Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Of big freshwater bass and monster rockfish in the Chesapeake

So you thought that the 200-plus-acre St. Mary's Lake near Leonardtown, Md., was good mostly for sunfish and crappies. Think again. That's local angler Mike Willett with an 8-pound largemouth, caught at St. Mary's Lake just a few days ago. I love that lake and some time ago watched a Maryland DNR electro-shock crew check out the status of the lake's bass population. If you could have seen the sizes of bass that came up when the "juice" hit them back then, you'd be fishing here every day.

Our Shenandoah River specialist and reporter, Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., went to Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, with a friend and the two caught 16 bass, including this beauty held up by Dick. Way to go!!!

Neil Zimmerman caught this 43-inch striper near the Chesapeake Bay's HI Buoy -- only one of a long string of trophy stripers that were seen at Ken Lamb's Tackle Box in Lexington Park over the past 4 or 5 days. The tackle shop is a favorite stop for fishermen.

J.R. Brown and the 48-inch rockfish he hooked near the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant in Calvert County, Md.
I don't know how heavy it was, but it looks to weigh around 40 pounds.

Jonathan Honey holds up a 43-inch striper as he had his trophy photographed inside the Tackle Box store. Jonathan caught this fine rockfish near near the 72A Buoy in the Bay. Is he happy, or what?

Jimmy Lee, Jr., trolled a daisy chain set-up near Cedar Point and came back to port with this 45-inch, 39-pound striped bass. Look at the smile on his face. It says it all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wild pigs in Southern Maryland? Better believe it.

Zack and Gregg McLane show off their wild pig
Wild pigs in Southern Maryland? I'm sure that what Zack and Gregg McLane of Leonardtown, Md., are holding up in the photo is not a true imported wild European black hog, such as the ones hunters find in Tennessee and North Carolina, but it could be a feral pig -- a domestic animal that got away from its sty and turned wild. Pigs that break away from farm life quickly become totally self-sufficient. They turn into a wild state quicker than any other once domesticated animal, tearing up farm fields while searching for food and feeding happily on acorns they find in the woods. Oh, yeah, and they multiply like fleas.

The McLanes brought this pig to Ken Lamb's Tackle Box in Lexington Park, saying they were attacked by the wild hog in Compton, Md., during a deer scouting trip last week.

Lamb tells us that there have been reports of wild hogs in  the Compton and Medley's Neck areas of Southern Maryland this past year, and the McLanes were ready for trouble if they saw one. The pig weighed close to 250 pounds, dressed. Lamb said that such hogs are considered an invasive species by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and that they can be hunted and bagged any time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Maryland bass angler is ticked off with big Potomac tournaments

Joseph W. Love, Ph.D., the Tidal Bass Manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has been getting an earful from a ticked-off Maryland bass angler who's had it "up to here" with out-of-state, money-making tournament fishing organizations who flock to the upper tidal Potomac River between Washington and western Charles County like hordes of locusts every spring and summer.

Eric Paugh, who lives in Anne Arundel County where the state capital, Annapolis (and the DNR), is located wants a public discussion regarding the state being rather mum about the national FLW bass tournament group scheduling two major cast-for-cash tournaments on identical dates. Not only that, the tournament will be headquartered at the posh National Harbor facility in Prince George's County where, sadly, no boat launching ramps are available. No problem, the private FLW group suggests. You can always launch at Charles County's free Marshall Hall boat ramp.

Should a family have to wait until big bucks bass tournaments are finished?

Paugh, who is an avid bass fisherman, questions the wisdom of allowing two major tournaments to be held in the spring of 2012 at the same time, same place. Two such massive outings might consist of as many as 800 participants, all of them working diligently on having 5-bass limits each day --- and all that during the peak of the largemouth bass spawning time.

The FLW doesn't say what will happen if hundreds of boat trailers need to be parked in an area that can barely support 25 to 30 such trailers now. Not only that, is the FLW saying that tax-paying, private Maryland citizens who want to use "their" river, need to stay away from Marshall Hall when the out-of-state money grubbers come to town?

"With all of that being said, what is the benefit to the fishery or to the citizens of [Maryland] on allowing a for-profit company like "FLW" to come here and abuse the river to this magnitude?" asks Paugh of the Tidal Bass Manager, Love. "What return to the resource is there? I cannot honestly think of one. If you say, to support your research, then do the already prevalent tournaments not provide enough information for you to properly manage the fishery?"

He also asks, "Can you honestly tell me, that you do not think this is a slap in the face to the many local anglers who will not be able to enjoy the river during this time due to the 400 boats running around? Will the [Natural Resources] Police have proper staffing on the water to oversee the 400 boats running around with $100 thousand in prize money on their mind versus the safety of others? What about when they all commute in the dark from Marshall Hall or Gravely Point in the pitch black?"

Of course, Paugh has every right to ask all these questions. Why, indeed, does the state not recoil in horror at the prospect of all that?

Says the bass boss, Love, "Managing the interests of many stakeholders on the Potomac River is incredibly difficult. Regarding black bass, I know there is a tremendous effort exerted almost every weekend of the year. It's always amazed me that hundreds of recreational and competitive sportfish anglers pound this bass fishery and the bass fishery is still in good shape. There was even a commercial fishery for largemouth bass back in the 1950's! Studies during that time indicated that the commercial fishery did little to hurt the bass population in the upper bay, much to my amazement.

"The tremendous amount of effort exerted on the fishery requires us to do a few things. First, we work with anglers to reduce catch-and-release mortality by researching and relaying the best ways to handle the fish. Second, we go to every large tournament, especially those with release boats. So, we'll be the FLW/BFL tournament on the National Harbor. I'm still not sure how many anglers will be fishing there because registration isn't complete. I usually don't get a realistic number until a few days before the tournament. We'll be there to make sure the bass are treated well in the release boats. In practice, though, since I've been doing that, we've seen that the anglers and release boat captains generally do a good job. There are some problems that come up and we address them with the directors and the captains. Finally, we conduct surveys of the populations every year or every other year to detect changes in the status of the fishery."

When Dr. Love says that the tournament anglers and release boats do a good job, I suppose he's already forgotten the recent fiasco of another FLW tournament that came out of Smallwood State Park -- a tournament that eventually saw over 600 dead bass floating in visible areas of Mattawoman Creek and the nearby Potomac. I would bet a fair sum that more dead bass were pulled away by the tides that were never counted.

And to naysayers, who claim that tournaments do no harm, I can guarantee you that all the bass that river guide Andy Andrzejewski and I saw were not doing the back-stroke. These bass were dead, having been caught in very warm water, then further stressed in relatively small livewells, handled extensively during the weigh-in, then eventually released only to die. It's called delayed mortality. Tournament groups like to brag that their live release success stands at 98 percent. Perhaps that's true, but they never want to talk about "delayed mortality."

The answer to my complaints, as well as Paugh's, isn't easy to swallow. The DNR's Dr. Love, mentioning an upcoming Bass Round Table discussion group, says, "We can discuss ways of reducing access of anglers to the fishery. I know that there is tremendous pressure on bass in the Potomac. Bass anglers who come to this state from national or local clubs drop a lot of pressure all at once in a river. I'm sure DNR and other state/federal agencies have made mistakes in handling how pressure on a fishery needs to be dealt with. The historical ways of dealing with that in fisheries has been to lower the creel/harvest or change size limits. Because largemouth bass constitutes a catch-and-release fishery, these traditional methods are not likely to work. The ways that could work are season or area closures. Last year, we discussed closing areas. After many in house conversations and those with bass anglers, no one believed we could enforce a closure of an area. We could discuss this again; or we could discuss closing the fishery to anglers during a certain time period.

"To make such a change, we would need substantial evidence that the fishery is in jeopardy. Currently, I have no data that support that the bass fishery of the Potomac River warrants additional regulation. I do not want to limit access of a fishery from anglers (whether they're fishing on Sundays or fishing in tournaments). DNR wants folks to go fishing and they want them to be successful. I want them to be successful."

There you have it. Your Maryland Department of Natural Resources hard at work to keep things as they are. Everything is wonderful. There are no problems.

What really burns so many Maryland anglers is 1) that out-of-state bass guides actually get a voice when the DNR holds a meeting about a Maryland River, and 2) that there actually are ninnies within the state government who believe that the big tournaments bring a lot of money into the state. Not so!

Yes, Dorothy and Toto really did walk the Yellow Brick Road, and they found the Wizard of Oz. It's all true. Everything is beautiful -- especially in Annapolis.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week's top catches were stripers and one good sea trout

Charles and Chris Palmer went out into the Chesapeake looking for rockfish and look what they returned with when they got back to their St. Jerome's Creek dock down in St. Mary's County.

John and Jane Hambel latched onto this huge rockfish while trolling near the Chesapeake Bay's Buoy 72A.

Robert Etalamaki trolled with a parachute rig around the Potomac River's Buoy 7 when this 30-pound, 42-inch-long striper snatched the lure and wouldn't let go.

Troy Wallace and Kevin Teig show off their 44-inch, 35-pound rockfish hooked in the Southern Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Hunter Southall fished for speckled sea trout in Virginia's Elizabeth River and came up with this fine 7.5-pound specimen that measured 28.5  inches long.

The fellow with the two black holes in his head (or are those sunglasses?) is Marty Magone, who caught this striper in Lake Gaston, Va. He used a blade bait, kind of like a Silver Buddy, while fishing in the lake's Poplar Creek.

A day later, he still had the large black holes in his face, but it's Marty Magone again, this time with two good rockfish also caught in Virginia's Lake Gaston.

                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to
                    The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
      If you want to share a photo or brief story with us, send it to

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The numbers of tidal river crappies is simply unbelievable

We're not trying to beat a dead horse here by once again writing about the great numbers of crappies in the upper tidal Potomac River between Washington D.C. and Charles County, Md., and across the river in Prince William County, Va., but the sizes and numbers of the speckled fish are simply astonishing. How can a cold-water angler in tidewater country stay away from such bounty?

Andy Andrzejewski removes  a grub from a crappie
Yesterday, my regular fishing partner Andy Andrzejewski, a professional guide who spends most of his time on the water going after largemouth bass, and I once again launched at the Marshall Hall boat ramp and vowed to search for "specks" from below the launch ramp clear up to and beyond the Wilson Bridge. All in one day. (It's a piece of cake when you run around in a 22-foot Triton bass boat, powered by a 250 h.p. Evinrude outboard motor, and the water is as smooth as silk.)

Our first stop was a seemingly flat shore area near Virginia's Dogue Creek. The tide had nearly reached its lowest ebbing stage and soon was about to turn. Andy and I had either chartreuse color Gulp grubs on strong monfilament (around 10- or 12-pound test), or even 20-pound test FireLine. The FireLine's diameter is in the 8-pound class and the stuff is strong as a bull, ideal for pulling free a 1/16-oz. or 1/8-ounce ball-head jig's wire hook. Both of us also have at least one rod that holds a Mann's Sting Ray grub in avocado color, always at the ready.

Should you wonder what it is that helps us attract even more fish than the lures can all by themselves, be reminded that Andy and I are firm believers in the fish-attracting powers of a creamy substance known as Smelly Jelly. (We've seen it on the shelves of Dick's sporting goods stores.) Yes, kind of like the credit card commercial goes, we don't leave home without it. Incidentally, as far as the Smelly Jelly flavors go, we enjoy success with the Crawdaddy scent, ditto for the baitfish, all garlic, or garlicky Bass Hammer scents.

Gene Mueller with a crappie that liked the Gulp grub
As the morning fog slowly lifted and the sun began to warm our hides, Andy said, "I'm marking fish in 8- to 10-foot-deep water." However, one cast just a little past the deeper layers would put us into less than 3 feet of the river's shoreline. In other words, the secret was to find dips and channels, holes and undulating flats that the crappies (and other species) apparently seek out when they lie in ambush for minnows or as they chase the baitfish.

"There he is," Andy said shortly after the second or third cast that was followed by an almost lazy kind of line retrieve, with an occasional lifting and lowering of the rod tip to give the scented grub a bit of hopping action. Andy's first crappie was a fine specimen, probably well over one pound in weight. I followed next with a similarly-sized fish. Since we kept some crappies during our last outing, these fish now were let go no matter what their size was.

It weighed 1-lb., 5-ozs.
After perhaps 20-odd such beauties that also included a small bass, we put away the gear and headed upstream to an area near the Swan Creek mouth. Much the same happened here. One crappie after another took our "baits" as an incoming tide began to cover earlier seen brush and rocks near shore. Fair warning: In each case that we hooked the silver/black fish, the water had to be well over 5 and 6 feet deep and even deeper river layers had to be close by. This kind of crappie fishing can't be done in the shallows, as can happen when they spawn in April and May.

Once again, we packed it in after a good number of hookups and releases. All we did was snap a photo now and then. Off we went for the third time, heading north toward Wilson Bridge. As happened elsewhere, just before we reached the bridge near National Harbor, a set of old pilings produced some action, although not as good as that we had downstream.

That was quickly rectified when the boat idled through the slow-down zone beneath Wilson Bridge and we stopped outside the Spoils Cove where myriad sunken boulders, rocks and metal objects can claim fishing lures -- especially grubs that are cast into a melange of underwater objects. This is not for novice fishermen. You frequently need to pop the line in hopes of freeing a snagged jig hook, and not getting angry when one is lost amid the jagged stones. After all, we help the local stores by constantly restocking our tackle bags with new lures. If only our American stores would refuse to stock Communist Chinese products. What a shame. Can't we make our own stuff any more? Have we no pride?

This is all you need to catch tidal river crappies:
Sting Rays on the left, Gulp grubs on the bottom and
Smelly Jelly in the jar above

In a sharply dropping edge of water that went from 3 and 4 feet to more than 12 feet, the Sting Ray and Gulp grubs began to score big-time. Actually, it was Andy's lure. He hooked at least 10 fat crappies before I had the first hit and even that one got off the hook. It didn't matter, sooner or later the fish would bite and it wouldn't be a soft pickup, as crappies often do. No, these speckled wonders pretty much attacked the "baits."

If you have a boat, even a small one as long as you pick a day when it's stone calm and the wind doesn't blow, you could launch at Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria and find crappies in the backwater coves below the marina, but also across the river inside or outside the Spoils Cove. The same goes for any dock pilings that sit in at least 6 to 9 feet of water anywhere on the Potomac. Pick a marina, such as Fort Washington Marina in the Piscataway Creek, or the Tantallon Marina in Swan Creek, maybe any one of the marinas or old abandoned  dock pilings inside the Occoquan and you'll run into crappies as long as you have deep enough water. It stands to reason that when the water temperatures is  below 45 degrees, the fish will seek slightly warmer, deeper layers. But they will not stop looking for food. So go for it.

The bass fishing guide, Andrzejewski, can be reached by calling 301/932-1509.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One's a freshwater striper, the others came from salty river water

Fellow blogster, Kevin Wilson ( went to southwestern Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake where he fished with friends. They were after anything that would bite, but found the going rough -- until Kevin latched onto this nice landlocked striped bass. The guys also hooked a few bass. Way to go, brother.
-- Photo by Bob Barber

Scott Collins fished in the Greenwell State Park area of the Patuxent River in St. Mary's County when these two healthy looking rockfish struck his trolled lures. He stopped by at the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park and had his picture snapped.

Lower Bay and Atlantic Ocean fishing specialist, Dr. Ken Neill, sent us this photo, along with the message that Joey Stratton and his six-year-old son, Jackson, fished Virginia's tidal Elizabeth River and the father/son team caught 20 speckled trout. Jackson caught the largest. It measured 22 inches. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two out of three ain't bad, grandpa said about Pierce's latest hunt

By Joe Novak
(guest columnist)

It was Youth Day, the special two-day hunt for young people only and it began for this grandson and grandfather hunting team as countless other hunting days have, perched shoulder to shoulder, 12 feet up in a double-wide buddy tree stand an hour before the rays of dawn took the reins from night.

An hour and a half into the new day a small doe appeared out of the deep ravine bordering the east and north edges of the bottomland flat that we hunt. As we scanned the brush behind her, she stood intently listening to the sound trailing her. The boy readied his gun and waited as the doe walked through the woods north to south, eventually putting her in front of us 60 yards away. She stopped and continued looking over her shoulder as the sound that was trailing her stepped up out of the ravine. It was a buck, a big 8-point buck and he would follow the path of the doe.

Pierce Hill and his second buck in three years of hunting
Unfortunately the buck never stopped in a position where my young teammate could trigger a clean shot. I stopped the buck twice with a grunt but both times the buck turned, facing us head on, then turned and quickly disappeared into the underbrush. As the opportunity slipped away, we discussed in hushed tones that perhaps we would see him again if that doe wandered back through. Three hours ticked by. We waited and watched, but it was not to be.

We sat leaning forward resting our chins on folded crossed arms over the auxiliary gun rest. The afternoon hunt passed us by filled with hushed idle chit-chat while our eyes searched the woods around us. Then it happened. “Hey grandpa, I see two deer moving through the brush up on the hill,” whispered Pierce. We watched the forms of deer move in and out of sight through the tangle of underbrush, not knowing whether they were buck, doe or fawn, but we knew they were deer. They were just too far away. But after a few minutes of watching the underbrush on the hill I picked up glimpses of antler.

“Pierce, the second deer is a buck trailing a doe, pick up your gun and ready yourself, they are headed to the flat in front of us.”

Instantly I realized the mistake I’d just made as the grandson’s breathing nearly doubled the moment I told him it was the buck from that morning and he was headed our way. In an attempt to calm him I quietly explained the cat and mouse game I was seeing that the youngster could not. The doe was headed our way on a route that would bring her directly in front of us, and in close. Patiently, she would stop and look back as the buck thrashed the bark off some unsuspecting small tree along the way.

Pierce holds his buck while grandpa, Joe Novak, beams with pride
I slowly pointed a finger to an opening where the doe would cross and told Pierce to focus on that spot until the buck stepped into it, then get the crosshairs on his shoulder quick as you can. "It will happen fast," I told him. As I figured, the buck stopped in that doorway-size opening of opportunity and I asked, "Do you have his shoulder? Yes! Shoot!"

He did, and for the second year in a row we witnessed a memorable event come to a close as the buck did a complete back flip, stumbled to his hind legs and plowed a 40 yard long path back into the ravine. After a couple minutes of hushed whispers and high fives we went to investigate the ravine where we saw and heard him last. The buck’s route there was like someone had raked the leaves aside to form our path.

For the second time in three years, the youth would soon lay his hands on a fine trophy. The buck was a bruiser, weight-wise, and he sported an impressive inside antler spread of 24 inches, with beams exceeding 24 inches in length.

Two out of three ain’t bad -- plus the boy thinks his grandfather is his lucky charm! However, his grandfather thinks with as much seat time the grandson has spent shoulder to shoulder with him since he was four, the grandson earned that buck and his smile tells it all!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drive especially careful now; it's deer mating season

The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) reminds all of us that the likelihood of a vehicle colliding with a deer is particularly high this time of year. Some of our whitetailed deer are beginning to rut. It is mating season, and just like some human males, the male deer is especially careless when he's in love. When a buck deer is hot on the trail of a comely female he frequently doesn't pay any attention to autos, trucks and other highway traffic.

These bucks were photographed on Mike Schoeneman's Texas ranch.

The majority of all deer/vehicle collisions occur in the months of October, November and December, says the VDGIF (and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources joins the warnings). 
"While less than 2 percent of vehicle fatalities and injuries involve deer collisions in Virginia, hitting a deer can cause considerable damage to both people and property," the VDGIF points out -- and I should know. A few years ago, while driving during sunset hours, I struck two bucks within the space of one week. Both bucks had their nose tight to the ground, crossing busy Route 5 in Southern Maryland without so much as looking left and right. I guess they couldn't remember what their mother taught them when they were young. It was obvious that these deer were on a scent trail left by a doe, most likely one that was in estrus, ready to mate.

Virginia wildlife biologists estimate the whitetailed deer population in Virginia to be approximately 900,000 animals. Each year, deer hunters harvest more than 200,000. Let's not increase the kill number with our vehicles.

One of the things that drivers also must remember is that not only do bucks cross the road searching for does. Other deer often travel in groups and if you see one, there likely will be others. If one crosses the road as you approach, others could very well be right behind the first.

By the way, those deer whistles mounted on the bumper of a car have not been shown to be effective. I can attest to that. When I struck two deer in one week several seasons ago, I had two deer whistles properly affixed in the grill of my pickup truck.

The VDGIF also reminds us that a person involved in a collision with a deer or bear while driving a motor vehicle should immediately report the accident to a law enforcement officer. Once properly documented, a driver may keep the carcass for their own use. That goes for all states, not just Virginia.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Proof positive that heavyweight ocean rockfish have arrived

Ron Drinkwater and a beautiful 43-inch striper caught out in the southern portion of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Down at the mouth of the Bay, increasing numbers of ocean stripers will be seen, while smaller specimens currently dominate the scene around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and nearby channels, dips and flats.

Ron Drinkwater returned to Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek where Christy Henderson shot a photo. Drinkwater also stopped by at the Tackle Box in Lexington Park to show the boys at the store the fine striper he hooked.

Jimmy Wood, who lives in Ridge, near Buzz's Marina, caught this 48-inch rockfish out in the Bay. He hooked it, reeled it in and boated it -- all by himself. No one helped.
Photo by Christy Henderson

Charlie Sparrer spent some ocean time east of Virginia Beach at the Triangle Wreck in the company of the fishingest dentist that ever lived, Dr. Ken Neill. He caught this terrific sea bass among a number of other species, last weekend.
Photo by Dr. Neill.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nights turn cold, days are warm, and the crappies are biting

In the fog, Andy hooked the first crappie of the day
We left the Marshall Hall boat ramp in a dense November fog. Fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski said it was the right time of year when the Potomac River's crappies should be biting, so -- thanks to a good GPS unit -- we idled slowly out into the river. The vision was near zero, but Andy confidently, but very slowly, cut through the "soup" and eventually found the shoreline he was looking for. It was an area that offered a large flat that even at high tide showed no more than 2 or 3 feet of water, but a staircase-like incline was adjacent to the flat that included sunken logs and some stones.

"Some people believe that you need a waterlogged tree or sunken brush piles to find crappies this time of year," said the Fishing Pole, who is as skilled at locating the speckled panfish as he is finding largemouth bass.

Another "speck" is pulled into the boat
Andy tied a Mann's Sting Ray grub in avocado color to 12-pound test line (remember, the Sting Ray's ball-head hook is totally exposed after it's fed through the broad side of the flat-tailed grub. The greenish bait was dabbed with Smelly Jelly fish attractant and then cast out in what appeared to be wide-open, barren water.

"Fish on," he said only 10 seconds later, a well-fed crappie wildly objecting to being flipped up into the boat. He repeated casting and hooking fish at least three more times before I finally struck gold -- or rather silver-and-black.
My favorite lure was a chartreuse, inch-long, curly-tailed  Gulp grub on a 1/8-ounce jig hook, with a bobber about three feet above the lure. What I didn't figure on was the fact that these fish were flat on the bottom and if the lure didn't reach down far enough, they'd ignore it.

Gene Mueller's first crappie fell for a Gulp grub
I quickly removed the little float, cast the grub back out and -- bang! -- a crappie inhaled it. We shot a few photos of the fish, but then we began to cast our soft lures again, with Andy hooking a largemouth bass, and me setting the hook to yet another "croppy," as mid-Westerners call them. Andy weighed it on a digital scale and it showed to be 1-pound, 4-ounces.

With the tide steadily receding and fishing slowing down a bit, the boat was moved to a little deeper area near the flat.

Only enough crappies were kept to provide one dinner
Great goshamighty! Andy and I tied into crappies with nearly every cast. Not only that, my partner and fishing guide, Andy, also set the hook to yellow perch and more bass, in addition to the flecked delicacies.

We kept only enough crappies to make for one dinner at my house. My wife loves crappie fillets, dipped in seasoned batter and fried golden-brown.

In all, we caught well over 40 crappies, eight or nine yellow perch, a half dozen bass and three red-breasted sunfish. Would you agree that such fishing can't get much better than that?

Here are artificial lures that prove time and again that live minnows are not necessary when fishing for crappies. On the left are two Mann's Sting Ray grubs, hooks exposed. On top, the four colorful little grubs on 1/16-oz. jig hooks can be fished with or without a bobber. If you use 14-pound FireLine, when a lure is lodged against sunken wood, you have enough line strength to pull it free, resharpen and rebend the hook, then resume fishing. In the center bottom are two Berkley dropshot minnows that can be fished with or without a bobber. The two little  1/32-oz. shad darts at bottom right are always fished with a float and tied perpendicular to light monofilament line.

If you're interested in a guided outing with Andrzejewski, call him at 301/932-1509.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Suddenly, stripers appear in a freshwater river in the mountains

This Shenandoah River striper was a surprise to a smallmouth angler
My friend Dick Fox, the fellow whose smallmouth bass photos frequently grace this space, not long ago fished for smallies in Virginia's Shenandoah River when the grub he was using was attacked by something no freshwater mountain river angler ever expects -- a young striped bass (a.k.a. striper or rockfish).

"There were quite a few of them in a small school," said Fox and he asked if I could check with Virginia or Maryland biologist acquaintances to see if that is even possible. Fox and I both guessed that it might have been an unwanted release by someone who attempted to raise rockfish in the large aerated tubs that are sometimes used by aquaculturists, and found that it was too labor-intensive, subsequently turning them loose in the historic river.

While I tried to get hold of Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist John Odenkirk, Fox couldn't wait and he contacted one of Odenkirk's freshwater colleagues, Steve Reeser, also of the VDGIF. Reeser agreed that what Fox had caught indeed were striped bass.

"We collected two fish the same size [recently] while electrofishing the South Fork Shenandoah just upstream of Front Royal (Luray Ave. access)," said Reeser, who added that another angler contacted him who also caught several identically-sized rockfish just below the Morgans Ford low-water bridge on the main stem of the Shenandoah.

Then Reeser solved the mystery of how an ocean and Chesapeake Bay native species might have turned up in a high country sweet-water river. "We had a pond of striped bass (1"-2”) last year at our Front Royal Fish Hatchery," he said. "These were eventually stocked in Smith Mountain Lake. I cannot be sure that the fish we are seeing in the river are some escapees from the hatchery, but it appears to be highly likely. The other possibility is an illegal stocking of these fish by an individual. However, I do not believe that they will cause any problems to other fish in the Shenandoah River."

By the way, stripers can do very well in freshwater, so don't be surprised if one day you hook such a sassy specimen when actually you were hoping for smallmouth bass.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Turkey season is open and the big rockfish are biting

Michael Henderson and the fine striper he caught
Michael Henderson, the owner of Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek, near Ridge, in St. Mary's County, caught this very nice 33-inch ocean striper on Thursday. Mike's wife, Christy, said, "It was dripping in sea lice. Michael was in the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay not far from here in 40 feet of water. He jigged it up on an albino BKD with a 2-ounce jig head. He caught five more, but he released them at the side of the boat." Apparently, Michael was tipped off to the presence of rockfish as he observed gannets, pelicans and big gulls diving into the water.
                                                                                   --- Photo by Christy Henderson

Michael Sawyers and a 19-lb. gobbler

Here's Michael "Bobcat" Sawyers, the outdoors writer for the Cumberland Times-News with a 19-pound gobbler that he shot on opening day of the Maryland wild turkey season. Our friend, Brent Nelson, said, "He shot that turkey behind my cabin." Nelson's cabin is located in Allegany County. Nelson added, "I got a young bird on Saturday at 8 a.m.," then said that he is seeing more wild turkeys on the mountain this year than he could ever remember. As a farewell message, Nelson warned, "And the bears are over-running us."
          --- Photo by Brent Nelson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Joseph Hautman wins annual federal duck stamp contest

The winning entry
(Sent by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Joseph Hautman, an artist from Plymouth, Minn., is the winner of the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. This is Hautman’s fourth Federal Duck Stamp Contest win.

Hautman’s acrylic painting of a single wood duck will be made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2012. The Service produces the Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds for conserving wetlands for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.

Of 190 entries in this year’s two-day competition, 32 entries made it through to the final round of judging. Adam Grimm of Burbank, S.D., placed second with his oil painting of a single gadwall. Grimm is also a previous Federal Duck Stamp Contest winner. His art appeared on the 2000-2001 Federal Duck Stamp.

Richard Clifton of Milford, Del., took third place with an acrylic painting of a pair of mallards. Clifton won the 2006 Federal Duck Stamp Contest and his winning art appeared on the 2007-2008 Federal Duck Stamp.
                      Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
            Go to
                    The fishing report is updated every Thursday 
      If you want to share a photo or brief story with us, send it to

The AuCoin Report: Outdoor news from around the country

Toxic Algae in Lake Erie
Lake Erie -- a boating, fishing and shipping resource for Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario is being threatened from two sides: the summer's huge toxic algae bloom and the possible invasion of exotic Asian carp. Algae, fed by summer fertilizer runoff from farms, slowly sinks and depletes oxygen in the water, killing fish and vegetation. These “dead zones” will move east. “It’s now out of control,” says Ken Alvey, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. The other big worry is rapidly populating Asian carp, now knocking at the door of the Great lakes via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. If Asian carp get into the Great Lakes, some say, they’re going to love the relatively shallow and warmer waters of Lake Erie. (Trade Only Today, NASA, The Plain Dealer)

Two Whooping Cranes Shot in Louisiana
Louisiana wildlife officials believe two juveniles shot and killed two whooping cranes from a truck. The cranes were among the first of 10 whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950. Less than 600 whooping cranes are left in the world and only 400 are in the wild. Ultralight aircraft help young cranes learn migration routes from Wisconsin to wintering sites in Florida. (Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries,

Candidates Shoot Iowa Pheasants
Presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Rick Perry shot pheasants in Iowa and pheasant experts talked about the serious decline in wild pheasants in recent years. Nowadays all the serious pheasant hunting is done on managed shooting preserves like Dan Mullin’s Arrowhead Hunting Club near Goose Lake. In years past pheasant harvests easily exceeded one million birds and generated a tourism stimulus of more than $100 million. This year resource officials say the pheasant harvest may not reach 200,000. (Des Moines Register)
Mama Bear Bites Deer Hunter
A 400-pound mama bear climbed up a tree and bit a Wisconsin woman in her deer hunting tree stand on the edge of a family owned corn field. Lisa Lang, 28, Clam Falls, required 40 stitches in her leg. Lang said she saw the big bear and four cubs moving across the field. One of the cubs appeared to get spooked by a deer decoy and climbed the tree next to and level with her tree stand. Lang said that's when the sow bear climbed up her tree and bit her. (St. Paul Pioneer Press via

 Bring Back Bobwhite Quail
The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is calling on states to urgently focus on restoring populations of bobwhite quail. It points to Florida as an example, noting that bobwhite quail populations declined about 82 percent since 1966 because of the loss of habitat, especially piney woods with native wiregrass-palmetto undergrowth. It should also point to states like Maryland and portions of Virginia where bobwhites now are a rare sight. (Florida Today, Bring Back Bob Whites)

Miami Python Eats Deer
An autopsy on a 15-plus foot python killed near Miami showed the snake had eaten a 76-pound deer. Burmese python now breed and heavily-populate the Florida Everglades, crowding out native species. Some snakes were released by pet owners. Many escaped from enclosures destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stripers Forever group says the rockfish needs our help

The Stripers Forever organization wants us to know that on November 8, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will decide if public hearings should be held for comments on Draft Addendum lll of a management plan that proposes a reduction in the allowed level of fishing mortality on striped bass.
Until the recent announcement by the Maryland DNR that 2011 was a strong spawning year in Chesapeake Bay, most observers were confident that the ASMFC would vote to reduce fishing pressure on stripers, but that may not happen now.  

Will stripers of that size slowly disappear?
Brad Burns, the president of Stripers Forever, said, "In our view, a large reduction in fishing pressure is definitely needed. The recreational catch has dropped by 80% over the last few years because of the rapid decline in numbers of schoolie stripers along the coast. We are currently fishing on striped bass born in 2003 or earlier, and it will be 8 long years before we see any real replenishment of the stock from the 2011 year class. Even so, it is hard to predict if a significant number of these fish will live to become large [rockfish]. First, we know that mycobacteriosis is killing large numbers of young stripers, although the full extent of this mortality is simply not yet known. Second, with no other good year-classes in the pipeline, the 2011 class will quickly be depleted by current levels of fishing pressure."

Burns said that the ASMFC commissioners need to be convinced to vote for a reduction in the killing of striped bass, both recreationally and commercially. "We have already heard rhetoric from the Maryland Waterman’s Association stating that this year’s spawning success removes the need to cut back commercial quotas. You can be assured that commercial interests everywhere will push for the status quo. The Commission has always had a strong commercial fishing bias, and unless we really let ourselves be heard loud and clear there will be no relief from the fishing pressure on striped bass."   

Burns suggest that Striper Forever members and any supporting anglers get in touch with commissioners representing their state.  You can find your state’s ASMFC commissioners by going to this LINK then selecting CONTACTS from the menu on the left of the page, then COMMISSIONERS from the page that comes up.  You then need to scroll down the page to find your state. Clicking on each name brings up his or her email address. It is simple, easy, and if we all do it, very effective.

In Maryland and Virginia, it won't hurt to get in touch with the persons named below:

Thomas O'Connell
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410/260-8281
FAX: 410/260-8278
     William J. Goldsborough
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
6 Herndon Avenue
Annaplois, MD 21403
Phone: 410/268-8816

Steven G. Bowman
2600 Washington Avenue, Third Floor
Newport News, VA 23607-4317
Phone: 757/247-2278
FAX: 757/247-2020

One small word of advice. If you write, call, or e-mail     
any of the ASMFC officials, please be friendly and
as civil as possible. Threatening words and such will
not help the fish all of us are so fond of.