WITHIN the next few weeks, most of the migratory species will have left the Chesapeake for warmer waters, forcing us to be content with winter fishing. Or basket weaving.
Winter fishing's darned good in this region. Washington area anglers can find largemouth bass, white and yellow perch, crappie, catfish, carp, chain pickerel and stripers within a short drive.
The Potomac is often one of the best winter bass fishing spots in the mid-Atlantic region. Nearby Virginia lakes boast outstanding striper fishing when snow covers the Beltway. Yet most fishing guides say only a few diehards go out. WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
POTOMAC RIVER --
Guide Mark Kovach reports good to excellent catches of smallmouths at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac. Kovach fished several deeper holes and hooked bronzebacks up to 4 pounds while working a variety of dark-colored lures at 12 to 15 feet.
Guide Glenn Peacock says he's hooking large bass while casting a pig-and-jig combination just above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in The Spoils, inside the Washington Channel and just out from the Blue Plains Treatment Plant. The fish are getting lethargic because of cooler water, but they're still active enough to take lures fished slowly close to the bottom.
Guide Charlie Taylor says he's found largemouths near Pohick Bay and near the mouth of Broad and Piscataway creeks. Chrome Speed Shad and Bagley KB-2 crankbaits have pulled them in when fished parallel to the milfoil and eel grass beds. The bass are not holding in the hydrilla but in depths of six to eight feet, where the grass is next to deep pockets.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE --
Leroy Wertz of Baltimore nailed a 5-pound largemouth with a live minnow at Rocky Gorge. One of the better areas has been just above the U.S. 29 bridge. Several northern pike and hybrid stripers are also schooled there. Crappie fishing has been good in both WSSC reservoirs. Live minnows have been the most productive bait but Bagley DB-3 and Killer B-2 have produced big bass.
DEEP CREEK LAKE --
Three anglers who went after crappies here had their live minnows taken by a number of 2- to 3-pound walleyes, a few good-sized chain pickerel, several smallmouths and loads of medium-sized yellow perch. This kind of fishing can be expected until iceover.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR --
Crappies up to 15 inches are under the middle bridges, taking live minnows and small shad darts worked next to the pilings at eight to 10 feet. Mark Hoos at The Fishin' Shop in Overlea reports several good-sized northern pike were caught in some deeper coves. A 10-pound, 4-ounce northern was caught on a large shiner by Allen Manz of Baltimore. Lots of largemouths are also coming in from these areas. Live minnows undo 'em.
CONOWINGO LAKE --
"Bass fishing is better than it's been in 15 years," said Butch Young at Glen Cove Marina. Several 3- to 5-pound largemouth and smallmouth bass were checked in last week from the Harford County shoreline. Pig-and-jig combinations or deep-diving crankbaits have produced best. Crappie fishermen are hooking slabsides up to 2 pounds on small jigs trimmed with live minnows. The fish are holding tight in the brush piles, which means you'll lose lots of lures, but it's worth it. VIRGINIA
LAKE OCCOQUAN --
Big bass are being boated, and a few large catfish. One angler who was crappie fishing with live minnows caught plenty of small- to medium-sized ones, plus three big largemouths and a catfish of nearly 10 pounds.
LAKE ANNA --
Striper fishing has been good throughout the lake and several 8- to 10-pounders have fallen prey to a variety of lures and live bait. Guide Gene Hord has been working small white bucktails and reports catching five stripers with a combined weight of 31 pounds. Guide Bill Mathias says stripers are surfacing early in the morning and late in the afternoon when they're vulnerable to cast surface plugs. Pete Sprague at Lake Anna Sporting Goods in Mineral says trollers are hooking good catches of stripers using Bagley DB-3 deep diving crankbaits. Catfish up to 8 pounds are nailing live minnows in depths of 10 to 20 feet near the channel edges.
JAMES RIVER --
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER --
Good catches of smallmouths near Fredericksburg on live minnows and crayfish; the catfish prefer cut bait and nightcrawlers.
KERR RESERVOIR --
Stripers, stripers, stripers. Guide Henry Wilson says they're running somewhat shallower than normal, 12 to 16 feet. Large live shad have produced stripers measuring up to 40 inches.
SUSQUEHANNA FLATS --
Herb Benjamin at Herb's Tackle Shop in North East reports several good-sized largemouths have been taken in upper North East River, on large spinners trimmed with a twister tail.
UPPER BAY --
Concentrations of yellow and white perch at Tolchester Shoals, the mouth of the Gunpowder, Dundee and Seneca rivers and the tidal ponds at Belgrove Road in Baltimore, taking live minnows and grass shrimp. Key Bridge anglers are still waiting for the late run of white perch.
BAY BRIDGE AREA --
Concentrations of white perch at Snake Reef, just east of Gibson Island. Charlie Ebersberger at the Angler's Sport Center on U.S. 50 says they range up to a foot and are taking grass shrimp fished on the bottom. Upper Severn anglers are hooking both white and yellow perch on live minnows near the pier pilings.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH --
Calvin Tyler has been fishing with Captain Mike Sullivan on Dolly Deisel, scoring large sea trout. Mary Tyler says Calvin won't mind the store since the trout run started. Small yellow bucktails trimmed with pork rind are deadly.
The sea trout are beginning to migrate out of the Bay, but there should be enough this weekend to keep most anglers happy. Outstanding catches last weekend at the Airplane Wreck just above Buoy 54, where slow trolling was like fishing in a barrel. They are at 45 to 115 feet, which means a lot of sinkers and hard retrieves.
POINT LOOKOUT --
SMITH POINT --
Bill Bond at Jet Hardware in Reedville says there are blues and sea trout near Buoy 48 but the flounder have flown. Trout are taking bucktails jigged at about 45 feet near the main channel.
CAPE CHARLES --
Captain Don Stiles at Kings Creek Marina fished the Coral Beds just west of Cape Charles Harbor and loaded a mixed bag of sea bass, flounder and tautog. The tog went 2 to 8 pounds and took chunks of crab on the bottom. The action should remain steady until January.
VIRGINIA BEACH --
Captain Pete Bregant of Fish Virginia says loads of big chopper blues are swarming just south of the Virginia Beach Tower. Bregant says they're 15 to 19 pounds and hit any lure. Tog and flounder catches have been excellent near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel when the weather's weatherable.
LYNNHAVEN INLET --
Flounder are still hot. Nancy Cobb at Cobb's Marina says several 3- to 6-pounders were caught on drifted live minnows and squid strips.
Outstanding catches of sea trout 2 to 4 miles out from the inlet. The weakfish range from 2 to 5 pounds and are taking squid strips drifted along the bottom. Wreck fishing for tog has been slow but the tog being caught are huge, 10 to 12 pounds.
INDIAN RIVER INLET --
Anglers casting large bucktails trimmed with twisters have taken several huge bluefish inside the inlet. The choppers run 12 to 15 pounds and are holding tightly against the bottom. The secret here is to work lures slowly with a slight jigging action. Surf fishermen are catching a few trout at Delaware State Park.
CAPE HATTERAS --
Blues blitzed the beach again last week, but the action only lasted a few hours. During it though, every rod on the beach was bent double with a struggling 12- to 14-pounder. Red drum are still being caught by night fishermen at Cape Point on whole spot and cut mullet on outgoing tides. Offshore, tuna catches are tremendous when the weather lets the fleet out. It seems the tuna are migrating through in huge numbers and should be here at least two more weeks.