The season's first frost did the expected: Hordes of bluefish began leaving the Chesapeake Bay and a few charter captains have called it quits.
"That's not to say the diehards can't catch fish," says Capt. Paul Kellam, a lower- Potomac charter skipper. "Some of the bluefish are still here and the sea trout ought to hang around for another two or three weeks. But trout fishermen now have to look in deep holes and rock piles of the Bay, and so many don't want to fight the northwesters that often come with cold fronts."
Meanwhile, freshwater fans can expect a flurry of great fishing. Northeast Washington's Adam Oliphant caught a 14-pound striped bass at Lake Anna, Virginia, on his first striper trip to the lake. Others are finding large- and smallmouth bass very cooperative in ponds and rivers, and surf anglers are all smiles along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. MARYLAND RIVERS AND LAKES POTOMAC RIVER -- Throw spinners, topwater lures, diving, wobbling crankbaits or live minnows at the smallmouth bass of western Maryland. The bass and thousands of channel catfish frequently go into feeding sprees in anticipation of the cold months. Now's the time to visit the Knoxville and Harper's Ferry areas and upper-river stretches above Hancock in Washington County. Closer to home, from Dickerson to Seneca in Montgomery County, a mixed bag of large- and smallmouth bass, as well as crappies, provide ideal outings for shoreline walkers or boaters. In Washington, largemouth bass, crappies and catfish are available around Fletcher's Boathouse, Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island Yacht Basin, Washington Channel and the Spoils cove to the left of Wilson Bridge. WSSC RESERVOIRS -- Rocky Gorge (off Route 29, north of Burtonsville) has been the place for surface lures when the mist lifts from the water. Crankbaits and jigs also produce keeper bass and scattered pike action here and at sister Lake Triadelphia (off Route 97, near Sunshine). Both lakes show plenty of small crappies and sunfish for shoreline anglers. DEEP CREEK LAKE -- Talk about the frost being on the pumpkins. This Garrett County impoundment feels the cold long before others do. Yet, crankbaits and plastic jigs, retrieved and hopped around landpoints and rocky outcroppings, will turn up bass and pike. Don't overlook the flooded brush where big game fish and crappies lie in ambush. SOUTHERN MARYLAND PONDS -- Gilbert Run Park lake (Route 6, east of LaPlata) shows extremely low water levels, but plenty of feisty sunfish and catfish if you can reach deep mid-lake pockets. St. Mary's Lake (Camp Cosoma Road, off Route 5, south of Leonardtown) has been simply great for shore walkers or boaters who cast broken-back Rebels and other lipped crankbaits around flooded brush. Bass and pickerel will inhale them. Crappies and sunfish love a piece of nightcrawler or a live cricket. EASTERN SHORE PONDS -- Crappies, pickerel and small bass are yours at Tuckahoe State Park lake (Route 480, off Route 404) on Mepps spinners, small jigs or jointed Rebels. Wye Mills Lake's crappies and juvenile bass are wild about a white Dollfly jig (1/16 or 1/32 ounce weights) 18 inches or so under a bobber. Cast it out and softly shake the rod tip from time to time. The fish will do the rest. Bass, crappies and fine sunfish are cooperating at Urieville (Route 213, north of Chestertown) and the Salisbury city lakes, Johnson and Leonards. NANTICOKE RIVER -- Eastern Shore bass boaters out of Sharptown's ramp have been delighted with largemouth and pickerel catches off crankbaits and smoke grubs in most cases. Last week's winds didn't help navigation, but the river has so many protected creeks and coves, the fishing rarely stops. Feeder creek Marshyhope has been great for crappies and scattered bass in the general Federalsburg area. CHOPTANK RIVER -- The Greensboro-to-below- Martinak-State-Park sector can be a bonanza stretch for crappies, pickerel and keeper bass. The only problem here is that you need a boat. Outgoing tides and small chartreuse or crawdad color crankbaits work on the bigger fish; live minnows or white jigs turn the trick on the crappies. PATUXENT RIVER -- Upper river, from below Route 50 to Wayson's Corner, will give up catfish (especially around the Croom Airport Road landing) and unusually fine largemouth bass and pickerel. Perch and catfish are more prevalent downstream from Wayson's Corner, with bluefish still around the lowest parts, particularly at Town Creek Marina pier. FISHING NOTES -- The Montgomery Bass Anglers, a fishing club centered in the Rockville area, has a limited number of memberships available. For details, phone the club's president Mike Hummer, 468-1468. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers a "Guide to Public Piers and Boat Ramps on Maryland Waters." Free booklets can be picked up at Natural Resources centers in Mechanicsville, Centreville, Bel Air, Salisbury, Cumberland or the Annapolis headquarters. If you want to receive one by mail, send $1.25, check or money order, to Publication Sales, Licensing and Consumer Services, P.O. Box 1869, Annapolis 21404. CHESAPEAKE BAY The first frost of the season sent bluefish, who've been gorging themselves with food for over a month now in anticipation of the day water temperatures dropped, heading south. A number of hangers-on are still in the middle- to lower-Bay waters. Trollers and menhaden chummers will find them over the weekend, barring unforeseen winds and sudden weather changes. Sea trout schools will hang around a while longer, perhaps two or three more weeks, but anglers using crab baits or plastic jigs must fish patiently over deep holes and rockpile concentrations. Best areas to start with are Stone Rock and Sharps Island, then onto the channel ledges at Buoys 50 and 54, the Tangier Sound's various dropoffs or the lower Potomac on the Smith Point (Virginia) side or in Maryland's Cornfield Harbor. Meanwhile, scattered catches of rockfish (striped bass) will be heard from by trollers and crab or bloodworm users in the Potomac around Morgantown Bridge, at the junction of the St. Mary's River with the Potomac at St. George's Island and in the upper Bay, at the Kent Narrows. VIRGINIA RIVERS AND LAKES SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Last week's rains didn't help, but things should be fine now for smallmouth bass anglers in boats or waders. Spinners and a variety of small crankbaits ought to draw hits in both branches. Catfish are everywhere and like cut baits or nightcrawlers. SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Bucktails, shiny metal jigs and Cordell Red Fin lures are turning up stripers day and night. Largemouth and smallmouth bass appear to be more active. JAMES RIVER -- Now's the time to visit the Scottsville sector of the James for fine smallmouth bass. A jonboat is ideal along with light tackle and three- or four-inch-long Rebel and Rapala jointed minnow imitators. Small smoke grubs work well, too. LAKE GASTON -- "Horsefeathers to all that talk that fishing is poor at Gaston," says Ed Burt of Alexandria's Burt Marine. Burt should know. He's one of the insiders at the lake and scuttlebutt has it there are plenty of bass and crappies landed now. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are best for bass. KERR RESERVOIR -- Crappies, largemouth bass and landlocked stripers -- in that order. If you can find a flooded landpoint or brushpile, the bass and crappies will now start jumping onto live minnows or jigs. Trolled shiner lookalikes will get the rockfish in Nutbush and Eastland creeks. LAKE ANNA -- In recent weeks, just to show how good the bass fishing can be, there have been daily limits that can only astound onlookers. Vern Bossie, of Spotsylvania, for example, had an eight-bass catch totaling 42 1/2 pounds. A frog-color crankbait did the damage. Another bass hunter had a lunker of nine pounds. Then comes Adam Oliphant of northeast Washington who, during his first striped bass trip to Anne, had a 14-pounder off a Hellbender crankbait. Not to be outdone, two fishermen came into Sturgeon Creek marina a week ago with stringers of stripers and largemouth bass that totaled nearly 70 pounds. OCCOQUAN RESERVOIR -- More northern pike catches are reported this week, along with new largemouth bass catches. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits in shiner colors have worked better than most other lures. RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Upper river will give up smallmouth bass on live minnows, small crankbaits or jigs. Lower, tidal portions from Fredericksburg to Tappahannock will be good for a mixed bag of bass, stripers, crappies and catfish. If the wind blows, however, you'd better stay home. The open Rappahannock can be a treacherous adversary. CHICKAHOMINY LAKE AND RIVER -- Lake bass and catfish anglers score well and will continue to do so for several weeks. In the river the bass are small, but mostly willing on crankbaits and spinner lures. A few rockfish are showing up as well. BACK BAY -- Winds can confound bass fishermen, and recent days found very low water levels with northerly breezes blowing the water to the south. Still, the bass are in the deeper holes and those who stick with it will get enough for dinner. Plastic worms work well here. OCEAN AND INLETS MARYLAND -- While most of the mid-Atlantic states are buzzing with the news that a world-record striped bass of 781/2 pounds was hooked from a jetty in Atlantic City, N.J., (on 20-pound line and a 51/2-inch-long Rebel floater lure), there's little to report from Maryland. Huge chopper bluefish are migrating southward and a few boaters find them on occasion. Headboat fishing is fair for seabass and tautog, but sea trout catches should be better. Wind has hampered all fishing in the past three days. VIRGINIA -- Eastern Shore barrier island channel bass run is above average. Chesapeake Bay Bridge- Tunnel pilings give up flounder on squid or minnows. Small tiderunner sea trout are plentiful along the Eastern Shore inlets of Wachapreague, Chincoteague and Oyster. Chopper-size bluefish, some of them over 16 pounds, will be taken offshore at Virginia Beach if the wind permits boat travel. NORTH CAROLINA -- Small bluefish, increasing numbers of big blues, puppy drum and scattered flounder provide decent surf anglers' outings when the winds are down. Best areas to start looking: Oregon Inlet, Rodanthe, Buxton's Cape Point and South Beach, Hatteras Inlet and the northern tip of Ocracoke Island. Public piers of the Outer Banks are starting to show some king mackerel action on baited float rigs.