Winter is rapidly approaching, and this is the season's final fishing report. Fish Lines will return in mid-March, when most trout streams are stocked with chunky rainbows, the Chesapeake's tributaries will be loaded with perch and striped bass should be congregated in the estuary's upper reaches.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's tidal reaches have cleared some, but falling water temperatures and high winds limited the locations accessible to small-boat anglers hoping to battle tidewater largemouths. The river's lee shores provided some shelter from the brisk, northwest winds; anglers casting tube lures and shallow-running crankbaits caught bass to two pounds from depths of just three to five feet. Scattered catches of stripers were made in Washington Channel, mainly along the drop-off adjacent to Fort McNair wall. Across the river near Leesylvania State Park, the submerged rip-rap boulders held a few largemouths that tipped the scales at three to four pounds; the fish slammed tube lures cast tight against the boulders early and late in the day. Channel, flathead and blue catfish remain plentiful throughout the river, with catties to 15 pounds caught near Blue Plains, Washington Channel and Fletcher's Landing. Most were taken on cut bait and bottom-fished night crawlers.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's upper reaches are clear, cold and loaded with leaves, which makes smallmouth bass fishing nearly impossible. Scattered catches of bronzebacks were reported at Whites and Edwards ferries, with most of the fish taken on tiny crankbaits and live minnows.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river is probably in the best shape it has seen all season -- relatively clear, normal levels and fairly cold. Scattered catches of smallmouth bass were made near the Juniata River's mouth, where tube lures fished among the submerged boulders were productive. Conowingo Lake anglers found good numbers of bronzebacks among the boulders of Big Bear and Little Bear islands, and also just inside the mouth of Muddy Creek. Live minnows and crawfish were the ticket to success. Crappie are beginning to show up near the mouth of Broad Creek, and just below Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant's heated water discharge. Small shad darts trimmed with live shiners lured slabsides to 14 inches at both places.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS (T. Howard Duckett) -- New Windsor, Md., resident Michael Puckett was casting a deep-diving crankbait in Triadelphia Reservoir when the lure was slammed by a huge fish. After a lengthy battle, he landed a 14-pound 1.5-ounce striped bass.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- More great bass and pickerel fishing, especially in the larger coves where shallow-running crankbaits lured bass to four pounds and pickerel to three pounds from submerged trees and stumps. A few crappie were taken from beneath Dulaney Valley Bridge by suspending live minnows 10 to 12 feet beneath small floats and close to the pilings. Most measured eight inches or larger.
LAKE ANNA -- Striped bass action is still in high gear throughout much of the impoundment's upper reaches. Most anglers who fished during the past week had no trouble catching limits of stripers to eight pounds while casting Rat-L-Traps and Sassy Shad in depths of four to eight feet. Largemouth bass are still lurking in the shallows, mainly near boat docks and downed trees, where tube lures and spinnerbaits were effective. Crappie are stacked over submerged brush piles and beneath bridges. Live minnows and tiny shad darts trimmed with a one-inch, chartreuse twister tail lured slabsides to 15 inches early and late in the day.
UPPER BAY -- The Susquehanna River is running clear, but it's too cold for good striped bass action. The rockfish were driven out of the river through much of the season by high, muddy water, most of which ended up on the Susquehanna Flats and inside the North East River. If the weather remains relatively dry, look for large stripers lurking in the Susquehanna River's deeper waters just above the Interstate 95 bridge along the Harford County shore. Live gizzard shad provided late-season anglers with good catches of monster channel catfish to 15 pounds, plus good numbers of stripers ranging 18 to 26 inches from the North East River's upper reaches. Most of the fish were found in depths of four to seven feet. White perch to 14 inches were also found in the river's confines, and most were taken on bottom-fished night crawlers and cut strips of gizzard shad. Channel catfish remain plentiful in the Elk, Sassafras, Bohemia, Bush, Gunpowder and Seneca rivers, and the middle reaches of the C&D Canal. Cut spot, night crawlers and chicken livers lured catties ranging from six to 12 pounds from all locations. Trollers fishing Chester River's lower reaches found keeper-size rockfish ranging from 18 to 32 inches lurking along the river's channel edges, where Rat-L-Traps, Tsunami Lures and bucktails proved effective. The river's upper reaches near Chestertown's Route 213 bridge provided good catches of channel catfish to six pounds.
BAY BRIDGES AREA -- High winds and towering waves kept most anglers off the bay's open waters during the past week, but those fishing from the decks of larger craft managed to sink their hooks into the maws of lots of small stripers while fishing the Bay Bridge's pilings and manmade islands. Chummers fishing near the mouth of Eastern Bay and the Diamonds caught huge numbers of striped bass as well, most of which were an inch or two too small to keep. The confines of Eastern Bay provided small-boat anglers with the opportunity to bottom-fish for white perch near Kent Narrows southern entrance, the mouth of Wye River and Crab Alley Bay. Bloodworms and bait shrimp lured perch to 10 inches from all three locations.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- Trollers dragging Rat-L-Traps and bucktails trimmed with Sassy Shad caught stripers to 32 inches while trolling the river's channel edges above Castle Haven. Downriver of Castle Haven, schools of small striped bass ripped through pods of migrating bay anchovy that had taken refuge in shallow water. Larger stripers were found just a short distance away in depths of 25 to 35 feet, where Stingsilvers and Crippled Herring jigging spoons lured rockfish to 26 inches. Bridge anglers caught small white perch and channel catfish from the Route 50 bridge fishing piers while dunking bloodworms and cut spot baits.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Most of the local charter boats are switching over to trolling for striped bass at locations to the south. The few captains that chummed last week at the Gooses reported huge catches of throwback stripers.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Plug casters caught good numbers of small striped bass while casting to breaking fish near the mouth of Oyster Creek and at Cedar Point Rip; however, the majority of these fish were too small to keep. Trollers fishing south of Hooper Island Light and near Point No Point Light caught a few sea run fish that recently entered the lower bay, but keeper fish were scarce.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- The river's confines continue to provide light tackle and fly fishing buffs with lots of topwater action. Schools of breaking rockfish ranging from 12-inch throwbacks to 22-inch keepers ripped through pods of migrating anchovy from Bentley Point downriver to the river's mouth.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- The lower reaches of both Tangier and Pocomoke sounds both provided a few keeper rockfish for trollers using bucktails trimmed with large Sassy Shad. Most ranged from 22 to 32 inches and were caught late in the day near Tangier Light.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Chummers caught rockfish ranging from 12-inch throwbacks to 22-inch keepers at the Southwest Middle Grounds, Northwest Middle Grounds and Northern Neck Reef. A few weakfish and tautog were also found at the same locations and taken on chunks of crab fished tight against the bottom beneath chum slicks.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- Anglers fishing the concrete Liberty Ships at Kiptopeke State Park caught good numbers of chunky tautog to five pounds on bottom-fished chunks of crab.
OCEAN CITY -- High winds and waves kept the charter fleet tied to the docks, and there were only two days when the larger headboats were able to venture out of the inlet. Shorebound anglers caught fair numbers of migrating striped bass from Assateague's surf and the decks of the Route 50 bridge. Scattered catches of tautog were made by anglers dunking sand fleas in the inlet and from among submerged bulkhead boulders of the back bays.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- A few flounder were still in the back bays, but most were too small to keep.
OUTER BANKS -- Surf and pier anglers fared fairly well on a mix of sea mullet, snapper bluefish, speckled trout and puppy drum. A few larger red drum were caught at Cape Point; they were measured and subsequently released.