- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2009

The International Game Fish Association, the worldwide keeper of fresh- and saltwater records, accepted an application for a largemouth bass that appears to tie the existing 22 1/4-pound world record set by George Perry on Georgia’s Montgomery Lake in 1932.

Manabu Kurita, who lives in Aichi, Japan, caught the huge bass on July 2, but it took weeks before fishing fanatics in the U.S. got wind of it. For comparison’s sake, the typical adult largemouth bass weighs between 2 and 3 pounds.

It will take at least a month before a decision to accept the matching record will be made.

Meanwhile, back at home, the local fishing has been on a roller coaster for over a week now. Strong northeast winds, strange tides and off-and-on rain showers put a stop to the fishing for many but also did not deter others who scored nicely.

It begins with the Chesapeake Bay where, suddenly, the Spanish mackerel took a powder.

“They’re gone,” Ken Lamb of Lexington Park’s Tackle Box said.

Lamb blames the quick drop in water temperatures and recent stormy weather. However, in typical fashion the rockfish love wacky weather, especially when temperatures take a dip. With a little luck, you’ll see them breaking on the surface up and down the ship channel in the Bay, as well as the Potomac, Patuxent and Choptank rivers, as well as Eastern Bay and Bay Bridge areas.

(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) you’ll get fat catfish and a few bass. From the District down to western Charles County, bass boaters connect on early hour bass with topwater lures that are cast alongside marsh banks and grass beds.

“Crashing the weeds,” the art of using as much as one ounce of lead ahead of a plastic crawfish or fat worm and then flicking it up high over a weed bed and letting it cut through the densest vegetation where big bass sometimes lie, has been working well on main-stem and feeder creek weed beds. Small finesse worms and wacky-rigged plastic worms also can turn the trick on weed edges and in sunken wood during moving tides.

Downriver, not far from the Port Tobacco River, rig several rods with lip-less blue/chrome rattle baits, another with a 4-inch Sassy Shad or Shadalicious fed onto a 1/4-ounce jig hook, then cast the lures into the protective rocks that surround the buoys between Charles County’s Riverside and the downstream Wicomico River. The rockfish are hanging out along the stones, hunting alewifes, perch and shiners. You’ll score when the tides are moving and if you have a boat that can maneuver quietly around the rocks, all the better. I’m talking about an electric trolling motor. From Piney Point down to Point Lookout, you’re likely to see some bluefish and stripers on your electronic fish finders. Trolled spoons and surgical tubing will see action.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — Perch for sure. Some decent rockfish are around the rocks of the buoy in the mouth.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Some days can be great for bass boaters, even the pier anglers and dock anglers on the creek. Soft plastics all day and early morning topwater baits work well. Small crankbaits in crawfish patterns can do the job as well.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) is perking up as bluegills, bass and scattered crappies are checking out baits and lures. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass catches are back on. Short, soft plastics are good, but don’t overlook a smartly fished hard jerkbait, such as those made by Rapala and Rebel. Bluegills will jump on a 1/32-ounce shad dart, fished 2 or 3 feet under a bobber. You don’t need bait worms. Crappies are waiting for cooler weather.

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) Shoreline structure and weed edges hold bass that will jump on a wacky-rigged “fat” worm like a Senko or a Zero. Sunfish are hungry. “Feed” them a small jig, or popping bug.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Both reservoirs will give up some trophy bass from now until the lakes are shut down by WSSC personnel. Crankbaits and soft plastics are the ticket. Crappies haven’t schooled up yet.

BALTIMORE AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Good to excellent fishing for largemouth bass now, but don’t overlook the smallmouths, catfish and bluegills. Chug baits and other noisy topwater lures do a nice job on largemouths early in the day or when it’s overcast. Crankbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastics are best after the sun climbs.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The rockfish are enjoying the slowly-cooling weather as trollers of spoons and surgical hose have discovered. Start below Benedict and work down to the Route 4 Bridge in Solomons. Some bluefish are mixed in with the stripers. Ken Lamb said good white perch catches are made in the river off Green Holly and a few rockfish are hooked by lure casters from shore.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Fountainhead Park ranger Smokey Davis said the reservoir’s bass are quite cooperative. “The smaller fish were very aggressive and were caught on a variety of lures including topwaters, crankbaits and 3-inch Senkos [while] the bigger bass fell for an 8-inch Mann’s purple spadetail worm. The crappies seemed to be smaller this week, but plenty were caught off the pier and boardwalk. The reservoir remains at full pool, clear, with surface temperatures in the mid 70s,” Davis said.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) A few readers have asked about the crappies, but I don’t think it’s time for them yet to school up. The brush piles in the lake should hold a few no matter what. Bass are looking at shallow crankbaits and 4-inch finesse worms around stickups and lake points.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — Fisheries biologist Josh Henesy said local water temperatures are slowly falling, but with much needed rain in the forecast, water levels should slowly rise and the fishing should turn on. “This time of year, [smallmouth bass] are often caught feeding in areas of current where dissolved oxygen concentrations remain high and forage is abundant,” Henesy said. “Try running small crankbaits or topwater lures across current breaks. In areas of dense vegetation, weedless tubes and grubs dropped into pockets or along the edges will catch bass.”

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said walleyes, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappies, sunfish and fat yellow perch are hooked along points and shoreline drop-offs but also in deep backwater coves.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (**) As the water temperatures fall, the fishing should rise. Now would be a fine time to work the shoreline stickups outside Havre de Grace. Don’t know if any rockfish are taken inside near the Conowingo Dam, but if water is released, there’ll be some stripers.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — This is the time of year when boaters, trolling lazily along the drops and channels on either side of the Bay dragging a small spoon, bucktail or surgical tubing lure, sooner or later will see the rods double over with a striper or a bluefish on the business end of the line. As the nights and days grow colder and the water temperature chills ever more, the blues will follow croakers, spot and Spanish mackerel as they leave for warmer waters. But the rockfish hang around. We’ve caught them in deep Bay ditches when snow was falling. Don’t give up. The big rockfish will arrive in a month or so, and the excitement of hooking one of those will make you happy you chose the best recreational hobby there is: fishing. Meanwhile, there are rockfish of keeper size and bluefish up to 4 and 5 pounds, in some cases, caught from as far north as the Baltimore Harbor area down to the Virginia state line. Even a few large redfish are still around in the Middlegrounds and Target Ship area of the Bay, but the Spanish mackerel are leaving — or, as Ken Lamb said, have left already.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com) said he still finds some Spanish mackerel, but the Maryland boaters say they’re gone. However, Pipkin added, “Schools of feeding fish have been found at the mouth of the Potomac river from the Number 5 Buoy down to Smith Point. Morning action has been hot, while the afternoon hours are offering big numbers of snapper bluefish in the mix. Other locations yielding these fast swimmers are outside of the Rappahannock river mouth, near the Great Wicomico Light, and on the flats west of Tangier Island.” Pipkin also said that chumming for striped bass has offered modest results off Buoy 7 and 9 in the Potomac River.” The lower Bay from York Spit to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel continues to give up cobias, and speckled trout action is picking up nicely, said Pipkin. “The Berkley Gulp baits remain a popular choice when fished behind a 3/8-ounce jig head.”

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER:120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) The mouth of the river can provide a cornucopia of fish species, from slowly disappearing croakers to spot, rockfish, bluefish and white perch. Some rockfish and perch are found up around the Bill Burton fishing bridge in Cambridge, with bass catches slowly improving around Martinak State Park, Denton and just below Greensboro.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) When the tides are moving out below Snow Hill, try cranking a crawfish-colored crankbait around waterlogged tree roots and fallen branches and see if a chunky bass won’t inhale it. Early morning topwater poppers and buzzbaits will be looked at, and so will wacky-rigged worms.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Bass chances have improved from the Marshyhope Creek out into the main river clear up to Seaford, Del. Concentrate on the outsides of upstream bridge abutments and spatterdock edges or the Marshyhope’s many submerged pilings and sunken wood. Jerkbaits, poppers, soft plastics and small crankbaits do the job.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Main-lake and feeder creek points and brush piles, docks and beaver huts are giving up bass, some of them of good size. A variety of lures do the job, from early hour topwater and jerkbait models to Carolina-rigged plastic worms and lizards, not to mention wacky-rigged “fat” worms when fishing shallow shores with sunken brush and such.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper river smallmouth bass will bite if heavy rain stays away this weekend. There’ll be plenty of catfish hooked in the tidal waters from Fredericksburg downstream to Leedstown, but the number of bass that are hooked should be better.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) Good chances for bass, crappies and sunfish, plus a few fat channel catfish that would love a juicy bottom-fished clam neck or liver strip. The bass will look at crawfish-pattern crankbaits now. Start with shallow-lipped models and later use deeper-running lures.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering Orange) Catfish, bass, crappies and sunfish — all are willing if you come here and try it.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Many of the main-lake bass are coming back into the feeders. It’s happening in Peahill Creek and continues up to Hawtree Creek and others. Early hour topwater poppers do well around structure, but follow it with wacky-rigged or conventional plastic worms. Crankbaits and Rat-L-Trap lures can do the job if they don’t have to run through grass.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) Bass-boaters can score around lake points and fallen brush up and down the reservoir. As the water slowly cools down, the bass will be more active every day. Now is the time to start using crankbaits and lipless rattle baits. Catfish of size are hooked daily, and once in a while a big striper is hooked.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (**) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) To be sure, there have been some whopper blue catfish caught, but the overall fishing has been slower than it should be.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Mid- to upper river bass catches are holding steady, quite a bit better than in the adjacent James River. Catfish and some hefty crappies are found now and then.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) The river had been clear and fishable for smallmouth bass, but our Front Royal contact, Dick Fox, said rain is in the forecast. If it pours hard and steady, it can ruin things quickly.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Cool nights and mornings have really activated the largemouth bass. They’re taking crankbaits and rattle baits as if they haven’t eaten in months.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) The weekend smallmouth bass fishing should be terrific — if heavy rains stay away. Only strong downpours can change the fishing picture. Topwater poppers and soft jerkbaits will catch the brown fish.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) Tautogs have been hooked in the resort city’s inlet, and when the sun sets a fair number of bluefish and stripers come into the same waters. The offshore boat captains are happy that the wind finally slowed down. They’re finding billfish, dolphinfish and yellowfin tunas now and then. Over the various wrecks, closer to land, the headboats sea bass and whenever the boats come close to the beaches, they locate good numbers of croakers. If you’re into surf fishing, snapper bluefish and a few nice croakers are hooked.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From the offshore waters, Ken Neill reports, “False albacore can be found along the oceanfront, chasing schools of menhaden. A few amberjack and jack crevalle have been caught at the Chesapeake Light Tower, but that has been very unpredictable. There are still plenty of amberjack at the South Tower.” Neill experienced great offshore fishing in the past several days as white marlin and wahoos were raised by him and friends. In addition, he found plenty of dolphinfish along with yellowfin tuna. “Even the occasional bigeye tuna is crashing the party,” Neill said. “The only thing slowing up the offshore bite is the wind. Calm days have been at a premium.” For charter bookings, check with the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, 757/491-8000.

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