The annual fall migration is underway. Some locations reported dramatic decreases in fishing success, while anglers in other locations described a resurgence in fishing action that rivaled what they saw during early spring. As the migratory period unfolds, anglers can anticipate a dramatic upswing in catches.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Tidewater largemouth bass were found among the pilings of Long Bridge and Key Bridge, along drop-offs in West Channel, Three Sisters Island area, Blue Plains and Giesboro Point. The gravel pits have been stingy, but Fox Ferry Point, Woodrow Wilson Bridge foundations and barges near Hog Island all provided modest catches of mid-size bass. Grass beds in the Broad, Piscataway, Pomonkey and Chickamuxen creeks are thick, and some anglers managed to sink their hooks into a few bass by casting plastic worms and tube lures rigged to relatively heavy leadheads and punching them through the matted vegetation. Smallmouth bass action was fair upriver near Little Falls, where bronzebacks to five pounds smacked spinnerbaits, shallow-running crankbaits and tube lures fished in the swifter currents. Channel catfish to 12 pounds were found in the river's channel near Fletcher's Landing and Washington Channel, locations where bottom-fished night crawlers and chicken livers proved effective.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's upper reaches are low and clear, making smallmouth bass fishing somewhat difficult. The most productive locations have been the stretch of river between Dam No. 4 and Brunswick, and the deeper pools between Brunswick and Lander, locations where live shiners and tiny, stream-size crankbaits in bright red and crawfish patterns produced bronzebacks from eight to 16 inches.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- Smallmouth bass action in Conowingo Lake picked up, particularly in the impoundment's upper reaches. Live minnows lip hooked to the back end of small shad darts lured bronzebacks to four pounds from among the submerged boulders at the mouth of Muddy Creek, base of Holtwood Dam, and the cut between Big Bear and Little Bear islands.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Scattered catches of largemouth and smallmouth bass were reported by anglers fishing the upper reaches of both impoundments, especially early in the day when water temperatures were a few degrees cooler. Channel catfish remain plentiful in both Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission impoundments, with bottom-fished chicken livers and night crawlers working best.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- White perch to 14 inches were mixed with schools of eight- to 10-inchers found throughout the impoundment's middle reaches. Trollers using inline spinners caught the lion's share of these fish, but a few anglers tried their luck suspending live minnows beneath floats, resulting in good catches of the largest fish.
LAKE ANNA -- Striped bass have really turned on in the lake's upper reaches during the past week, and most anglers reported limit catches of fish to seven pounds while trolling deep-diving crankbaits and spoons. Early and late in the day stripers to four pounds erupt through the impoundment's placid surface, rip through pods of gizzard shad and provide lots of topwater action for plug casters and fly fishing enthusiasts. The most productive areas have been The Splits, mouth of Terry's Run, Jett Island's drop-off, mouth of Sturgeon Creek and Dike III. Largemouth bass have again migrated into the lake's shallows and began foraging heavily on small bluegill, crappie and minnows taking refuge among pier pilings, submerged brush piles, willows and stumps.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- Smallmouth bass fishing seems to be improving weekly in the vicinity of Bentonville Bridge and downriver for four to six miles. While the majority of the fish are averaging just six inches, there have been a few measuring 12 to 15 inches lurking beneath submerged ledges in deeper pools.
UPPER BAY -- Low water flows seem to have eliminated much of the striped bass action in the Susquehanna River's lower reaches, however, smallmouth bass action was good in the four-mile stretch of water between the base of Conowingo Dam and mouth of Deer Creek. Bronzebacks to three pounds smacked tube lures, tiny spinners and small, shallow-running crankbaits fished in the back eddies of large boulders. Downriver, channel catfish to three pounds gobbled down chunks of cut spot, chicken livers and night crawlers fished in the deeper waters downriver of Lapidum Landing. Tidewater largemouths to two pounds slapped topwater plugs cast near the northwest shore of Garrett Island, where dense grass beds concealed large numbers of bass during the past few weeks. Channel catfish remain plentiful throughout the area, and they seem to be increasing in both size and number. Catties to 15 pounds were found in the C&D Canal, the lower reaches of the North East River, Sassafras, Bush and Gunpowder rivers, locations where chicken livers, night crawlers, cut spot and squid strips were effective.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- Lots of little rockfish, but keepers are scarce. The larger fish can be had if you know deep-jigging techniques using Stingsilvers, Strata-Spoons and Crippled Herring spoons, lures that lured stripers to 33 inches from the bay's eastern channel edge near Bloody Point Light and Poplar Island. Eastern Bay anglers continue to catch white perch, but most seem to be smaller than those caught a week earlier. Recreational crabbers caught good numbers of keeper-size crabs to seven inches.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- Lots of white perch and a few big spot at the river's mouth, mainly in relatively shallow water along channel edges. Bottom-fished bloodworm imitations lured perch to 12 inches from the mouth of Broad Creek and upriver along the channel edges near Castle Haven.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Headboat anglers continue to catch a mix of white perch and spot. Trollers caught good numbers of Spanish mackerel, snapper bluefish, an occasional weakfish and lots of stripers ranging from throwbacks to 20 inches. This time of year, when the rockfish are foraging on the surface, they tend to be smaller. However, stripers, some measuring 30 inches or larger, are often lurking deep beneath them and picking up the scraps. Deep jigging with jigging spoons is the best way to approach the schools of breaking fish with lots of action on top, but bigger fish down deep.
TAYLOR'S ISLAND AREA -- The action seems to have slowed for both striped bass and bluefish in the vicinity of Punch Island Bar and several other locations along the bay's eastern channel edge above Hooper Island Light.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Still lots of jumbo spot near the river's mouth, some caught during the past week measuring up to 12 inches. Bottom-fished bloodworms and bloodworm imitations produced the best results when fished late in the day at the Chinese Muds, Cedar Point Hollow and inside the river up to the Route 4 bridge.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- "I'm seeing a half-dozen or more schools of breaking fish every day, and it's usually a mix of rockfish, Spanish mackerel and bluefish," said Captain Mike Murphy of Tiderunner Charters. Murphy said fish within each school vary dramatically in size. .
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- Tangier Sound's upper reaches seem to be having a resurgence in bottom-fishing action. Good catches of jumbo spot, keeper-size weakfish to 20 inches, a few flounder and even fair numbers of croaker to 15 inches were found along the sound's eastern channel edge above Buoy No. 9.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- While striped bass have been tough to come by at most locations in this segment of the bay, bluefish to seven pounds continue to slam trolled surgical hose eels and spoons fished near the Southwest Middle Grounds and Smith Point Light. Additionally, large numbers of Spanish mackerel were found mixed with the bluefish, many of which measured 20 inches or larger. Small, silver and gold spoons trolled at speeds of 5 to 8 knots lured the mackerel.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- Still lots of croaker here. The majority were found along the bay's eastern channel edge between Buoy 42 and Plantation Light. Good catches of flounder to eight pounds continue at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel's High Rise Bridge, Fourth Island, and up the bay near Buoy 36 and The Cell.
CAPE HENLOPEN/INDIAN RIVER -- Indian River Inlet anglers found that live spot and bunker provided them with the best opportunity to catch legal-size stripers and chopper bluefish, both of which seem to be feeding heaviest early and late in the day. At night, live eels often produced considerably larger fish.
OCEAN CITY -- Flounder action improved in the back bays and Ocean City Inlet, where flatfish to four pounds smacked live minnows and squid strip combinations during periods of moving tide. Lots of yellowfin tuna were brought back to the docks, most averaging about 35 pounds, but a few to 80 pounds were landed. Bluefin tuna to 80 pounds were caught at the Parking Lot and locations along the 40 fathom line. Wahoo to 50 pounds slammed skip baits trolled along canyon edges.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Flounder action continues to hold up well, with a few flatfish to six pounds weighed at local tackle shops. Charter boats chunking at the Lumpy Bottom and 26-mile hill caught bluefin tuna to 100 pounds, yellowfin tuna to 50 pounds and lots of 12- to 14-pound king mackerel.
OUTER BANKS -- The opening date of the fall striped bass season for recreational anglers in the Albemarle Sound Management Area was announced by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. It will open Oct. 1 at 12:01 a.m. and close Dec. 31, unless closed earlier by proclamation. Striped bass may be taken for recreational purposes daily during the season, with a minimum length of 18 inches. The limit is two fish per person, per day.