Rev. Albert Jones was testing his sea legs to the rock of the boat; Bill Jenkins was proving his theory that fish can be caught everyday, barring death and hurricanes; Rich Harris was just trying to catch a fish.
Harris had put away his rod and reel two years ago, when his wife announced that two new feet would soon cause a patter. Now rearmed with salt-water gear, he sat beside friends, bottom fishing for blues and sea trout.
Man-made lures proved useless; the softshell crabs were freed from the cooler. (At $1 a crab, it's like using gold to find diamonds).
At 1 the fish came, more blues than trout. Around 2, Harris caught his first trout ever, an eight-pounder. By 4, as the wind quickened, they headed for harbor.
The drive home went quickly, the way it does when fish are in the cooler. And Harris, for the first time, had brought home food for the table fresh from the sea. LAKE ANNA -- Anglers are complaining that the fishing is fickle, the only trend being the lack of one: on one week, off the next. The chill fall weather should bring the bass closer to the top. Speed shad and devil's horse lures are popular. No word from the plastic-worm fans. OCCOQUAN -- Few boats on the water. Largemouth are striking motor-oil colored plastic worms. Crappie like minnows in the 5 to 15 feet of water near fallen trees, rocks or bridge pilings. Channel cats, as usual, weigh up to 15 pounds, and cutbait fishermen consistently catch 5-pounders. Bluegills prefer crickets below the dam. Occasional rockfish hit minnows, bloodworms or crankbits. POTOMAC -- Ray Fletcher said bass fishing is on an upswing. The first reports of surface hits are coming from near Roosevelt Island to Chain Bridge. "I haven't seen any real large fish," said Fletcher. Catfishing is steady. The Potomac is the site of one of the most productive smallmouth bass areas in the mid-Atlantic region. It's also one of the most ignored. From Great Falls to Little Falls, smallmouth are plentiful. But few work the shore because of the steep banks. This is a perfect time of year to explore. SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Some anglers are never happy unless they are trolling on a large lake looking for land-locked stripers. In these climes, Smith Mountain is the top pick -- usually. This year it's been terrible. Jack Randolph, an outdoors specialist in Virginia, suggests Bugg's Island Lake and Lake Gaston instead. A striper tournament is slated Oct. 3-4 at Gaston. Preliminary meeting for area anglers will be held at Sturgeon Creek Marina at Lake Anna on Oct. 2. RAPPAHANNOCK -- Like the York and the James, the mouth of the Rappahannock has been inundated with sea trout, replacing spot as the seasonal fare. Try the mouth of Broad Creek. For rockfish, locals advocate beneath the power lines near Bowler's Wharf. Closer to home, the Rappahannock and Rapidan are terrific for smallmouth. NANTICOKE -- Excellent for largemouth. Spinners are the favorite lures. The next month should provide weighty stringers. CHESAPEAKE -- Smith Point has cooled off. Bluefish on both sides of the Bay are becoming smaller and smaller -- two to four pounds. Sea trout are larger, catches of more than seven pounds are common. Trollers are having a hard time, but bottom fishing is fruitful: Cutbait, squid and peeler crabs are best. The pylons near the Bay Bridges are beset with anglers chasing rumours of rock in the 15-pound class. Live eels are the bait. SEVERN -- Frances McFaden said white perch are still there. Use bloodworms near the old railroad bridge and the old Severn River Bridge. BURKE LAKE -- This is an extremely popular lake in Fairfax County. Normally that's the problem. So many people fish the lake it becomes unbearable. Now that fall is here, it's worth a try. The crowds will soon taper off. The lake produces an occasional trophy bass and loads of brim. Call the Fairfax County packs and recreation department for more information.