Water temperatures are much higher than normal throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Chesapeake and Delaware bays recorded surface temperatures topping 80 degrees during the past week, while the Atlantic's offshore waters measured 78 to 81 degrees. These temperatures have a detrimental effect on recreational fishing because the fish tend to become lethargic, which results in decreases in feeding activity. In many instances, active feeding may only take place at night, when surface temperatures drop a few degrees. This has been the case with Atlantic croaker in the Chesapeake Bay, and it could be the same with bluefin and yellowfin tuna in the offshore waters. Cooler weather could trigger a feeding binge for several species, reinvigorating what was a slow week of fishing.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Grass beds between Piscataway Creek and Chickamuxen Creek have been good when fished early and late in the day, however, you have to cover a lot of water to find the productive zones. One local guide said: "We caught about 20 bass in Piscataway one day and 11 the next in about three hours' fishing time each day. Some of the bass were near four pounds." All were taken on stickbaits and buzzbaits fished near the edges of grass beds and piers. Pomonkey Creek has been productive, and creeks in Hallowing Cove, the mouth of Mattawoman and Chickamuxen, and grass near Chopawamsic have been good stops for chunky, tidewater largemouths. Anglers reported seeing increased algae covering the river's surface from Piscataway Creek downriver, particularly the type that attaches to floating clumps of grass. Channel catfish dominated the action above Woodrow Wilson Bridge and from the river's shores at Fletcher's Landing and Washington Channel. Bottom-fished night crawlers, chicken livers and cut herring baits lured catties to six pounds, while the average fish was just two to three pounds.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- Bass fishing has been difficult the past several weeks because of warm water. At Whites Ferry, a few smallmouth bass were caught in the middle of the river below the north tip of Harrison Island. The river's Virginia shore and the middle of the river above the ferry also provided modest catches.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- Montgomery Ferry, Three Mile Island and Conowingo Lake's upper reaches have all provided fair catches of smallmouth bass ranging from 10 to 15 inches. Channel catfish remain plentiful at all three locations, some of which tipped the scales at 10 or more pounds. Bottom-fished chicken livers, live minnows and night crawlers produced the best results.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Water temperatures reached the mid-80s, sending the bass to deeper water, where they'll sulk until temperatures fall a few degrees. Still lots of white perch being caught at both Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission reservoirs, and small catfish seem to be everywhere you drop a night crawler.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- Windy, hot weather drove most of the largemouth and smallmouth bass to deeper water, but a few tipping the scales at more than six pounds were weighed in at Loch Raven Fishing Center, then released. Trollers caught lots of white perch, most eight to 12 inches in length. Small, inline spinners trimmed with a morsel of night crawler and fished over deep water produced the best action.
LAKE ANNA -- Most of the lake's largemouth bass have migrated to cooler, deeper water and to uplake sites where cooler water flows into the impoundment from Pomonkey Creek and Anna River. Use big, dark colors of plastic worms and tube lures, three-quarter-ounce spoons and black jigs for the bass, and work them tight against the bottom as slow as possible. Deep-diving crankbaits are working, but the lure must almost hit the fish on the nose to entice a strike. You can always catch fish in shallow water in the early morning and late evening, but these fish are usually only a pound or two at best. Keith Lupo and Dave Butler of Spotsylvania, Va., had a 12-pound stringer of bass this past week. Matt Cornwell of Orange, Va., caught a 6-pound 9-ounce lunker. Striped bass are scattered in the main lake from Dike I to Stubbs and Holiday Bridges, with the best concentration of fish along the channel edge from the Route 208 bridge to The Splits. Lots of fish holding 20 to 30 feet beneath the surface, where trollers using XPS, Cordell Redfins and DD-22s had outstanding catches during the past week. Nathan Wood of Spotsylvania caught a 13-pounder, and John and J.C. Moran, also of Spotsylvania, caught an eight-fish limit. There are still lots of crappie beneath the bridges, deepwater brush piles and lurking in the shadows of floating docks, slabsides that measure 8 to 12 inches and will readily smack a tiny tube lure or live minnow.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- High water and lower water temperatures produced lots of tiny smallmouth bass, plus a four-pounder that smacked a six-inch plastic lizard.
UPPER BAY -- Channel catfish seem to be the only game in town when it comes to fishing the Susquehanna River's lower reaches. Water temperatures below Conowingo Dam were well into the mid-80s during the past week, so the river's stripers weren't biting. Most of the catfish have been congregating near the mouths of creeks and in the tailrace waters of Conowingo Dam, locations where bottom-fished night crawlers, cut herring baits and chicken livers lured catfish to six pounds. Tidewater largemouth bass to five pounds smacked small topwater plugs fished near the edge of grass beds on the Susquehanna Flats, near the mouth of Furnace Bay and in the upper reaches of the North East River. While the action was limited to the first few hours of daylight, catches were good for those willing to be on the water at daybreak. Channel catfish from two to five pounds smacked bottom-fished chicken livers and cut herring baits fished near Red Point, Rocky Point in the North East River, the mouth of the C&D Canal at the head of Elk River, lower Bohemia, Sassafras and Gunpowder rivers, and the bay's upper reaches above Pooles Island.
White perch to 10 inches and a few keeper rockfish were caught from the decks of Eastern Neck Island Bridge, the lower Chester River near Kent Narrows entrance buoy and across the bay near the mouth of Bodkin Creek, locations where bottom-fished bloodworm imitations proved effective. Channel catfish were found in the Chester's upper reaches beneath the Route 213 bridge, inside the mouth of Fairlee Creek and the lower reaches of the Bush, Gunpowder and Dundee rivers.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- Croaker fishing in the confines of Eastern Bay is limited to nighttime, when croaker to 17 inches smacked squid strips, bait shrimp and strips of razor clam along the bay's channel edges between Parson's Island and Bloody Point. White perch to 10 inches were caught from the mouths of Eastern Bay creeks and rivers, with the best catches early and late in the day on imitation bloodworms and chunks of peeler crab. There are lots of small to mid-size spot at the same locations, and recreational crabbing seems to have picked up in this area as well. Bottom-fished bloodworm imitations, chunks of peeler crab and clam snouts lured white perch to 12 inches from beneath the Bay Bridges, with most of these fish congregating in depths of 10 to 25 feet near the bridges' old pilings and manmade islands. Chummers caught limits of stripers just above the bridges from along the bay's western channel edge, fish measuring up to 32 inches that hit cut menhaden and live spot fished in the chum slicks. The action was limited to the last two hours of ebb tide.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- The river's lower reaches remain hot for big croaker at night, with fish up to 18 inches that readily smacked squid strips, chunks of peeler crab and jigging spoons worked tight against the bottom. During the day, white perch and spot were found beneath the Route 50 bridge, where bloodworms and bloodworm imitations were effective. Schools of snapper bluefish ripped through pods of bay anchovy and tiny menhaden just outside the river near Sharps Island Light and the Stone Rock.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Spot and white perch dominated the action for headboat anglers bottom fishing with bloodworms near Holland Point and the Choptank River's mouth during the day, while at night it was big croaker and jumbo spot filling the coolers. Area charter boats returned to the docks with a mix of bluefish to four pounds and similar-size stripers. Most were taken while chumming with ground menhaden.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- White perch to 10 inches are slamming Beetle Spins trimmed with Fish Bites imitation bloodworm baits in the mouths of creeks from Benedict downriver to the Route 4 bridge. Similar-size spot smacked the imitation worm baits in the same area but mainly in deeper waters along the river's channel edge. At the river mouth near Cedar Point, Chinese Muds and Cedar Point Hollow, nighttime anglers found good numbers of mid-size croaker from 12 to 14 inches that smacked bottom-fished squid strips and bait shrimp. Flounder fishing has been slower than usual for this time of year but could improve when water temperatures fall.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- The river's shallows near Lower Hooper Island continue to provide light tackle and fly fishing buffs good catches of small stripers from 12 to 20 inches while casting bucktails and streamer flies to depths of two to four feet near bridge and pier pilings. The river's deeper channel edges near Bentley Point hold fair numbers of spot, while outside the river near Hooper Island Light, nighttime anglers loaded up on croaker to 20 inches. The croaker bite usually doesn't begin until about 9 p.m. and then continues until the tide slacks.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Spot to 10 inches, croaker to 14 inches and a few small striped bass dominated the action at the Puppy Hole Buoy, Great Rock, Fox Island Buoy, Island Rock, Old #9 and Kedges Straits during the past week. Though there were a few weakfish caught, most were too small to keep.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Nighttime anglers fishing from the shores of Point Lookout State Park's causeway and the decks of the park's public fishing pier caught a mix of spot, croaker and snapper bluefish. Local charter boats ventured out to the Southwest Middle Grounds and Smith Point Light, where they encountered schools of chopper bluefish to four pounds and an occasional keeper-size striper ripping through pods of small menhaden.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- Still lots of croaker from 10 to 15 inches lurking along both sides of the bay's main shipping channel, and they're frequently mixed with sea mullet, spot and snapper bluefish. Most were taken on bottom-fished squid strips drifted in depths of 25 to 45 feet near sharp drop-offs. A few big sharks were caught and released in the same locations, mainly dusky shark that grabbed croaker that were being landed on heavy boat rods. Several cobia and channel bass (red drum) were caught during the past week at the Inner Middle Grounds and Lattimer Shoal. The largest cobia tipped the scales at 68 pounds, while the biggest drum measured 48 inches. Spadefish remain plentiful at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and The Cell, with fish to nearly 12 pounds registered for citations last weekend. A few flounder to nine pounds were also caught at the same locations.
CAPE HENLOPEN/INDIAN RIVER -- Indian River Inlet continues to provide good catches of big striped bass for anglers tossing live eels into the inlet's fast-moving waters, while offshore at DA Buoy, flounder and sea bass filled anglers' coolers. A few croaker were caught from the Cape Henlopen Pier, but the best action seems to be just a short distance out in Delaware Bay near the Outer Wall where a mix of croaker and tautog was found.
OCEAN CITY -- The week began with good catches of both bluefin and yellowfin tuna from along the 40-fathom line, but the action eventually slowed. Most of the tuna were taken while trolling green spreader bars, but some captains are talking about switching over to chunking this week in hopes of attracting more fish. Bigger bluefins were found at the Parking Lot and Lumpy Bottom, some tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. Shorebound anglers loaded up on 12- to 14-inch croaker, snapper bluefish and an occasional flounder while fishing Assateague Island and Ocean City's surf with bloodworm imitations. Live eels and bucktails fished along Ocean City Inlet's south jetty and from the decks of the Route 50 bridge produced fair numbers of keeper striped bass to 30 inches.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Croaker seem to be everywhere you drop a piece of bait at both inlets and in the surf, but if you're looking to catch keeper-size flounder you'll have to venture outside the inlets to find them. The Lumpy Bottom, Parking Lot and 26-Mile Hill were the chunking hotspots for bluefin tuna to 100 pounds, but keep in mind that on Monday, the recreational and charter limit falls back to one fish per boat for this species.
OUTER BANKS -- Snapper bluefish, croaker, spot, sea mullet and flounder catches were fair along the beaches at Nags Head. Billfish action is red hot for boats running offshore, and during the past week several boats reported up to a half-dozen billfish tagged and released during a single outing. Good catches of yellowfin tuna to 60 pounds and similar-size wahoo were also reported.