When's the last time you caught a lion? Federal fisheries managers say they're now actively looking for lionfish, a venomous species that has taken up residence in Atlantic coastal waters during the past few years.
"In March, the first known capture of a lionfish by hook and line occurred off the coast of North Carolina. The fish was 17 inches long and weighed 2.5 lbs. It's the largest specimen to date in the Atlantic," according to a NOAA Fisheries report.
It describes lionfish as natives of the Indian and western Pacific oceans with "distinctive red, maroon and white stripes; fleshy tentacles above the eyes and below the mouth; fanlike pectoral fins; and long separated dorsal spines. All of the spines on a lionfish are venomous, creating a danger to primarily divers and fishers if stung.
"They are voracious predators that feed not only on small shrimps but also on large fishes, perhaps including the young of important commercial fish species such as snapper and grouper." NOAA believes it is likely the fish were introduced into the Atlantic via the aquarium trade.
Those with information on lionfish sightings or collections are asked to contact Paula Whitfield at the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory at 252-728-8714, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Local fishing guide Ken Penrod of Life Outdoors Unlimited said it was a great week for largemouth bass, and added, "The river is in great shape, with temps near 80 degrees." In the D.C. area, Lenny Romano caught a six-pound largemouth from the Washington Channel, and a huge channel catfish estimated at 40 pounds. Firetiger crankbaits, Luhr Jensen's Hot Lips and Brush Baby fished along the drop-off at Fort McNair were extremely effective. Pentagon Lagoon was the hot spot for anglers casting tube lures, but nearby bridge foundations were disappointing. In the Woodrow Wilson Bridge area, largemouth bass action ranged from good to red hot for anglers casting Magic Sticks and Mizmo tubes in the Spoils, Smoot Bay and Oxen Run. George Giammottoro had a solid five-pound bass, while Charlie Yingling and Mark Breeding's best five weighed 19 pounds combined. Other locations providing good tidewater largemouth action included the grass beds of Piscataway Creek and between Hog Island and Mount Vernon on the Virginia shore.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- Larger fish seem to be somewhat scarce, and because the cicadas are hatching like crazy and falling into the river, the bass may be foraging on them instead of angler offerings. Some monster carp have been seen chomping on cicadas as well, which could provide fantastic fly rod action for anyone wishing to tackle a 25-pound carp using this type of gear.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river level at Harrisburg was 5.5 feet last Friday, ideal for smallmouth bass fishing. Any substantial rainfall can cause significant rises, so it would be a good idea to call 888-881-7555 to check river conditions. Mid-river island-eddies and the mouth of Sherman Creek were among the best locations for anglers casting tube lures in darker patterns. The Juniata and West Branch areas also provided anglers with bronzebacks to three pounds, while smaller fish were found between Harrisburg and Montgomery Ferry.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Both impoundments are surrounded by swarms of emerging cicadas. Those that fall into the reservoirs quickly become food for every piscatorial resident. Most lures resembling a cicada are slammed as fast as they hit the water when cast beneath overhanging branches. Black Tiny Torpedoes measuring just over an inch have been extremely effective, but fly rod anglers using slender, black, popping bugs have the edge under these conditions.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- Similar conditions exist at Loch Raven Reservoir, where the constant droning of cicadas is beyond belief. The impoundment's emerging grass beds provided anglers with a good mix of largemouth bass and chain pickerel when cicada-size plugs were tossed in the shallows. Trollers are finding increasing numbers of white perch, crappie and big bluegill migrating to the lake's deeper waters near the mouths of major coves. Inline spinners trimmed with a morsel of night crawler proved highly effective when fished early and late in the day.
LIBERTY RESERVOIR -- White perch and crappie arrived beneath Nicodemus Bridge in large numbers and sizes. Anglers dunking live minnows from the bridge's decks are catching both species. Downlake, largemouth bass are still spawning, which makes them easy targets for boating anglers working the shallows of mid-lake coves with plastic worms and lizards. A few big stripers are still lingering in the impoundment's upper reaches, but the vast majority seem to have migrated downlake to the deeper waters just above Route 26 bridge.
DEEP CREEK LAKE -- Big bluegill, crappie, yellow perch and chain pickerel are being caught in most of the deeper coves by anglers using live minnows and night crawlers for bait. Smallmouth and largemouth bass alike are spawning, which makes them difficult to catch for the next few weeks.
LAKE ANNA -- Bass fishing has been red hot in the lake's lower and middle reaches, mainly in shallow coves where largemouths to six pounds smacked a variety of topwater and shallow-running lures fished early and late in the day. Midday anglers found big bass lurking along steep drop-offs inside Sturgeon Creek, where tube lures rigged to half-ounce leadheads proved effective when fished slowly, close to the bottom in depths of 12 to 15 feet. Crappie remain plentiful beneath piers and bridges, where live minnows suspended 10 to 15 feet beneath small floats lure slabsides measuring up to a foot long.
KERR RESERVOIR -- Water temperatures are in the low 80s in the shallows of sheltered coves, too hot for much of anything. However, stripers are cruising the cooler channel edges between Clarksville and Grassy Creek during midday, providing trollers using white bucktails and Sassy Shad the opportunity they've been waiting for. While stripers will feed on the flats in the morning and evening, they're extremely active throughout the day foraging the channel edges. Bass are moving from most creeks, where water temperatures are uncomfortable, to deep channel edges, where temperatures can be 10 degrees cooler. Deep-diving crankbaits and soft plastics rigged to half-ounce leadheads were effective for weekend bass anglers fishing these locations.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Smallmouth bass action got underway during the past week, with several fish to three pounds caught just downriver of Bentonville Bridge. Anglers float-fishing the area and casting artificial flies reported catching a mix of sunfish, bluegill, channel catfish, smallmouth bass and a few small largemouths while tossing wet flies and weighted nymphs along the rock-strewn shores.
UPPER BAY -- The Chesapeake's upper reaches are still extremely muddy from recent rains, both in Maryland and Pennsylvania. While water conditions are slowly improving, fishing action in the lower Susquehanna River has nearly ceased. A handful of anglers reported modest catches of small white perch, channel catfish and an occasional largemouth bass. The only effective method of fishing here was using various forms of live and fresh bait. Lures were out of the question. Susquehanna Flats anglers found fair numbers of small white perch and a few throwback stripers lurking in the North East River's shallows between Red and Rocky points, where bottom-fished bloodworms were effective when fished during high and the first few hours of ebb tides. Cut herring baits and night crawlers lured channel catfish to nine pounds from the lower North East, Elk, Sassafras and Bohemia rivers. Chummers found a few keeper stripers cruising the Chester River's mouth near Love Point, and across the bay near Belvedere Shoals. Most of the rockfish barely measured 18 inches, and none exceeded 20 inches. Inside the Chester River between the entrance to Kent Narrows and Route 213 bridge, bottom-fished bloodworms lured white perch to 10 inches.
BAY BRIDGES AREA -- Scattered catches of croaker were reported from Mattapeake Pier, the mouth of Whitehall Bay, Hacketts Bar and inside the Severn River near the Route 2 bridge. Bottom-fished bait shrimp, bloodworms and squid strips produced croaker to 16 inches at these locations when fished late in the day and early in the evening. Trollers managed to sink their hooks into a few stripers to 20 inches using tandem-rigged bucktails, but the best action was reported by chummers fishing near The Diamonds, where stripers to 24 inches slammed cut menhaden and razor clam baits fished in the chum slicks. Inside Eastern Bay and up to Parson's Island, anglers found scattered pods of croaker and white perch, both of which inhaled bottom-fished bloodworms.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- The river's lower reaches between Cook and Todd points provided modest catches of croaker to 18 inches, plus a few keeper stripers to 22 inches. Most of the stripers were found lurking in the river's shallows along the southern shoreline. Upriver, anglers at the Route 50 bridge fishing piers caught a mix of small white perch, channel catfish, throwback stripers and a few big croaker while dunking bloodworms at night.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Good news for headboat anglers fishing at night, as big croaker, some measuring to 19 inches, have been caught in large numbers. The croaker were frequently mixed with good numbers of spot and mid-size white perch, all of which smacked bottom-fished bloodworms. Trollers continue to catch limits of stripers, but most are now found in deep water and are just 18 to 22 inches.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Croaker, croaker and more croaker -- that's the mainstay of the area's fishing action at this point. Most were caught just inside the river's mouth and upriver to the Route 4 Bridge Fishing Pier, but the largest fish seem to be holding just outside the river's mouth in depths of 25 to 30 feet.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- Croaker are plentiful inside the river near Bentley Point and downriver near Richland Point Buoy, where bottom-fished bloodworms, bait shrimp and squid strips produced croaker to 20 inches during the past few days. Chummers fishing a bit to the south near Buoy 72A caught limits of striped bass to 24 inches, but still no weakfish at this point.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Bottom-fishing action has been red hot for croaker, spot, a smattering of small weakfish, and during the past week, black drum to 66 pounds. Nearly all were found along the sound's eastern channel edge, where bottom-fished chunks of peeler crab and bloodworms were the best bet.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Most of the local charter boats are chumming for stripers along the bay's eastern channel edge, mainly in the stretch between the U.S. Navy target ship American Mariner and Buoy 72. The vast majority claim they caught their limit of stripers to 24 inches in just a few hours, then switched to bottom fishing with squid strips and bloodworms, which produced good numbers of big croaker to 20 inches, spot to 10 inches and a few small weakfish. Croaker action continues to range from good to excellent for anglers fishing near the mouth of the Wicomico River. Most anglers also caught a mix of spot, white perch and a few keeper-size stripers while drifting bloodworms and squid strips. Pier anglers at Point Lookout State Park caught a mix of croaker, spot, rockfish and a few throwback flounder while fishing at night from both the pier and causeway with squid strips, cut bunker and bloodworms.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER AREA -- The river's lower reaches downriver of White Stone Bridge have been good for big croaker, pan trout and an occasional keeper-size flounder to 20 inches. Nearly all were taken on bottom-fished bait shrimp and squid strips drifted along the river's channel edge.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- Flounder catches at Buoy 42 continue to improve daily, with some flatties reaching 22 inches during the past week. Schools of spadefish recently arrived at the Cell, and the CBBT's manmade islands. These fish primarily feed on small jellyfish, but they will hit a morsel of clam suspended beneath a small float and drifted back to them. A monster black drum weighing more than 90 pounds was boated by an angler fishing the Cabbage Patch with a whole sea clam, and several in the 45- to 60-pound range were taken from the north end of Lattimer Shoals. Croaker are just about everywhere you drop a piece of worm, and tautog to eight pounds can be found lurking among the CBBT's submerged boulders at the Fourth Island, and up the bay at Kiptopeke's concrete Liberty Ships.
OCEAN CITY -- The season's first yellowfin tuna were caught at the north end of Washington Canyon last Saturday, somewhere between the 50- and 100-fathom curve. Additionally, there were a couple of big mako sharks, several blue sharks and at least one large thresher shark taken at the same location. Closer to the beach, slammer bluefish to 16 pounds were found foraging on the ocean's surface at the Jack Spot, Bass Grounds and First Lump, locations where Hoochy Trolls and large, silver spoons produced limit catches on calm days. Headboat anglers loaded up on sea bass to six pounds, tautog to eight pounds and an occasional cod. Shorebound anglers found stripers to 35 inches lurking beneath the Route 50 bridge, where bucktails trimmed with six-inch white twisters proved effective.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Flounder action seems to have stalled, but anglers fishing the inshore wrecks are loading their coolers with tasty sea bass to five pounds using squid strips and clam for bait. A few big tog were also taken from the wrecks, the largest tipping the scales at 15 pounds. Offshore, the south tip of Norfolk Canyon provided good blue shark action and an occasional yellowfin tuna.
OUTER BANKS -- Sea mullet and snapper bluefish dominated the catches for surf anglers at Duck, while a bit to the south at Nags Head speckled trout to three pounds were hauled in from the suds. Snapper bluefish, Spanish mackerel and grunts were mixed with yearling black drum at the ends of the piers, most taken on cut bunker and squid strips. Hatteras anglers fishing Cape Point caught a mix of mackerel, sea mullet, snapper bluefish and several pompano topping the two-pound mark. Offshore, the Oregon Inlet fleet returned to the docks with hauls of yellowfin tuna to 80 pounds, dolphin to 30 pounds and one mako shark. Several billfish were reportedly caught and released, including a blue marlin that was estimated at just over 500 pounds.