Saturday, July 30, 2011

The day finally arrived; Marty caught a snakehead

It finally happened. Our friend Marty Magone, who looks like an extra for a Vin Diesel movie, came up from his home along Lake Gaston and he brought gifts for our day on the water. I'm talking about sandwiches that were loaded with medium rare roast beef, pickles and onions, the beef so thickly stacked that a small horse might have had a tough time jumping over them. They were memorable taste delights.

Of course, when Marty visits, make sure your rods and reels are safely out of the way because, well, Marty sometimes experiences mishaps that can result in fishing equipment that may not function any longer after he gets through with it. Enough of that, however. Marty's sandwiches alone made him our hero for the day and nothing could happen that would ruin it.

Marty Magone finally got his first Chinese snakehead.
Marty's long-time friend, the pro bass fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski,(301/932-1509), had picked up our Lake Gaston pal at Leesylvania State Park, over on the Virginia shore of the tidal Potomac, and almost immediately pointed his 22-footer toward the Occoquan -- or, more accurately,  Belmont Bay -- where acre after acre of water was covered by dense weed carpets.

As is customary when the three of us get together, Andy stands in the front of the boat, Marty is a few feet behind him, with me reclining on the rear bass boat seat. It is a good place to be, but you have to get used to being "front-ended" by the other boat occupants. I'm used to it what with Andy being perhaps the best front-ender in Maryland and Virginia waters. He won't deny that he usually points his boat into the best spots first, casts first, and hooks the first bass. But to be fair, when he has clients in the boat, Andy doesn't even fish. He wants his customers to be first with everything. I sometimes think he only does the front-ending when I'm with him.

Marty also caught a number of bass.
Now back to Marty who was working a Chatterbait or a soft craw bait over and through the water-logged vegetation, looking for -- and hooking -- a bass now and then, but always wondering if he would ever catch a Chinese snakehead. There was no real pressure on him to that, but he knew that Andy has had more than a few, including a recent 10-1/2-pounder, and I stuck the hook of a wacky-rigged worm to a snakehead in Belmont Bay a year ago.

Marty wanted a snakehead. He wanted it bad. And the Virginia side of the river didn't disappoint. Before we ate the rest of our sandwiches, he suddenly shouted, "Hey, what have I got there?" A snakehead picked up his Chatterbait in shallow, weedy water and tried its best to get off the hook. These unwanted Asian invaders fight like a demon and Marty had a time getting the fish into the boat and keeping it inside. They're slippery characters, for sure.

All turned out well in the end. All hands aboard hooked and released largemouth bass, and Marty added to his morning river outing by latching on to a Chinese snakehead. Oh, before I forget, Andy was top rod in the boat with the most bass, but I can always say that he front-ended me nearly the entire time.

Once again, we quit before the sun melted the boat's fiberglass.

Some fish like the smell of garlic (and many other "fragrant" things)

As we sit in sweltering heat, my mind slowly reaching the stagnant stage that my wife has accused me of being in for years, I must reminisce about the fish our group of friends has caught using certain scented lures. I don't mean lures that are sold with some type of fish attractant already on or in them (such as Berkley's Gulp and Power Baits). No, I'm talking about do-it-yourself attractants.

For example, my bass fishing pal Dale Knupp has a thing about garlic. If the folks who make various odoriferous attractants that are sold under the trade name Smelly Jelly would stop producing their products, Dale would probably be in his kitchen, crushing garlic cloves and putting the pungent melange into a jar that would come in handy whenever he felt the need to drench a soft plastic bait. One thing is certain: Dale knows that the largemouth bass, especially, has a thing for garlic. Could it be that they originally were bred in Italy, then came to the U.S., and now are homesick for the scent and taste of the "Smelly Rose"? But then again, I'm not Italian and I love garlic -- the more, the better.

From garlic to blueberries, sardines to licorice-flavor anise, why not try it?
Years ago, there was the fishing guide Tom Shaw, who worked the waters of Lake Gaston, Va., his boat emblazoned with the name "Citation Guide Service." Back in the days when few bass anglers would contemplate using a plastic worm in winter (it was strictly considered to be a warm water lure by many), Tom had bags filled with wonderfully soft, 9-inch-long Fliptail worms that he would deposit into a little plastic tub containing the remnant juices, oils and broken pieces of sardines. Did it work on the lake's bass? Without question. The Gaston bass were in love with sardine oil-covered plastics even in December and January. But -- wow! -- talk about our human schnozzolas. This stuff reeked, especially after having "cured" in one of the boat hatches for a couple of months.
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The now departed great fisherman, tackle innovator and all around good guy, Tom Mann, of Eufaula, Alabama, decades ago came up with a plastic worm dubbed the Jelly Worm that was sold by the zillions through his Mann's Bait Company. "Fish have a sweet tooth," he once told me during a visit to the massive Lake Eufaula. Apparently, the big Indian was right. There was an assortment of personal outings when I  caught bass, catfish, once even young redfish (puppy drum) on Tom's grape-flavor Jelly Worm, or those that had the sweet smell of blackberries and strawberries. During the early 1970s, as Tom's press partner in the BASS Masters Classic in Currituck Sound, N.C., I caught a flounder on a Jelly Worm. During those days, the press was allowed to fish out of the back of the boat and even weigh in one bass that might earn the scribe some serious cash.

Among offshore saltwater anglers, the use of a substance known as "tuna blood" is not frowned upon. There are also creams, jellies and liquids that smell like squid, crabs and various baitfish which are used by the blue-water crowd. And let's not forget that oldtime fishermen have been known to spit their tobacco juice on fishing lures, while the Strike King Lure Company not long ago came out with soft plastic baits that had a definite coffee fragrance.

The Potomac River bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski introduced me (and through my newspaper columns also the rest of the Washington area) to the Smelly Jelly brand of attractants. He prefers the herring, or baitfish- and crawfish-scented jars of Smelly Jelly. Once, during a winter striper outing to the outflow waters of the Morgantown Power Plant in southern Charles County, Md., there were at least four of us who couldn't catch a cold, much less a fish. The rockfish simply weren't interested in our white or chartreuse, 4-inch-long Sassy Shad plastics. The fifth fisherman (Andrzejewski) was pulling in one 8- to 10-pound striper after another. His secret: He smeared Smelly Jelly onto his artificial baits.

Andy says the scented baits aren't as important in the summer as they might be when the northwinds blow and the first hard frost arrives. But whether you believe there is truth in the power of a scented lure or that it might be totally useless, I am sure that all of the "attractants" help cover human odor.

If you've ever wondered why mastodons and sabretooth tigers are gone, but we frail little humans are still around, think about scents, smells, odors. To a wild animal (fish may be included), some scientists say that humans smell like a skunk, hence weren't the most desirable item on prehistoric dinner menus. In other words, cover your "skunk" scent (that includes shaving and sun screen lotions, perfumes, and Heaven only knows what else). All types of fish could be yours.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bass tournaments should be prohibited during hot summers

A few days ago my frequent fishing partner, Andy Andrzejewski, and I observed a Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries crew pick up dead largemouth bass within a stone's throw of the Sweden Point Marina in the Mattawoman Creek. Andy and I also saw a few dead bass around a bulkhead of this  Smallwood State Park facility and it quickly became clear that the dead fish were the result of a Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) bass tournament that had been held the previous weekend.

One of the dead bass seen floating after the tournament.
The dead bass at the time the tournament concluded were fish thought to have been released alive, or so it appeared. However, the fact that there is such a proven thing as "delayed mortality" of bass after being transported in tightly confined livewells, in water that in recent days reached temperatures of up to 90 degrees, then released, is still something that tournament organizers will not get into their heads. In fact, the PVA group's release program appears to result in quite a few dead bass every year.

The Maryland DNR now is studying the effects of delayed mortality of tournament fish. Good for the DNR. We hope that its findings mesh with several studies already done in other states, all of which concluded that no matter how good your intentions are, a bass simply does not fare well in confinement for hours on end -- especially when the water temperature exceeds 78 degrees. So no matter how often tournament people pat themselves on the back, congratulating themselves for being great conservationists because they let the bass go, hopefully to be caught again another day, the whole deal simply doesn't meet the smell test.

Fisheries personnel, such as Mary and Tim Groves, picked up dead bass.
Three years ago, the national FLW organization held a large bass tournament during hot weather, also headquartered at Smallwood State Park, and when all the "live" releasing had been done and everybody was proud of seeing the bass swim off after having been confined in the participants' boats, it wasn't long before hundreds of dead bass were counted in the vicinity of the state park. It quickly became clear that the FLW organizers worried more about entry fees and sponsor money than they did about the upper tidal Potomac River's most valuable resource, the largemouth bass.

I sent a letter to Charlie Evans, the CEO of FLW Outdoors, then in Bull Shoals, Ark. Here is the letter. Please read it and see if you disagree:

Dear Mr. Evans: In the interest of fairness, I take serious issue with your letter to the editor here at the Washington Times. Your letter was published on our paper’s editorial pages in the tradition of good newspapers that want to hear of dissenting opinions.

However, your letter contained a number of glaring inaccuracies. For example, you stated that your organization worked closely with the Maryland “Fish & Wildlife service.” Actually, there is no such thing. The Maryland office in charge of wildlife and fisheries is the Department of Natural Resources. You’d think that after claiming to have worked closely with the Maryland DNR, you’d at least know its proper name.

Secondly, Don Cosden, the assistant director of Maryland fisheries appears to strongly disagree with your claim that 99 percent of your tournament-caught -- and eventually released -- bass survive. He called the bass deaths that resulted after your recent tournament(s) “unacceptably high.” He figured the death rate of the released bass to stand at 18.9 percent. (The Oklahoma Fishery Research Laboratory in Norman, OK, did a 2-year study concerning delayed mortality of tournament-caught, released bass in warm summer temperature water. It found that even if only a few bass appeared to succumb at the time of release, the delayed mortality two and three days after the release averaged 39 percent.)

That’s certainly a lot higher than your claimed loss of only 1 percent.

Finally, I am not a reporter as you wrote. I am a columnist who can observe a situation and consequently comment on it. In this case I discussed the bass deaths with our local officials and many onlookers who depend on the Potomac River bass fishery for their primary recreation. I was on the river every day after the tournament and your statement that bluegill and catfish also died doesn’t hold weight. For starters, we never saw dead bluegills, and only a smattering of dead catfish that, according to several DNR biologists, most likely were the result of local fish netters who did not mind their nets as required and they washed out some of the catch that had died.

I am also of the opinion (as a columnist) that your for-profit organization does not have an absolute right to come to a public fishery, do as you wish and act as if you own the river, without having to pay some kind of tribute. For example, you should be made to deposit a sizeable bond to the DNR that would be forfeited in the event of a high rate of bass losses. Your tournament participants should be made to apply for a commercial fishing license since they are fishing for money and prizes, not fishing recreationally. Our commercial fishermen must have a special license since they are “fishing for money” too, just as your contest participants are.

In case you believe that you enjoy universal appeal and support from the general fishing public regarding cast-for-cash tournaments, you might want to re-think that. You might receive it in your state, but my Washington D.C. and surrounding area reader e-mail regarding bass tournaments is strongly against large events, such as those conducted by FLW and BASS. There currently is a move underfoot by citizens who are prevented from using their own local tax- and fee-supported state parks because a big out-of-town tournament is filling every available parking space, to limit the parking for tournament participants to only half of the available parking spots. The rest would always have to remain open to the general local public.

Another local group of recreational anglers doesn’t mind tournaments, but would limit them to those times of the year when the water temperature is 78 degrees or lower. The moment it creeps above that, all tournaments would have to be canceled.

Sincerely, Gene Mueller, The Washington Times


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Good news for sea trout fans and lower Bay redfish

The spotted sea trout came to Ken Lamb's baited hook in the Honga River, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. This one weighed 5 pounds. Ken is the man who runs the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, near the Patuxent Naval Air Station.

Steve Helmrick (left) and Ken Lamb found spotted sea trout in the Honga River, mostly on live minnows.

Roger Burnley hooked this beautiful red drum (a.k.a. redfish or channel bass) in the Baltimore Channel down in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay. The drum hit a colorful jig.
Photo by Dr. Ken Neill

How about this fine batch of fat white perch, hooked by James Patton in the tidal Potomac River. (Many Bay Country residents believe the white perch to be the best tasting fish there is.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh, the things that can happen when it's hot and humid

Regular readers of our blogs and viewers of the weekly photo galleries are well aware that among my regular fishing partners there's Andy Andrzejewski, a tidal water bass guide and a fellow who will not pick the easy way out and stay indoors in splendid air conditioning when the mercury climbs to 100. Quite the contrary. When it's nasty hot outside he's likely to call and ask, "Want to spend a couple of hours on the river?"

Andy had a blue catfish strike a rattle bait
I'm a lot like him even though I'd just as soon not even see the summer months. Having been born and raised in a cold climate, I prefer fall and winter. But right now, all that is just hot weather babbling. Let me tell you what happened when the Fishing Pole, Andrzejewski, and I slipped the boat from its trailer and before we ever picked up a rod, our shirts already dripped with perspiration.

Andy pointed the boat toward the mouth of Dogue Creek and immediately lamented the absence of large fields of water weeds, the way they were seen  in years past. "This doesn't bode well," he said, but almost immediately found strands of emerging hydrilla vegetation. Oh, yeah, his RedEye rattle bait also found a blue catfish that hammered the lipless lure as if it were terribly angry at the plastic baitfish fake. Blue catfish and channel cats are notorious attackers of artificials.

The blue cat eventually came to the net, was brought aboard, judged to weigh over 9 pounds, then was released. We didn't feel like cleaning fish that day.

After the catfish catch, Andy found a juvenile bass and I hooked a yellow perch. That pretty much was it -- until he moved the boat upstream toward Little Hunting Creek where both us began casting white/chartreuse-skirted Chatterbaits toward shallow, waterlogged timber and adjacent spatterdock edges.
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"Whoa," my pal shouted suddenly as his rod bent over in a sharp arc, with line stripping from the baitcasting reel at an alarming rate. Whatever had Andy's Chatterbait wouldn't let go of it. It shot to the left, then the right, then tried to get under the boat, but Andy managed to keep it away from the outboard motor and its prop. "I don't know," he said. "It could be a big catfish, but I know it's not a bass."

A 10-1/2-pound Chinese snakehead hit a Chatterbait
Yes, it was big and it wasn't a bass. It turned out to a fat Chinese snakehead. "Get my net out," he told me and moments later slipped the mesh over the beautifully marked, but unwanted Asian invader. Only moments later when Andy lifted it up into the boat, the line snapped. The snakehead's sharp teeth chafed the monofilament enough to cut it in two.
A digital scale eventually told us that it weighed 10-1/2 pounds. He put the fat Chinese feeding machine into the livewell, later to be presented to a friend who loved to dine on snakeheads. With this fish, his friend would have several meals, to be sure, and Andy regularly delivers all the snakeheads he catches. They cannot be returned to the water dead or alive. They must be killed and properly disposed of. 

Snakeheads are no longer a surprise when they strike bass lures. In fact, our friend Dale Knupp, who fishes with his wife Nancy most days, says when he fishes for bass it sometimes feels as if he's targeting  the Potomac's snakeheads because quite a few fall for his bass lures.  That's how plentiful they are. However, according to John Odenkirk, the Virginia fisheries biologist and a snakehead expert of the first order, these Chinese aliens have not affected the bass population as some fear mongers have claimed. "It's not happening," said Odenkirk who electro-shocks snakeheads regularly and has found no evidence of them devouring lots of largemouths.

The snakehead popped the line just as it was netted
Meanwhile, back in the boat, the sun began to slowly scorch whatever it touched, including our arms and legs. Andy looked at me and said, "Had enough? Let's eat a sandwich, have a drink of water, then wrap it up."

We sat in the shade of large shoreline trees, perhaps some that might have been around when our first President, George Washington, walked these grounds.  We soon got around to talking about Gen. Washington and how he would probably be spinning in his grave if he knew the state our country was in. He never envisioned that one day the federal goverment would want to intrude on virtually every phase of our lives and actually attempt to force people to do things most of us do not want to do.; i.e. a national health care program, etc.

As concerns the catching of snakeheads, what added to the day's conversation was the knowledge that during a recent Maryland DNR meeting a Virginia fishing guide asked how to properly kill a snakehead. It was kind of a strange question when you consider that this fellow insists he's among the top snakehead fishermen in the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heat? What Heat? Good fish catches continue in our area

Seven-year-old Brandon Drewry was fishing with his father in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay when this 79-pound cobia struck the baits. The youngster fought the powerful fish and it was eventually boated. Now, Brandon's proud dad has applied to the International Game Fish Association for a Smallfry World Record.

Martin Palacios shows off his 13-inch-long Patuxent River white perch. A perch of that size is a whopper by any definition. Good show, Martin!

Dave Hacker, of Hollywood, Md., caught this beautiful 22-inch-long flounder in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay at Calvert Cliffs. A live minnow fooled the "flatfish." Way to go, Dave.

The Tackle Box owner, Ken Lamb,  caught these well-fed white perch on small Beetlespin lures in a Patuxent River feeder creek. Ken knows how it's done. He not only sells fishing tackle, he also knows how to use it.

Zach Mead, of Piney Point, Md., caught this 16-inch-long croaker and now he leads the Tackle Box's Big Croaker Contest for the month of July.

Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., holds up a Shenandoah River smallmouth bass. Dick uses a kayak during these days of rock-laden shallow water. He definitely has more courage than I do. I wouldn't be caught dead in a kayak. Why? They have a habit of tipping over when  you least expect it.

Kevin Wilson told us he and a friend waded the Potomac River around Little Orleans in western Maryland and  smallmouth bass like this one jumped on their lures by the numbers. Incidentally, be sure to check out Kevin's fishing website. Go to

Friday, July 15, 2011

It was another day in Paradise (even if the bass didn't think so)

Andy and I fished the local Mattawoman Creek on a day when a high pressure system moved in, the temperature dropped to a welcome 75, later 80, degrees, and the wind – as my Charles County brethren say – “blew a gale.”

Not exactly the best conditions for a productive day on the water, but when you share a boat with the professional fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski, (301/932-1509) the word “quit” will never be heard. It is not part of his lexicon.

What to do? The main stem of the Potomac was white-capping, even the beginnings of the creek were too choppy for the comfortable casting and retrieving of soft plastics, which was definitely on our list of things to do, and the tide stood at maximum high, with a promise that it would begin to ebb fairly soon.

Andy's bass weren't huge, but definitely bigger than mine
Andy turned his 22-footer around and went up into the slow zone stretch of the creek, to the right of Sweden Point Marina, where we could "hide."

For the second time in two outings, a 1/8-ounce Chatterbait, its hook trimmed with a 3-inch plastic shiner (very much like Berkley’s Power Minnow that we use for drop-shotting later in the year), tied to very narrow diameter fused line that had the strength of 14-pound-test monfilament line, delivered the goods. Well, it sort of did.
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A young bass sucked it in while I tried to get the lure back to the boat. The wobbling, wildly vibrating Chatterbait has a habit of driving fish crazy – all fish. A week before our Mattawoman outing, the same type of 1/8-ounce Chatterbait drew strikes from fat white perch, hefty channel catfish, less than legal rockfish and several largemouth bass down the river in King George County, Va.

Later on in the Mattawoman, two other juvenile largemouths attacked the tiny Chatterbait.

Two 1/8-oz. Chatterbaits with plastic minnows
As an aside, a fellow in an out-of-state tournament boat blew past us on full plane, oblivious to the “Slow Zone” markers. But I guess when you’re a self-appointed “pro” bass angler, I guess the rest of the fishing world ought to yield to his wishes. (Not!)

And Andy? He caught bass, too, only his were quite a bit larger. He does that to me with such regularity, it’s almost eerie. Not only that, he used a quarter-ounce crankbait, carefully working it along milfoil and hydrilla bed edges in water that fell from 2 to maybe 5 and 6 feet.

Much later, when the sun began to be felt on our arms and faces, we sought a bit of shoreline shade, ate our poppyseed rolls that were loaded with ham/salami/ham/pickle chips/and more layered ham, sipped on a soda, then went home.

“Another day in Paradise,” said the fishing guide and I totally agreed. Life is good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New hunters must take a hunter safety course

Southern Maryland Hunter Safety Class
Class dates: August 23, 24, 25, 27 at the La Plata Fire Department. Classes will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

Registration: Saturday, August 6, at Fred's Sports store, Route 301, south, in Waldorf, from noon to 4 p.m., and Sunday, August 7, at Dick's Sporting Goods in the St. Charles Town Center, noon to 4 p.m.
A $10 registration fee is required. For more information, send a message to
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Monday, July 11, 2011

There's no stopping these people; all of them are catching fish

Kyle Wilson nailed this fine rockfish in the Patuxent River aboard the Miss Susie charter fishing boat.

From left to right, Carl Rogers, Ken Lamb, Kyle Wilson, Jimmy Peterson and Bud Lamb with stripers caught aboard the charter boat Miss Susie. Interested? The phone number is on the board.

Clay Arnold, of Lexington park, caught these Patuxent River perch from the public fishing pier in Solomons.

Five-year-old Justin Morgan, who lives in Lexington Park, caught this 15-inch-long yellow perch in St. Mary's Lake.

Donald Stewart, of Leonardtown, Md., pulled this 13-inch white perch from the Potomac River at Abel's Wharf.

 Mark Fahey, of Lexington Park, convinced these flounder to take his baits while fishing in the Cornfield Harbor area of the lower Potomac River.

Linda and Mark White, of La Plata, Md., caught these tasty croakers in the lower Patuxent River.

Linda White now leads the July croaker contest with this 14-inch hardhead. Way to go, Linda!

How about this hawg bass! Shannon Landowski, of Lexington Park, caught the 7-1/2-pounder as he was reeling in a bluegill. The bass came up behind the sunfish and inhaled it at St. Mary's Lake.

Patty MacMahan hooked and landed this hefty catfish in Sotterley on the Patuxent Rver. We're talking about some mighty fine eating here.

This handsome young man is Tate Chambers, of Trappe, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Tate caught the fat channel catfish in the Choptank River.

Matt Slotter of Mount Pleasant, Pa., shows off a  38-inch, 16-pound northern pike from Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Md. Slotter used a bull minnow on 6-pound testline near the Glendale Bridge. For guide and lake information check out

Marylanders Frank Cargo, of Crofton, James Yunn, of Catonsville, and Ken Solesky, of Parkville, fished with Capt. Jeff Popp (410/790-2015) around the Gas Docks and look what happened.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We outdoorsmen love to murder the English language, don't we?

I have a thing about certain misused English words
I love the English language. Few other tongues allow a body to express itself in speech or the written word as well as English can.

So why is it that so many of my friends, some of them hunters and anglers, murder it; or rather why do they invent words that actually do not exist, thus should never be used? Worse yet, why do so many of us accept it?

Bowhunters have a habit of saying they "arrowed" a deer. Arrowed? There is no such word. Please, don't try to invent new ones while we should still be studying the currently accepted means of communication. (Never mind some of our teenagers texting strange letters to one another, such as BTW, WTF, LOL, etc. I have no idea what's that all about.)

Talk about misusing a perfectly good word, fish and game departments are among the worst offenders, but recreational hunters are also accepting it. It's the word "harvest." All fish and game departments in the U.S. love to send out news releases that proudly state, "45,000 whitetail deer were 'harvested' on opening day," or some such number.

You don't harvest a deer or any other living creature. You kill it, shoot it, or convert a deer into venison (which says it all), but you never "harvest" wild game -- certainly no more than you would "shoot" a bunch of beets.

Want to harvest something? Go harvest corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, soya beans, wheat and oats. That's what is "harvested," not red-blooded creatures, for heaven's sake.

There are, however, a number of word applications that technically are wrong, yet are meant in salutory fashion, such as bass anglers referring to a large female bass as a "sow," a "hog," and a few words not suited for the eyes and ears of children.

Then there's the buck who lifts his head and tries to pick up strange or familiar scents. Some deer hunters describe it as, "tasting the air." I like that. It kind of describes precisely what he is doing when he fears intrusions of some kind, usually of the human kind.

Television and radio weather forecasters, some of whom are true outdoors folks, like to say, "Temperatures will drop during 'the overnight' . . ." The overnight? That's not a noun and it shouldn't be treated as such. If you say during "the overnight" at least have the decency to add the word "hours." Then it's okay.

That out of the way, the next time I receive a note, letter, e-mail or phone message from a fellow angler who'll finish his message by saying, "Tight lines," I'll scream. I've seen too many "tight lines" break at the most inappropriate times. So stop it already with the "Tight lines." Instead, say, "I hope you'll catch a bushel of crabs and eat half of them."

I'd like that.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What a day on the Potomac River in King George County

One thing is guaranteed right from the start: When you spend a long morning fishing with Marty Magone, rest assured that it will not be time wasted, nor dull.

Marty Magone and a fine King George County "cat"
A Lake Gaston, Va., resident, Magone called and said that his beloved Pauline wanted a fish dinner when she returned from a long overseas flight. "No problem," I told Marty. "Get yourself up here; let's meet at my house and we'll forget about the bass hunts we usually go on when you visit. If it's a fish dinner you want, we'll catch ourselves a mess of white perch, maybe even a couple of keeper rockfish."

Marty showed up 15 minutes before the appointed 6 a.m., which I like. I hate for guests to show up late. Not only that, Marty brought his famous "egg splatter" sandwiches, which consist of a wonderful, coarse-cut egg salad, with bacon bits and sweet pickle. Take one bite out of an egg splatter sandwich and your tongue will come out of your mouth and slap you upside the head to remind you that it wants some more; it is that delicious.

We launched my 18-foot, 90-inch-wide flatbottom Sea Ark aluminum at Goose Bay Marina, which is in a side arm of the Port Tobacco River, and headed out of the waterway into the wide Potomac, then aimed the boat toward the King George County, Va., side and the (locally famous) Mathias Point buoy structure that is surrounded by a long line of up- and downstream rocks to protect the navigation marker.
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The rock lines are the secret. Moments after I slipped the trolling motor over the bow and we began to cast 1/2-ounce, blue/chrome Strike King Red Eye rattle baits to within inches of the waterlogged boulders, the first rockfish struck my lure, while a large white perch hit Marty's.

Well-fed, fat white perch made Marty's day
The striper was just shy of meeting the minimum required 18 inches and it was released. Moments later, Marty had one on. Same story. Then a series of hits were felt by  both of us, but the fish simply wouldn't stay on the hook. As the tide was rolling in, it was time to move.

We headed around Mathias Point and toward the shoreline shallows near the Chotank Creek and just as soon as I fired a 1/8-ounce white perch-intended Chatterbait to the Chotank's northern corner, a largemouth bass of about 2 pounds struck the little wobble bait.

Marty was casting a Tiny Trap lure in blue/chrome, a lure that looks just like its bigger brother, the regular 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap; only this Trap was a 1/8 ounce model. Marty caught perch with it, but he cast a jealous eye toward my little gold-bladed Chatterbait because he figured it was a better fish producer. Only minutes later he had the same lure on his line and he proceeded to whip butt on fine white perch and a good-sized channel catfish.

That really started the fun. Marty had one good perch after another -- some bigger than others, but it was Marty's job to judge whether it was a keeper. Whenever he said, "Hey, I think this is an eater," it meant it was worthy of his frying pan and it was dropped into my livewell.

We caught a lot of perch, but released most of them because Marty soon had enough for Pauline's fish-fry. Then piscatorial thunder struck. A large channel catfish hammered Marty's little Chatterbait and the big fellow from south-central Virginia had a tough time getting the sassy "cat" close enough to be lifted into the boat. "Do you want a net," I asked Marty, and he declined. "No, I can handle him okay without one."

What was a bass doing in perch and striper land?
He did; brought the fat "cat" up over the gunwale near the console, dropped it on top of his fishing rod (which actually belonged to me) that lay at an angle across the gunwale and the deck. The graphite rod snapped. What was a one-piece rod originally, now was  a two-piecer. Just like that.

"It wasn't my fault," shouted Magone. "The fish did it." Yeah, right, partner.

We had an egg splatter sandwich, drank a soda, then resumed fishing. More perch struck the lures. I had yet another catfish on for a while, but it eventually broke off. And only 5 minutes before we called it a day, Marty aimed his diminutive Chatterbait toward a rocky point and "Bang!" a largemouth bass inhaled the lure.

Mind you, we were fishing in waters renowned for stripers and perch, but bass and channel catfish are not thought of as a regular  local catch. Yet, it happened. We caught four different species of fish in less than five hours. Pauline got enough perch and catfish to have a fish fry big enough to invite the neighbors over, and I soon arrived home with only one broken fishing rod. One busted pole out of about a dozen that I brought along? When you fish with my pal Marty, that's not bad.

The 1-piece rod in Marty's hand is only moments away from becoming a 2-piece rod

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's summer and the fishing, like the temperatures, can be hot!

That's David Harris, of Falls Church, Va., with a fine bass, caught in the Potomac River. David only said it happened across from Mt.Vernon, but looking at the background it appears to be Bulltown Cove (also known as Bryans Cove), in the Accokeek area. Good show, David!

Kevin Wilson knows that the C&O Canal, adjacent to the Potomac River, is home to a variety of fish. Here's a pretty largemouth that fell for a 4-inch Zoom Dead Ringer.  Photo by Howard Boltz

You must check out Kevin's website. It's a top-notch fishing site. Click on         

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Howard Boltz fished a small Pennsylvania creek with his pal, Kevin Wilson. This smallmouth bass was one of the creek inhabitants that fell for their artificial lures.

How about this beautiful striper caught by Virginia Beach resident Jim Trimble.
Actually, the rockfish was hooked when the weather was still cool, but we wanted to add his photo anyway. There's nothing wrong with a little belated tip of the hat to a good angler.

Ken Neill sent us this photo of Tim Hatok, of Poquoson, Va. Tim boated this fine yellowfin tuna in the distant offshore waters of the Norfolk Canyon.

Take a look at lower part of this photo (taken with a wildlife motion sensor camera). You'll see the groundhog that has stolen all of the tomatoes in the Mueller's small garden. I guarantee you that the 'hog's existence on this earth will come to a screeching halt very soon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Striper news from N.Y., and which state has the most boaters?

Hudson River stripers to be protected, so how come Maryland 
and Virginia rockfish do not enjoy similar protective legislation?

The Stripers Forever organization reminds members and interested parties that a bill in the N.Y. legislature (A07487) to prohibit the sale of striped bass taken from the Hudson River through 2015 has passed both the Assembly and the Senate. This bill now must be signed by Governor Cuomo. Brad Burns, of Stripers Forever, said, "We have been informed that he is surprised that he has not heard more from recreational fishermen.  Let's change that right now! After helping their ocean-fishing counterparts wipe out the shad population, the netters would like nothing better than to get at the Hudson [River's] striper population. Let's not let them ruin that fishery too." 

Wouldn't it be nice if our rivers were off limits to rockfish netters?
New York's recreational anglers are asked to send a note to the Governor. Here is a simple suggestion. It can be modified any way:

Dear Governor Cuomo -- Please sign A07487 right away. The coastwide ocean fishery for striped bass is among the most popular and valuable of all saltwater fisheries, and it is already in a state of decline. Commercial fishing both in and outside of the Hudson has destroyed the once great shad fishery, and we cannot allow the destruction of the striped bass fishery as well. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is already proposing a 50% reduction in the coastwide catch of striped bass in 2012.  This is no time to consider new fishing pressures on this resource. The passage of A07487 will show that your administration is serious about conservation, and give guides and recreational fishermen the confidence to make capital investments in their businesses and equipment."

Why are we talking about New York's concerns? That's easy to explain. How come there isn't a similar bill or major move being made to protect the stripers (rockfish) in some of the most important striper rivers in Maryland and Virginia? Maryland's Potomac River and Virginia's James River are two such incredibly important waterways. Wouldn't it be nice if commercial fishing there could be eliminated?


Where are all the boaters in our country?                  

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has announced the top 10 states for boating based on annual sales.

Boating expenditures in the U.S. reached $30.4 billion in 2010, and an estimated 75 million Americans took to the water, an increase of 14 percent compared to the recessionary year of 2009. Here are the top ten boating states, ranked by total annual expenditures for new powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories in 2010[1].

1. Florida ($1.1 billion)
2. Texas ($812 million)
3. New York ($401 million)
4. North Carolina ($361 million)
5. Louisiana ($360 million)
6. Michigan ($350 million)
7. Delaware ($343 million)
8. California ($310 million)
9. Washington ($298 million)
10. Wisconsin ($292 million)

Have you noticed that neither Maryland nor Virginia made the list. Are you kidding? Delaware is the 7th most popular boating state in the U.S., but Maryland and Virginia didn't even rank in the top 10. I think an investigation is called for.