IF YOU HAVE a few vacation days left over from the summer, don't save them until next year. Instead, call a charter captain and book a trip during the next week or two -- the fishing couldn't be better.
If you're looking for variety, the lower Chesapeake Bay has been producing catches of every imaginable species of saltwater fish. Hordes of blues are breaking everywhere, with lots of sea trout right under them. Bottom fishing has been unbelievable, with huge catches of jumbo spot, sea trout, flounder and sea bass. Just this past week, anglers in the mouth of the Potomac hooked up with hundreds of 12-ishing a few hundred yards from the launch ramp at Point Lookout. Just how long this fantastic fishing will last is anyone's guess, but there's a good chance of catching lots of fish right up until Thanksgiving Day.
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER -- Largemouth bass fishing has been fair to good in the District, depending on whom you talk with. Dan Ward at Fletcher's Boat House reports the striper fishing at the 14th Street Bridge has been good for the past several days and largemouth bass are plentiful in the area. Smallmouths are starting to become active since the water temperature has dropped, and small catfish are everywhere. Cut bait and nightcrawlers are best for the catfish.
TRIADELPHIA & ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Within the next few weeks, there'll be vast improvements in the bass fishing at both lakes. Bob Griffin at Fishing and Archery Outfitters in Laurel reports lots of smaller bass are being brought into his shop. The most productive baits have been tiny crankbaits and live minnows fished close to shore.
Crappie fishing has been hit or miss thro the entire season, but as the water temperatures cool, these fish will move into the bridge pilings to feed on tiny minnows.
LAKE ANNA -- Pete Sprague at Lake Anna Sporting Goods says the water temperature is still hovering in the mid '70s, which makes for tough bass fishing. However, good catches of smaller male bass are being made on the lake every day. These fish average about two pounds and will hit tiny jigs, crankbaits and live minnows. Scattered catches of striped bass continue to be made by anglers fishing during the late evening hours. The most productive methods include trolling and deep jigging.
Crappie fishing has dropped off a bit but should pick up within the next few weeks. Sprague also says heavy early-morning fog on the lake means anglers should move carefully and slowly. Fishing is not fun when you hit a submerged log or bridge piling while traveling at 40 miles per hour.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Lacey All at All's Hunting and Fishing in Salem reports the striper fishing really improved during the past week, and late-evening anglers are hooking up with some good-sized fish using live shad for bait. Largemouth bass have also been on the upswing, and they are taking surface plugs cast among the shoreline debris.
Carvin Cove Lake has also been producing fair catches of stripers and a few largemouths during the late afternoon and evening. Cecelia Bowman at J&W Sporting Goods in Moneta reports bass fishing has been holding up well for the past two weeks for anglers casting topwater plugs. Although the bass average only about two pounds, they're lots of fun on light tackle.
KERR RESERVOIR -- A small warm front slowed the fishing activity here, according to Jim Abers at Jim's Guide Service in Boydton, but this will change quickly when the cooler weather arrives. Bass fishing has been rated from fair to good at some of the points and coves. Abers says the best fishing is around submerged structures such as rocks or trees. Fair-sized crappies have moved into the brush piles and are holding in depths from six to eighteen feet.
The water temperature is 71 degrees, which has kept the stripers scattered, but late- afternoon anglers are managing to hook up with a few larger fish using live shad at Butcher's Creek and along the main channel in the Clarksville area. The majority of the stripers are being caught in 20 to 28 feet of water.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Good catches of smallmouths are continuing at above the tide line, according to Carl Gentry at Chesley's Sporting Goods in Fredericksburg. Live minnows and hellgramites are the most productive baits. Below the tidal line, largemouths have moved into the submerged brush piles along with the crappies. Live minnows, lip hooked to the back end of small jigs, are the best bait for both species.
JAMES RIVER -- Although the river is extremely clear, there's some excellent bass fishing in the Glasglow area. Lynchburg resident Roy Scott fished that area and hooked up with 42 bass and 150 brim, using chartreuse-colored grubs, according to Margaret Coppage at Timberlake Sporting Goods in Lynchburg. Scott managed all that in just a one-day outing. Some native brook trout are beginning to show up in the small, spring- fed creeks. Nightcrawlers have brought several trout of about 13 inches.
GUNPOWDER AND DUNDEE RIVERS -- The mouths of both rivers have been hot spots for white and yellow perch fishing, according to Sue Demaf at Gunpowder Bait and Tackle in Essex. The water temperature has dropped to about 70 degrees, and the perch have gone wild. Nearly every cast with a live minnow lip- hooked to the back end of a small shad dart results in a strike from the perch. The best areas have been in the larger coves that are close to the mouths of the rivers. Fair catches of largemouth bass are still being made at the back end of the Dundee by anglers casting small, jointed Rebel plugs. Although the average size is only about a pound, a few largemouths weighing up to four pounds have been taken during the past few days.
UPPER CHESAPEAKE -- Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore reports excellent catches of white perch are continuing at Key Bridge, Curtis Creek and in some of the smaller creeks leading into the Patapsco River. Blues weighing up to 15 pounds are still being caught by surf fishermen casting cut bait from the beach at Fort Smallwood, and some of the smaller blues have been seen breaking during the late afternoon hours.
The mouth of the Patapsco has been dynamite for breaking blues weighing up to five pounds during the late afternoon. Casting small surface plugs among the churning fish is instant action. BAY BRIDGE AREA -- "I just put in my third Tony Acetta order this week," says Charlie Ebensberger at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50 in Annapolis. The blues are going wild here and taking most lures trolled or cast to the breaking fish. Massive schools of blues are everywhere you look, and if the water temperature remains reasonably stable, these fish will stay in the area for another two or three weeks.
The mouth of the Magothy has seen some good-sized white perch. Small spinners cast along the north shore have produced excellent catches of 10-ellow perch have materialized in the midsection of the Severn near Little Round Bay. These fish will usually remain throughout the entire winter. Live minnows, lip-hooked to a small shad dart, are the best bet for the yellow perch.
SOUTH RIVER -- Captain George Cord on the "Sea Dove" says he's been catching all the blues he can handle. The mouth of the South River is alive with breaking blues ranging from 4 to 8 pounds and they're not choosy about what they'll eat. Surgical hose eels have really been effective for the fish when they're deep, and surface plugs will devastate them when they're breaking. A few sea trout are still lingering at the north edge of the Stone Rock, but they're starting to migrate south.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- Captain Shaker Black reports the charter fleet fishing out of the Rod'N'Reel Dock has been running just five minutes from the dock and loading up on blues. "Fishing couldn't be better than it is right now," Shaker says.
DEALE -- Captain George Prenant on the "Stormy Petrel" says thousands of acres of breaking blues are churning the water to a foam in the mid-Bay region, yet the fishing pressure is extremely light. If you're looking for a good area for light tackle action, this is the place to be this weekend.
PATUXENT -- The fall run of sea trout has started, says Ken lamb at The Tackle Box in Lexington Park. Trout are being caught at the Town Creek Pier by anglers using a variety of baits. Peeler crab has been best, followed by cut spot, alewife or live minnows. "The run will last as long as Indian Summer keeps us warm," Lamb says. "And the fishing can be fabulous with up to 60 trout taken during a single night from the pier." Boaters are also loading up on some large trout by trolling and bottom fishing at Cove Point, Point No Point and Punch Island.
Blues are everywhere, with the better catches being made by chummers at the edge of the ships channel. The blues vary in size; some run up to 18 or more pounds. The larger fish are becoming more prevalent as the water temperature decreases.
White perch are now at their zenith with extremely large fish coming in from Breton Bay. Beetle Spins and peeler crab baits are producing the better catches.
POINT LOOKOUT -- Every species of fish in the Chesapeake seems to be swarming in the waters of Cornfield Harbor at the mouth of the Potomac, says Captain Bruce Scheible at Scheible's Fishing Center. Chummers working the deep-water areas of the river are hooking up with hundreds of blues weighing up to eight pounds. In Cornfield Harbor, just five minutes from the launch ramp at Point Lookout State Park, anglers are landing up to 60 sea trout per boat -- some weighing as much as 12 pounds. In addition, 12-ck as fleas on the submerged rock piles, and mixed with them are massive schools of medium-sized spot. To top it all off, a few puppy drum and some good-sized flounder are in the same area.
Similar fishing conditions exist outside the river near the old hotel. Here, big trout are stacked up like cordwood on the rock piles and thousands of blues ranging up to 12 pounds are breaking throughout the day. Chummers fishing the Middle Grounds are loading up on all the blues they can handle, some huge sea trout and lots of flounder. If the weather conditions continue to keep the water fairly warm, this fantastic fishing could last well into mid- November.
NORTHEAST RIVER -- Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in North East says some fair- sized largemouths have moved in behind the Arundel Piers, and although they average only about two pounds, larger fish should be arriving with the colder weather -- some weighing five or more pounds. Crappie fishing is still a bit on the slow side, and only a few worth keeping have been caught. Catfish are plentiful throughout the river and they're taking cut bait or night crawlers fished on the bottom.
CHESTER RIVER -- Light tackle anglers are loading up on lots of big, white perch in the upper end of the river. Small spinners cast along the shoreline have been devastating these fish for the past two weeks. The mouth of the river, near the rock piles at Love Point, has been a hot spot for breaking blues. Snappers weighing up to five pounds are churning the water to a froth every afternoon as they feed on the schools of migrating menhaden. Small surface plugs cast among the breaking fish have produced the best catches. Crabbing is still holding up well in the same area, and sports crabbers are catching the largest crabs of the season by running a trot-line baited with salted eel.
KENT ISLAND -- If you can possibly get your bait through the blues, you'll hook up with some dandy flounder, says Charlie Ebensberger at the Angler's Sport Center. The flounder are normally found near the Bay Bridge during this time of year, but the blues are hitting the baits long before they reach the bottom. Good catches of medium-sized spot and white perch are continuing to please Bay Bridge anglers using peeler crab baits fished on the bottom.
TILGHMAN ISLAND -- The charter fleet running out of Captain Buddy Harrison's Chesapeake House has been loading up on blues and a few sea trout throughout the past several weeks. Although the trout are somewhat scattered, the blues are everywhere, and catches of a hundred fish per day are not uncommon. Trolling with surgical hose eels has been extremely productive for the blues, and the trout are hitting bucktails trimmed with a chunk of peeler rab.
CHOPTANK RIVER -- If you're looking for action close to shore, head for the upper end of the Choptank River and hook up with some five-pound blues. According to Tommy's Sporting Goods in Cambridge, the blues have been breaking right in front of the city launch ramp for the past three weeks, and anglers are hooking up with all the snappers they can handle. A bit upriver, some good-sized white perch are now taking peeler crab baits fished on the bottom, and bridge fishermen are beginning to land some good-sized perch from the U.S. 50 bridge.
NANTICOKE RIVER -- Dave's Sport Shop in Royal Oak reports the fishing in the Nanticoke has really taken off during the past few weeks. Medium-sized spot are hitting clam snouts fished on the bottom and fair-sized sea trout are taking peeler crab baits near the mouth of the river. Most of the creeks are alive with white perch, but only a few local youngsters are out there fishing for them.
OCEAN CITY -- Although the sea trout are still here in huge numbers, very few boats can be seen fishing the productive waters just a mile from the beach. In fact, the only activity has been from a few of the headboats running from Captain Bunting's on the weekends. The trout are running up to three or more pounds and taking bucktails trimmed with squid strips or live spot fished on the bottom.
WACHAPREAGUE -- Excellent catches of sea trout are continuing to be made just outside the inlet at this Delmarva Penninsula resort. The trout here are somewhat larger than those up the coast and seem to prefer peeler crab baits fished on the bottom. Inshore, the flounder fishing is still considered fair for this time of year and a few good-sized spot are still pleasing bottom fishermen.