- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

The weekend will prove that angling opportunities have burst out all over. Fish are biting no matter where you go, and only heavy rains can spoil an outing.

Now there are croakers in a number of places, and if you play the game properly and study your boat’s depth locator you should find heavy-duty black drum on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay at Stone Rock and Sharps Island. Not to be outdone, the first fairly reliable catches of Norfolk spot are made; rockfish are beginning to respond to chum lines, white perch are hitting small spinnerbaits in many of the feeder creeks, and the largemouth bass in the upper tidal Potomac River are very cooperative.

Fifty specially tagged rockfish (aka striped bass) will be released Thursday at various locations throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. One of the 50 will be fish named Diamond Jim — worth $10,000 cash if you catch it by midnight June 30. The other 49 tagged stripers, all of them Diamond Jim imposters, could earn you $500 each if caught during the annual Maryland tourist promotion gimmick that begins Friday and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 7. Any angler who catches a citation-qualifying fish will be eligible to win one of the official sponsor grand prizes, including a boat, motor and trailer from Bass Pro Shops and thousands of dollars in merchandise and fishing trips from Bill’s Outdoor Center.

For more information about the prizes, rules and where to fish, visit www.dnr.maryland.gov/fishingchallenge.

(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 is muddy from heavy rain runoff up above, but I think by the weekend the fishing should be okay for stripers and some really big catfish. Downriver from Fletcher’s, largemouth bass, northern snakeheads, along with blue and channel catfish, are available from the Hains Point and Fox Ferry Point area upriver down to western Charles County and Virginia’s Prince William County and beyond. Look for massive milfoil and coontail weed beds in the main stem or in the feeder creeks and start your day casting weedless topwater grass rats or — if you can find an open pocket — a Pop’R or Rico popper. Then switch to crawfish-style plastics in green pumpkin or junebug colors. Our favorite continues to be a 1/4-ounce or 3/8-ounce Chatterbait, its hook holding a Shadalicious swimbait or some kind of split-tail trailer. We’re catching a mix of small and decent-size bass in the Occoquan and Belmont bays, Neabsco and Powell creeks, as well as Potomac and Aquia creeks on the Virginia side, but also from the Wade’s Bay area on the Maryland shore up to the Chicamuxen and also from Pomonkey to Broad creeks.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — It’s hit-and-miss as far as croakers are concerned, and George Quade of Quade’s Store in Bushwood blames the heavy freshwater rain runoff from the headwaters of the river. However, right around the corner, in the main stem of the Potomac at the new lighthouse of St. Clements Island, croakers have been striking crab, bloodworm and shrimp baits. Evevning hours have been best.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — This creek would be heaven if only those irritating and bothersome bass tournaments would go away forever. A local resident who wants to take his kids fishing here and outside on the Potomac doesn’t have a prayer competing with $40,000 glitter bass boats. Weekdays are best, and a broad assortment of lures work on the bass inside the creek amid the milfoil, spatterdock, shoreline wood and upcreek gravel bars.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows bedding bluegills, some bass and a few crappies. Upper lake end has seen bigger bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass have been biting better than last week. Plastic finesse worms, small crankbaits and spinnerbaits do the job. If you like fat bluegills, this is the place and right now the sunfish are on the beds, which is ideal for flyrodders’ popping bugs.

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) Bedding sunfish and flyrod poppers go together like hot dogs and mustard. Now is the time. Bass are showing an interest in slowly retrieved spinnerbaits and super slow-fished plastic worms in sunken brush and along weed edges.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Jerry McDowell, who lives in Montgomery County, said he fished for crappies in Rocky Gorge within sight of Route 29. He’d found a sunken brushy area and used only a 1/16-ounce white/green shad dart 3 or 4 feet under a bobber. “I whacked ‘em,” he said. He also had a bass strike the little bucktailed dart. Elsewhere, fine bass are being hooked in the backs of deep coves of both lakes. Senko worms in green pumpkin have been working well.

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.) Smallmouth and largemouth bass have been fooled by plastic imitations of crawfish in both lakes. Some of the female bass are still on the beds, but the smaller “buck” bass aren’t bashful.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Some folks already are live-lining Norfolk spot and are catching rockfish around Cedar Point, while a mix of croakers, spot and rockfish is available from just inside the mouth up to Helen’s Bar and beyond. White perch are beginning to strike Beetlespin lures in the lower feeder creeks.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — In the Fountainhead Park (Route 123, Fairfax County) portion of the reservoir, ranger Smokey Davis said if all those predicted thunderstorms don’t happen the bass fishing will be fine this weekend. Add to that a fair number of crappies, bedding sunfish and fat catfish, and you can see why this reservoir continues to be a Northern Virginia favorite.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Bass, crappies, sunfish, even some walleyes, promise good weekend outings for the entire family.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — If no further rains come, the rivers will give up excellent numbers of smallmouth bass, redbreasted sunfish and catfish from near Harper’s Ferry and Knoxville down to Lander, Dickerson, White’s and Edwards ferries, but there was some muddy water coming down Wednesday.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said a surprising number of largemouth bass continue to sit on spawning beds in the backs of coves but some good bass action can be had on the main lake. Use jerkbaits, plastic crawfish fakes, 4-inch finesse worms and crankbaits around lake points and gravel bars or rocky banks. Skip a green pumpkin-color tube under a floating dock and see what happens. Some walleyes and well-fed yellow perch are active. Sunfish spawning will get under way and this lake has whopper bluegills.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) — The largemouth bass are in the main river’s Apartment Cove and other quiet waters outside Havre de Grace. Plastic worms and spinnerbaits will hook some that are still on the beds or just now coming off them. Channel catfish and white perch are biting in the mouth of the river.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Christy Henderson of Buzz’s Marina in St. Jerome’s Creek (St. Mary’s County) said: “The fishing [this week] was a real mixed bag. We saw a few of everything but not a lot of anything in particular. There were some big stripers, little stripers, bluefish, nice croakers and a couple flounder. Half the people chummed and the other half trolled. The Woodrow Wilson Reef got hotter this week and the Triangle area was pretty good. The mouth of [our] creek had been good during the week for flounder, but as the boat and jet ski traffic built up over the weekend the fish ran for cover.”

Elsewhere on the Chesapeake, Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box said there are croakers in a number of places, plus if you play the game properly and study your boat’s depth locator you should find heavy black drum on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay at Stone Rock and Sharps Island. Not to be outdone, the first fairly reliable catches of Norfolk spot are made and smaller rockfish are beginning to respond to chum lines, while white perch are hitting small spinnerbaits in many of the feeder creeks. Rockfish in the 18-inch to 23-inch class are hooked by trollers who use smaller lures now that the trophy rockfish are pretty much gone. Strikes can occur from above the Route 50 Bay bridge down to the Virginia line. Increasing numbers of bluefish are being noted. How do we know that? Some of the boaters who troll with soft plastic lures feel a strike and reel back the line, and half the soft lure has been bitten off. That can be only bluefish at this time.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin ([email protected]) finds rockfish, a few blues, and when bottom-fishing, the croakers are willing in drops, channels and ledges between Smith Point and the Rappahannock River. In the lower Bay, master angler Julie Ball (www.drjball.com) reported that red or black drum continue to draw anglers to the Eastern Shore side of the Bay. “Most catches are coming from near Buoys 10, 13 and 16, where sea clams and chowder clams are working well,” she said. Ball predicted that spadefish will take up residence in the shadowy waters of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. A 6-pound spadefish was nailed there last weekend. “Expect these popular fish to turn on,” she said. “Look for big spades to show on the Cell soon, where the largest fish of the year are routinely landed. Sheepshead are next. Cobia are going strong in Carolina right now, so we should see our first local cobia catches soon.” While the flounder fishing has been up-and-down, stripers are making up for the lack of legal 19-inch-and-over flatties. Rockfish are found at the bridge-tunnel’s Third and Fourth Island where topwater plugs can do the job when the light is muted.

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Croakers and perch can be caught from the Cambridge fishing bridge. Upstream, at Denton, Martinak and other areas in that part of the river, the bass fishing has perked up considerably.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) We’ll find out just how good the bass fishing is when a friend and I will launch a boat at Snow Hill and slowly work our way downriver today. Word has it that the bass catches have been very good.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Upper river bass fishing, from Maryland’s Marshyhope Creek to Seaford, Del., has been good. Soft plastics and shallow-running blue/chrome crankbaits have been effective. Some small stripers are showing up in the Vienna sector and Rat-L-Traps, cast to early morning land spits, will do the trick.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Good bass and striper fishing over many lake parts. Crappies are holding strong in the brush and beaver huts.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Tidal waters below Fredericksburg show some decent bass activity, especially in shoreline wood above Port Royal, toward Hicks Landing. Plastic worms and rattle baits work well. Above Fredericksburg, in the nontidal waters, the smallmouth bass and a few largemouth bass were biting really well. We don’t know if heavy rains changed river conditions, but things should be OK by Saturday.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Most of the bass have come off their spawning beds, and some good-sized ones are cruising the shorelines looking for a snack. Give them a plastic worm or a shallow- to medium-depth crankbait. Crappie chances are good if you fish with a small jig or dart under a bobber and cast toward brushy spots. Flyrodders have a ball casting poppers to nesting bluegills.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Bass are hungry after spawning chores were finished. So are the crappies and you know how aggressive a fat bluegill is when she sits on her bed along the shoreline shallows. Have a ball.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Weekends are murder what with all the jetskis and waterskiers driving fishermen crazy. But there are quality bass to be had and the edges of grass or jutting creek points and rip rap are the places to cast soft plastics or crankbaits to. In the backs of creeks, around bridge abutments, the crappies hold court.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Good bass opportunities now. The bass are coming off their beds, and many females are looking for food. Jerkbaits, soft plastics, crankbaits and Chatterbaits will be looked at in flooded brush, around creek points and in the backs of deep-water coves.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) By now you might have heard about the 102 1/4-pound blue catfish that was caught at Dutch Gap by two friends from Natural Bridge, Tim Wilson and Danny Ayers. It took both of them to get the fish in, and now the state has been asked to certify it as a catfish record. It was the biggest freshwater fish ever caught in the Old Dominion.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Bass and catfish numbers are in good supply. In the old Helen’s Hideaway area, the fishing is above-average.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (**) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Even though there was rain, it is not expected to slow down the smallmouth bass catches this weekend. Hard and soft jerkbaits will work, as will a variety of spinners and crankbaits.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Quality bass outings are being had by boaters who concentrate on stump fields, rocky bluffs and boat houses. The striper fishing has moved into the dark hours of the day. You almost have to be right there when a feeding window opens and the rockfish come to the surface.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (**) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) We’re hoping that mountain rains didn’t screw up the water as they did a few weeks ago. Things should be fine by Saturday and the smallmouth bass will take soft jerkbaits, spinners, tubes and grubs.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Offshore blue-water boats headed out to Baltimore Canyon and other deep-sea areas and found the first dolphinfish, sharks and tunas. On the offshore wrecks there’ve been sea bass, at least one large snowy grouper and tilefish. Close to shore, the surf anglers connect on scattered striped bass and, of course, a lot of skates and sand sharks. Flounder catches are holding up well in Ocean City’s backwaters and behind Assateague Island. Young bluefish in the foot-long class have arrived and some are hooked in the inlet where the tautogs have been hanging out.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — Virginia Beach’s Julie Ball said weekend boats will venture offshore in search of tilefish, grouper, and sea bass. The sea bass will not disappoint, with good hauls of jumbo fish coming from inshore and offshore wrecks. Meanwhile, flounder catches are possible in the traditional Eastern Shore hot spots of Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Metomkin, Oyster and Quimby, but finding keeper-size flatties is another story. Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said, “Offshore, dolphin fishing is fantastic for boats fishing from Virginia Beach to Hatteras. A few yellowfin tuna and wahoo are showing up in the catch and the occasional blue marlin is 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, Mueller’s blog about outdoors happenings here and elsewhere. Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.


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