It's never so much that the fishing season winds up as that most fishermen wind up the season. Good fishing will continue throughout the winter for those who seek it, and they won't even have to cut a hole in any ice. Here's what to look forward to.
Chespeake Bay fishing is slowing down, as the bluefish migrate back to the ocean. Some were caught last weekend off Bloody Point, Hackett's Bar and Tolly's Bar in the middle reaches of the Bay. Stragglers will continue for a few weeks in those areas, but the best bet for remaining blues is now in the lower reaches of the Bay off Point Lookout. That fishing should continue through the end of the month.
However, the bright side of the departure of the blues is that because they eat just about anything that swims, you can expect to see more activity from rockfish. Typically, the blues left first from the upper portion of the Bay, and fishermen are now taking some good rockfish from the Dumping Grounds north of the Bay Bridge and from Seven Foot Knoll farther north. This should continue into winter, but expect to see the rock move farther south in the Bay as winter progresses. The rock will become harder to get, but bigger. A few large rock, 30 pounds or better, always winter in the ship's channel from the Dumping Grounds south to the mouth of the Potomac. Deep trolled lures or bucktails slowly bounched on the bottom should take them.
One hotspot for winter pan rock, one-to three-pounders, is the Morgantown powerplant near the U.S. 301 bridge over the Potomac. The effluent of the plant heats the water, attracting rockfish, and many hold in the holes around the bridge pilings. Small Tony Acetta spoons or bucktails work best. The Tackle Box (301/863-8151) in Lexington Park usually knows the latest reports from Morgantown.
On the freshwater side, there's probably even more that the cold-blooded angler can look forward to this winter. Jerry Phoebus, former president of Maryland's Bassmaster Lunker League, says that bass fishermen will similarly benefit this winter from a couple of powerplants.
The Dickerson plant on the Potomac warms the river and attracts smallmouth bass. The best fishing, Phoebus says, is during January and February a mile to a mile and a half downstream from the plant - the water closer to the plant is too warm. Minnows or Burke's black Wig-Wag jigs are best, say Phoebus.
But Phoebus is more interested this winter in Lake Anna, southwest of Fredricksburg: "Nobody knows how good the 'backside' of Anna will be this winter. The blackside is three giant cooling ponds, totaling about 3,000 acres, that hold the water used by the new nuclear powerplant at Anna. It's private land on the backside, so you need to know somebody there. But the water should be warmer, and the largemouth should be schooled up and hit almost anything fished deep and slow. I prefer jigs, grubs, plastic worms and 'Little Georges,' a small but heavy spinner."
Bass school in the winter, so they can be hard to find. You should work many spots until you hit fish, and then expect to get more than one. Two area guides will offering help to those new to winter fishing. Pete Cissel, 577-6254, works the Potomac and the Chickahominy rivers and Mike Farnham, 937-4391, will be guiding for pickered in the South River and on the Eastern Shore rivers.
Until next springs, this is the last regular fishing column. Tight lines.