Over the past six days, local and distant sport fishing has gone into overdrive.
In the nuclear power station Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, Va., a bass fishing-tournament organization known as Fishers for Men conducted its first contest of the year that would allow two contestants in each boat to enter only five bass. As the weigh-in was held at Sturgeon Creek Marina, the five-fish catch of Keith Estes, of Spring Grove, Va., and Donald Estes, of Henrico, Va., turned out to weigh 27.69 pounds, which included two largemouth bass that tipped the scales at more than 6 pounds. This winning catch turned out to be an all-time, five-bass lake record.
Now, along comes Tidewater fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, whose saltwater exploits are known along the middle Atlantic coast. As he left a Virginia Beach marina last Sunday to go after tautogs that are found hiding in offshore wrecks, Neill eventually tied into something that seemed to weigh far more than the usual tautog that averages 3 to 6 pounds. A bragging-size ‘tog, as it’s frequently called, perhaps goes as high as 15 pounds. What Neill had on the end of his line was a potential state-record tautog. It weighed 24 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 32 inches long. When the application is approved by Virginia fishing officials, it will be the latest tautog state record – a veritable giant as far as the species is concerned.
Locally, boaters and shoreline anglers who seek their favorite quarry, the largemouth bass, are doing well in the Potomac River between the District and down-river portions in Charles County, Md., or Prince William County, Va. Although the first few days of the week were windy and many boaters chose to stay in safer waters, all the feeder creeks turned up excellent catches.
Be it the Pomonkey, Mattawoman, Chicamuxen, Occoquan, Powell, Quantico or Aquia, all will deliver the goods on a variety of crankbaits, rattle lures, soft plastics, occasionally even surface lures. In addition, Chinese snakeheads are moving about, and crappies are beginning to bunch up in anticipation of spawning season.
For fans of shad catch-and-release fishing, the Potomac at Fletcher’s Cove in Georgetown, the Susquehanna River above Havre de Grace, Md., (including Deer Creek), and Virginia’s Rappahannock River in the Fredericksburg sector provide fair to good chances of hooking hickory and American shad. Just be certain to let your catches go. They’re protected and cannot be kept. The Fletcher’s stretch of the Potomac also shows blue and channel catfish, as well as a few white perch and stripers. Boat rentals are available.
In the Chesapeake Bay, most everybody awaits the start of the striped bass trophy season that begins April 21 and runs through May 15. Private boaters and charter boat captains already are checking the waters, but they won’t get real serious until next month. Meanwhile, in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake, tautogs up to 6 pounds are hanging around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel tubes, the Concrete Ships on the eastern side of the Bay and all of the sunken wrecks. Don’t forget that the locals in the lower Bay have begun the black drum watch. Big black drum will be caught before you know it.
Fans of flounder fishing can make plans to visit Oyster, Quinby and Wachapreague waters on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Some of the more skilled flounder hunters already have scored. There also are rumors that some of the Eastern Shore’s barrier island channels and deep ditches have delivered strikes from channel bass (redfish). It’s a bit early, but this has been a strange March.
D.C. AND VICINITY
(All listed distances begin in Washington)
POTOMAC RIVER: 0-35 miles – In the District at Fletcher’s Cove (202-244-0461), off Canal Road, Ray Fletcher reports fair hookups with catch-and-release hickory and American shad. Ray said that the rental boats are in the water and visitors are finding white perch, blue and channel catfish, even scattered numbers of rockfish — and they, too, must be released. Down the river, from below Hains Point and the Blue Plains Waste Treatment to Fox Ferry Point, the Spoils, Belle Haven coves, and portions of Broad Creek, bass fans are finding their favorite fish. The same is true of Swan, Piscataway, Little Hunting creeks and the large Virginia coves and bays, such as Dogue, Gunston and Occoquan. Bass fishing can be fine in the waters of Fenwick, Greenway and Pomonkey Creek (not far from the Marshall Hall boat ramp), then also in the Mattawoman and Chicamuxen, also Virginia’s Powell, Quantico, Potomac and Aquia creeks. Don’t overlook Mallows, Blue Banks and Wade’s Bay on the main stem of the river. The grass is growing more every day and medium or shallow depth crankbaits “ticked” over the emerging weeds will bring strikes. So will Pure Poison lures and Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps and RedEye rattle baits, soft craws and, occasionally, even topwater lures. A reminder that snakeheads are stirring in all the above-mentioned waters. Crappies are showing signs of schooling and blue catfish are active up and down the river’s channels and deep underwater ditches.
WICOMICO RIVER: 55 miles – Nothing doing yet in the lower river, but some perch are available in the upper river, at Allen’s Fresh (Route 234).
MATTAWOMAN CREEK: 40 miles – One of our fishing pals tried a Pop’R surface lure a few days ago and he hooked a 2-pound bass on it. Bass catches are possible from the underwater rocks near the mouth, up the creek in coves and along shorelines that show downed trees or brush. We cannot over-emphasize the role a smartly cast crankbait plays in waters that appear to be wide open, but beneath the surface there’ll be steadily growing milfoil and hydrilla and the bass will be in there, chasing baitfish.
SO. MARYLAND LAKES: 40-50 miles – Gilbert Run Lake (Route 6, east of La Plata) offers sunfish and a few young bass. At St. Mary’s Lake (Route 5, south of Leonardtown to left turn on Camp Cosoma Road) the crappies, bass and sunfish are stirring. In fact, the crappie fishing can be extra fine.
WSSC RESERVOIRS: 20-30 miles – Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge lakes in the Prince George’s/Montgomery/Howard are ready for you bass hounds (even if you have to release them), and crappie fanciers who can keep enough for dinner. Some fat catfish are found from shore in both reservoirs. Use liver or fish strips on the bottom. The “cats” will love it.
PATUXENT RIVER: 25-60 miles – The far upper reaches of the river are home to perch, crappies, even some catch-and-release shad. In the lower parts, not much is happening right now.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR: 33 miles – Fountainhead Park johnboaters locate largemouth bass and fat crappies around sunken trees and branches in the lake. Some crappies and catfish are taken from the little pier at Fountainhead’s headquarters. The park’s phone number is 703/250-9124.
BURKE LAKE: 31 MILES – Crappie chances are fine over sunken brush and shoreline wood. If you have live minnows, all the better, but a 1/16-oz. hair or feather jig under a bobber can attract decent-sized “specks.” The bass are starting to go after 1/4-oz. Rat-L-Trap lures, as well as 1/4-oz. crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Catfish are cruising about. The park’s phone number is 703/323-6601.
CENTRAL & WESTERN MD.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER: 35-100 miles – From his office in Washington County, the upper river’s top biologist, John Mullican, said the river is high, but fishable. “Tell the readers to be extra careful on the boat ramps during higher-than-normal water.” Currently, smallmouth bass are hooked now and then, but the walleye fishing has taken a temporary dip, as have the muskie possibilities. The muskies are preparing to spawn and they’re not interested in anything right now, said Mullican.
DEEP CREEK LAKE: 179 miles – Expect fair to good angling action for walleyes, smallmouth bass and large yellow perch, but bring your warm woolies. It has been cold up here, especially in the early before sunrise and after sunset.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER: 65-100 miles – Tom Hughes and Doug Schopman enjoyed a day of ultra-light tackle fishing for shad on the river just north of Havre de Grace. The majority of shad were caught on chartreuse body/red head shad darts.
MARYLAND: 25-65 miles — The Department of Natural Resources says that rockfish are coming into the spawning areas of the state’s tidal rivers. Some are even found out in the bay (as has been shown by boaters who have gotten into a few at Calvert Cliffs) and in the Susquehanna Flats area. The water temperature on the Flats has been around 50-odd degrees, but that can jump quickly given a few days of warming sun and then the striper fishing begins. Spring trophy striper season starts April 21.
VIRGINIA: 75-150 miles – Local scuttlebutt has it that commercial fish netters are finding some croakers between the James and Rappahannock rivers. We have not, however, heard of any hook-and-line catches. Far down the Bay, Julie Ball says that since blue and fiddler crabs are available now to be used as bait, there’ll be lots of tautog fishing around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s tubes. Some of these ‘togs average around six pounds. Tautogs have also been hooked at the Concrete Ships and lower Bay wrecks and rock piles. Flounder catches have come few and far between in the Bay, but some anglers are finding the flatties at the curve near the third island of the Bridge-Tunnel. The most effective bait has been drifted strips of squid.
CHOPTANK RIVER: 120 miles – Upper parts might turn up hickory shad and some white perch. The bass fishing around Martinak State Park and nearby river shores has not been good.
POCOMOKE RIVER: 140-170 miles — Snow Hill to Shad Landing continues to be a good choice for bass, perch and crappie fishermen as long as there isn’t a strong tide pushing out the water. I’ve encountered tides on this river when a lure couldn’t be kept in place longer than 2 seconds. That’s not good for bass anglers hoping to attract a bass with soft plastics.
NANTICOKE RIVER: 120 miles – From the Marshyhope Creek (near Federalsburg) clear to Seaford, Del., there’s a chance of hooking a bass, but the bass catches here are not comparable to those we enjoy inn the tidal Potomac. Not by a long stretch. By the way, blue catfish are showing up in this river, proving that the blue “cats” are major league travelers, coming across the Bay from the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers.
LAKE ANNA: 82 miles – During last Saturday’s Fishers of Men bass tournament out of Sturgeon Creek Marina, Keith Estes, of Spring Grove, Va., and Donald Estes, of Henrico, Va., caught a tournament maximum of five bass that weighed 27.69 pounds, including two largemouths that weighed over six pounds. It was a Lake Anna 5-bass tournament record. All I can say is, “Wow!” Also, crappie catches are doing very well, not to mention the striper hookups. And where are you fishing this weekend?
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER: 47-100 miles – State fisheries biologist John Odenkirk said the river finally received some welcome rain and water levels were up for a while, but they will decline shortly if not more precipitation occurs. Meanwhile, there are hickory and American shad in the river, but they’re not biting the shad darts with gusto like they should. Some white perch are in the Fredericksburg sector, along with blue catfish. The tidal river between Port Royal and near Fredericksburg offer decent largemouth bass chances. The usual crankbaits, craws and spinnerbaits work well. Upper river smallmouth bass fishing is only fair right now.
LAKE BRITTLE: 59 miles – Don’t expect great fishing during the current draw-down of lake water that was necessary to effect dam repairs. Johnboat launching will be a problem.
LAKE ORANGE: 75 miles – Crappies and bass are looking for something to nibble on, so give the crappies a live minnow or a small shad dart under a bobber, while the bass prefer a scented plastic worm, craw or various color crankbait, maybe also a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait in chartreuse/white. Incidentally, two 9-pound bass were caught here not all that long ago.
LAKE GASTON: 179 miles – The water temperature in the creeks is in the mid 60s, said lake resident Marty Magone. “The bass are staging on points and ledges near the spawning areas. Lipless crankbaits, Pure Poison or Chatterbait lures and soft plastics will do the trick. Don’t forget the main lake’s channel dropoffs that can hold hefty stripers. “Hairy Worm” jigs and topwater lures will work.Some of the main-lake coves are giving up nice crappies up to two pounds. Small minnow-type lures do well,” he said.
KERR RESERVOIR: 200 miles – Bobcat’s Lake Country Store (434-374-8381) can provide a water condition report, but although the locals say that the bass fishing is super, a recent weekend bass tournament held on the lake drew only 22 boats and a mere 15 pounds (for five bass) won. Catfish and crappies are more active, however.
JAMES RIVER: 115 miles – (Tidal Richmond and downstream) Blue catfish are hooked on bottom baits from Dutch Gap downstream to the channel waters outside the Appomattox River’s mouth. Be sure to bring strong rods, reels and line because the blue “cats” grow big here. Side coves and quiet water pockets show some bass and crappie activity.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER: 135 miles – River’s Rest (804-829-2753) will provide the latest water conditions. Bass catches have improved a bit as Rat-L-Traps, soft craws and crankbaits suddenly are looked at by the bass in the middle to upper river portions. Catfish and white perch are available, and crappies are hanging out in sunken brush and around dock pilings.
SHENANDOAH RIVER: 60-85 miles – Two days ago, Front Royal fisherman, Dick Fox, said, “The river is high and muddy and is unsafe to fish. If the weather is stable the rest of the week, it should be fishable, but will still be stained.”
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE: 210 miles – The striper fishing is doing okay, but it’s not good enough to make me want to leave home. The creeks and coves turn up crappies and bass are hanging out in ditches and water-logged trees. Rattle baits, crankbaits and soft craws will be looked at.
UPPER JAMES RIVER (at Scottsville): 130 miles – Increased smallmouth bass action has been noticed by anglers anxious to fish this river. However, after recent rains you might need to wait a few days before things improve.
MARYLAND: 165 miles to Ocean City – The resort city’s anglers are finding scattered tautogs in the inlet. Surf fishermen, using fresh chunks of menhaden, catch a couple small sharks and skates. Occasional reports are made of stripers being in the surf, but the fishing is not red-hot. Offshore rockfish trollers find a few willing fish. The ocean wrecks are good tautogs and tilefish.
VIRGINIA: 210 miles to Virginia Beach – Dr. Julie Ball (drjball.com) says to expect flounder catches in seaside Eastern Shore inlets and creeks, with Quinby, Wachapreague, and Oyster already giving up catches as you read this. She also mentioned that anglers at the Ocean View and Seagull Fishing Piers catch small croakers, as well as a few snapper bluefish. Blues up to 24 inches have been taken inside Rudee Inlet. Top news of the week belongs to Dr. Ken Neill, the well-known sportfishing activist, who caught a potential state state record tautog of 24 pounds, 3 ounces. It measured 32 inches long. Neill’s record application is expected to be approved by Virginia fishing officials. By the way, rumor has it that some large channel bass are hooked in the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. It’s a bit early for that, but what’s new about that this year?
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