Dramatic changes in weather conditions resulted in improved fishing at many locations, with the best results seen in a number of freshwater spots. At some lakes, surface water temperatures fell nearly 10 degrees, triggering a resurgence in the feeding activity of largemouth bass and panfish. If the trend continues, saltwater species should respond to falling water temperatures as well.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- A few tidewater largemouths were caught by weekend anglers at Long Bridge, submersed aqueduct foundations and Washington Channel's drop-off near Fort McNair Wall. In the Woodrow Wilson Bridge area, Fox Ferry has improved, and you can always catch a few largemouths in the Spoils. Smoot Bay and Belle Haven Cove have been tough, but Broad Creek, Piscataway Creek and Bryans Cove provided anglers with modest catches of largemouth bass while tossing stickbaits, plastic grubs and buzzbaits. Mattawoman Creek has been productive, with the more fish being caught from aquatic grass beds than stands of spatterdock. Chickamuxen Creek's grass beds and scattered patches of grass near Mallow Bay should provide some good action during high and the first few hours of ebb tides. Channel catfish to 10 pounds remain plentiful in Washington Channel and most locations upriver of Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Bottom-fished night crawlers, cut herring, cut menhaden, chicken livers and clam snouts all proved effective early and late in the day, times when the fish were close to shore.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's upper reaches are extremely warm, and smallmouth bass fishing is slow at best, even during the early morning, when surface temperatures are a few degrees cooler. The majority of the weekend's action took place at Lander, the Virginia side of Harrison's Island and just a short distance upriver of Brunswick, locations where tiny, stream-size crankbaits and tube lures cast near submerged ledges lured bronzebacks from six to 10 inches.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river is low and warm, and smallmouth bass fishing has become increasingly difficult at most locations upriver of Harrisburg. However, most of the river's impoundments, Conowingo Lake, Holtwood Pool and others downriver of Harrisburg provided fair to good catches of both smallmouth and largemouth bass for early morning and late evening anglers.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Silver Spring resident Thomas Chakalaris was fishing Rocky Gorge last Friday with a crappie jig when his lure was slammed by a 5-pound 11.5-ounce largemouth bass that was weighed at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission's Brighton Dam office. White perch remain plentiful in both impoundments, but most measure only six to nine inches. The upper reaches of both lakes provided good numbers of channel catfish, most ranging from two to four pounds, and the majority were taken on bottom-fished night crawlers.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- White perch action during the past week was good throughout the impoundment's middle reaches. Most of the perch were taken while trolling small, inline spinners close to the surface. A few chain pickerel and at least one northern pike was taken by trollers as well. Early morning anglers managed to hook lots of largemouth bass while fishing the drop-offs uplake of Dulaney Valley Bridge with plastic grubs and deep-diving crankbaits. Crappie fishing remains slow.
LAKE ANNA -- Striped bass action has been as good as it gets, and most anglers have no difficulty catching their limit of hefty linesiders weighing five or more pounds. Most of the fish are schooled between the Route 208 and Stubbs bridges, where deep-diving crankbaits and live gizzard shad produced excellent results. The lake's largemouth bass action seems to be limited to early morning, times when surface water temperatures are as much as 10 degrees lower than those found at midday. Topwater plugs, shallow-running crankbaits and plastic grubs rigged to quarter-ounce leadheads lured bucketmouths to nearly six pounds from beneath docks, bridges and along the edges of sharp drop-offs. Crappie remain plentiful beneath bridges and deepwater piers, where live minnows suspended 12 to 15 feet beneath tiny floats lured slabsides to 12 inches. A few big, channel catfish were taken at the same locations.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Falling water temperatures near Bentonville Bridge triggered a great week of smallmouth bass action. Though most of the fish were relatively small, action was fast and furious for those with ultralite spinning outfits and four-weight fly rods. A few bronzebacks measuring 12 or more inches were mixed with the four- to six-inch fish, and last week a four-pounder was caught by an angler on her first float-fishing trip.
UPPER BAY -- The waters of the Susquehanna Flats have been quite clear during the past week, and though there are good numbers of tidewater largemouth bass caught, only a handful weighed more than three pounds. Scattered catches of keeper-size striped bass were reported along the north edge of the flats near the Veterans Administration Hospital's shores and from the deeper waters near Turkey and Rocky points near Elk Neck State Park. Most of the stripers smacked Bass Assassins fished slowly near the bottom during the first few hours of daylight. Channel catfish to six pounds smacked bottom-fished chicken livers, cut herring, cut menhaden and clam snouts fished in the North East, Elk, Sassafras, Bush and Bohemia rivers. Most of the catties were found along channel edges, and the best action was just before sundown. Fair catches of smallmouth bass were reported in the lower Susquehanna River downriver of Conowingo Dam and above the mouth of Deer Creek. A few small stripers were also caught at the same location, but channel catfish seem to be scarce in the river this year. Chummers and trollers alike caught good numbers of striped bass to 36 inches during the past week. Most of the chumming action took place at Hickory Thickets and Belvedere Shoal, locations where stripers from 18 to 32 inches slammed cut menhaden baits fished in the slicks. Bluefish to four pounds also swarmed into the chum slicks as well, fish that often competed with the stripers for the opportunity to smack baits fished close to the surface during periods of moving tide. Trollers caught fish while dragging tandem bucktails and dark red surgical hose eels at the Peach Orchard, Swan Point Bar, Baltimore Light, Love Point Light, Dumping Grounds and the bay's channel edge just east of Bodkin Point. Rockfish to 36 inches, bluefish from four to five pounds, and at least one lone bluefish that dragged the scale's pointer down to 14 pounds were boated.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- White perch to 12 inches smacked artificial bloodworms fished in the confines of Kent Narrows, Miles River and Chester River. White perch from 8 to 10 inches were found at several locations in Eastern Bay, where chunks of peeler crab, imitation bloodworms and strips of razor clam were effective along the bay's channel edges near Parson's Island and the artificial reef. Recreational crabbing has been outstanding in Eastern Bay, Wye River, Crab Alley Bay and along the Chesapeake's eastern channel edge, locations where collapsible crab traps baited with chicken necks and short trotlines produced limit catches in just a few hours of crabbing. White perch from six to nine inches took refuge from marauding schools of bluefish and stripers by hiding in the crevices between boulders that make up the Chesapeake Bay Bridge's manmade islands. Imitation bloodworms proved effective here.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- Good numbers of croaker to 15 inches are still being caught in the river's lower reaches at night. The river's shallows provided plug tossers with a few rockfish to 20 inches, most of which were taken at the crack of dawn, and again just before sundown. Chummers and trollers alike caught limits of striped bass at the False Channel and The Gooses, where rockfish to 27 inches were found blasting through schools of small menhaden.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Weakfish, spot, white perch and large croaker made up bottom-fishing catches for headboat anglers fishing near Old Rock and Airplane Wreck near the Choptank River's mouth. Chummers caught limits of stripers and fair numbers of bluefish from chum slicks established along the bay's eastern channel edge, and though trollers caught somewhat larger fish, the action was a bit slower.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- White perch to 12 inches were caught from the mouths of several creeks upriver of the Route 4 bridge, mostly on bottom-fished bloodworm imitations. Downriver, spot and croaker hit the same imitation with gusto, and there have reportedly been a few flounder taken on the imitations from along the bay's eastern channel edge by anglers fishing for croaker. Mixed schools of breaking rockfish and bluefish, both measuring 12 to 22 inches, have been spotted near Cedar Point Rip, inside Cedar Point Hollow and down the bay at The Targets and Point No Point Light. Stingsilvers, small Tony Accetta spoons and some topwater plugs have been effective.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- Not much has changed during the past week, other than the appearance of a small number of big, red drum. The drum arrived at Holland Island Flats, where jigging spoons worked close to the bottom lured fish to 40 inches. All were released. The same spoons enticed some larger stripers to bite, fish measuring 22 to 25 inches that stationed themselves below smaller fish foraging in chum slicks near Hooper Island Light. Big croaker were also taken on the same spoons just before sundown and into late evening.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Most of the local headboats and charter boats running from Crisfield reported good bottom-fishing action in the sound's upper and middle reaches, where a mix of spot, croaker, small weakfish, snapper bluefish and an occasional flounder were taken on chunks of peeler crab and imitation bloodworms.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Mixed schools of rockfish and bluefish ripped through pods of menhaden and bay anchovy just north of Smith Point Light and across the bay at the Southeast Middle Grounds, locations where trollers using tandem bucktails and small surgical hose eels boated limits of each in just a few hours. The key to success was being at the right place at the right time. Some captains said they hadn't caught a half-dozen fish all day long, then sighted a school of breaking fish and filled the coolers. Nighttime is the only time to catch croaker, and the largest ones seem to be congregated at the southern tip of the Southwest Middle Grounds. Mixed bag catches of croaker, spot, flounder and snapper bluefish were reported by pier and causeway anglers at Point Lookout State Park, but this was a hit-or-miss situation at best.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- A half-dozen flounder weighing in excess of seven pounds, including an 81/4-pounder caught by local angler Dan Parker, were taken at The Cell on a single day. Most were caught in 36 to 55 feet of water along the bay's eastern channel edge while drifting minnow-squid sandwiches. At the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Lattimer Shoals and old C-12 Buoy, cobia from 25 to 87 pounds slammed cut bunker baits fished in chum slicks. The CBBT also produced lots of sheepshead, spadefish and some hefty flounder. Croaker remain abundant throughout the area. Most are just 10 to 12 inches, but some real monsters to 21 inches are still being caught at night.
CAPE HENLOPEN/INDIAN RIVER -- Croaker arrived in huge schools at Indian River Inlet and the mouth of Delaware Bay near Cape Henlopen, locations where imitation bloodworms and squid strips produced strikes as fast lines hit bottom. Bluefish and striped bass are also schooled in the confines of Indian River Inlet, both of which are smacking live eels late in the day and at night.
OCEAN CITY -- Offshore, yellowfin tuna catches were fair to good, depending on the time of day. Overnighters seemed to have the most success, often catching a dozen or more yellowfins before the sun got high then ran inshore to catch their single bluefin tuna per boat before heading back to the docks. Headboat anglers had a tough week, but most managed to sink their hooks into modest numbers of chunky sea bass to three pounds, and while 25 fish limits were scarce, there were a number of folks that caught a dozen or more of these tasty fish on full-day trips. Shorebound anglers caught lots of croaker measuring 10 to 15 inches from Ocean City's inlet and beaches, while anglers using live eels at night from the Route 50 bridge caught a mix of bluefish and rockfish.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Billfish catches out of both ports during the past week were good for bluewater anglers. Chunkers are still catching good numbers of big bluefin tuna at the Parking Lot, some tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. Both inlets are loaded with croaker to 15 inches that will hit any piece of meat that touches bottom, and flounder action seems to have improved dramatically.
OUTER BANKS -- Not much has changed during the past week, with generally slow fishing along the Nags Head and Hatteras beaches. Most catches from the piers and surf consisted of mixtures of snapper bluefish, sea mullet, croaker, spot, a few Spanish mackerel and even an occasional keeper flounder. Offshore, there were loads of big king mackerel, white marlin, yellowfin tuna and huge numbers of gaffer dolphin taken by the charter fleets running from both Oregon and Hatteras inlets.