The shadow will soon set behind the pumpkin; already, turkey feathers ruffle at the thought of giving thanks. But enough of pumpkins and plump birds, for fall fishing, at last, is worth the toil. A good shot of rainwater has replendished dry streambeds and washed in a life-sustaining supply of nutrients from shore. Bass and crappie are happy again. Saltwater hounds are barking about the huge drum crashing the North Carolina shore. Trout and bluefish are staying past their time in the Chesapeake Bay. Lakes are rousing from lapwater slumber. But the wind is fickle and the flurry will soon end, so if you're going to fish this year, go now.
OUTER BANKS -- The waiting is over. The surf is roiling with drum. On Sunday alone, more than a hundred catches were reported at stations near Buxton, most in the 15- to 25-pound class. Last week, a dozen 40-pounders were caught, satisfying the poundage for citations. Chris Kuhn, of Richmond, started at Oregon Inlet where he boated seven bluefish; the smallest weighed 17 pounds. That evening, he went for drum and caught a 60-pounder. The next day, fishing fell off, so plan for a couple of days of steady angling. November should be excellent on the Carolina shore.
CHESAPEAKE BAY -- Wind and rain have curtailed recent outings, and some say the fishing in the northern Bay is floundering. From the south comes better news: The Smith Point area has a surfeit of small blues -- three to five pounds. John Paycheck managed one 20-pounder while chumming. Between the inlet and the Smith Point light, trolling can be productive. Overall, it's a trying time for beginners because few boat captains are still running. But a calm day can offer steady action, especially for chummers.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Ray Shepherd, a fishing and gunning guide, has found a school of stripers near Moraticco, a riverside village; he caught nearly 50 small rockfish with little bucktails.
YORK RIVER -- No report this week. That's because the source of information, A&S Sporting Goods in Gloucester, burned down last week. Patrons will be glad to know that A&S is reopening in temporary quarters, two doors down. LAKE ANNA -- Several six- to nine-pound largemouth bass have been caught out of Sturgeon Creek. The lake is rising and crappie are stirring. Fish deep with plastic worms for bass, and use small darts and minnows for the crappie near brushpiles.
SMITH MOUNTIN LAKE -- "This lake has turned on," said Jack Randolph. Stripers are busy in the Roanoke and Black Water sections, and anglers say their striper catches -- at least the ones they're talking about -- average 10 pounds. An unidentified angler hauled in a 28-pounder, probably the largest catch this year. Smallmouth are plentiful at the lower end near the dam.
POTOMAC RIVER -- If the river is clear, smallmouth fishing should be excellent above Great Falls; try the Difficult Run area, using plugs and spinnerbaits. Beetlespins are perfect. Near the city, catfish love cheeseballs and bread. The Tidal Basin is a favorite spot. In the river, a steady convoy of bass boats has been working the shoreline near Theodore Roosevelt Island, a sure sign that the bass are willing. Fish the concrete wall surrounding Hains Point. Keep a slow lure pace in deep water, and avoid slack tide. From now on, boaters should take care as the water temperature begins to drop.
QUANTICO -- At Lunga Reservoir, fall fishing can be excellent. One can fish from the shore, but a boat is preferred. (Get a permit from the military.) Breckinridge should still be productive.
WRAPPING UP: This is the final column for this season. Thanks again to everyone who provided information, especially Andy Lynn, Bill Bonds, Jack Randolph, Frances McFaden and Peter Toereok. Late fall freshwater fishing should be excellent until the freeze comes; meanwhile, pike fishing will thrive. See you in the spring.