The WJLA TV-7 fishing derby on the Potomac is doing just fine, partly because the cool weather has been energizing the fish. Bass, catfish, crappies -- even several lunker rockfish -- have been registered with hopes of winning a host of prizes for the entrants. You can do it, too. Fish anywhere between the Beltway bridges, including all of downtown, the C&O Canal, Washington Channel and the Tidal Basin. Register your catches at Fletcher's Boat House, the Tidal Basin paddle boat center or the Harbor Master's pier in Washington Channel. The free contest ends Sunday.
Channel bass are the talk of Cape Charles, Virginia. The big fellows, also known as red drum, haven't been the least bit bashful about inhaling cut spot or mullet baits on 9/0 hooks attached to heavy bottom rigs. Late afternoons to evenings, coupled to incoming tides around the C-10 Buoy, are best. Average catches seem to stay in the 32- pound range, although one 63-pounder was registered at King's Creek Marina.
MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES
POTOMAC RIVER -- Downtown TV-7 fishing derby participants are doing well on bass, catfish, carp, crappies, even rockfish. Fletcher's Boat House and vicinity have been great for boaters, while shorewalkers do well to consider Hains Point, the seawall at the Hogate's and Flagship restaurants in Washington Channel and the entrance to the Columbia Island Yacht Basin. Upper river bass hunters from Knoxville to Montgomery County have scored well with small spinnerbaits, jigs, smoke-gray grubs and lipped crankbaits. Catfish fans find willing prey throughout the river on liver, worms or cut-fish baits.
WSSC RESERVOIRS -- Topwater lures began to work earlier this week in Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia coves as largemouths responded to the cool weather. The most consistent catches, however, still come from jigs and plastic worms around sharply declining landpoints and rockwalls.
DEEP CREEK LAKE -- Largemouth catches are up. Plastic worms and crankbaits turn the trick in deepwater coves and over structure, early and late in the day. How about that 7-pound 12-ounce walleye caught last week by Pennsylvanian Doug Davis? A fine fish in anyone's book. Crappies and sunfish are also active.
EASTERN SHORE PONDS -- Back by popular request, although we don't mention the shore ponds often during bullish heat because the catches aren't that good. That changed earlier this week when Urieville (Route 213, north of Chestertown) and Unicorn (Route 313, near Millington) turned on with a number of fine bass on early-morning surface buzz- baits. Add to that Johnson Lake (Salisbury) and Wye Mills (Route 213, near Chesapeake College) where bass and crappies began stirring. Plastic worms for bass and white curly jigs get crappies.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND PONDS -- St. Mary's Lake (Camp Cosoma Road, off Route 5) has been especially good to flyrodders looking for whopper sunfish in the distant tree stickups. Bass, of course, will gobble up plastic worms. Gilbert Run Park lake (Route 6, east of LaPlata) offers some catfish on bottom baits, little else to brag about this week. Myrtle Grove lake (Route 225, west of LaPlata) shows a zillion sunfish, all small.
CHESTER RIVER -- No big change from last week's report. White perch on bottom-fished bloodworm baits in the mouth and up toward Chestertown. Evenings can be great.
BLACKWATER RIVER -- Shore anglers around the Route 335 bridge (not far from the federal wildlife refuge) have been getting a few hefty evening crappies and bass on jigs or live minnows.
TRANSQUAKING RIVER -- At the public boat ramp (near Airie, east of Cambridge) and downstream, the bass have been snatching up black or brown firetail plastic worms as well as quarter-ounce crankbaits in a host of colors. Moving tides are the secret. Some crappies about too.
CHOPTANK RIVER -- Greensboro to Martinak State Park stretches will give up keeper bass and crappies in shoreline brushpiles and deepwater river bends. White perch start showing from below Denton to the Route 50 crossing at Cambridge.
NANJEMOY CREEK -- Route 425 in Charles County will get you to Friendship Landing Road and the creek. Outside river bends, adjacent to weedbeds, will bring bass on crankbaits during outgoing tides.
Sea trout schools of various sizes are moving over wide areas of the Bay, some of them as far up as Brickhouse Bar and Gum Thickets. All the same, we'd rather fish for them inside Tangier Sound on the lower Eastern Shore, or at night on the eastern dropoff of the ship channel at buoys 50 to 54. One reason is the ever-present chance of sudden breaking schools of bluefish that will hop onto anything you care to throw at them with light tackle, and an outside chance for channel bass this time of year. Of course, bluefish in the one- to three-pound range are present in the middle and upper Bay as well. Hackett's Light, Bloody Point, Poplar Island, Gum Thickets and especially the Stone Rock and Sharps Island sector near the Choptank mouth have been producers. White perch, small spot, sea trout, baby flounder and snapper blues are a distinct possibility in the lower Potomac around Cornfield Harbor and above. Even nighttime surfcasters at Point Lookout State Park have been hooking a few blues.
VIRGINIA RIVERS AND LAKES
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Striped bass action during dark hours is picking up. Some up to 15 pounds have been taken on surface plugs, although jigged or trolled bucktails are more popular. Largemouth bass seem to prefer plastic worms now.
LAKE GASTON -- Plastic worms, bucktail jigs or crankbaits have been drawing hits from bass in Jimmy's Creek, Peahill Creek and Songbird Creek. But if it gets warm the fishing will get cold.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Night fishing for crappies around deepwater boat docks, brushpiles and bridge abutments should be the best bet. Kerr's crappies can be gargantuan.
LAKE ANNA -- Stripers seem to be turning on. Night hours may a good time to hear them feeding, then cast a lure into the fray, but daytime trolling or baitfishing are rewarding, too. Catfish and largemouths are available in bottom structure.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- A few northern pike, along with bass and crappies, make this nearby beauty a good choice now, if it just doesn't get too hot. A belated tip of the hat to Fairfax's Greg Bourcy for his 11-pound 12-ounce pike.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Areas below Fredericksburg may show a few rockfish early and late in the day. Smallmouth waders and float trippers above Fredericksburg were singing the praises of the willing bass earlier this week.
BURKE LAKE -- We've said right along that Burke can't be beat in the catfish department. Now game commission biologist Jim McHugh passes on that a 223/4-pound channel cat was hooked by a Mr. Carter of Alexandria.
CHICKAHOMINY LAKE AND RIVER -- Bass hits have improved slightly in the lake, but the river is a better bet for bucketmouths, with Walker's Dam area producing outstanding catches of late. Sunfish and crappies are plentiful in both waters.
BACK BAY -- A Virginia Beach local fished flyrod poppers late at night the other day and came up with two citation bass. In short, it can be done even before the great days of October arrive.
OCEAN AND INLETS
MARYLAND -- Recent winds have made offshore outings tough, but that may change by the weekend. There are a few marlin, wahoo and sharks in the distant waters east of Ocean City, while closer in the bluefish will jolt you out of your shipboard snooze. Seriously, the billfish action in Maryland has been a disappointment thus far, and everybody in the resort fleet hopes something will happen quickly before it gets too cold. Flounder fishing has taken a bit of a dip, but sea trout will jump onto white bucktails off the jetty. Seabass and togs from the headboats may save the day.
VIRGINIA -- First things first: Capt. Ben Walls of King's Creek Marina in Cape Charles (lower Eastern Shore) is happy about the arrival of channel bass near his home berth. The C-10 Buoy and general vicinity have been great during late afternoon and early evening hours. Cut spot or mullet baits on heavy drum rigs have worked. Call Walls at 804/331-2058 if you're interested and don't own a boat. Elsewhere, the Virginia Beach billfish boats are happy. Virginia, it seems, is seeing more marlin action than its northern neighbors. Amberjack may remain offshore to provide excitement, while Wachapreague and Chincoteague headboats go out after sea bass. Eastern Shore bays continue to offer small but good flounder action.