- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

With the arrival of autumn the temperatures are slowly falling, particularly after sundown. That is good news for fishermen of all stripes. The largemouth bass in the upper tidal Potomac River will be feeding heavily in the coming weeks, and you can cash in on it. Thus far, the weed beds and marsh grass lines still hold plenty of fish, but when a hard frost arrives and the vegetation begins to die off, the bass will move onto sunken wood and docks. Remember that.

The fishing for smallmouth bass in the mountain portions of many middle Atlantic rivers also will shift into high gear. Include on that list the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania, the Potomac in Maryland, and the Shenandoah, Rappahannock and James rivers in Virginia.

Down at the Lexington Park Tackle Box store, Ken Lamb said that if you fish the shallows, you’ll catch stripers. “Reports of rockfish striking surface plugs, bucktails and spoons in the [shallow parts of the] Potomac and Patuxent rivers came in all week,” Lamb said. “The rockpiles in the mouth of the St. Mary’s River are holding plenty of hungry stripers averaging 18 to 25 inches, but there are some whoppers well over 30 inches in the mix.”

You can bet that much of the same kind of action can be found in the Chesapeake Bay’s other feeders, whether you’re up around the Chester River on the Eastern Shore, or the James and Rappahannock rivers’ mouth in Virginia. Meanwhile, the Bay is loaded with bluefish and many keeper rockfish. Lamb and many other fishermen we’ve spoken with say the blues can run from an annoying half pound to as much as five and six pounds.

(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) the Virginia shoreline cover holds some decent largemouth bass, while the channel waters near the boathouse are home to catfish of all sizes. The water temperatures are dropping, and that will activate the bass from the District down to western Charles County. Be mindful now of any weed or spatterdock fields that will begin to die off. When it happens, the bass will move onto sunken wood and rocks. Either way, the bite can be good right now, with surface poppers leading the morning charge, but be sure to switch over to shallow-running crankbaits, small spinnerbaits and short finesse worms after the sun rises.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles (**) — White perch are available through out the river. The rockpile surrounding the buoy at the mouth has given up some fine keeper rockfish to casters of Rat-L-Traps, RedEyes and other lipless rattle baits.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles (***) — Crankbaits have drawn a lot of hits from bass. Fish the weed and spatterdock edges, but wacky-rigged plastic worms also do a fine job throughout the creek on structure of every type. Channel catfish are taking clam snouts in the center of the creek below Slavin’s boat ramp in Indian Head.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles (***) — Gilbert Run Park’s Wheatley Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) shows decent sunfish and bass action, but the bass often are quite small. Use 1/8-ounce and 1/4-ounce crankbaits or short plastic worms along the dam and around pier pilings. At St. Mary’s Lake (south on Route 5, past Leonardtown, to Camp Cosoma Road) the bass have been very cooperative. I’ve scored with small Rapala jerkbaits, 4-inch finesse worms and small shallow-running crankbaits.

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) Good chances for bass, catfish and sunfish. The cooler nights definitely have helped.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles (***) — (Triadelphia, off Route 97, or Route 650, in Montgomery County; Rocky Gorge, off Route 29 in Montgomery County) Crankbaits retrieved from among shoreline brush have scored on bass. Try casting a 1/8-ounce tube jig in white or chartreuse to stickups or alongside fallen tree trunks. Snap a bobber to the line some 3 feet above the lure, and see if a bass or a fat crappie won’t inhale it. Give it a little action by softly shaking the rod tip from time to time.

BALTIMORE-AREA RESERVOIRS: 50-75 miles (***) — Prettyboy Lake is on Route 137; Liberty is on Oakland Road in Eldersburg, Carroll County.) Smallmouth bass in Liberty and Prettyboy have gone after live crawfish (if you can find them in a bait shop). Short of that, use tube jigs in brown/red or deep-diving crankbaits in crawfish colors. The largemouth bass are striking plastic worms and shallow crankbaits close to sunken wood or shoreline cover.

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles (***) — The Tackle Box store’s Ken Lamb said early-morning anglers are getting rockfish every day off the Patuxent River Naval Air Station’s shoreline at Fishing Point and Hog Island. “Big fish have spooled off [all the line] from some reels and have busted line of fishermen tossing topwater plugs in 18 inches of water,” Lamb said. Trollers using small bucktails have found rockfish at Point Patience, Myrtle Point, Sotterly and Half Pone Point in the river. Spot, perch and croakers apparently have taken up residence around the three-legged marker at the mouth.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles (***) — Fountainhead Regional Park ranger Smokey Davis said: “Shorter daylight hours and cooler water temperatures have combined to prompt the bass to begin to move from their deep water summer haunts to the mouths and inside points of coves such as Wolf Run, Three Fingers and Little Beaver. Medium-depth crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors have accounted for some nice fish in the 3- to 5-pound range. Early-morning topwater lures have also been effective. The big crappie bite of the early fall season hasn’t come on yet but fish in the 9- to 12-inch range are readily available in blowdowns and brush piles. The reservoir remains clear with water temperatures in the mid- to high 60s.”

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles (***) — (Ox Road, Route 123, Fairfax County) Good bass fishing for those who can get out on a weekday and fish quietly around points and shoreline cover, using shallow crankbaits and wacky-rigged worms. The crappie bite has not yet gone into high gear. It will happen when cooler weather is here to stay.

AREA 2: CENTRAL, WESTERN MARYLAND

UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles (***) — It’s shallow-crankbait time in the upper river. Use short-lipped models in crawfish colors as well as tube jigs and Zoom flukes from Knoxville down to Dickerson and Edwards Ferry.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles (***) — Lake guide Brent Nelson (240/460-8839) said cooler weather and water lower water temperatures helped the bass catches. Now he fishes the sides of points and underwater rock piles with long-lipped crankbaits, but also tosses a Baby 1-Minus lure now and then alongside brushy spots on shore. The deeper, structure-holding lake pockets near land also give up walleyes and smallmouth bass.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles (***) Cooler night and water temperatures have activated the largemouth bass from the Conowingo Dam to Port Deposit and on to Havre de Grace. Crankbaits and soft plastics have done well inside the river and also along the edges of the Susquehanna Flats.

AREA 3: CHESAPEAKE BAY

MARYLAND: 45-75 miles (***) — A mass of small bluefish (but also some 3- and 4-pounders) is swimming along with keeper-sized rockfish throughout the Bay. Bucktail, spoon or surgical hose trollers can score from as far up as the Chester River mouth down to the Route 50 Bay Bridges, off Poplar Island, Stone Rock, Sharps Island Light and all points south of there, including the Hooper Island Light area, the western shore’s Calvert Cliffs, Cove Point, the Patuxent River mouth and down around Point No Point. Quite a few boaters see schools of fish surfacing, chasing bait.

“Breaking schools of rockfish are found daily at Little Cove Point, Cove Point, the Gas Docks and at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant,” said Ken Lamb, who also wanted fishermen to know that the croaker fishing hasn’t stopped. “It’s still excellent, and the cooler weather is bringing in good fishing in the daylight hours. The croakers bit [well] several days last week near buoy 72. They’re all good-sized now ranging from 15 to 18 inches and they love squid, shrimp and bloodworms.”

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles (***) — Northern Neck charter fishing captain Billy Pipkin (www.ingrambaymarina.com) finds good action trolling or watching for the many surface eruptions by bluefish and striped bass, and his customers are cashing in on the autumn fishing fun. Down the Bay, some nice flounder are being caught from the edges of the Baltimore Channel and at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. But Virginia Beach’s Ken Neill said, “The hot bite in the bay now is spot.” They’re around the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and others. Neill also said that speckled trout and puppy drum are active in most of the shallows: “Poquoson Flats, Back River, Elizabeth River, and Lynnhaven have all been good lately.”

AREA 4: EASTERN SHORE/MARYLAND

CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Route 50 east to Cambridge) Breaking rockfish and small blues have been seen in the river mouth, but some of the same fish have traveled clear up to Cambridge’s Bill Burton Fishing Pier where white perch and some nice crabs are caught now and then. The bass fishing around Martinak and Denton has been good for those who concentrated on wood cover, retrieving crawfish pattern crankbaits.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (***) — (From Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) Lots of small bass are available that like shallow-lipped crankbaits and small plastic worms. Taxidermy-worthy largemouths are hard to find here.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (***) — (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Marshyhope Creek ramp outside Federalsburg) Cooler nights have brought bass into shallow shoreline structure where Baby 1-Minus and other short-lipped crankbaits can do well. Topwater poppers can score early in the day.

AREA 5: CENTRAL VIRGINIA

LAKE ANNA: 82 miles (***) — (Route 208, Spotsylvania County) Many of the lake’s bass have moved into shallow shoreline structure, but of course they’re also around lake and feeder-creek points, beaver huts and the like. It’s a fine time to start slinging crankbaits that can stay shallow or dive to no more than 3 or 4 feet. Striper trollers connect, but for most it’s a tedious affair.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles (***) — Upper river smallmouth bass have gone after tube jigs and 1/4-ounce crawfish color crankbaits. Try a small-propellered topwater lure anywhere above Fredericksburg, but especially around the Rapidan and upstream sectors from there. In tidal bass waters, the best bites have come above Port Royal, with the Hicks Landing area providing some decent fish that like rattle baits and plastic worms.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles (***) — (Route 793, off Route 29) The bass have jumped on slender Rapala or Rebel jerkbaits in the 4-inch size but also other short-lipped crankbaits. Plastic worms still do a fine job, as well. Lots of bluegills are caught by the worm-hook-and-bobber set.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles (***) — (Concessionaire: 540/672-3997; look for left turn sign on Route 20 before entering town of Orange) One reader sent us a photo of himself holding a 4-pound-or-heavier largemouth that jumped on a slowly-reeled spinnerbait near a shoreline stump. Catfish are active now, but crappie catches are still down.

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles (***) — (Route 46, Gasburg) Crankbaits and wacky-rigged fat worms are getting their share of largemouth bass in the upper lake’s feeder creeks, or main-lake rocky points, underwater stumps and such.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles (***) — (Route 58, Clarksville) The bass fishing is getting better every day, thanks to cooler water temperatures. To prove it, North Carolina’s Eddie Daniels, fishing the Walmart Bass Fishing League’s Shenandoah Division tournament last weekend, lost some big fish but eventually won the event with 10 fish weighing 20-pounds, 1-ounce. Catfish are hungry as well.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (***) — (Tidal Richmond area and downstream) Bass catches are perking up in the middle parts of the river, around the Chippokes and Walker creeks. Up toward Richmond, expect blue catfish to suck in any bottom-fished slabs of fish bait.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (***) — (Williamsburg area) Good bass chances now. Water temperatures are dropping; interest in looking at crankbaits is rising among the largemouths. Catfish and some small stripers are in the river.

AREA 6: WESTERN VIRGINIA

SHENANDOAH RIVER: 75-85 miles (***) — (Route 340, Front Royal, Luray and Bentonville areas) Front Royal’s Dick fox said, “The river is low and clear with water temperatures dropping. The smallmouth bass are getting more aggressive.” Get your 1/4-ounce crankbaits and topwater poppers out.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles (***) — (Route 122, east of Roanoke) Boat houses, shallow shoreline rocks and the points around feeder creeks hold largemouth bass, sometimes a smallmouth or two. Crankbaits in crawfish patterns and wacky-rigged worms can do well.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (***) — (Route 6, south of Charlottesville, Scottsville) Little topwater lures, especially those that have a propeller front and aft, can draw vicious strikes from the smallmouth bass. Ditto for medium-diving crankbaits in the smaller sizes.

AREA 7: ATLANTIC OCEAN

MARYLAND: 153-175 miles (***) — (Route 50 to Ocean City) The Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood reminds us that now that the flounder season is closed in Maryland waters most fishermen concentrate on whatever can be caught at the us the Ocean City Inlet where tautogs, triggerfish, bluefish and striped bass sometimes are caught. In the surf, expect a run of good-sized red drum (also known as channel bass or redfish). Meanwhile, small bluefish, croakers and sand sharks are taken on bait along the beach. Offshore bluewater catches include billfish (mostly white marlin), some fat dolphinfish, football-sized yellowfin tunas at the Hot Dog, with occasional wahoos and blue marlin found at the Baltimore Canyon.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach (***) — From the offshore waters of Virginia, Ken Neill reported: “Billfishing has been excellent. This past weekend it was on fire. A little overnight tournament out of Fisherman’s Wharf Marina on Friday-Saturday had nine boats catch a total of 141 billfish. They were mostly white marlin with a few other billfish mixed in [to make] some interesting Grand Slams.”

Many offshore boaters says this has been the best billfish bite in a long, long time. Neill also said that dolphin and wahoo catches are doing very well and a short distance to the south, boats running out of Oregon Inlet, N.C., are bringing back good catches of yellowfin tuna. By the way, amberjack are still available at the Southern Towers and along the Virginia Beach ocean front, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are jumping on small spoons for the trollers. 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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