Freshwater fishing appears to be in a holding pattern thanks to summer's final onslaught, but not all is lost. At a tournament last weekend at Lake Anna, a local guide won the event with 10 bass that totaled 43 pounds. Nothing shabby about that catch.
The downtown portions of the Potomac have been good to rockfish trollers. Of course, this isn't trolling saltwater-style. The Potomac anglers are out there with small boats, dragging long-lipped shad-colored lures through the holes around Three Sisters Island or near Chain Bridge. Light tackle is the byword.
While we're on trolling, the Chesapeake offers a bluefish bonanza, though many are small. And sea trout have provided some excitement in the lower Patuxent and Potomac.
And the best is yet to come: October.
MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES
POTOMAC RIVER -- The downtown parts of the river are experiencing a population explosion of baby shad, and the rockfish (striped bass) are taking advantage of this smorgasbord when tides move in. Try trolling a long-lipped shad-color lure through the channels around Hains Point, War College, Three Sisters Island, Chain Bridge and other spots. Largemouth bass from Washington to upper Montgomery County are cooperating now and then, with plastic worms and grubs the best bait. Western Maryland stretches offer smallmouths in the very early hours to waders casting surface plugs or spinner-type lures. Catfish like anything that smells like food and sits on the bottom.
WSSC RESERVOIRS -- Rocky Gorge (Route 29, past Burtonsville) and Triadelphia (Route 97, past Sunshine) have let up a little as far as bass are concerned. But don't let that stop you. The fish know that winter is coming and will start gorging themselves on bait very soon now. A sudden drop in temperature would help. Sunfish and small crappies are willing.
DEEP CREEK LAKE -- It's been slow going here in the past few days. Most of the bass and pike catches have been on the lean side. Deep-fished crankbaits and jigs will draw a few keepers.
NANTICOKE RIVER -- This Eastern Shore jewel from Sharptown up to the Delaware line has been a hotspot for bass hounds. Unfortunately, a boat is a must since shore walking is difficult to come by. Changing tides, weedbed or boat-dock edges and crankbaits are all that's needed to realize success.
POCOMOKE RIVER -- There'll be a bass tournament on the river around Shad Landing this weekend, so be prepared to see more boats than usual. Bass and crappies have been active during the cool hours from Snow Hill to below Milburn Landing.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND PONDS AND CREEKS -- St. Mary's Lake (Camp Cosoma Road, off Route 5, below Leonardtown) shows better-than-average numbers of chain pickerel. Don't ask why, just start cranking spinnerbaits or lipped lures of every description in the deeper, structured waters toward the dam. Bass and sunfish are there, too. Gilbert Run Park lake (Route 6, east of LaPLata) at best is good for sunfish now, little else. Cooler weather will awaken other species. Nanjemoy Creek (Route 425, at Friendship Landing Road) shows some bass and crappies during changing tides. Scattered pickerel will hit spinnerbaits in shady upstream waters.
EASTERN SHORE PONDS -- Flyrodders' delights, Unicorn Lake (Route 313, near Millington) and Urieville (Route 213, north of Chestertown), have been great for sunfish of note, some bass and crappies. Leonards and Johnson ponds (Salisbury) offer more quality bass than most public shore ponds, but the fishing pressure can be intense. (That means maybe four jon-boats per day are out on the water.) Tuckahoe State Park lake (Route 480, off Route 404) is best for picnics and shore walkers. Sunfish, some small bass and frequently big pickerel may oblige.
CHOPTANK RIVER -- Lower saltwater portions have given up white perch, small bluefish and a couple of schoolie stripers. Perch fishermen at Cambridge's Route 50 bridge aren't doing very well, but the bass and crappies from above Denton to Greensboro aren't bashful. Outgoing or incoming tides and small plastic jigs in the waterlogged shore brush will get the crappies. Plastic worms or diving crankbaits are good for bass.
For starters, there's a good chance that white perch will inhale a little piece of bloodworm bait during the evening tides in any of the rivers that empty into the Chesapeake. As a matter of fact, some of the tidal creek perch will hop onto little Beetlespin or Mepps spinner lures. The sea trout and bluefish have been hungry and come in a variety of sizes in the lower Patuxent around Town Creek, the lower Potomac near St. George's Island, Cornfield Harbor and over on the Virginia side, near Smith Point. Cut bait or pieces of peeler crab will often turn the trick. The same holds for Point Lookout State Park's beaches where nighttime surf anglers can connect if everything falls into place. The trollers from above the Bay Bridges, including the mouth of the Chester down to and past the Gooses, Powerplant, Targets and points south, find willing snapper blues with occasional whoppers thrown in. The numbers 50 to 54 buoys along the ship channel edges of the Eastern Shore are good for evening sea trout on crab baits. How long that will last is anyone's guess. Tangier Sound continues to be tops for a variety of species, from sea trout to flounder.
VIRGINIA RIVERS AND LAKES
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Topwater lures and early morning mists are a natural combination for smallmouth bass waders from Harper's Ferry on downstream. The river has been in great shape. That may change if heavy rains arrive.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Upstream parts above Fredericksburg have given up fine smallmouth bass to waders and small-boaters. Live minnows, surface plugs, spinners, you name the method -- all have worked. One six-pound-plus bronzeback was reported around I-95 bridge area, and another closer to town.
LAKE ANNA -- Bass guide Bill Mathias had a fantastic catch over the past weekend -- 10 largemouths weighing a total of 43 pounds. Mathias is partial to plastic worms, grubs and jigs. With soon-to-arrive cooler weather, the rockfish should go on a binge as well.
OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- Fair-to-good catches of bass are reported around Fountainhead and uplake on crankbaits and plastic worms. Look for shore dropoffs that hold brushpiles. Sunfish and crappies are willing.
LAKE GASTON -- Slow going for most species. Stripers make a showing on occasion.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Best bet: crappies in waterlogged brush or around bridge abutments and deepwater docks. Little else for now.
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER -- Early hours provide decent bass chances. Surface poppers and buzzers have done a great job on keeper largemouths. After the sun rises, switch to plastic worms.
BACK BAY -- Wind has been a problem in this huge backwash south of Virginia Beach. Night hours have been fair for lunker bass hunters using buzz baits.
OCEAN AND INLETS
MARYLAND -- Offshore opportunities simply aren't very good. Flounder, however, are willing in the more protected waters behind Ocean City. The flatties are little by anyone's standards. Sea trout are starting to show inside the inlet and the Thoroughfare. Small bluefish, spot and little kingfish are the fare in the surf from the resort town down to Assateague Island.
VIRGINIA -- The inlets and backwaters of Chincoteague Island, Metomkin, Wachapreague and Oyster are still alive with juvenile flounder and slowly increasing numbers of sea trout. The way to catch them is to put a live bull-minnow or frozen silverside minnow on the bottom hook and a neat strip of squid on the top hook. Start the drift along the edges of the channels during outgoing tides and see if you can hook both species before the day ends. Elsewhere, the evening-tide channel bass are still around the Cape Charles area, from C-10 buoy to the Crammyhack. Marlin catches can still be made if the winds permit lets offshore boats from Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore get out.
Fishing Unlimited of Buxton (on Hatteras) says small surf-hooked bluefish are the rule, with occasional Spanish mackerel and plenty of spot and croaker available. A few king mackerel are taken from Outer Banks fishing piers. If winds are down, the offshore charter fleet out of Oregon and Hatteras inlets will find excellent billfish and dolphin action..