July generally offers little encouragement to novice anglers: Things are hard enough under the best conditions, and humid 90-degree weather only adds to the woe. But there is hope.
Freshwater fanatics must now switch to night-fishing tactics. Having no eyelids, fish hide out from summer's heat, but move about -- sometimes carelessly -- when night descends. Time to take advantage.
Nights out aren't as necessary for saltwater fishermen, although the sea-trout connoisseur of Chesapeake Bay will find that the channel ledges around Hooper's Island and other likely spots will produce better after dark.
MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES
DEEP CREEK LAKE -- A 10-pound-plus northern pike made news in the weekly fishing contest here the other day, but the fishing is slow during the warm hours of the day.
WSSC LAKES -- It's a shame you have to bring the boats in by sundown at Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs. The best fishing just begins at that lovely hour. Either way, get there very early and fish like a demon with dark plastic worms and deep-running crankbaits along the edges of shallow- to-deep landpoints and stumpfields. The bass should cooperate.
POTOMAC RIVER -- First, the rains have to stay away. Then get up to Knoxville, Brunswick and other western Maryland sectors. Gently wade around the riffles (with a life-vest, of course) and cast topwater buzzers at the crack of dawn or during a moonlit night. Smallmouth bass will smack daylights out of the lures. Later, switch to smoke- grey plastic grubs and hop them around the rocks. Largemouth bass, catfish and maybe crappies will take jigs or bait in Montgomery County, around the river islands and deep dropoffs near shore. In Washington the bass and catfish are willing during the cool hours. Rockfish are crazy about chartreuse crankbaits around the War College Point at Washington Channel.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND LAKES AND CREEKS -- Some anglers are lucky enough to find monstrous catfish in Gilbert Run Lake (east of LaPlata, Route 6). Chicken or beef liver baits during early and late hours are best. St. Mary's Lake (Camp Cosoma Road, off Route 5, south of Leonardtown) can turn up scads of barely legal bass and whopping sunfish on flyrod bugs and streamers, as well as more conventional baits. Catch an outgoing tide at Nanjemoy Creek (Route 425, near Hilltop) and crank a deep-running Firetiger or Rebel at the edge of grassy landpoint and see if the bass won't hit them.
BLACKWATER RIVER -- Launch a cartopper at the Route 335 bridge in Dorchester County and stay until after sunset, when crappies and bass should begin feeding. Jigs, small jointed Rebels or Rapalas, or minnows, will catch them.
MARSHYHOPE CREEK -- The public boat ramp area just outside of Federalsburg (Caroline/Dorchester counties line) is a good place to start evening or night fishing with a jonboat. Surface plugs or plastic worms will draw bass from shady lairs. Small white jigs under a float are favored by crappies. Keep a crankbait ready on a spare rod. Rockfish may stray into the creek during the cool hours now.
NANTICOKE RIVER -- The waters from Sharptown (Route 313, Dorchester/Wicomico counties line) up toward Delaware will give up bass during receding tides. Diving crankbaits along the edge of weedbeds are a winning combination.
PATUXENT RIVER -- Upper river at Wayson's Corner and above shows little action except a few carp and catfish, perhaps. But perch and scattered bluefish start showing up from Broome's Island to Solomons. Night fishermen using cut alewife bait can score on big blues near Town Creek Marina pier ir at tge Solomons Bridge.
Remember what we said about sea trout and night fishing? Ken Lamb, of the Tacklebox store in Lexington park, echoes much of it by saying, "The fish bite best between 3 p.m. and midnight." Lamb sees his fishing customers return with fine catches from the lower (Maryland) Bay's buoys 52 and 54, as well as Hooper's island Light. Seven-to 13-pound gray trout are not unusual; some are caught trolling, some on crab baits or plastic jigs. We trolled near the western edge of the ship channel at Point No Point the other day and came up with seatrout and a huge bluefish while less than a hundred yards away the blues were breaking on top. By the time we reeled in and made it to the scene, they'd sounded. just the same, keep a surface plug ready on a spinning rod for breaking blues that could show up just about anywhere now on the Chesapeake. The lower Potomac, from the Virginia side over to Maryland, has seen fine catches of spot, sea trout and scattered flounder. In the upper and middle Bay it's mostly bluefish mixed with occasional trout. Bloody Point, Thomas Point, Herring Bay, Poplar and Tilghman islands and Sharps Island Light -- all have given up catches of fish to mostly trolled lures.
RIVERS AND LAKES RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Broken-back Rebels and Rapalas, as well as bloodworms on bottom rigs, have been attracting rockfish in the Fredericksburg area. The upper river has seen increased smallmouth activity, especially during the cool hours. Spinners, live minnows or smoke grubs will do.
LAKE ANNA -- Forget it on sunny weekend days. The water skiers will drive you buggy. But a night outing (if you own a boat) can change all that when black plastic worms or a variety of surface buzzbaits can bring bass in deepwater coves or around landpoints.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- Plastic worms and crankbaits of all colors work on the largemouths during early and late hours. Catfish love a chicken liver or nightcrawler. Sunfish are plentiful, but mostly small.
BURKE LAKE -- Get there early and cast flyrod poppers in secluded coves. Sunnies will inhale them. Small white jigs or bait worms are devoured by crappies. One local angler drops a clam-baited hook into the main channel and waits for large catfish. But worm or liver bait does well, too.
LAKE GASTON -- Night fishermen find stripers in main lake, some hefty bass in Jimmy's, Hupquarter, Songbird or Peahill creeks.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Shoreline brush is still covered with water in some lake areas and that's where the bass are. Plastic worms and small crankbaits will pull them out. Deepwater brushpiles hold crappies of size. Evening hours are best.
BACK BAY -- Knott's Island area weedbeds have been fair for bass-buzzing early and late. Bluegills and crappies can sometimes make up for lack of bucketmouths.
CHICKAHOMINY LAKE -- Some of the best sunfish popping with flyrods anywhere in the state. Bass have slowed a bit.
OCEAN AND INLETS
MARYLAND -- It came too late to be included in last week's editions, but the first white marlin -- 45 pounds 12 ounces -- was scored aboard the "Right Stuff" with angler Jerry Johnson in the chair at Washington Canyon. More have been hooked since then, in addition to tuna and exceptional sharks that keep Ocean City skippers busy. Bluefish, seabass and tautog round out offshore activity, with sea trout at the Ocean City inlet jetty biting fairly well at night. Flounder catches are very much on the lean side.
VIRGINIA -- Bluefin and yellowfin tuna still provide the bulk of the action from offshore Wachapreague down toward Virginia Beach. Sharks of every description are taken by the bluewater boats, including one recent 683-pound tiger shark. Bluefish are plentiful closer to shore, with seabass taken over the wrecks. Inside Chesapeake Bay, the bridge-tunnel's sea-trout action has been down, but bluefish can make up for it. Flounder catches range from poor to fair in most Eastern Shore backwaters, but Wachapreague skippers insist their waters provide plenty of flatties.