouth bass are spawning in the backs of coves. Plastic lizards in brown-with-chartreuse-feet will do a number on the bedding fish. But please let the big females go back into the lake so they can finish their spawning chores.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) If rain comes again, forget it. But if the Scottsville area is spared, you’ll be hooking beautiful smallmouth bass on a variety of lures, with a brown/red fringed tube probably being the best of the lot.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) In the resort city’s backwaters, the flounder are more cooperative these days. A few rockfish are also hooked there, and now is the time when surf anglers can score on big migrating stripers. Offshore tautog and sea bass fishermen have seen better days.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Flounder drifters can score across the backwater flats of Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Metomkin and Oyster. But offshore fishing has been hampered by strong wind and rain storms. It’s best to call ahead: 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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