The mini drought of the past few months has reduced water-flows in many mid-Atlantic streams to a mere trickle. These conditions produce good news and bad news. The good news is that run-off from various nutrient contributing sources is dramatically reduced along with water-flows. The bad news is that many of the designated trout streams have become too warm to support rainbow and brook trout, both of which are cold-water species.
This weekend marks the 12th Annual Upper Bay Rockfish Tournament, an event that offers $145,000 in cash and prizes to winners in a number of categories. The event is Saturday, and the entrance fee is $140 per boat. The person that weighs the largest rockfish will take home a check for $17,500. There are nine other striper prizes ranging from $5,000 for second place down to $500 for 10th place. Add another $7,000 for the top five largemouth bass, and cash prizes for catfish, perch and carp, and this is a tournament where there will be lots of winners. If the top rockfish entry beats the current Maryland state record, the winner will also take home a $67,000 boat, motor and trailer package. For additional information, call Herb's Tackle Shop at 410-287-5490 or the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce at 410-392-3833. Anglers can register up until the morning of the event.
What's the Catch?
Washington & Vicinity
TIDAL POTOMAC RIVER -- Largemouth bass action seems to have improved in the river's tidal reaches, particularly in the D.C. sector where tube lures and crankbaits lured largemouths from underwater lairs adjacent to bridge pilings. Downriver, Chickamuxen, Mattawoman and Powell creeks provided anglers with good numbers of mid-size largemouths. Most were taken early and late in the day during the first few hours of ebb tide. Wades Bay, and several main river grass beds near the mouths of major tributaries, were good bets for anglers willing to be on the water before sunrise, and toss shallow-running crankbaits or spinnerbaits near patches of vegetation. The action usually kicked off as the sun came over the horizon and continued until about 10 a.m.
UPPER POTOMAC RIVER -- The river's upper reaches continue to be low and somewhat difficult to fish. There seems to be some increase in the number of larger fish to 15 inches found in deeper pools between White's Ferry and Lander. Most were taken with tiny, stream-size crankbaits, tube lures and live crawfish fished near submerged ledges.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER (PA.) -- The river is extremely low, and the only smallmouth and largemouth bass action was found in Conowingo and Holtwood lakes where anglers found fish near the mouths of major tributaries. Live minnows, crayfish and hellgrammites were the most effective baits, but there were notable numbers of smallmouth bass taken on tube lures fished in the tailrace waters of Holtwood Lake.
TRIADELPHIA AND ROCKY GORGE RESERVOIRS -- Tim Lloyd of Ellicott City, Md., caught an 8-pound, 8.5 ounce striped bass at Brighton Dam while casting a chub minnow. Peter Shumacher of Laurel, Md., caught a 10-pound, 14-ounce tiger muskie at Rocky Gorge while casting a bucktail.
LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR -- Another great weekend of fishing. Good catches of white perch were made in the lake's middle reaches by anglers dunking large, live minnows near the edges of deepwater grass beds near the mouths of major coves. The same rig also lured a few chain pickerel. Trollers caught lots of smaller white perch and fair numbers of chunky bluegill while dragging inline spinners trimmed with a morsel of night crawler. Uplake, the edges of grass beds were the hotspots for largemouth bass to four pounds, most of which slammed spinnerbaits and shallow-running crankbaits early in the day.
LAKE ANNA -- Lots of stripers during the past week in the lake's upper reaches, most from three to seven pounds. Weekend hotspots included: Terry's Run, Jett Island, the mouth of Sturgeon Creek and The Splits, locations where 4-inch Sassy Shad rigged to half-ounce leadheads were highly effective when cast along the edges of drop-offs early and late in the day. Largemouth bass fishing remains good for plug casters fishing early and late in the day, with most of the action in depths of two to four feet near boat docks and rocky points. When the sun gets high, the fish retreat to deeper waters where plastic worms, tube lures and deep-diving crankbaits proved effective.
SHENANDOAH RIVER -- The river is low and relatively clear, which normally would make smallmouth bass fishing difficult. However, water temperatures seem to have fallen a bit, which apparently triggered a minor feeding binge. Bronzebacks to 14 inches smacked a variety of tiny lures fished in the deeper pools just a short distance downriver of Bentonville Bridge.
UPPER BAY -- Scattered catches of tidewater largemouth bass were made by anglers fishing the Susquehanna River's lower reaches downriver of Spencer Island and from grass beds on the northwest side of Garrett Island, locations where bucketmouths to five pounds smacked Bass Assassins worked tight against the vegetation. Fair numbers of channel catfish were taken from deeper water near I-95 Bridge where bottom-fished night crawlers, clam snouts and pieces of cut spot lured catties to four pounds. This weekend's Upper Bay Rockfish Tournament could be won by someone fishing the Susquehanna Flats. Stripers to 30 inches were found at a few locations near Perry Point VA Hospital and on the south edge of the flats near Rocky Point. The fish slammed Bass Assassins floated near the edges of grass beds early in the morning, but when the sun got high they tended to sulk in deep channel areas where small jigging spoons were productive. Live gizzard shad also proved effective at luring big stripers and some monster channel catfish to 12 pounds from the channel edges of the North East, Elk, Sassafras and Bohemia rivers. White perch to 12 inches smacked imitation bloodworms fished at the same locations. Striped bass fishing remains somewhat slow in the bay's upper reaches south of Pooles Island, at least for keeper size fish. Chummers caught huge numbers of fish near Love Point, Belvedere Shoals, Hickory Thickets, Swan Point and Tollchester Beach, but most measured an inch or two less than the 18-inch minimum size limit. Trollers using small silver spoons caught a mix of Spanish mackerel, snapper bluefish and an occasional keeper size rockfish while fishing the bay's eastern channel edge near the head of Kent Island. White perch catches improved during the past week, with some fish measuring up to 11 inches caught from the decks of Eastern Neck Island Bridge, the mouth of Chester River and up the bay near Tollchester Beach.
BAY BRIDGE AREA -- Lots of white perch, small stripers and snapper bluefish lurking among the bridge pilings, while down the bay at Gum Thickets and Brickhouse Bar good catches of Spanish mackerel and somewhat larger bluefish were made by anglers trolling Clarke Spoons along the bay's eastern channel edge. Inside Eastern Bay, white perch can be found at the mouths of most small tributaries, but fishing in this area has taken a back seat to recreational crabbing during the past week. Limit catches of blue crab to 7 inches were made by crabbers using handlines and collapsible traps baited with chicken necks and fresh-caught white perch.
CHOPTANK RIVER AREA -- The river's channel edges are beginning to load up with chunky white perch, mostly in the stretch between Cook Point and Castle Haven where bottom-fished bloodworms and bloodworm imitations lured perch to 10 inches. Fair numbers of spot are near the river's mouth, but the schools seem to be somewhat scattered and often difficult to locate. Just outside the river's mouth near Sharps Island Light and the Stone Rock is where schools of snapper bluefish and stripers have been churning the water to foam while feeding upon schools of migrating menhaden and bay anchovy.
CHESAPEAKE BEACH AREA -- Several boats returned to the docks with limits of larger rockfish, fish measuring 28 inches or larger, good numbers of mackerel and enough bluefish to keep most everyone happy.
TAYLOR'S ISLAND AREA -- Anglers continue to catch good numbers of spot, a few croaker, flounder, striped bass and bluefish on both sides of the bay's channel edges. Winners of the past week's Total Weight Tournament at Taylor's Island Family Campground were Denny and Cathy Forest, who returned to the docks with 14.8 pounds of fish including striped bass, bluefish and spot. Second place went to the team of Tom Grossnickle and Larry Kitchen, who boated seven pounds of rockfish, bluefish and spot.
PATUXENT RIVER AREA -- Mackerel to 30 inches are scattered from Cove Point south to Smith Point, a stretch of nearly 25 miles loaded with these tasty fish. Most were taken while trolling small silver spoons at relatively high speeds, and they're frequently mixed with breaking schools of bluefish and small stripers. Finding them is just a matter of looking for large flocks of gulls diving into the water that at times seems to boil with breaking fish. Toss a small jigging spoon among the melee and you'll enjoy arm-jolting strikes and nonstop action. A few keeper-size weakfish have been taken from beneath the breaking fish, mostly from depths of 45 to 55 feet using the same jigging spoons. White perch from 10 to 13 inches were caught from most of the lower Patuxent River's tributaries, and there seems to be an increasing number of larger perch being caught from the river itself. Nearly all were taken on imitation bloodworms and chunks of peeler crab fished during periods of moving tide.
HONGA RIVER AREA -- If you enjoy light tackle and fly fishing action, this was the place to fish last week. Large schools of breaking fish dotted the horizon everywhere you looked, schools that consisted of bluefish to eight pounds, rockfish to 24 inches and mackerel to 30 inches. Deep beneath the breaking fish were schools of small weakfish, of which less than 10 percent were large enough to keep. Spot and a few big croaker were found along the bay's eastern channel edge, but not many folks have been fishing for them since the topwater action picked up.
TANGIER SOUND AREA -- When tidal conditions were right, the upper reaches of both Tangier and Pocomoke sounds provided anglers with good catches of spot, a few mid-size croaker, an occasional keeper size weakfish and even a few flounder.
POINT LOOKOUT AREA -- Trollers dragging small, red surgical hose eels near the mouth of the Potomac River, and across the bay at the Southwest Middle Grounds, caught limits of bluefish from three to eight pounds. At times the fish were right on the surface, ripping through pods of menhaden and bay anchovy, which makes them easy to locate. Chummers reported similar success at the same locations, and the blues were frequently mixed with good numbers of keeper size stripers as well. Breaking, mixed schools of stripers, bluefish and mackerel were found right in the middle of the bay's main shipping channel, fish that smacked jigging spoons trolled and cast into the turmoil. Cornfield Harbor provided anglers with fair numbers of flounder during the past week, many of which measured 18 to 20 inches. The secret to catching the larger flounder was drift-fishing with small spot near sharp drop-offs such as Point Lookout Bar.
CAPE CHARLES AREA -- It has been a tough week at Cape Charles, mainly because of weather conditions. On days when the wind didn't howl, anglers caught good numbers of flounder at The Cell and CBBT while dunking large, live minnows during periods of moving tide. Lots of smaller croaker and spot here as well.
OCEAN CITY -- Shorebound anglers caught fair numbers of keeper size rockfish, tautog and sheepshead from Ocean City Inlet, where sand fleas produced tog to two pounds. Most of the rockfish were caught from the decks of Route 50 Bridge at night, mostly on shad imitations fished beneath the span in the channel. A few weakfish and snapper bluefish were mixed with the stripers. Surf anglers caught a few red drum from Assateague's surf, but the kingfish seem to be somewhat scarce. A few bluefish to 18 inches were caught from the surf as well. Headboat anglers loaded up on croaker and sea bass during the past week, but the offshore flounder action seems to have fallen off. Bluefin tuna anglers will be limited to a one fish per boat daily limit again beginning Saturday.
CHINCOTEAGUE & WACHAPREAGUE -- Most of the croaker have migrated out of the inlets and moved offshore and displaced the flounder that were schooled there a week earlier. Inshore, flounder action seems to be improving at both inlets since the croaker moved out.
OUTER BANKS -- Surf and pier anglers had another typical week of late season fishing, with mixed bags of sea mullet, snapper bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout and a few pompano. Offshore, it was a different story with an incredible run of bigeye tuna to 200 pounds, loads of yellowfin tuna, lots of wahoo and good numbers of small dolphin.