NEITHER WIND, nor waves nor drenching spray could keep the dedicated bluefish fishermen from last weekend's pro-am fishing tournament sponsored by the Rod N Reel Dock in Chesapeake Beach.
Despite the rough conditions, Joe Copeland of Oxon Hill had plenty to cheer about. He hit the jackpot on Sunday with his 17.61-pound chopper blue, which won him $5,000 for the largest bluefish of the tournament. Steve Henderson of Greenbelt took second place and a check for $1,000 with his 16.46-pound bluefish. Third place went to Jack Johnson of Solomons Island, who bagged a 16.43-pounder and $500.
Dave Wangel of Bowie caught a 15.34-pound blue on Saturday that netted him $1,000 for the largest fish caught on opening day, while Mike Alnunt picked up $500 for the second largest blue that day; it tipped the scales at 15.21 pounds.
The only sea trout taken during the two-day event was caught by Bruce Barnes of Gaithersburg. The 9.42-pound weakfish brought him $1,000.
Here's a rundown on the rest of the past week's fishing activity and the best bait or lures to use. WHAT'S THE CATCH? WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER -- Although the winds kept most boaters off the river, Ray Fletcher at Fletcher's Boat House says loads of good-sized catfish have been coming into the landing every day. Many weighed more than 10 pounds, with the largest being 13 pounds. Mickey Saylor of D.C. hooked it with cut herring. Scattered catches of good-sized white perch are still being made just out from Fletcher's by anglers using smelt or herring strips. It's unusual for the perch to remain in the river this long, but the recent cold snap most likely prolonged the spawning season.
WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE -- High winds kept small boaters away from the better bass fishing areas this past week. Only a few small bass were taken by some hearty individuals, but local guides say fishing will improve after the largemouths have spawned. MARYLAND
TRIADELPHIA & ROCKY GORGE -- Bass fishing has really picked up within the past few days at both WSSC lakes. Bob Griffith at Fishing and Archery Outfitters in Laurel reports checking in several citation-size largemouths taken by local anglers. Ernest Reio Jr. of Bowie bagged a 5-pound, 7-ounce bass with a pig and jig at Rocky Gorge. This was topped by Dominick Grossi of Laurel who landed a 6-pound, 4-ouncer using the same lure. Joe Rosario of Hyattsville landed a 3-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth with a live minnow. Crappie fishing has been excellent in both lakes, and they're taking live minnows fished close to the bridge pilings and brushy shoreline.
LIBERTY RESERVOIR -- Lots of bass are being taken from this clear reservoir in Carroll County. A 7-pound smallmouth was taken on a large live minnow by Robert White of Baltimore, while Jeff Corkran of Westminster landed a 7-pound largemouth using a pig and jig. Clarence Loveless of Finksburg bagged a 10-pound-plus catfish on cut herring and checked it in at Old Reisterstown Bait and Tackle. In addition, a yellow perch measuring 13 inches was taken from the Route 32 bridge by six-year-old Chris Greenwell of Reisterstown while fishing with a Eurolarvae grub. VIRGINIA
LAKE ANNA -- Pete Sprague at Lake Anna Sporting Goods reports bass fishing dropped off because of the cold snap, but should improve with the warmer weather. A 23-pound catfish and a 16-pound striper were taken from the third dike of the nuclear plant last week; both were caught by an angler from Mineral. Crappie fishing has been off a little also. Mainly high winds kept many boaters off the lake.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Stripers are still active in the upper end of the lake, says Cecelia Bowman at J&W Sporting Goods in Moneta. Live shad and large minnows have been the best baits. Bass fishing has been off because of the spawning run, but should improve within the next few weeks.
STAUNTON AND JAMES RIVERS -- Stripers are now concentrated near the shallow points and bluffs on the Staunton River, according to Earl Coppage at Timberlake Sporting Goods in Lynchburg. The fish have moved in to spawn and are now highly vulnerable to cast Rebel plugs and large, live minnows. Although the average weight has been nearly eight pounds, several stripers of 16 to 20 pounds were taken during the past week. James River anglers are still loading up on smallmouths and huge catfish. The bass are taking live minnows and small crankbaits while the catties seem to prefer cut bait fished on the bottom.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER -- Believe it or not, there are still shad in the river. Normally by this time, the shad have begun their migration back toward the ocean. However, the cold nights here kept the water temperature down, apparently confusing the fish. Additionally, big catfish, smallmouth bass and huge crappies are all active in the same areas, according to Charlie Wingard at Chesley's Sporting Goods in Fredericksburg.
BOONES MILL LAKE -- A new world record was set for red ear sunfish in this tiny lake by Michael Mills of Salem. Mills caught the 4-pound, 12-ounce sunfish while fishing with a nightcrawler. The fish measured 13 inches long with a girth of 18 inches. Mills didn't know he had a world record and waited until the next day to check the fish in at All's Hunting and Fishing in Salem. Had he checked his catch in immediately after catching it, it would likely have topped 5 pounds. CHESAPEAKE BAY
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- As predicted, the first blues to be caught in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge area were hit this past weekend. Trollers using size 19 Tony Acetta spoons nailed choppers weighing up to 17 pounds along Hacketts Bar. Additional catches were made on the Eastern Shore side of the twin spans along the Kent Island drop-off using the same lures and technique, according to the folks at the Angler's Sport Center in Annapolis. As the water gets warmer, some of these fish should migrate into the shallows and be accessible to small boaters casting surface plugs.
PATUXENT RIVER -- Surfcasters at Cedar Point have begun scoring well on chopper blues weighing up to 16 pounds, reports Ken Lamb at The Tackle Box in Lexington Park. Although the fish are not being taken in big numbers, they more than make up for scarcity with their size. Anglers fishing from the Naval Air Station pier are still banging blues using cut bait, but the water temperature here is still holding at 55 degrees, which makes the fish somewhat lethargic.
SOLOMONS ISLAND -- Although most of the charter boats are chumming for the blues, you can now hook a few by trolling with large spoons and bucktails. The sea trout are arriving in fair numbers, and the ones now being taken weigh 10 or more pounds.
POINT LOOKOUT -- Captain Eddie Davis on the Edith Rose and Captain Phil Langley on the Tracy Ann report fishing improved dramatically with the better weather on Sunday, which was attested to by catches of 16-pound and bigger blues while chumming near the mouth of the Potomac River. Captain Doug Scheible on the Bay King II reports sea trout are showing up in the chum lines. Robert Schell of Lexington Park caught an 8-pound, 12-ounce trout from the headboat Lisa-S while it was chumming for blues.
CAPE CHARLES -- The blues have begun breaking every day, and the first of the black drum have been taken on hook and line, says Don Stiles at Kings Creek Marina. Stiles checked in a 70-pound drum this past week caught by Joe Harvey West III of Grafton, West Virginia. West bagged the monster while bottom fishing with a sea clam. Scattered catches of red drum are also being made at Smith Island Inlet where anglers are casting large spoons in the surf. Tau-tog fishing is still holding up well, according to Captain Otis Asal on the Bucaneer. Otis reports he filled several coolers with 3- to 8-pounders while fishing less than a mile from Cape Charles Harbor. Sharks are still plentiful at the tip of the Delmarva Penninsula; they will take fresh crab fished on the bottom. ATLANTIC OCEAN
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Although the winds played havoc with small boaters this past weekend, several fishermen fared well in the protected coves while flounder fishing. Lots of 2- to 4-pounders were taken along the edges of the deep cuts with live minnows and squid strips for bait. Bob Fate at Wachapreague Marina reports most boats are now averaging about 30 flounder per trip, and some smaller blues have now arrived at the inlet. The first of the gray trout have appeared in some of the deeper holes and will take small jigs trimmed with squid strips.
VIRGINIA BEACH -- The charter fleet at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center has been running to the offshore wrecks and catching lots of fair-sized sea bass and tau-tog. However, closer to shore, small boat anglers are hooking up with loads of snapper blues in the 2-pound range while trolling Cisco's and spoons in about 35 feet of water. The snappers usually remain in the area throughout the summmer.
OCEAN CITY -- Headboat fishing has improved since the sea bass and tog moved onto the wrecks, says Captain Coleman Bunting at Ocean City. Bottom fishermen have been hooking up these tasty fish using squid strips for bait. The tog, however, will not stay on the wrecks for much longer; they will be replaced by other bottom dwellers such as ling and porgies.