A LOCAL LAKE may be destined for fame. And you could be the one to put it in the record books.
That's because the next Virginia state record for muskellunge will come out of Burke Lake -- maybe.
With musky, one can never be too sure.
The prediction of a record comes from Ed Steinkoenig, the Virginia game commission biologist in charge of Burke Lake in Fairfax County, and was reported by the commission's Roy Edwards in his weekly "Outdoor Report."
Steinkoenig expects a Burke Lake musky to break the state record of 311/2 pounds "any day now," Edwards says. Biologists netting musky for egg-gathering purposes have found a number of mammoth ones.
And so far this year, fishermen have landed 17 citation muskies, including a "26-pound, 8-ounce monster caught by Brad Barto of Manassas," Edwards says. "He used a Mepps Number 5 Aglia to bring in the 47-inch-long trophy."
"While the minimum citation size listed for muskellunge is six pounds, all 17 citation muskies taken from Lake Burke are 10 pounds or more," Edwards says.
How do you catch these beasts?
It almost seems that it's up to the musky.
We were out on Burke Lake a month ago, and a musky took a minnow we had floating on the bottom, zinged it out across the lake and then managed to gobble up the minnow without coming anywhere near the hook.
Some fishermen say you can cast a thousand times to the same musky in the same spot without success -- and suddenly he'll attack with a vengeance.
"Although the muskellunge is a moody fish, patient anglers will almost always take one that has been located," says Edward C. Migdalski in his book "Angler's Guide to the Fresh Water Sport Fishes of North America." "Large ones usually remain in the same pool or locality throughout the summer . . . .
"Although casting is sometimes productive, most of the big fellows are taken by trolling live bait, usually suckers about one foot long."
When you're picking a bait or lure for musky, remember that they "feed almost entirely on fish," Migdalski says, but some have been found with frogs, rats, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, muskrats, ducklings and goslings in their stomachs.
And if you catch one, be careful taking those jaws off the hook.
Burke Lake is in Burke Lake Park, just outside of Burke, in Fairfax County. To get there, take Beltway Exit 5-W (Braddock Road) west and go 11/2 miles. Turn left on Burke Lake Road and go 41/2 miles. Then turn left on Ox Road and go one-half mile to the park entrance on the left. For more information call Burke Lake Park at 323-6601.
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
"The fishing has picked up a little bit since the cold snap," says Dan Ward of Fletcher's Boat House on Canal Road. "There have been more smallmouth and largemouth bass caught lately, and a lot of catfish. I'm looking forward to some good crappie fishing a little later in the fall."
Ward notes that the water is clearing up. "That's because the water temperature has dropped from 84 degrees on September 8 to 72" this week, he says. "That's an incredible drop in just a week. The algae in the water has started to die off a little. When that happens, it's time to start seriously fishing in the fall. The crappie, smallmouth bass and bluegills will start feeding pretty heavy for winter."
Blueclaw crabs are still in the Potomac -- "not enough to make it worth your time to try to catch a lot, but it is interesting to see," Ward says. "The crabs can be seen in the mud around the boat dock when the tide goes out."
UPPER POTOMAC -- Instead of improving in the cold snap as expected, the fishing "was kind of slow" this past weekend, says Rob Gilford of The Rod Rack in Frederick. "Most of those who did well seemed to be using light-patterned lures," he says. "The tiny white torpedo with silver ribs did pretty good on both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
"We expected the fishing to pick up more than it did. I don't know why it didn't. The river is extremely clear right now. You can see four or five feet down."
Bass guide Ed Lewis of Williamsport "told me that apparently you have to move the surface lures real slow and let the ripples die down before you move it again," says Gilford. "He said they could only catch only a couple of fish in each spot, and then they would have to move on."
Gilford said the fishing should get better as the season progresses.
LOWER POTOMAC -- "The white perch are still biting, and some small spot," says Jack Yates of Capt. John's Crab House and Marina on Cobb Island. "Of course, there are still some snapper bluefish around, and the crabbing is real great."
EASTERN SHORE -- The action is heating up in the freshwater ponds on the eastern side of the Bay, according to Marv Walls of Angler's in Annapolis. "We had a 5-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass brought in from Johnson's Pond down in Salisbury, and Sunday we had a 6-pound, 15-ounce bass brought in from Wye Mills Pond," Walls says.
LAKE ANNA -- "A few largemouth" are being caught, "but they're mostly small," within the lake's throwback size of between 12 and 15 inches, says Greg Meeks of Sturgeon Creek Marina.
Most of the bass are being caught in five to 15 feet of water, "on crankbaits mostly," Meeks says. Silver-colored imitation shad lures are having the most luck, he says.
OCCOQUAN -- "A couple of guys on Saturday went out and between the two of them caught 12 bass," says Jeff Mahoney of The Lynn Co. in Occoquan. They must have been the last 12 bass in the river. We went to the Occoquan Sunday and got skunked. But we weren't the only ones.
"I went out and didn't get anything either," Mahoney says. "You have to hit the tide just right, and everything has to be right," or there's no sign of life in the river. Mahoney suggests trying the Occoquan when "the tide's moving, or in high tide."
During those times, try fishing around the small island at the Route 123 bridge and then fish both banks to the Route 1 bridge, Mahoney suggests.
And don't overlook the crappie in the river. They seem to be more active than the bass right now.
RAPPAHANNOCK -- "The river's very low, and clear, and it seems as though when the river gets low like this, the fishing gets better," says Karl Gentry of Chesley's Tackle Shop.
Smallmouth catches have been "good, and steady," but no large fish have been brought into Chesley's for weighing, Gentry says.
If you go out to the Rappahannock, you have "a good chance of catching a citation," he says.
And here's how you can get one:
"Just fish the deep holes, which you'll be able to easily find because the river's so low," Gentry says.
ANNAPOLIS -- Small bluefish continue to dominate the fishing in the upper Bay. Blues from one to four pounds can be found most everywhere, according to Walls of Angler's. "The weather's holding up good, and so is the fishing. There are all kinds of bluefish around," Walls says.
CAPE CHARLES -- Strong northeast winds earlier this week slowed things down considerably, according to Emmett Bailey of Bailey's Tackle Shop.
"They are still catching some red drum, but not many people have been out. When they go out, they do pretty good on spot, croakers, trout and some flounder," Bailey says.
Bailey says he anticipates a great improvement in the fishing soon, as the fish are starting to school up in preparation for their migration sout to warmer waters.
DEALE -- "The whole dam Bay is alive with bluefish. The fishing has been real good," says Capt. Tim Johnson of the "Babalu."
"I was down in North Carolina last week, and down there they think 20 bluefish per boat is a good catch this year," Johnson says. "Up here, we figure 100 per boat is just average.
"Hey, you don't even need a boat. Last night a neighborhood kid and I caught about 12 in an hour. A large school of blues had some menhaden trapped up against the wall. They were in a frenzy. We could have caught more, but the kid was learning to fish and he got pretty excited every time he hooked one.
"The way I figure it, the only enemy of bluefish in the Bay is man. And they are winning. We haven't put a dent in them.
"Lots of people think the fishing is over here after Labor Day, but the finest fishing of the year is in October and November. That's when the fish are schooling up and move down from up north.
"And Herring Bay here off Deale is like a magnet to them. Between Parker Shoal and Hollow Point seems to be a drawing card for baitfish, and the big fish school up and feed on them before they head south."
In the afternoons, some people are using live bait to catch bluefish, Johnson says. Hook a live menhaden behind the dorsal fin so it can swim around and suspend it about 12 inches down from a float, Johnson says. Then just wait for the bluefish to hit.
Meanwhile, Johnson says he discovered from his conversations with boat captains in North Carolina that some of them are planning on fishing for tautog around the Bay Bridge in December. "The old-timers used to fish for them there," Johnson says, "and this year we have wild expectations of catching tautog."
POINT LOOKOUT -- The bluefishing is excellent, with most boats bringing back 100 or so, says Debbie Madjeski of Scheible's. They are hitting a few big ones, but most are snapper blues four to five pounds or less, Madjeski says.
SOLOMONS ISLAND -- "We have plenty of blues running from three to five pounds," says Jack Johnson of H.M. Woodburn's Fishing Parties. "Some were breaking right in the harbor" this week.
Also available are plenty of small gray and speckled trout. These are hitting off Punch Island, which is across the Bay from Cove Point, and off Old Rock just north of Hooper Island, Johnson says.
"The cold snap brought them in," Johnson theorizes. "It started on Saturday and has been good ever since. They are in about 30 feet of water.
Fish near the bottom with small bucktails and a yellow pork rind on the hook."
OCEAN CITY -- The fishing is "still good," reports Tom Detig of the Boardwalk Fishing Pier. "There are still a lot of bluefish -- all sizes -- and a lot of flounder, and a few kingfish and trout."
The flounder range from "keeper size (12 inches) to 61/2 pounds," Detig says. The bluefish are up to six and seven pounds, the trout are "nice-sized," and the kingfish "of course are smaller, but super to eat," Detig says.
"And we've even been catching some odd fish: pompano, alligator fish, even a couple of small tuna -- a pound or so, baby tuna.
"It's been real nice."
VIRGINIA BEACH -- "Inshore -- 15 miles out -- the charter boats are catching cobia, amberjack, albacore, spanish mackerel, king mackerel and a few bluefish," says Karen Feller of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center.
"Mostly they've been catching spanish and king mackerel, although the other day a boat did come back with all cobia," she says.
Offshore -- 60 miles out -- "the marlin fishing is fantastic: both white and blue marlin," Feller says.
Surfcasters can expect to catch spot and croaker, she says.
NAGS HEAD, N.C. -- "We've been catching spot two at a time," including a one-pound citation spot, says Monica Cremia of the Nags Head Fishing Pier. The spot were especially heavy last weekend and in the first part of the week, she says.
"As soon as you'd put your hook in, you'd come up with two. All weekend it was two at a time," Cremia says.
By midweek, spot catches had gotten, well, spotty, but then small bluefish picked up to keep pier-d happy.