This was the first week of school for most jurisdictions surrounding metropolitan Washington, and while the youngsters are bemoaning the end of summer, this is a great time to go fishing. September is a month of transition for many species of fish, a time when many feed heavily to put on a heavy layer of fat to survive the upcoming winter. This provides recreational anglers with an excellent opportunity to enjoy nonstop topwater action throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay. Bluewater anglers fishing Atlantic coastal waters will find huge schools of migrating croaker, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna and a host of bottom-dwelling species to select from, all of which will put a heavy bend in a fishing rod. The action usually continues into December, culminating with catches of huge striped bass near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The bottom line is don't put away that fishing tackle -- the season's best fishing is just getting underway.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Another slow week for largemouth bass anglers fishing the river's District waters. Though a few hefty bass were caught near Woodrow Wilson Bridge, The Spoils and among the D.C. bridge pilings, the action was slow. Much of that can be attributed to high water temperatures. Downriver, Chickamuxen and Mattawoman creeks provided early morning anglers with scattered catches of tidewater largemouths to three pounds, but again, the water temperatures kept bass lethargic. Fortunately, channel catfish and carp seem unaffected by the warmer water. Catfish to 10 pounds were taken from the shores of Fletcher's Landing and several other nearby locations by shorebound anglers dunking dough balls, cut herring, cut spot and night crawlers late in the day and into early evening. No sign of crappie yet, but as water temperatures fall, they should become active along channel edges upriver of Key Bridge.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- At press time the river's upper reaches were low and relatively clear, but conditions will likely deteriorate if heavy rains hit the mountains of western Maryland and Virginia.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river is extremely low, water temperatures are in the upper 80s and smallmouth bass action near Harrisburg has been slow. However, the deeper waters of Conowingo Lake and Holtwood Pool proved highly productive for anglers early and late in the day in the upper reaches of these impoundments. Small, live minnows lip hooked to the back end of tiny jigs and cast to the heads of pools lured bronzeback to three pounds. The same rig worked well at the mouths of small, spring-fed tributaries, where cooler waters provided better water quality.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Lots of channel catfish and big carp in the upper reaches of both impoundments, but white perch and bass action has fallen off because of high water temperatures.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- Early morning anglers saw excellent topwater action for largemouth bass, particularly at locations a short distance uplake of Dulaney Valley Bridge, where bucketmouths to five pounds slammed Tiny Torpedoes cast close to shore. Trollers continue to catch good numbers of white perch and chunky bluegill while dragging inline spinners trimmed with a morsel of night crawler in the deeper waters between Dulaney Valley Road and Loch Raven Drive bridges. Some of the perch measured up to 13 inches, while the bluegills averaged about eight inches.
LAKE ANNA -- Spotsylvania, Va., resident Glenn Vico boated a six-pound largemouth bass while fishing the impoundment's upper reaches during the past week. Local guides say largemouth bass moved into the shallows and feed heavily on gizzard shad. Most lures resembling a three- to four-inch shad are slammed as soon as they hit the water when cast near floating docks and submerged brush piles.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Smallmouth bass action improved in the vicinity of Bentonville Bridge and a few downriver locations where bronzebacks to 18 inches make up nearly 25 percent of the reported catches. Panfish, however, seem to have vanished. Local guides think they perished along with the adult population of smallmouth bass during the past spring's unexplained fish kills.
UPPER BAY -- Low water flows through the Susquehanna River's hydroelectric facility at Conowingo Dam curtailed much of the week's action on striped bass and smallmouth bass, fish that would normally be congregated in the dam's tailrace waters. Downriver, a few keeper-size stripers were caught just above the mouth of Deer Creek at The Pool, while most of the bass caught were undersize, averaging less than 10 inches. Channel catfish of any size are also conspicuously absent in the Susquehanna River's lower reaches, but this was not the case at the Susquehanna Flats, North East River, Elk River, C&D Canal, Bohemia River and the upper bay channel edges north of Pooles Island. Catties to 12 pounds inhaled chunks of cut herring, cut spot, chicken livers and night crawlers fished in depths of six to 20 feet. Keeper-size striped bass to 22 inches began showing up at the Susquehanna Flats during the past week, and as water temperatures fall, these fish should increase in size and number. Most were caught by anglers casting Bass Assassins along the edges of grass beds between Rocky Point and the mouth of Furnace Bay, mainly in depths of three to six feet.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- White perch to 10 inches moved into the shallows of the Severn and Magothy rivers, mainly beneath piers and floating docks. Similar-size perch were also found among the submerged boulders surrounding pilings of the old Bay Bridge span along the main channel's west side, while finger piers on the Eastern Shore side of the new span held a few keeper rockfish to 20 inches. The area's best white perch fishing remains in the confines of Eastern Bay where bottom-fished clam snouts, bloodworm imitations and strips of razor clam lured perch to 12 inches from channel edges between the head of Parson's Island up to Kent Narrows. Good catches were also reported at the mouth of Wye River, Crab Alley Bay and inside Kent Narrows at night using the same baits.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- The river's middle reaches and mouths of mid-size tributaries provided weekend anglers with good catches of white perch, some measuring up to 12 inches in length and weighing more than a pound. Downriver, striped bass continue to haunt the shallows near Todd, Cook and Black Walnut points, where half-ounce bucktails trimmed with four-inch, chartreuse twister tails lured stripers to 24 inches from depths of two to four feet. Nighttime anglers fishing the Airplane Wreck with imitation bloodworms had a mixed bag of spot and white perch, plus an occasional flounder measuring up to 20 inches.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Local charter boats continue to catch limits of keeper-size stripers from 18 to 30 inches in length and tipping the scales at weights to eight pounds. Most of the larger fish were caught while trolling tandem bucktails and small, red, surgical hose eels along the bay's main shipping channel edges between the mouth of Parker's Creek and the Radar Towers. Good numbers of bluefish to six pounds have been swarming into chum slicks established for catching striped bass, but weakfish have not materialized north of Solomons this season.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Spot are active in the Patuxent at Saint Leonard's Bar, Helen's Bar, Hawk's Nest, Kingston Hollow, Seven Gables, Green Holly, Sandy Point, Drum Point and Fishing Point. A few small croaker are mixed with the spot, along with mid-size white perch and undersize weakfish. Swarms of throwback stripers churned the bay's surface to foam as they ripped through pods of bay anchovy from the river's mouth out to the Chinese Muds. Cedar Point Hollow and locations along the bay's western channel edge between Point No Point and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant provided trollers with a mix of striped bass and bluefish, both of which ranged up to six pounds and slammed a variety of lures trolled just beneath the surface. Across the bay, stripers to 30 inches and bluefish to eight pounds were taken while trolling tandem rigged bucktails, mid-size silver spoons and surgical hose eels near Punch Island Bar and Taylor's Island Bar.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- The river's shallows continue to produce scattered catches of keeper rockfish, but larger stripers and lots of bluefish can be found just outside the river's mouth near Hooper Island Light and across the bay at The Targets, locations where flocks of screeching, diving gulls congregate over large schools of breaking fish during periods of moving tide.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Spot, small croaker, an occasional weakfish and a few flounder made up much of the week's headboat and charter boat catches in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds. Just west of Smith Island, good catches of spot, mid-size croaker, small weakfish and a few flounder were reported by area charter captains who left the docks at daybreak and caught their limits of stripers along the bay's eastern channel edge.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Bluefish to six pounds smacked cut menhaden and spot baits fished from the causeway of Point Lookout State Park at night. While a few stripers were caught there, most were too small to keep. Local charter boat captains have been running to Smith Point Light where they're trolling small surgical hose eels for bluefish, and tiny Clarke Spoons for Spanish mackerel. The macks have been thick as fleas for the past two weeks, with some weighing up to three pounds. The bluefish, some topping the seven-pound mark, hit anything that got within their range, regardless of how fast it was trolled. Just across the bay at the Southwest Middle Grounds, swarms of bluefish to six pounds churned the surface to foam as they ripped through schools of tiny menhaden and bay anchovy. The blues were frequently mixed with stripers, but most of the rockfish were too small to keep.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- On days when the weather cooperated, bottom-fished squid strips and bloodworm imitations lured a mix of grunt, mid-size croaker, spot, sea mullet, throwback weakfish and a good number of flounder to seven pounds. Top areas included: Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's High Rise Bridge, Fourth Island, The Cell, Buoy 36A and the edge of Baltimore Channel.
CAPE HENLOPEN/INDIAN RIVER -- Striped bass and bluefish dominated the action inside Indian River Inlet, where Tsunami bucktails and live eels lured rockfish to 32 inches and bluefish to 20 inches during periods of tidal flow. Just outside the inlet and along the channel edge near DB and DA buoys is where a mix of croaker and flounder rounded out the day's action. The mouth of Delaware Bay continues to provide good catches of croaker and flounder, both from the public fishing pier at Cape Henlopen and from the decks of small boats fishing near the Ice Breakers and Outer Wall.
OCEAN CITY -- Another hot weekend for billfish at the canyons, with lots of white marlin, blue marlin and an occasional sailfish among the catches made from the decks of local charter boats. Headboat anglers caught a mix of sea bass, flounder and a few croaker, but the croaker seem to be running a bit late this season and not schooled at their usual haunts.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- King mackerel are stacked up at the 26-Mile Hill with some fish topping the 15-pound mark. Most were caught while trolling mid-size spoons and cedar plugs intended for tuna. Bluefin tuna to 150 pounds slammed chunks of butterfish at the Parking Lot, while just a short distance to the east, lots of small dolphin were found lurking beneath pieces of flotsam. Inshore anglers continue to load up on croaker up to 15 inches while drifting squid strips at both Chincoteague and Wachapreague inlets.
OUTER BANKS -- The Nags Head beaches provided a mix of spot, croaker, snapper bluefish and sea mullet during the week, but the action was slow at best. Pier anglers fared a bit better with an occasional cobia and keeper flounder. Offshore, huge numbers of white marlin, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo were boated by charter fleets running from both Hatteras and Oregon inlets.