- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We’ll stick our neck way out and predict that the recent rain and wind (even tornado warnings) that visited the Washington area will not affect the weekend fishing.

To begin with, our area’s mountain rivers, including the upper Potomac, Rappahannock, James and all of the Shenandoah, suffered very little. Only additional powerful and prolonged rainstorms can alter that, but we believe your outings will be fruitful.

The fishing starts in the uppermost tidal portions of our town’s Potomac River. Dan Ward of the Fletcher’s Cove facility in Georgetown said hickory shad catches will resume even after a slight drop occurred in the water temperatures.

In addition, there are large striped bass in his section of the river, but you can’t keep any of these fish. They must be released alive.

Downstream of Washington, from Blue Plains to the Spoils, past Wilson Bridge, and into the various creeks on the Maryland and Virginia side, the bass are in a prespawn mode and often can be found close to shore or in emerging grass beds and spatterdock fields. Chatterbait lures, crankbaits, wacky worm rigs and plain old Texas-rigged worms will see action.

In the historic Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, there are dozens of anglers standing on the city dock catching fighting-mad American shad (aka white shad). The run is akin to a population explosion and Virginia biologist John Odenkirk told us there is no reason why these hard-charging spawners that can weigh as much as four pounds shouldn’t also be available to rock hoppers above the town’s Route 1 bridge.

The Chesapeake Bay’s boaters are checking on the presence of striped bass in time for the April 16 opener of trophy season. One charter fishing captain told me that while he was doing some test trips, using umbrella rigs with Sassy Shad lures, he couldn’t keep the fish from the hooks. “I hope it will be that way when a body can keep a 28-inch-and-over rockfish,” he said. A good number of the stripers have reached the Susquehanna Flats and Striper Kandy or Bass Assassin lures in various colors have done a job on the big catch-and-release spawners.

Finally, a few readers have asked where the more detailed fishing report can be found. It’s easy; simply go to www.washingtontimes.com/sports/outdoors and when the page pops up, click on my name.


(all listed distances begin in Washington)

POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles — Dan Ward at Fletcher’s Cove (off Canal Road in Georgetown) said, “We have plenty of hickory shad, but if the water temperature drops, the catches might be a little tougher to come by.” Ward says there are some big striped bass in the river up his way, but he reminds people that they must be released alive after being caught. Ward also figures that the rains we received earlier will not affect the fishing much, if at all. For the latest information, call Fletcher’s Cove at 202/244-0461 (or go to www.Fletcherscove.com).

Downstream, from the Blue Plains treatment plant down to the Spoils, or the “junk”-laden shorelines near Wilson Bridge, there are bass to be had, and a Mann’s Sting Ray grub can’t be beat for those shoreline bass that seem to strike best when the ¼-ounce jig hook in the Sting Ray grub begins to leave the shallows and falls into deeper water.

As you head south, all the creeks on either side of the river deliver the goods. We’re doing well on Chatterbaits, trimmed with a short Shadalicious “bait.” Other lures that have worked in the emerging grasses and spattedock include small, deep-running crankbaits, even wacky-rigged sinking worms (no weight required).

Remember, Virginia’s Chopawamsic Creek has been closed to fishing for security reasons. The Quantico Marine Base, with several of its Marine 1 presidential helicopters, is adjacent to the creek. I guess someone worried about bad guys coming and doing damage to the base.

WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles — Forget it for the time being, but it won’t be long before we’ll catch white perch from the Chaptico area down to Cobb Island and below. The river mouth will begin to see some rockfish visits for catch-and-release anglers.

MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles — Even if the place looks like New York Avenue during rush hour whenever a weekend comes around, this creek is still the best as far as sheer numbers of bass are concerned. We’ve caught 2- to 4-pound bass from near the mouth clear up to and past the boat ramp that now is part of the Indian Head municipal park (formerly Slavin’s ramp). Chatterbaits, medium-depth crankbaits, red plastic worms, Sting Rays, wacky-rigged Zero worms — all work. Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) tried the wacky worms only a few days ago and “wacked” the bass over emerging grass beds inside one of the creek’s coves.

SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles — Gilbert Run Lake (aka Wheatley Lake) on Route 6, west of La Plata, will give up a few catch-and-release bass, some keeper crappie and sunfish, while at St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5 south of Leonardtown to a left turn at Camp Cosoma Road) the bass fishing will pick up now as water temperatures have climbed. Rain will have a minimal effect here. The crappies jump on small white or chartreuse shad darts or plastic curly-tailed grubs, fished under a bobber in standing, water-logged timber.

WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles — Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoirs in the Prince George’s-Montgomery-Howard counties area will not be crystal clear in the upper ends, where so many john-boaters look for bass bites and keeper crappies, but the water is fine. The bass are looking for spawning sites, and the fishing could be pretty good if you use bright, flashy spinners, spinnerbaits or noisy rattling crankbaits. Be sure not to keep any bass. Handle carefully and return them to the water. 

PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles — Nothing much has been caught in the upper river between Jackson Landing and Hill’s Bridge, even farther up toward Queen Anne’s Bridge. In the lower river, the boating crowd is preparing for April 16 and the trophy rockfish season out in the main Chesapeake Bay.

OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 25-30 miles — Ranger Smokey Davis said the bass bite at Fountainhead Park  continues to be strong. “Big fish for the week was a 7-pound, 2-ouncer,” he reported and mentioned that several more in the 6-pound range were brought in. “Spinnerbaits, fished on flats next to long, deep points seem to be the best producer, but jig’n’pigs and various soft plastics, pitched along rock walls, clay banks and other routes that the bass use as they move to the spawning beds, work well also,” Smokey said. By the way, the crappie bite is beginning, with small minnows fished in 3-foot depths around beaver huts and brush piles producing 9- to 12-inch fish. Before the rains came, the reservoir was at full pool and clear. Surface temperatures range between 49 and 53 degrees. If any discoloration occurred, it won’t last long.

BURKE LAKE: 29 miles — Bass and crappies cooperate if you concentrate your efforts on sunken brush, shoreline shallow-to-deep gravel drops or channel ditches where grubs, plastic worms and such can elicit strikes from the largemouths. In shallower water, try medium depth, lipped crankbaits. The crappies prefer a live minnow or a white 1/16-ounce feather or hair jig under a bobber.


UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles — The river could be swift and discolored from recent rains, but remember to keep the Dam No. 4 area upstream of Washington County’s Taylor’s Landing in mind. The Maryland DNR says the number of adult walleyes in that stretch, in particular, is excellent. In fact, the overall number of walleyes is good throughout the upper river. Smallmouth bass are available up and down the mountain portions if the river slows and clears. Could be fine by the weekend.

DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles — Bass guide Brent Nelson (captbrentnelson@gmail.com) finds largemouth and smallmouth bass action, as well as a few pike and fat yellow perch.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles — Some decent-size, catch-and-release stripers are already taken on the Susquehanna Flats, but inside the river right now it’s mostly white perch and a few bass.


MARYLAND: 45-75 miles — Come on April 16, when the trophy striped bass season begins (it will continue through May 15). Remember, only one fish of 28 inches or longer will be legal per angler. Meanwhile, every boater we’ve talked to who has been out on the Chesapeake, test-trolling for rockfish, says the number of fish present now is remarkable. And anglers who cast Striper Kandy or Bass Assassin soft baits in chartreuse or white to the discharge waters in the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant find action. The same is true of the Susquehanna Flats, where various lures, especially soft baits, are struck by rockfish.

VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles — Lower parts of the Bay, from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the merger with the Atlantic Ocean, show scattered rockfish and some decent tautog catches. Best ‘tog numbers have come from the Cape Henry wreck. Expect flounder to bite just as soon as the water temperature rises a bit more. Some have been caught already, but it has been hit or miss. It’ll improve quickly if the water warms more. Currently, it’s in the 52-degree range.


CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles — If it’s bass you’re after in the Denton and above stretches, you’ll be disappointed. One of our friends fished over there last week and came home skunked. Nada. Nothing. Nichts.

POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles (from Snow Hill down to Shad Landing) — A few bass will be hooked on crankbaits, plastic lizards and Berkley dropshot minnows, such as the 3-inch emerald shiner that Berkley sells.

NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles (Sharptown ramp off Route 313, or use the Federalsburg ramp on Marshyhope Creek) — The Seaford, Del., section turns up fat white perch and some hefty bass that hang out in the emerging weeds and spatterdock edges. Downstream, the Marshyhope Creek is your best bet for bass because the Marshyhope is loaded with ideal spawning shorelines, dropped branches, old pilings, etc.


LAKE ANNA: 82 miles — An excellent lake for pre-spawn bass fishing. Shaky-head worms, dropshot minnows, lizards with chartreuse toes (just ask guide Wayne Olsen if you don’t believe me), and jerkbaits will get bass in shallow shorelines that drop off into 8- and 9-foot layers of adjacent water. Brushpiles are always good, but don’t overlook the crappies. The lake’s striped bass are up past the Splits. Watch for breaking bait or busy birds, and try not to run through the feeding fish.

RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles — Virginia fisheries biologist John Odenkirk says the city dock in Fredericksburg has dozens of anglers casting for white (aka American) shad and catching dozens of them. No, you can’t keep any, but what a thrill on light spinning tackle. Those are the heavyweights in the shad world, often exceeding 3 to 4 pounds. Odenkirk says he sees no reason why the shad shouldn’t be available above the town’s Route 1 bridge. “I don’t think the rain will make much difference,” Odenkirk said. “We didn’t get that much, and the worst that can happen is a slight stain, which will be fine for fishing.” In addition to the white shad and also hickory shad, there is a small presence of stripers and perch, as well as catfish. Downstream bass catches have been minimal, but the Hicks Landing area turns up a few largemouths on grubs and crankbaits.

LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles — Go after pre-spawn bass along shorelines and in coves where the shorelines are shallow, but there is a good drop nearby that the fish can use to disappear in. We’re already finding action on wacky-rigged worms and shallow crankbaits, such as the Mann’s Baby 1-Minus. The crappies and sunfish are willing if you are.

LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles — Most of the visiting fishermen are after bass and crappies — and they’re getting them. A few walleyes are caught more by accident than by design. They’ll go after the same live minnows that a bass might look at. (Concession stand, 540/672-3997)

LAKE GASTON: 179 miles — Bass are actively clearing nests in many of the lake’s coves along shorelines. Try shallow-running soft and hard jerkbaits, as well as crawfish-clawed soft plastics. Rockfish are roaming the lake waters and might be caught in the lower reaches one moment, the upper end at other times.

KERR RESERVOIR: 185 miles — Catfish, crappies, bass and stripers are possible. It all depends which parts of the lake you spend your time in. One thing is certain: If you see some flooded willow brush, cast a Rage Tail plastic, or a 4-inch lizard or Power Worm to it and hang on. Bass are in these areas. The pre-spawn season is under way.

JAMES RIVER: 115 miles (tidal Richmond and downstream) — It’s mostly blue catfish in the upper tidal parts of the river, although you’ll find a few bass, hickory shad and even young stripers.

CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles (Williamsburg area) — Good bass catches have been made up in the portions that used to be known as Helen’s Hide-away. Crappies and some fat white perch are seen on some of the local anglers’ stringers.


SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60 to 85 miles — Front Royal’s Dick Fox doesn’t believe the rains will affect the river or the weekend fishing. “The water is in great shape and will rise only a little,” he said. “It shows a slight stain; the smallmouth bass are biting.” A recent local 5-bass club tournament was won with almost 14 pounds. There also was a 4½ lunker reported.

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles — The feeder creeks deliver largemouth bass and crappies, but even the main-lake rock piles and shallow-to-deep shoreline drops are good for some nice smallmouth bass.

UPPER JAMES RIVER: 130 miles (Route 6 south of Charlottesville to Scottsville) — Weekend anglers will score with grubs, tubes or even flyrod streamers. The water will be in fine shape.


MARYLAND: 153-175 miles — Expect a few tautogs to be caught over the offshore wrecks, even inside the Ocean City inlet, but the overall best variety of fishing has yet to take off.

VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach — Tautogs, sharks, tilefish, maybe a snowy grouper now and then describes the ocean wreck fishing scene, but things are about to break wide open. Flounder will bite along the Eastern Shore, from Chincoteague to Wachapreague, if the sun warms the waters just a bit more.
For more outdoor news, go to www.genemuellerfishing.com.

• Gene Mueller can be reached at GMueller@washingtontimes.com.

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