- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two days ago, fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski and I looked for large numbers of white perch that we were told stayed alongside a certain Chicamuxen Creek marsh bank. The Chicamuxen, if you’re new to the area, is a tributary to the tidal Potomac in Charles County.

After we fished for a while, it became painfully obvious that the white perch weren’t “at home.” But in the tidal Potomac’s feeder creeks there are days when some fish species won’t bite and others that can’t wait to jump on the hooks. The bass and resident yellow perch in the Chicamuxen wouldn’t leave our tiny Beetle Spin and Silver Buddy lures alone. The same thing occurred later in the morning inside the Mattawoman Creek. Those fish weren’t the least bit bashful. So we forgot about the white perch and instead kept enough of the yellow species to provide us a fine supper. Some of the yellow “neds,” as the locals call them, were large, well-fed specimens.

Elsewhere, in the lower ends of the Chesapeake Bay’s rivers, many of the resident striped bass (aka rockfish) are found in shallow layers of water. Lure casters, using lipless rattle baits, bucktails and topwater chug baits, are catching fish in the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, while trollers also do well in the deeper channels. Some of the stripers can weigh as much as 10 pounds. Much the same type of action can be expected in the mouth of the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore, or Virginia’s Rappahannock River.

If heavy rains stay away, the weekend will be good for going after smallmouth bass in any of the middle Atlantic’s mountain rivers. Sure, there’ll be some floating grass and leaves, but hang in there because the bass will bite.

(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), Ray Fletcher said: “We’re beginning to see more bass — smallmouths and largemouths — and once in a while somebody will hook a walleye. Of course, those big old blue catfish are here as well.”

As you head downstream, from the District to western Charles County the bass fishing can be spectacular one day, lousy the next. Do what everybody else does, blame the full moon that we’ve been under for a while. The bass we’ve caught have liked a 1/4-ounce Rattlin’ ThinFin lure, also Baby 1-Minus crankbaits, 4-inch finesse worms and, occasionally, a smartly worked surface popper or grass frog.

We’ve also done fairly well on bass and yellow perch in the feeder creeks, using a 1/8-ounce and even a 1/16-ounce Beetle Spin lure. Big blue catfish are available in the channel ditches out from Marshall Hall, Greenway Flats and down near the Chicamuxen Creek mouth. As you head downriver, the rocks that surround the various buoys anywhere downstream of the Nanjemoy Creek hold rockfish that will go after RedEye and Rat-L-Trap rattle baits. Farther down, from St. Clements on down, trollers start picking up a few keeper rockfish. Capt. Billy Pipkin (see more from him in the Virginia Chesapeake Bay report) says the chumming on the Potomac River has been good with the stretch between buoys 7 and 9 offering the best catches of rockfish.

“Sizes remain small in the river, yet through careful catch and release, limits of two fish over 18 inches are attainable,” he said.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — The only fair action for rockfish that we’ve heard about concerns the rock ring at the buoy in the river mouth. Rattle lures and Sassy Shads will do the job.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — If all the tournament boaters we saw on Tuesday — obviously practicing for an event this weekend — stay in the creek, this place will be a madhouse. When things quiet down, the bass have been taking small spinnerbaits and topwater lures along marsh banks, spatterdock fields and in shoreline wood.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows some small bass and fat sunfish, while the crappies at St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) are beginning to cooperate. The bass fishing has been fine, as well.

LITTLE SENECA LAKE: 30 miles (***) — At the Black Hill Regional Park (off Route 117 near Boyds, 301/972-9396) and the nearby Seneca Creek Lake (Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, 301/924-2127), sunfish and catfish are taking various baits — worms usually. That much is guaranteed, but the bass fishing has had its ups and downs this week.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County.) This is ripe for the picking. The bass are on the prowl, and if you concentrate on lake points and the drop-offs, or brush piles and fallen logs, the bass can often be found in less than 4 feet of water. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastic worms are called for. Crappies should start schooling now.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — (Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Work rocky shorelines, and see if a crawfish color crankbait won’t draw bass strikes. Have one rod ready with a shallow-running model and another with a deep-running type that has long lips to drive into 10 to 15 feet of water.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — Norfolk spot, which are ideal for live-lining if you want rockfish, are in the river’s mouth, off the O’Club. “They gather there every fall and bite bloodworms like crazy,” the Tackle Box’s Ken Lamb said. “White perch and puppy drum are in the feeder creeks and will take lures [small spinnerbaits, and tiny traps] or bait [bloodworms, peeler crab].”

Lamb knows that the creek fishing will stay good until the weather gets colder. “The puppy drum will stay until the water cools to an uncomfortable level [58 degrees?], and they will vanish overnight. There are some big rockfish up the creeks looking for the last of the peelers and soft crabs,” he said.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said not many anglers were on the lake this week, but those who showed up caught plenty of 13- to 15-inch largemouth bass in the backs of long, deep coves.

“Small, square-lipped crankbaits, including Mann’s Baby 1-Minus in a shad pattern, worked very well,” Davis said. “The topwater bite, especially on buzzbaits, was also very good, but as soon as the sun came up the bite shut down.”

Davis pointed out that the cooler weather is pushing the baitfish to shallower flats and coves and the bass are following the food. Crappies also are coming into shallow water now and they will definitely look at a minnow under a bobber around blowdowns and brushpiles. “The reservoir is clear with surface temperatures in the mid 70s,” Davis said.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) The bass, sunfish, crappies and catfish are waiting for you. Get to the lake, preferably during weekdays when it’s not crowded. You’ll have a great time.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist John Mullican said: “The river is very low and crystal clear with the bottom visible in as much as ten feet of water. Water temperatures have dropped into the mid-60s and smallmouth bass and walleye fishing has been very good. Try making long casts with 6-pound-test fluorocarbon line using tubes or grubs on light weight jigheads. Minnow style crankbaits can also be productive. Floating leaves and vegetation fragments can make fishing and boating difficult in some areas.”

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) finds bass in the backs of coves, close top shore. Shallow crankbaits in crawfish patterns work very well. Deeper running crankbaits can be used around main-lake points where now and then a good walleye can be found. Yellow perch haven’t cooperated yet, but they will within the week, I’ll bet.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) Largemouth and smallmouth bass have been hooked on shallow-running crankbaits in some of the shoreline rocks up at Port Deposit. Small rockfish continue to go after little jerkbaits and bucktails near the mouth.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — Striped bass of all sizes, some of them weighing as much as 10 pounds, have been found by anglers working the shallow and deep water of the Bay. It starts up around the Susquehanna Flats and picks up steam as you come into the area of Pooles or Hart-Miller Island, where schools of breaking rockfish and some blues have provided excitement for upper Bay fishermen. Don’t forget the Love Point stretch of the Chester River, and by all means work the rock jetties and pilings at the Bay bridges, from Sandy Point across to Kent Island. Do a little jigging with Shadalicious and Sassy Shad soft-bodied lures that will drive the lure down into the deeper layers if you use 1/2- or 3/4-ounce jig hooks.

Schools of stripers (most of them just barely legal) along with bluefish often are found surfacing, herding and feeding on baitfish. We concur with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood, who said the area near the mouth of Eastern Bay and Poplar Island, Thomas Point, Buoy 88, the Diamonds and the western side of the shipping channel from Breezy Point south have been standouts this week. There are times when the entire Chesapeake appears to be alive with fish, but also days when you’d swear they’d all left.

In the lower Maryland parts of the Bay, Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box store said: “The bay is loaded with breaking rockfish, and they’re drawing clouds of birds to show the way. Several anglers came [into the store] this week saying they hooked so many that they became tired of catching them. Most of this action came from the Calvert County nuclear power plant south to the Targets.” Lamb also said bluefish are making news. They’re caught in sizes from as little as a half-pound up to 6 pounds. “The bigger blues are south of the Target Ship for trollers using spoons and surgical eels,” Lamb said.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com or call 804/580-7292) talked about Virginia’s rockfish season re-opening last weekend, but the results were mixed. “Anglers putting forth efforts on structure found better results when using live offerings such as spot and peanut bunker,” Pipkin said. “Chumming remains on the upswing as more fish are moving into [our] waters,” he said.

Locations to try chumming include the Windmill Point reef, the Asphalt Pile reef (located channelward of Dameron’s Marsh) and at the Northern Neck reef (located due east of Ingram Bay.) Be aware that bluefish will drive you crazy trying to steal bait and often tearing apart fishing lines.

From the lowest parts of the Bay, Ken Neill said the flounder are biting aggressively along the edge of Hampton Bar, around the Back River Reef, the Baltimore Channel at the mouth of the Bay, and at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. “Striped bass fishing consists mostly of smaller fish up in the shallows, along any of the area bridges, and at night around any light source,” he said. Some larger rockfish [hang out] over the tubes of the bridge-tunnel and medium-sized redfish are schooling around the islands of the crossing.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Bass catches have been fair up above Denton as crankbaits, soft plastics and early hour topwaters produce in shoreline wood or spatterdock edges. Downstream, expect a few white perch, maybe a small rockfish at the Bill Burton fishing bridge in Cambridge. At the mouth, bluefish and stripers are available most days, but you’ll need a good moving tide to keep the fish active.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Just below the public ramp in Snow Hill, visitor Bill Jamison hooked a five-bass limit that he said could have won most local club tournaments. His lures: A red/chartreuse Baby 1-Minus, a white 4-inch Zoom Fluke, and a pumpkinseed color Senko worm. Best catches came in shorelines where sunken logs and spatterdock were present.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (**) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) From all the reports we’ve received, the river has been a nonproducer for bass this week, but some rockfish are hooked with Rat-L-Trap lures down around Vienna and below.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Early hours are good for shallow-water bass that like a hard or soft jerkbait or a loud surface popper. As the sun rises and warms the water, start cranking deep, long-lipped lures around primary and secondary creek points and main-lake points. Carolina-rigged plastic worms have done well in the deeper coves around channel edges.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — The weekend promises good smallmouth bass catches above Fredericksburg. Tubes, grubs, jigs, small topwater propeller lures and slender, small crankbaits will do the job. In the tidal portions below Fredericksburg, largemouth bass are possible in sunken shoreline wood and in the mouths of tiny feeder creeks.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Crappie catches are slowly perking up, but where are the bass? Reader J.B. Brown says he fished the lake nearly all day and never had a strike.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left-turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) Find a bait shop that carries clam necks, then stick one or two of the “fragrant” necks on a weighted bottom rig and see if a catfish won’t inhale it. The bass fishing has seen better days.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Excellent catches of largemouth bass have been hooked in some of the uplake creeks, especially the one known as Hawtree. Soft plastics, slow-rolled spinnerbaits or shallow crankbaits have scored along shorelines that show sunken wood.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The crappie bite has started. In addition, plenty of big catfish are hooked and the bass fishing hasn’t been bad at all. This is a fine reservoir, but it’s big and it can take a while to learn how and where to “attack” it.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Lower parts of the river show stripers that like Sassy Shad lures and the like. Cast them around river points or buoy rocks early in the day. Up toward the Chippokes and Walker creeks, some decent bass are taken on plastic worms or shallow crankbaits. Of course, between Richmond and Dutch Gap it’s big, fat blue catfish and they like bottom-fished chunks of bream, perch or herring.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Better-than-average bass and catfish chances in the middle to upper portions of the river. Some crappies are hooked on live minnows.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal angler Dick Fox said there are plenty of floating leaves and weeds on the river, but don’t let that stop you. Tubes, grubs, short plastic worms — all will draw strikes from smallmouth bass. Crankbaits are a little tougher to bring through the vegetation.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Early and very late hours can be fruitful if it’s striped bass you’re after. The largemouth bass are busy trying to fatten up to survive lean, cold winter months. Shallow, medium and deep-diving crankbaits in fire-tiger or crawfish colors are best.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) A great weekend will be yours if it’s smallmouth bass you want to catch. They’ll chase after soft jerkbaits, tube jigs and grubs, as well as flyrod streamers, such as a Clouser Minnow.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) If you’re heading to Ocean City, remember that there’ll be road work on the Route 90 bridge. Use the Route 50 crossing instead. In fact, the Route 50 area and the Ocean City inlet have been far for tautog, but when the sun goes down the same waters begin to turn up bluefish and stripers. Both species will jump metal baits, such as the Got-Cha. If it’s red drum you want to hook in the surf, you might have missed it. The redfish catches are nothing to write home about. The sea bass fishing has been shut down by the federal government, so forget them for a while. But if it’s distant offshore fish you want, the canyon waters turn up dolphinfish, marlin and wahoos, maybe some tunas.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From Virginia’s part of the Atlantic, angler Ken Neill said large red drum are caught along Sandbridge and trigger fish jump on the baits over coastal wrecks. “The Santore, the Tiger, and the 4A Drydock are good wrecks to try,” he said, adding, “Sea bass are plentiful, but the federal government has closed recreational sea bass fishing in federal waters. All of these fish must be released until sometime in the spring.” Neill also said the offshore fishing has been good with the white marlin bite remaining strong and wahoo biting well along with tuna and dolphin. Overnight boats are encountering some swordfish. Neill also provided a fishing outlook for nearby North Carolina waters. “Yellowfin, blackfin, and bigeye tuna are being caught in good numbers out of Oregon Inlet. The wahoo bite is very good out of Hatteras Inlet,” 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 blog about outdoors happenings here and elsewhere. Go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports and click on Inside Outside.

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