Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ken Neill of the Peninsula Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association near Virginia Beach says yellowfin tuna action has been super and bluefin tunas can be found anywhere from the Chesapeake Light Tower on out to the 30-fathom line.

“In general, smaller fish have been inshore, and the giants have been out over 20 fathoms,” he says.

The problem is that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed both recreational and commercial bluefin fishing as soon as the large specimens arrived in Virginia waters.

“You’ll need to check every day before fishing for them,” Neill reminds ocean anglers. “They shut the fishery down with next to no notice, and they can open it again the same way. [But] you can still practice catch and release as long as you are participating in an approved tagging program.”

Meanwhile, medium-size sea bass can be found on most offshore wrecks, while the tautog bite is good in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Rockfish are everywhere, it seems, and bigger fish are arriving every day.

Big stripers are being caught at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and along deep water ledges on the eastern side of the bay. A few whoppers have been caught at Cape Henry. Diving gannets give away the fish locations.

From the Atlantic Coast in Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources’ Keith Lockwood reports, “Offshore fishermen received disappointing news last week with the closing of the bluefin tuna fishery. At present there does not seem to be much else going on offshore except bluefins, so it’s particularly sad we’ve lost this fishery.”

Maryland’s Ocean City and Assateague Island surf fishing has been good as well-fed striped bass and big bluefish moved into the beach waters. The blues like finger mullet rigs, and the striped bass seem to prefer cut menhaden and artificial lures like the Hopkins metal squid and some swimming plugs.

Inside the Ocean City Inlet, rockfish are caught on drifted, live eels or by casting large Rat-L-Traps and other cast-and-retrieve lures.

Southern Maryland perch and rockfish — At the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Ken Lamb said, “The best and most consistent fishing in our area is provided by the white perch under the Solomons bridge in the Patuxent River. Sinker dunkers using bits of bloodworms in 60 to 90 feet of water are catching all the perch they care to. The actual location is on the Calvert side of the river between the bridge and Point Patience.” Actually, the tasty perch can be found from Sheridan Point, south of Benedict, clear to the mouth of the river.

Rockfish catches are hit and miss for trollers in the bay and the Potomac River, but quite a few umbrella rig trollers got their limits between Buoy 74 south to Smith Point and beyond, even the Cut Channel in Virginia. Some of the visiting ocean rockfish can weigh 50 pounds and measure four feet, but most are 36 to 40 inches.

Virginia’s inland anglers score — Buggs Island Bait and Tackle, a popular Kerr Reservoir hangout, has moved to new digs in Clarksville, at the junction of routes 15 and 58. The store reports fine crappie fishing in the huge reservoir, particularly around the new bridge.

Don’t be surprised if you tie into a couple of 2-pounders and many smaller ones. In addition, Kerr shows rockfish and catfish by the numbers, but local bass hunters say the largemouths are also coming on. The bass have been jumping on deep crankbaits.

At neighboring Lake Gaston, the bass fishing finally has started to perk up. It hasn’t been good of late, but now bass, walleyes and crappies are sensing winter is on its way and are stocking up on food. As you know, some fishing lures do a fine job of imitating real food.

A number of readers have asked about the Chickahominy River’s bass, and the news isn’t good. Not many catches are made. However, more than one fat, blue catfish is willing. Above the headwaters of the “Chick,” in the Chickahominy Lake, there are crappies to be caught, and quite a few are large specimens of close to 2 pounds.

Finally, the local Potomac — Bass boaters in the Potomac between the District and Charles County, Md., are scoring on largemouths and crappies as they use slow-fished, scent-laden grubs or quarter-ounce Road Runner lures that must be “crawled” across the bottom of backwater coves and points inside the feeder creeks.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:

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