EXCELLENT FISHING has arrived with the warmer weather. The blues are migrating farther up the Chesapeake Bay, with some being caught as far north as the Bay Bridge. However, the better catches are still being made in the chopper-filled waters of the lower Bay.
Of course, no matter where you fish for them, you've go to do your homework. That was certainly the case off Point Lookout State Park last weekend. The anglers who checked out what was working and purchased fresh, ground chum from the tackle shops had no trouble catching all the fish they could handle.
Those who decided to troll with large spoons and surgical hose eels caught few if any fish for an entire day's effort.
At this time of year, location, bait, weather, tides, water temperature and light levels usually have to be just right for fishing success -- and they can change quickly. So don't get your hopes too high when planning your next fishing trip.
But as spring gives way to summer, you and I will be able to more readily predict fishing conditions. The weather will be more stable, the water warmer and the fish more predictable. This doesn't mean that every fishing trip will be a success -- a little dumb luck can still be mighty important -- but the odds will definitely be more in your favor during the warmer months.
Here's a rundown of this past week's fishing successes and the most productive bait or lures: WHAT'S THE CATCH
WASHINGTON & VICINITY POTOMAC RIVER -- The white perch run is still strong, says Ray Fletcher at Fletcher's Boat House. Normally, the perch are heading for deep water by this time, but the recent cold snap kept the water temperatures cool enough to extend the spawning run. Bloodworms and live minnows are the best baits for the perch.
Herring are everywhere you look in this area, and although these fish don't readily take bait, they will hit tiny shad darts cast to them. In addition, both white and hickory shad are scattered throughout the river and taking those same small darts.
If you're a catfish fan, try dunking a chunk of cut herring on the bottom and you'll have no trouble filling a stringer with fish weighing up to five pounds. Bass fishing has been hot and cold for the past few days, and most of the local guides feel the fish are now on their spawning beds.
WILSON BRIDGE AREA -- Several anglers fishing The Spoils last Sunday managed to hook up with some good-sized largemouth bass. However, as the water warms, these fish will begin to spawn and this will curtail most action for at least two weeks. Robert Bowe of Alexandria was casting a firetiger Speed Shad and managed to hook up with six bass weighing up to 4 1/2 pounds. He was fishing near the Belle Haven Marina. Mike Shrader, also of Alexandria, usedlarge shiner minnows for bait and reported catching 13 largemouths, which he released unharmed. In addition, Shrader said he caught and released several hybrid stripers on the same day. MARYLAND
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE -- Both WSSC lakes have seen a decrease in activity over the past few days. Scattered catches of crappies are being made with live minnows, reports Bob Griffith at Fishing And Archery Outfitters. Bass fishing has dropped off because of spawning activity, and some nests can now be seen along the shoreline.
LIBERTY RESERVOIR -- The bass fishing has really taken off in this Carroll County Lake, reports Doug Lyons at Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle. Live minnows and salamanders are bringing largemouths weighing up to six pounds. The best areas have been in the upper end of the lake below Nicodemus Bridge. Crappie fishing has also been good in this same area. Live minnows fished in the shallows have been the top producers. VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA -- The stripers are becoming active, and several good-sized fish have been checked in at Pete Sprague's Lake Anna Sporting Goods Shop in Mineral. Wayne Powers of Mineral, using a large live minnow, hooked and landed stripers of 14 pounds, 4 ounces, and 10 pounds, 12 ounces striper. Crappie fishing is still holding up well, as demonstrated by Jerry White, also from Mineral, who checked in a 1-pound, 8-ounce black crappie caught from a pier.
Although Lake Anna isn't noted for its walleye fishing, James Minnick, another local angler, checked in a 5-pound, 5-ouncer caught with a Rapala Countdown.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Early-morning and late-afternoon anglers fishing in the upper end of the lake are loading up on some good-sized stripers. Cecelia Bowman at J & W Sporting Goods in Moneta reports the fish are now in the shallows and taking large, live minnows and shad fished close to the bottom. Largemouth bass fishing has also been good in deeper water; they'll take the same baits. Crappie fishing is still fair throughout the lake;mostly smaller fish are being caught.
JAMES RIVER -- Fishing couldn't be better, says Earl Coppage at Timberlake Sporting Goods in Lynchburg. Excellent catches of catfish, smallmouth bass and an occasional walleye are being made with live minnows cast in the clear water. Some of the catfish weigh nearly 20 pounds, and they're a real tussle on light tackle.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Athough it's difficult to believe, there are still lots of shad being caught in the Rappahannock. White and hickory shad both are taking small shad darts cast in the fast water. Good catches of large white perch are also being made in the same area, according to Carl Gentry at Chesley's Sporting Goods in Fredericksburg. Live minnows and nightcrawlers hooked to the back end of small jigs and spinners are responsible for the better catches. CHESAPEAKE BAY
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER -- The white perch have migrated into the lower end of the river and taking small spinners and jigs trimmed with a chunk of nightcrawler or bloodworm. Although most of the perch are not large, most are keepers and average about 10 inches. Good catches of channel catfish are also being made near Lapidum landing; some weigh nearly 10 pounds. Nightcrawlers and cut herring are the best baits for the catfish, according to Grace Rhudy at Conowingo Bait in Darlington. GUNPOWDER AND DUNDEE RIVERS -- The white perch are still taking grass shrimp and live minnows fished near the mouths of both rivers, reports Sue Demaf at Gunpowder Bait and Tackle in Essex. Bass fishing, however, has dropped off. Local anglers feel this is because the bass are now moving onto the spawning beds and refuse most lures. But, you may be able to entice them with a large, live minnow fished in the shallows.
BALTIMORE AREA -- Scattered catches of white perch are now being made in Curtis Creek, a tributary to the Patapsco River. The perch, mostly larger females, are taking grass shrimp fished on the bottom. This particular area produces excellent perch fishing throughout the summer months. Within the next few weeks, bluefish will migrate to the shallows near Fort Smallwood, and you'll be able to catch them using cut bait.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- White perch fishing has been excellent in the upper end of the Magothy and Severn rivers, says "Fishin Charlie Ebersberger" at the Angler's Sport Center in Annapolis. They average about 10 inches and are taking grass shrimp and live minnows fished on the bottom. The first of the blues have shown up at the Bay Bridge; however, none have been taken by hook and line. A six-pounder did manage to find its way into a crab pot and was released.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- Trollers managed to hook up with a few blues last weekend using Crippled Alewives near the main shipping channel. Captain Shaker Black at the Rod-N-Reel Dock reports the charter fleet was hooking with 12- to 15-pounders but the number of fish being caught is still a bit on the low side. However, this could improve mightily by this weekend if the weather cooperates.
LEXINGTON PARK -- Several blues were checked into The Tackle Box on Route 235 last week. Most were brutes weighing 10 to 19 pounds. Dave Watkins of Fairfax caught three choppers while chumming off Point Lookout; the largest weighed 15 pounds, 8 ounces. Irving Jones and Bernard Hillsinger of Lexington Park bagged 11 blues while chumming at Point No Point. Surf fishermen managed to hook up with big blues weighing up to 15 pounds while fishing from the Naval Air Station Pier. This is just the beginning of the fantastic action you can expect in the lower Chesapeake.
POINT LOOKOUT -- Both Saturday and Sunday were good days for the chummers in this particular area and poor days for trollers. Captain Bruce Scheible at Scheible's Fishing Center reports good catches of blues weighing from 4 to 15 pounds along the edge of the main shipping channel while chumming with ground menhaden. However, several small boaters trolled this same area with large spoons and surgical hose eels and hooked only a few fish.
Early-season blues are somewhat lethargic because of the chilly water temperature. Therefore, if you're going to fish this particular area, chumming is the only way to go. In fact, chumming produced the first sea trout caught by hook and line last Saturday. The weakfish weighed a little over 10 pounds.
Captain Eddie Davis on the Edith Rose reports excellent catches of blues weighing up to 16 pounds while fishing the same area.
SMITH POINT -- Only a few charter boats braved last weekends' elements in search of big blues at the mouth of the Potomac. Bill Bonds of Jetts Hardware in Reedville reports only four boats set up chumlines, but good catches were made in the rough seas. Captain Don Kuykendall on the Don-El bagged six blues weighing up to 15 pounds. Kuykendall said his party had lots of hits, but the fish were not taking the baits well and many were lost.
CAPE CHARLES -- High winds and cold temperatures made it rough going for parts of last weekend, but at Smith Island Inlet, my party took two red drum and one large black drum in less than six feet of water. The fish were caught on size 17 Tony Acetta spoons cast along the edge of a sand bar.
Bluefish were not active at all, but the shark fishing was outstanding. Chunks of crab fished on the bottom near the inlet brought a dozen sharks of up to 30 pounds to my boat.The sharks are spawning in the shallows now and will hit most bottom-fished baits. Tautog fishing continues to hold up well on the rock piles and mussel beds. Captain Otis Asal on the Bucaneer hooked up with lots weighing up to eight pounds using pieces of hard crab for bait. ATLANTIC COAST
CHINCOTEAGUE AND WACHAPREAGUE -- High winds kept all but the larger boats from venturing out this past weekend for the flounder. Those that managed to fight high seas and cool temperatures hooked up with some good sized flounder. Live minnows and squid strips were responsible for the better catches, according to Bob Fate at Wachapreague Marina.
OCEAN CITY -- The first of the flounder have arrived in the back bay and small boaters managed to hook up with several weighing up to three pounds. Live minnows and squid strips drifted slowly along the bottom have produced good catches. FISHING CLINIC
Professional fishing guide Charlie Taylor will hold a free demonstration and clinic Saturday from 10 to 4:30 at the Maryland Surplus and Outdoor Store, on U.S. 301 south of Waldorf. He'll discuss where and how to catch smallmouths, shad, catfish, blues and ocean game fish -- and he'll clean and cook locally caught fish.