ALTHOUGH the daytime temperatures have been rather mild, night air in the lower 40s has been rapidly cooling the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Which means that such migratory fish as blues, sea trout and flounder won't be with us much longer.
The water in the upper Bay is a chilly 62 degrees, while lower Bay temperatures are hovering at 65. A few more cold nights could cause a mass exodus, leaving only local species to divert us during the winter.
The recent heavy rains have also snarled fishing plans. So things aren't looking so good, but it's not all gloom and doom:
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER -- The heavy rains mean it will be at least another week before the river is fishable. It's so high that only catfish are active.
TRIADELPHIA & ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- With clear weather, bass fishing should really come on strong. Bob Griffin at Fishing and Archery Outfitters says there are lots of small bass in the lakes this fall, indicating there was a good spawn this past spring. This translates to excellent late- season fishing at both reservoirs. Within the next few weeks, you should start seeing some good-sized northern pike near the bridges. They traditionally feed on large live minnows fished inshore. Crappies should also cooperate as the water cools to 50 degrees.
CONOWINGO LAKE -- Although crappies are still plentiful among the brush piles along the Harford County shoreline, the bass fishing has dropped off a bit, reports Butch Young at Glen Cove Marina in Darlington. Weekend anglers who braved the elements came back to the docks with stringers of 12- crappies. Live minnows and small jigs were the most productive baits.
CONOWINGO DAM -- Anglers are still catching some good-sized catfish and a few medium-sized smallmouth bass at the base of the spillways, according to the folks at Terry Rhudy's Conowingo Bait in Darlington. Live minnows are a good bet for both species.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER -- Although many anglers have deserted the Susquehanna for the season, the few diehards are managing to hook up with lots of catfish, smallmouths and yellow perch. Fresh cocktail shrimp fished on the bottom have been producing the better catches of catfish. The majority of the bass are being caught on large, live minnows fished in the shallow rapids.
LAKE ANNA -- Heavy rains and lowland flooding kept even the most avid bass fishermen away from the lake this past week. Pete Sprague at Lake Anna Sporting Goods reports the lake is somewhat off-color, but the fishing could be good if the weather cooperates.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- A week of dry weather is what it will take for this river to clear and return to normal levels. If that happens, bass fishing should e fantastic for the remainder of the season.
JAMES RIVER -- Flooding devastated the area and the fishing. Cecelia Bowman at J&W Sporting Goods in Maneta thinks it'll take two weeks of reasonably dry weather to clear the water.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Fortunately, lakes are not as sensitive to storms as rivers. Lacey All at All's Hunting and Fishing in Salem reports that one angler managed to get out on the lake and hook up with a 30-pound striper.
CHESAPEAKE, WESTERN SHORE
SUSQUEHANNA FLATS -- Anglers fishing the flats are continuing to catch some good- sized largemouths using jointed Rebel plugs. Other than the rotten weather, the main problem has been the rockfish, currently a protected species in Maryland. Stripers born in 1982, which was a big year-class, are feeding in the same grass beds as the largemouths and taking the same lures. Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in North East reports nearly every other fish caught has been a triper and must be released. But it's hard to be unhappy about seeing lots of rockfish: May their tribe increase.
GUNPOWDER & DUNDEE RIVERS -- White and yellow perch action at the mouth of the Gunpowder and Dundee Rivers has been holding up well. Sue Damaf at Gunpowder Bait and Tackle in Essex says many of the perch are being checked in for citations and average about 12 inches. Live minnows have been the best bait for the perch when fished under a float. Tidewater bass fishing has been improving with the cooler weather. Several largemouths weighing up to three pounds have been taken from the back end of the Dundee during the past week.
UPPER BAY -- Those big blues have finally left Fort Smallwood. They're on their way south for the winter, but a few white perch are still being caught in the same area, according to Bill Blamberg at Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore. White perch fishing in the Magothy is hit-or-miss, and they're getting hard to find. Once a school is located, try casting live minnows lip-hooked to the back end of small shad darts.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- There are still a few blues being caught along the edge of the main shipping channel and just out from Hacketts Bar. Several anglers took advantage of the few days when the winds were down and loaded up on six- trolling with small surgical-hose eels. The blues are due to move out soon, according to Marvin Walls at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50, best give them a call before traveling to Sandy Point Park and launching your boat.
SOUTH RIVER -- The blues are migrating south along the edge of the main shipping channel and they'll eat anything in their path. Captain Paula Shipley on the "Fantasy Factory" is taking out her last party of the seaon this weekend. Captain George Cord on the "Sea Dove" ventured out to the mouth of the Choptank this past week and managed to hook up with 48 blues. He said the coolers were filled by noon.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- The water in this area is now down to 65 degrees, and the blues have been going wild. One of the charter boats fishing the Parkers Creek area boated 150 within five hours, reports Fred Donivan at the Rod 'N' Reel Dock. Several other boats report catches of 70 to 100 blues weighing up to six pounds at the mouth of the Choptank. Sea trout are becoming scarce at the rockpiles at Sharps Island Flats, but a bit farther south, you'll find good concentrations of weakfish in the structure close to shore.
PATUXENT RIVER -- Although bluefish still dominate the fishing, excellent catches of sea trout are still being made just out from the mouth of the Patuxent when the winds allow the boats to get out. With passage of the cold front, you should be able to hook up with some dandy trout just outside the mouth, according to Ken Lamb at The Tackle Box in Lexington Park. The secret is to locate the submerged rockpiles on your depth finder and fish them thoroughly. Yellow bucktails trimmed with a squid strip have been deadly on the weakfish. Inside the river, white perch fishing is still considered fabulous. Some of the largest perch of the year are now being caught by anglers casting Beetle Spins in the shallow waters above the Route 4 bridge. The most productive areas have been along the edge of the grass beds.
POINT LOOKOUT -- The fantastic fishing should last at least another week here if the water temperature remains above 62. The present temperature is about 66 degrees, and this means the fish will soon begin migrating out of the area. The blues are everywhere you look, and some chummers report catches of more than 100 per boat. Despite the high winds, Cornfield Harbor has been best for sea trout. Some boats report catching up to 12- pounders, while others concentrated their efforts on the massive schools of black sea bass. Unfortunately, the action will only last another week or two and then it's all over till next spring.
CHESAPEAKE, EASTERN SHORE
NORTHEAST RIVER -- If you're a bass nut, the Northeast River just might be a good place to head this weekend. Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in North East reports largemouths of up to three pounds are concentrated in the upper reaches of the river and taking big live minnows fished under a float. Plastic worms are also producing bass, when worked slowly close to the pier pilings. Crappies are still not here in good numbers, but they'll come as the water cools.
ROCK HALL -- Jumbo white perch are now showing up in many of the Eastern Shore creeks. Fairlee, Swan and Langford creeks are producing good catches of 12- white perch, according to Clyde Blamberg at Clyde's Sport Shop in Baltimore. Clam snouts fished on the bottom have been productive during high and falling tides.
KENT ISLAND -- Breaking blues are churning the water as they tear into the massive schools of menhaden making their way south. Charlie Ebensberger at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50 in Annapolis reports he's still selling loads of surface plugs, Tony Acetta spoons and surgical-hose eels to Kent Island anglers. A few flounder are lingering near Gum Thicketts, and believe it not, a tautog was caught near the outfall pipe riprap. Scattered catches of white perch are still being made among the pilings of the Bay Bridge, but they'll soon move into the smaller creeks.
TILGHMANS ISLAND -- "It's difficult to go out on the Bay and not catch blues," said Captain Buddy Harrison at the Chesapeake House. Although the high winds and rain prevented smaller boats from getting out, charter boats that ventured to the mouth of the Choptank River hooked up with all the blues they could handle and most headed home early. A few sea trout are still in the area, but it's hard to get a bucktail to them because the blues snatch the lures as they hit the water.
CHOPTANK RIVER -- The vast majority of the blues have schooled up at the mouth of the Choptank. Perch fishing has improved at the U.S. 50 bridge and anglers are now catching them up to 12 inches, according to Tommy's Sporting Goods in Cambridge. Bloodworms, clam snouts and live minnows are responsible for the better catches.
NANTICOKE RIVER -- Most fishermen have given up fishing in the river and have taken up goose hunting. There are still lots of blues here and a few sea trout, but absolutely no fishing pressure, according to Dave Watson at Dave's Sport Shop in Royal Oak.
CRISFIELD -- It looks as though the season has come to a close in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. Captain Leroy Yingling reports the fishing is extremely slow and the only fish caught this past week were a few flounder and some black sea bass. Sea trout fishing has been a bust in this area for the past three weeks.
Several days of pounding surf, high northeast winds and tides several feet above normal forced anglers and residents to leave the coastal regions. Several areas reported beach erosion, lowland flooding and closed roads. However, the water temperature has remained fairly constant, which means the fishing could still be good over the weekend. Call ahead to check on conditions before making that long drive to the ocean.