On June 22, the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee released the 2005 Blue Crab Advisory Report. The committee analyzed data collected from 2004 through early this year to determine the status of blue crabs in the bay. The population remained low but was similar to numbers reported in 2002 and 2003. Though there were more juvenile crabs than in recent years, there were fewer crabs of exploitable size and fewer female crabs. The committee expects that the 2005 commercial crab harvest will be higher than the 2004 harvest. But scientists warned that the overall health of the blue crab population still warrants concern, and fisheries managers are advised to maintain blue crab fishery restrictions. To view the report, visit www.chesapeakebay.net.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Fair catches of tidewater largemouth bass were made using a variety of lures along the edges of grass beds from the District to Potomac Creek. Water temperatures are in the low 80s, and the river is relatively clear, especially in the grass beds. In Mattawoman Creek, full-moon tides created high water conditions but did not hamper largemouth bass action in the spatterdock beds above Slavin's Launch Ramp and near Marsh Island. Grass beds in Chickamuxen Creek and Arkindale Flats were especially productive; soft plastics, buzzbaits and crankbaits were effective for tidewater largemouths. Grass beds in the mouth of Aquia Creek, Wades Bay, Piscataway Creek and Bulltown Cove were productive. In the Woodrow Wilson bridge area, bass were found near bridge pilings and ledges adjacent to the Spoils. A few big bass took jigs in Fort Washington marina and the marinas in the Occoquan River. Channel catfish to 15 pounds seem to be everywhere you drop cut herring or chicken liver baits. Most were found near Fletcher's Landing; some of which were taken from shore, and the majority were caught from boats. Lots of channel catfish and huge carp in Washington Channel, Pentagon Lagoon and upriver of Fletcher's Landing.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- Water temperatures are in the mid-70s, and smallmouth bass fishing upriver of Lander was fair to good. Fly fishing enthusiasts saw great action early and late in the day using elk hair caddis and mayfly imitations. Small poppers fished in the deeper pools in early evening produced good catches of smallmouths, particularly near Whites Ferry along the Virginia shore. The Maryland side of Harrison Island continues to produce bass as long as 16 inches; most slammed tube lures rigged to tiny leadheads.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river at Harrisburg is 3.5 feet, and levels are fairly steady. The best smallmouth bass action is at the heads of deeper pools, where live shiners, tube lures, stickbaits and tiny, stream-size crankbaits proved effective early and late in the day. Conowingo Lake's upper reaches continue to provide good to excellent smallmouth bass action from among the submerged boulders of Big Bear and Little Bear islands, the mouth of Muddy Creek and the fast waters upriver of Muddy Run Pumping Station.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Scattered catches of crappie were made in both impoundments, and there were fair numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass caught and released by anglers casting shallow-running crankbaits and soft plastic lures.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- Anglers fishing from boats had no trouble catching white perch. Trolled, inline spinners trimmed with night crawler lured perch ranging eight to 12 inches and lots of small bluegills to eight inches. The most productive location was near the mouths of School House, Hampton, Pierce's and Dead Man's coves; most of the fish were schooled just beneath the surface, suspended over depths of 35 to 55 feet. A few crappie were caught from Dulaney Valley Bridge using live minnows, but the best crappie action was inside Pierce's Cove, where fish to 12 inches smacked tiny shad darts trimmed with live minnows and fished close to the bottom. Largemouth bass to 18 inches and similar-size chain pickerel slammed plastic worms, weedless rigged tube lures and tiny topwater plugs fished close to rocky shorelines. Most were taken just after sunrise from small, isolated pockets of open water in near-shore grass beds.
LAKE ANNA -- Striped bass seem to be in their summertime mode, just six feet beneath the surface much of the day. But anglers fishing near Stubbs Bridge, the mouth of Sturgeon Creek, The Splits and Terry's Run at dawn had no trouble catching limits of linesiders to six pounds while casting four-inch, pearl Sassy Shad rigged to half-ounce leadheads, small topwater plugs and shallow-running crankbaits. Most of the impoundment's largemouth bass action took place early and late in the day in shallow water, but when the sun was high, the fish moved to depths of 12 to 15 feet, where live minnows, Texas-rigged tube lures and plastic worms were effective. Water temperatures averaged in the low 80s midday, which drove crappie to deep-water haunts. Slabsides to 12 inches were found in the shadows of bridges and piers, where live minnows proved effective.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Fair to good catches of small smallmouth bass were made on stream-size Rebel Crawfish, dark-brown spinners and some shallow-running crankbaits. Most of these fish were in deeper pools downriver of Bentonville, where early morning anglers armed with ultralite spinning gear and fly rods got mixed results.
UPPER BAY -- Striped bass to eight pounds were hauled from the tailrace waters of Conowingo Dam during the past week, mainly by shorebound anglers casting live white perch and bluegills. Boating anglers trolled shallow-running crankbaits near the mouth of Octoraro Creek and the deep pool upriver of Robert Island. Near Lapidum Landing and the deeper waters above the Interstate 95 bridge, large shiners and cut herring baits lured channel catfish to 10 pounds late in the day. Scattered catches of small stripers were made from among the Susquehanna Flats grass beds, and they were mixed with tidewater largemouth bass to five pounds. Both slammed Bass Assassins rigged as floating, weedless lures and dragged over the tops of the beds. Channel catfish ranging from two to 12 pounds were found in the deeper waters of North East, Elk, Bohemia, Sassafras and lower Bush rivers; they smacked bottom-fished cut herring and chicken liver. Trollers and chummers caught rockfish ranging from throwbacks to 23 inches at Hickory Thickets, Love Point, the Dumping Grounds, Belvedere Shoal, Bodkin Point and the lumps southeast of Pooles Island. The secret was to be on site at daybreak, and if the tide was moving, you usually caught all the fish you could handle in two to three hours. By 9 a.m., most of the fish caught were much too small to keep. Snapper bluefish to 18 inches were also reportedly caught from the chum slicks, while at the mouth of Chester River a few croaker to 15 inches were taken on bottom-fished squid strips and the new bloodworm imitation Fish Bites. White perch were caught inside Chester River, mainly from the mouths of small creeks between the Route 213 bridge and the entrance to Kent Narrows.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- White perch have schooled with small stripers among the submerged boulders that make up the manmade island of the old Bay Bridge span. They will smack bottom-fished bloodworms and chunks of peeler crab during moving tide. Nighttime anglers fishing from the decks of Mattapeake State Park's public pier caught a few croaker, snapper bluefish and a couple keeper-size rockfish, nearly all of which were taken on Fish Bites and squid strips. Chummers scored mixed sizes of rockfish at Brickhouse Bar, The Hill and The Diamonds, where linesiders to 22 inches smacked cut menhaden baits in the slicks. Croaker fishing in Eastern Bay was good to excellent at night, but only a handful of anglers reported daytime catches.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- The river's lower and middle reaches provided good to excellent croaker action at night, with most fish measuring 16 to 18 inches. The majority of the catches were made between Cook Point and Castle Haven in depths of 15 to 20 feet, where bottom-fished squid strips and chunks of peeler crab were effective.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Headboat anglers fishing at night caught a good mix of croaker to 18 inches and spot to 12 inches while fishing the bay's eastern channel edge with bloodworms, squid strips and chunks of peeler crab. Anglers fishing from the decks of local charter boats traveled to The Gooses, where chumming with ground menhaden produced stripers ranging from throwbacks to 24 inches, plus lots of snapper bluefish ranging 12 to 20 inches. A few small weakfish were also caught from the chum slicks, but nothing big enough to keep.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Big spot were caught just inside Point Patience, and they were mixed with some huge croaker. The spot-croaker mix is at Drum Point, Green Holly, Fishing Point and at Hawk's Nest at the mouth of Cuckold's Creek. There were some reports of white perch at the same locations. Croaker were also caught at the Chinese Muds, the artificial reef near Cedar Point, the sailboat marker near Little Cove Point and off Second Beach. Nighttime anglers found large numbers of big croaker along the bay's eastern channel edge from 5 to 10. Trollers caught keeper-size rockfish while dragging spoons and tandem bucktails between the Gas Docks and nuclear plant. Plug casters fishing early in the morning caught keeper-size stripers while tossing surface lures and Sassy Shad near the rocks at the nuclear plant and in the plant's warm-water outfall.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- Stripers to 20 inches slammed bucktails trimmed with chartreuse twister tails and chunks of peeler crab in the river's shallows near Lower Hooper Island Bridge and some of the guts and sloughs inside the river's mouth and up to Bentley Point. The shallows of Bloodsworth and Holland islands also provided some great light tackle action for stripers and an occasional flounder to 20 inches. Mixed schools of breaking rockfish and bluefish have been sighted along the bay's channel edges just before sunset, but when the sun dips below the horizon, the action quickly switches of croaker fishing in depths of 25 to 35 feet.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Bottom-fishing action in Tangier Sound has been inconsistent. The sound's shallows hold fair numbers of big croaker, small striped bass and a few flounder, most of which were caught at night near the Nanticoke River's mouth at Roaring Point. Charter and headboat captains traveled several miles south of Crisfield to the southern end of the Cut Channel to find schools of big croaker. Most measured 15 to 17 inches. A few small weakfish, flounder and spot were mixed with the croaker, and all were taken on bottom-fished chunks of peeler crab, bloodworms and squid strips.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Big stripers to 34 inches migrated back to the lower Potomac River and took up residence a few miles west of Point Lookout along the river's channel edge. Charter boats running from nearby Smith Creek were elated to find the rockfish here, especially when they were mixed with schools of croaker ranging 14 to 17 inches. Chummers also found rockfish along the bay's eastern channel edge near Buoy 72, fish measuring from throwbacks to 20 inches that were mixed with similar-size bluefish. Croaker to 17 inches were found at the Southwest Middle Grounds, where bottom-fished squid strips and bait shrimp produced limit catches for nighttime anglers fishing in depths of 14 to 20 feet. During the day, the fish migrate to depths of 35 to 45 feet, and the size drops off considerably. Charter boats south of Smith Point Light found good numbers of croaker near the mouth of the Wicomico River and across the bay along the eastern channel edge, mainly in depths of 55 to 65 feet. Plenty of white perch in the lower Potomac River, mainly around the lighthouse at Ragged Point. Spot catches picked up in the mouth of the Wicomico, and croaker returned to the area after a short absence.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- An incredible weekend for anglers bottom fishing with squid strips late in the day and into the evening. Lots of mid-size croaker were caught from The Cell south to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, and they were frequently mixed with spot to about 10 inches. Ripping through the schools of spot and croaker were dusky shark to 100 pounds, a few channel bass to 45 pounds, and fair numbers of cobia to 55 pounds. The cobia were primarily concentrated at the Inner Middle Grounds and Lattimer Shoals, where live menhaden and live spot rigged to balloon floats and fished in chum slicks produced arm-jolting strikes. Flounder to six pounds were caught at The Cell and the CBBT's Fourth Island, mainly on large killfish rigged to the back end of bucktails and fished tight against the bottom. A few spadefish were caught from beneath buoys outside the bay's mouth, but that action has been unseasonably slow.
CAPE HENLOPEN/INDIAN RIVER -- Roosevelt Inlet was the weekend hotspot for big flounder. Nighttime anglers casting a variety of bucktails in Indian River Inlet caught striped bass to 25 pounds from the north jetty. There were fair numbers of snapper bluefish and a few big weakfish taken from the jetty.
OCEAN CITY -- The weekend hotspot for bluefin tuna has been the 20 Fathom Curve and the Sausage Lumps, which produced tuna to 35 pounds for trollers using cedar plugs an Green Machines. At the north tip of Washington Canyon and the Rock Pile, yellowfin tuna to 35 pounds slammed rigged ballyhoo and Green Machines trolled over the canyon's edge. Headboat anglers loaded up on sea bass to five pounds in more distant wrecks, while in-shore slammer bluefish to 12 pounds were taken from shoals and lumps a few miles southeast of Ocean City Inlet. Anglers from the jetty and decks of small boats caught a mix of striped bass to 30 inches and weakfish to eight pounds while casting Tsunami bucktails during ebb tide. Flounder catches in the back bays were good to excellent, but keeper-size fish are becoming scarce.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Offshore, small bluefin tuna arrived at the Parking Lot, Ammo Wreck and Lumpy Bottom, where trolling cedar plugs and rigged ballyhoo lured fish to 40 pounds. Washington Canyon's south tip and the northern end of Norfolk Canyon held good numbers of yellowfin tuna but still no sizable numbers of dolphin.
OUTER BANKS -- Most surf catches from Nags Head to Cape Point centered on a mix of sea mullet, snapper bluefish, small speckled trout and occasional flounder. Pier anglers fared better with catches of Spanish mackerel, a few big cobia, bigger sea mullet and larger bluefish. The Oregon and Hatteras inlet fleets loaded up on yellowfin tuna to 80 pounds and large numbers of gaffer dolphin. A few billfish were tagged and released. Several big wahoo were taken from the Gulf Stream's edge.