Saturday, March 31, 2012

Odd things can happen when you search for spawning crappies

"We're catching dozens of big crappies," said a fellow who stood at the top of the Marshall Hall boat ramps in Charles County, Md. "They're pretty much everywhere in this part of the tidal Potomac," the young boater added and then prepared to launch an old bass boat. "Where are you going?" I asked the fisherman and he simply said, "One of the creeks upstream of here."

Sure enough, a young carp of about 3 pounds sucked in a plastic worm
Upstream can mean the Piscataway, Swan, Little Hunting, or Broad creeks, perhaps even the area near the Spoils Cove that sits within earshot of the Wilson Bridge. After slipping his boat from its trailer, loading it with various types of fishing gear, he departed for waters unknown.

After my partner, Andy Andrzejewski, put his 22-footer into the river, we decided to check out a number of coves filled with sunken brush and logs in a feeder not far from Marshall Hall. On the run up-river, we noticed a biting cold cutting through our clothing. "What happened to the May-like weather?" I shouted and Andy only shook his head, then after he slowed down, he opined, "Guess it finally decided to act like March."

The worm hook was firmly embedded in the carp's lips
The first indicator of that was a total abscence of the crappies that were supposed to be in the shallows, among the waterlogged roots and tangles that we've come to know so well over many years of springtime crappie fishing. "The water temperature is nearly 10 degrees lower than it was a week ago," said the professional fishing guide. "I wouldn't be surprised if the colder water didn't put them off their spawning grounds and now they're waiting somewhere in deeper water until the temperatures rise again."

Andrzejewski was right. In spite of our grubs, small darts, jigs, minnow-like plastics, such as the Berkley 2-inch PowerMinnow that always produced great action, we never saw as much as even one of the speckled tusslers.

To be sure, there was no absence of bass. They bit readily, but the crappies didn't show up

However, there was no shortage of largemouth bass, nor yellow or white perch, and when Andy switched to fishing with a 4-inch red plastic worm, he immediately caught another bass, then felt a light pickup by something and he sharply set the hook. Instantly, a fight was on. It was a carp! A young carp, perhaps in the 3-pound range, had the plastic worm in its mouth just like a bass would have done. Like all carp, this one fought like it was possessed and it made me wonder why not more of us fish for these bugle-mouthed characters. They do fight better than many other, more sought-after species.

I continued to look for crappies, casting scented grubs with or without a bobber, aiming the lures toward "fishy" looking hideouts, hooking perch, even a few bass, but the crappies were not home where we thought they ought to be.

By the way, a small chartreuse/red crankbait that Andy switched to eventually, attracted one bass after another. Sadly, none of them threatened the existing Maryland bass record -- if you know what I mean.

Our guesstimate why the spawning crappies didn't bite was the sudden drop in water temps

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some days things don't work out the way you planned them

Who hasn't a day when plans just didn't pan out the way you hoped? It happens to everybody and my fishing partner and guide, Andy Andrzejewski (his ad is on this page), and I had one of those days yesterday.

Andy and a snakehead from last year, but . . .

For starters, despite a week of warmer-than-normal weather, the previous night's temperatures fell into the freezing range. The water temperature at Smallwood State Park's Sweden Point Marina had dropped into the 50s. (it had been above 60) and the wind blew a gale, as some of us country boys say when the river has major "lumps" in it. It's the "lumps" that could make boating a precarious affair.

John Odenkirk, the top fisheries biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' northern district, agreed to let us come into an area of the Occoquan River where he would electro-shock the shallower portions and see if any Chinese snakeheads would come to the surface. Odenkirk, is among only a handful of snakehead experts in the entire United States and he laughs when self-styled "professionals" tell him that the snakeheads are eating up all the bass in the upper tidal Potomac River. "It's not happening," he says. "There are more bass in the river than I've ever seen before."

At any rate, when Andy and I attempted to cross the wide Potomac between the mouth of the Mattawoman Creek and the beginnings of the Occoquan Bay the river looked angry. Whitecaps on large rolling waves, pushed by a strong southwest wind, ripped across the water. Andy's 22-footer was hosed off by the wind-generated spray and the boat's bow heaved up and down to a point where Andy said, "This is not safe. Let's turn around." We did and I, for one, was glad. I called Odenkirk and he agreed that we should wait for another day when he and his crew would be out "shocking" for snakeheads.
Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
Go to and check it out late Wednesday and all day every Thursday, as well as the rest of the week. If you have a photo of a good catch, please send it with the name of the angler, hometown, and state to and please remember that you shouldn't wear sunglasses or have a cigarette in your mouth.
Thank heavens for a warm life jacket on this March 28 day
Now we were wet, kind of chilly, and we were thankful for our full-size life jackets that look like a regular garment -- only these things will keep you afloat if need be and, better yet, provide warmth. On March 28, they were truly welcome.

Safely back in the Mattawoman, Andy said, "Okay, let's fish behind some of those tree lines over there. The water should be much calmer there."

The area he chose showed the water to be around four feet deep. Milfoil grass was growing in large batches beneath the surface. We cast and retrieved 1/4-ounce crankbaits, also 3/8-ounce chartreuse/white Chatterbait-like lures made by Strike King and sold under the name Pure Poison. Occasionally, we'd pick up a rod, outfitted with a soft bait known as a Rage Baby Craw in dark green.

One of my Revo STX reels, a craw bait and Pure Poison lure
Hang on. The bass were there. In a 300-yard-long stretch near shore, we landed largemouths in the 2- to 3-pound range, hooked, fought and lost a fair share as well. All three of the lures we chose did the job, but because we both had business on land just after the noon hour, we eventually had to stop and head in.

So the snakehead outing didn't work that day, but the bass more than made up for it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Catches of the week include largemouth bass and tautogs

Here's Jeff Palmer, of Woodbridge, Va., with a brace of Mattawoman Creek largemouths. Jeff's fishing partner, Carl Brown, wrote to remind me that the red crankbaits we recommended earlier last week didn't work, but willowleaf spinnerbaits did. Carl, we'll concede that there are days when the red "baits" don't do as well as others, but they DO work. Don't give up.

The fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, shows off a whopping sea bass, caught over offshore Virginia wrecks. He released the sea bass and instead concentrated on . . . .

tautogs . . . such as the one here that inhaled clam baits in the waters east of Virginia Beach. Neill is one of the best saltwater anglers along the middle Atlantic coast. And since he's a dentist, why not have a boat named the "Healthy Grin."

Keith Estes of Spring Grove, Va., and Donald Estes of Henrico, Va., competed in the first Fishers of Men Tournament on Lake Anna and the two caught five largemouth bass (the weigh-in maximum) that tipped the scales at 27.69 pounds. Their 5-bass catch included two that weighed over 6 pounds. Sturgeon Creek Marina says that is a new Lake Anna 5-Bass Tournament record. Wow!!!
photo by Sturgeon Creek Marina

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Annual Virginia Fly Fishing Festival in Waynesboro, April 21-22

One of the nation’s top fly fishing events features family fun, live demonstrations, wine sampling and a chance to win a $10,000 Alaska fly fishing expedition. Join fly fishing and outdoor enthusiasts in Waynesboro, Va., and celebrate the Fly Fishing Festival, April 21-22, 2012 from 9:00 -5:00 each day, rain or

Whether you are a seasoned fly angler or are looking for a day of fun, join us on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro. The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival is the largest outdoor fly fishing event in the country that offers on-stream instruction. Tickets are $20 for adults and kids 16 and under are free.

Highlights of the weekend include: • Demonstrations for beginners • Streams and creeks of the Shenandoah Valley • Casting demonstrations throughout the day • Members of the Federation of Fly Fishers will help children catch native brook trout from an on-site Children’s Catch and Release Trout Pool

For a complete list of activities, please visit

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You simply can't beat the Potomac River's tidal bass fishing

It all began when my good friend Andy Andrzejewski, who is a USCG-licensed fishing guide, called and told me that he was locating bass for clients all over the upper, tidal Potomac River. He wasn't talking about our recent cold-weather outings when we'd hook a limit or two, using Mann's Sting Ray grubs. No, he meant a kind of bass explosion. The largemouths were biting as if they hadn't had a meal in months.

Marty Magone (left) and bass guide Andy Andrzejewski with bass.
Then the yearly bass tournament season also got under way. Big and small outfits began to flock to the Potomac as if there weren't any other waters on the East Coast. Right from the start, let me say that I am not a tournament fan. It's not that the the bass can't handle all those sparkle boats with wanna-be Roland Martins and Kevin Van Dams charging up and down the river. No, I don't care for these cast-for-cash outings because so many of the participant act as if they own the waterway, often displaying enough nerve to ask local johnboaters to get out of their way because, "This is where I found my bass this week and I plan to fish here."

I hope they get an earful from resident Marylanders and Virginians who live near the river. Another gripe of mine is that the state park managers on either side of the river (Smallwood and Leesylvania) cater to tournament fishermen, thinking they infuse the surrounding counties with oodles of money (which they don't), subsequently allowing the parking lots to be occupied to overflow by contestants' tow vehicles and trailers. Meanwhile, the people who paid for the facilities -- the local residents -- often have no choice but to return home or go elsewhere. That's governmental abuse of power in the worst way.

Gene Mueller with a bass that struck a Pure Poison lure by Strike King.
Anyway, after two such tournaments last week it became clear why the out-of-towners flock to the river. Tournament anglers caught bass as if they were fishing in an aquarium. One small event required a 5-bass catch of 27-plus-pounds to win. Guys who caught as much as 20 pounds of bass (with 5 fish) didn't even get into the money. Anywhere else in the country, a catch of 20 pounds per day will win just about any outing.

So the three of us, Andy, myself, and our pal, Marty Magone, decided to fish only one of the creeks -- the Mattawoman. We launched during a weekday when it wasn't so all-fired busy and began to cast a variety of lures within a half mile of the Sweden Point Marina's ramps. Andy sat in the middle of a cove and told Marty to cast his shallow crankbait out over the vast, seemingly barren waters. Barren until he began his retrieve and a bass tried to hang itself on Marty's crankbait. Beneath the water surface, milfoil had already begun to grow and the bass were busy hunting for food (I guess) among the greenery. Could be some of them are looking for bedding sites in open pockets among the grasses.

While Marty caught bass on the 3- and 4-foot-deep flat as the tide was ebbing, Andy and I hooked bass along the wooded shoreline where trees and brush sat shallow and partly submerged. Andy caught some on a soft plastic craw bait; I hooked one here and there on a red crankbait. After we moved to another location, Andy hammered the bass on a short-lipped red belly/green back crankbait, while I found several fat crappies on a 2-inch Berkley PowerMinnow.
Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
Go to and check it out late Wednesday and all day every Thursday, as well as the rest of the week. If you have a photo of a good catch, please send it with the name of the angler, hometown, and state to and please remember that you shouldn't wear sunglasses or have a cigarette in your mouth.

Gene Mueller with a fat Mattawoman crappie.
So it went for a while until we switched to 3/8-oz. Pure Poison lures (a closeup of it can be seen two blogs below this one). The lure acts and looks like a Chatterbait, but since I had the ones known as Pure Poison, I used them. Good thing, too. The bass attacked them with gusto. So, we discovered that the very shallow running Pure Poison bait worked super well and so did the soft craws, and the crankbaits.

We finished with 29 bass (and lost another 10 or so), two fat catfish, 3 crappies, a couple of spawned-out yellow perch, and a species known as a warmouth. All our fish were released. The warmouth actually belongs in the upper, freshwater parts of the Potomac. It looks like a large-mouthed sunfish and probably washed down across Great Falls during a flood of some kind. By the way, Marty Magone insisted that I mentioned the fat warmouth and that it was he who caught it. He even thought it might have been a record of some kind. Fat chance of that happening. Either way, we were happy and we quit after fishing for less than 5 hours.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A happy gallery of this week's anglers from near and far

Kevin Wilson and a friend, Steve Kelley, went out onto the upper, tidal Potomac River, fishing from the Mattawoman Creek north to the Greenway Flats. Look what he latched onto -- a well-fed largemouth bass. It was only one of a number of such bragging-size fish.

Kevin, who lives up in Boyds, Md., runs a fun web site that deals with fishing and hunting. You should check it out at

Here's Kevin's fishing partner, Steve Kelley, who -- in addition to bass -- hooked this snakehead somewhere around the Greenway Flats. The snakeheads, by the way, are getting more active every day.

Not to be outdone by the boys, our good friend Nancy Knupp, while fishing for crappies with her husband, Dale, caught this Mattawoman Creek bass on a marabou crappie jig.

Here's Nancy Knupp with a crappie that inhaled a marabou jig just like the bass (above) did. Dale and Nancy caught enough crappies to make more than one delicious dinner.

Ben Windsor, of Piney Point, Md., shows off one of many crappies that he caught in the public St. Mary's Lake, south of Leonardtown. (Drive south on Route 5 until you see a St. Mary's River State Park sign, then watch for the little Camp Cosoma Road street sign. Turn left and follow it to the lake.) There are plenty of shore fishing opportunities, as well as a fine boat ramp, but you cannot use gasoline  outboard motors. It's for electric trolling motors only.

Virginia Beach dentist and everybody's favorite lady angler, Dr. Julie Ball ( is all smiles about the fat tautog she hooked over an offshore Atlantric wreck, not all that far east of the resort city.

Gabe Sava fished the offshore waters out of Virginia Beach and came up with this beautifully marked bonita.

Photo by Dr. Ken Neill

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This time of year, these lures are great on tidal river bass

A number of bass fishing newcomers have asked what types of lures we  prefer this time of year (a warm March). Take a look. In my case, for starters, I use a Revo STX reel from ABU Garcia, loaded with 14-pound Trilene or Stren line.

Our gang of bass hounds will cast and retrieve medium-depth or shallow-depth crankbaits in some sort of red or reddish color (also blueback/chrome) when submersed aquatic vegetation grows taller by the day. "Tick" the lure across the tops of the emerging grass and "BANG!" before you know it, a bass will slam into it and won't let it go.

If that fails and we move to wood, shoreline brush, under docks or into mature, open pockets of grass, have a look at the soft-plastic "craw" bait on the right. My favorite is Strike King's Rage Tail Baby Craw in green pumpkin or junebug color. We fish it Texas-rigged with a very light slip sinker. And, brother, when a bass sees it you'd better hold on to your rod or else it'll pull it from your hands.

Throughout spring, summer and fall we often cast this nearly weedless, barely sub-surface, lure on the right into dense weeds, open pockets of hydrilla and around the edges of milfoil. It also works in and around sunken brush and simply all spots where a largemouth might hide. A competing brand is known as Chatterbait, but my favorite is Strike King's Pure Poison. It wobbles, it shakes, it undulates, it vibrates --- and it'll make a bass want to kill it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More bass for Back Bay, Va., and a bass record cheat in Arkansas

Is Virginia's Back Bay returning to bass fishing fame?
In late May, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) will begin a 3-year largemouth bass stocking project in Back Bay. An experimental stocking of approximately 75,000 largemouth bass fingerlings was initiated in 2009. It turned out to be a success. The DGIF hopes that additonal numbers of bass eventually will see the return of the great largemouth bass fishery that it was back in the 1970s. Back Bay is located in southeastern Virginia, next to North Carolina's Currituck Sound.

The state has asked the American Sportfish Hatchery (ASH) in Alabama for 125,000 one- to two-inch-long fingerling largemouth bass that will be added to Back Bay's waters in late May. These bass will be F-1 hybrids, a cross between the northern strain largemouth bass and the Florida strain largemouth bass. Both strains are the same genus and species of largemouth bass, with just a slight variation due to temperature and climate.

The DGIF does not have any concerns with stocking these bass in Back Bay because nearly 100% of the bass in the mid-Atlantic are hybrids to some degree. Pure strains of largemouth bass simply do not exist east of the Mississippi River. The species is not native to the mid-Atlantic, excluding some regions of Florida. As with the previous stockings, these fingerlings will be chemically marked to allow DGIF staff to track their movement, survival, and distribution within the bay.

Back Bay was famous in the late 1970s as one of the top bass fisheries in the nation. The fishery peaked in 1980 when 240 citation-sized largemouth bass (bass that weighed at least eight pounds) were caught in the bay. A subsequent break-through of super salty Atlantic Ocean water south of Virginia Beach ruined the fishing. The bass disappeared and the vegetation died. The break-through hole was plugged, so to speak, and in recent years Back Bay has seen a tremendous recovery in terms of water quality and the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation. The fish populations have shown a positive response to this improved habitat.

Could the record applicant have been a cheat?

From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission comes word that less than two weeks after an Arkansas largemouth bass record apparently was set, an investigation by the Commission revealed that the fish was caught illegally.

Paul Crowder of Forrest City claimed to have set the record on Feb. 28 on Lake Dunn near Wynne, Ark. Crowder’s fish weighed 16 pounds, 5 ounces, which would have broken the standing record by one ounce.

Officials discovered that a fishing license was purchased for Crowder three hours after he claimed to have caught the bass. Crowder’s fishing license expired in April 2011. Under Commission regulations, it is illegal for any person 16 years of age or older to fish without possessing a current Arkansas fishing license. State record-fish rules require that an angler hold a valid license at the time of the catch.

Crowder has been charged with fishing without a license. He faces up to a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail. The fish was seized as evidence by state wildlife officers. Crowder has a court hearing Monday, March 19 in Wynne District Court.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March acts like it's summer and the fishing gets better each day


Local anglers know this man. He's Dale Knupp, of La Plata, Md., and there are few bass boaters who know the tidal Potomac as well as Dale. Here's Dale with a chunky 7-pound largemouth, one of 17 bass he and his wife, Nancy, caught this week in the Mattawoman Creek. He told me the exact spot he found bass on grubs and crankbaits, but if I told you where, he'd never speak to me again. All I can say is that it was the Mattawoman.

Looking for my weekly fishing report? 
Go to and check it out. If you have a photo of a good catch, please send it with the name of the angler, hometown, and state to and please remember that you shouldn't wear sunglasses or have a cigarette in your mouth.

Ken Lamb, of Lexington Park's Tackle Box, sent us this photo of local Maryland angler J. R. Foster as he shows  off large yellow perch that he caught in the Wicomico River's upper reaches at Allen's Fresh. There are still some yellow perch available, but they're heading out, so don't put off going fishing.

Down around the Wicomico River's Allen's Fresh (in Charles County, Md.), Pat Capps shows that if you use a high/low rig of 1/16-oz. shad darts you can catch doubleheaders of white perch. The white perch spawning run is now under way. However, catching the white perch depends a great deal on tidal stages. The fishing has been best during outgoing tides. But even regulars like Capps and my friend Charlie Stewart, who visits here regularly, say that the fish cooperate one day, then shut down the next, only to bite again the following day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shoreline fishing for Allen's Fresh white perch was fine and dandy

Pat Capps had no trouble hooking perch
For those of us who've lived half our lives in Charles County, Md., a late winter/early spring visit to a place known as Allen's Fresh is as mandatory as eating barbecued ribs at Jamison's BBQ shack on Route 225, near La Plata, or running a trotline for crabs in the lower Nanjemoy Creek during summer.

Allen's Fresh is part of the Wicomico River, which runs into the tidal Potomac just past Bushwood, Md. But The "Fresh" is special. Located on Route 234, the little stone bridge that crosses it marks the end of tidal water and the beginning of fresh water. Not that there isn't a tide above the bridge. There is. However, upstream of the bridge you need a freshwater license; downstream of it, a tidal water license is sufficient.

Two fellows launched a johnboat to go after white perch
It is that section of the Wicomico that annually sees hordes of spawning yellow perch, followed by large numbers of white perch. The yellow perch might be caught on small grubs or shad darts under a bobber as early as February 23, while white perch fanciers usually wait for March days, something in the March 7 to 10 area.

And when the white perch have arrived, chances are you'll see Pat Capps, of Bryantown, Md., either stand on shore, wearing hip boots, or (especially when the yellows are running) in the water up to his belly in chest-high waders. The man is dead serious about hooking fish and few know as much as Pat when it comes to convincing a white perch that his tandem-rigged 1/16-ounce red-and-white shad darts ought to be attacked.

Bill White and John Kern hooked perch
I stood alongside Pat a day ago, watching in amazement as he caught nine white perch on nine casts with his ultra-light spinning gear. Well over 90 percent of the perch were carefully pulled from the hooks and let go, perhaps to be caught again or simply allowed to finish their spawning chores. All this happened while I cast an almost identical high/low shad dart rig, but only caught perch now and then -- certainly not on every cast. Pat, by the way, was at a loss to explain why the perch that day appeared to be smaller than the 12 and 13-inchers caught less than a week ago.

Why Pat brought along a bunch of minnows (that he traps himself) is a mystery. He certainly didn't need them. However, Pat was ready to share them with fellow anglers like Bill White, who came to the Fresh from his home in Calvert County. There also was John Kern, who lives in Hughesville, and several others -- all of whom would latch onto a keeper-size white perch and the occasional spawned-out yellow perch.

Two fellows showed up later in the morning when the tide began to ebb (it's best for hooking perch) and they slid a johnboat down the gravel bank. The boat was powered by an electric motor and soon disappeared into the waters farther upstream. "We'll holler if we get into them," said one of the guys. We never heard a sound from either man. I suppose they knew that we didn't need any help latching onto the silvery fish.

There even was a well-dressed fellow who carried an ocean kayak that was slipped down a dirt bank and off he went. 

Question: What's up with these kayaks? I wouldn't be caught dead in anything that looks like it will flip over on the drop of a sandwich.

Anyway, the perch run for the yellows is practically over and the white perch will hang around a few more days. Better get going.

Pat Capps kept enough perch in a wire basket for those who wanted a meal

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Terrific new soft baits from Berkley and a hard lure from Sebile

For your springtime and summer bass fishing, get ready for a terrific lineup of soft baits from Pure Fishing's Berkley division that include new "Pro Designed Bass Baits" offered in the Havoc brand and the already well-known PowerBait. These baits were designed by professional bass anglers who depend on their lures to earn them a living. While I do not know how you feel about huge bass tournaments (I'm not a big fan), we should agree that the pro tour anglers are not exactly newcomers or weekend fishermen. They can't afford to fish with junk, lest they lose one contest after another. What I'm saying here is if a pro like Bobby Lane or Boyd Duckett says he uses these baits and wins money because of them -- take it to the bank. They're not joking.

Berkley's Havoc brand is making a big splash with bass hunters. This is a 15-count bag of 6-inch Juice Worm Jr. baits that were designed by bass pro Boyd Duckett. How can they fail you? They feel smooth as silk, work through the water like a slithery snake and will definitely draw the interest of Mr. Big-Mouth.

Here's a 12-count resealable bag of the 8-inch Havoc Juice Worm, also designed by Boyd Duckett. I know our local Potomac River fishermen might pinch off an inch or so at the front if they suddenly desire to fish with a shorter worm. It won't harm the action of the Juice Worm.

You must know that this 5-inch Havoc Hawk Hawg in the Bama Bug color and sold in an 8-count bag was designed by new super pro Bobby Lane. It will slay the tidal water and  lake bass anywhere, and in the Potomac it will really make some waves. The Potomac's bass are crazy about wiggly things that look like they have claws and little wings. I can't wait to flip this bait into an open pocket in the hydrilla or milfoil.

This is the 4-inch-long Havoc Smash Tube in a red rum phase, sold in a 6-count bag. I can just see the largemouths giving this a hard second look, but if you're on Pickwick Lake or the upper Susquehanna River and you're hoping for a truly big smallmouth bass, the Smash Tube can be the answer there as well. Not only that, a fat walleye won't ignore it either.

How about this 4-inch Power Claw in a Watermelon Big Red color. It's sold in a 6-count bag and in our home waters where crawfish are in good supply, how can this Power Claw fail? It's impossible. Of course, it is drenched with the exclusive PowerBait formula that fish will bite and won't let go.

The 4-inch Thief, a bait that -- like the Power Claw above -- can be fished weedless, Texas-rigged, or simply as a trailer on the end of a jig. Either way, it will be yet another PowerBait hit. The 6-count bag at the right came in a color known as Bama Bug. Just imagine what the bass will do when it slithers off a patch of hydrilla, slowly undulates, and falls into a mama hawg's mouth. She isn't going to let go of it. Set the hook!

For more information go to 

There is nothing worse than getting a favorite crankbait hung up in the branches of a sunken tree, so the internationally renowned Sebile designers came up with the Sebile D&S Crank -- a bait that will go anywhere a fish lives.Whether retrieved or trolled, Sebile's unique Gravity Snagless Hook System keeps the hook down in its lowest position possible, permitting the crankbait to run through heavy grass, brush and rocks without fear of getting hung up. It comes in a wide variety of colors and the 7/8-oz. model shown here will go as deep as 28 feet. The suggested retail price is $14.50. Check out for more information.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CCA meeting March 19, and a fishing show March 24-25

Kimbro to speak at CCA Pax River meeting

Shawn Kimbro, author of "Chesapeake Light Tackle: An Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay," will kick off the regular meeting of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Patuxent River Chapter, Monday, March 19. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Stoney’s Kingfisher in Solomons. It is free and open to the public. Kimbro will discuss “Light Tackle Strike Triggers -- How to Make Bad Days Good and Good Days Great." Attendees can order from the menu before the meeting.

Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association Southern Maryland

Chapter 19th Annual FISHING FAIR at the Solomons Firehouse
March 24 & 25, 2012, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. More than 80 INDOOR AND OUTDOOR VENDORS; Fishing Tackle & Supplies; Fishing Charters; New & Used Boats; Food & Drink; Door Prizes. Admission $3 (Kids age 12 and under are free). More information:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Annual perch outing was only so-so, but the fish fry was super

Andy and Francis look at a perch that took a grub
HILLTOP, Md. -- The boats showed up long before the 8 a.m. agreed-upon time. But that doesn't matter. The anglers had asked their best girls to help them with a perch fishing trip to the Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County. That would be followed by a feast of deep-fried perch fillets, potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, a cold bacon/broccoli/cauliflower dish, cornbread (with or without jalapenos), hush puppies, banana pudding, brownies and spice cake.

We've done it for years. What originally began as a fun outing with local fishing guides, volunteer boaters, and several officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, evolved into a regular fishing trip centered around the annual spawning run of the yellow neds, as some Southern Marylanders call the golden-hued perch.

Bob Rice unhooks a buck perch
Nowadays, anybody in our circle of friends and acquaintances is invited. For example, on March 10, 2012, (same as in 2010), the co-owner of Guy Brothers Marine in Clements (St. Mary's County), Francis Guy and his soon-to-be son-in-law, Chris O'Brien would be ferried about and encouraged to hook perch by pro bass guide Andy Andrzejewski. Former Maryland freshwater fisheries boss, Bob Lunsford and wife Pam showed up. My long-time friend, Bob Rice, would be in my boat, and the county's best deep-fryer of fish or turkeys, Dale Knupp, asked his friend, Steve Riha, to share a boat with him. Meanwhile, wives and girl friends would set up a banquet spread in anticipation of our return.

Chris and Francis show off some yellow "neds"
To be honest, we've had better perch trips. Considering the fact that we had caught fat female perch, loaded with roe, only a week before in the Nanjemoy, we figured we couldn't lose. To be sure, even during a dreadfully low tide, most everybody hooked a fish now and then. But the perch bonanzas of years past couldn't be repeated. In my case, the extremely shallow water of the far upper Nanjemoy during an ebb tide prohibited my heading to those super "skinny" spawning areas. It paid to play safe, lest we risk getting stuck on a mud flat. I know about such things, having run hard aground in the past.

Dale is the chief deep-fryer of perch fillets
So we looked for narrow channels or deep-enough holes where the perch might sit and wait for the flood tide to come back into the creek, but by noon, or a few minutes after, it was decided that all the boats should return to the Friendship Landing ramp. Dale Knupp had already departed to begin heating up the cooking oil on a propane-powered cooking surface.

When our ladies, Nancy, Margaret, Pam, Pauline and Darlene motioned that it was time to fill our plates, the stampede was on. Pauline's love, Marty Magone, who had driven all the way from Woodbridge, Va., to stuff himself, didn't disappoint anyone. Lord, can that fellow eat!

Some of our gang of perch fanatics dig in
Francis and Chris began to munch on golden-brown perch fillets alongside all kinds of fixings, then returned to the serving line for a second helping. Steve, Bob, Andy, and I did likewise. Eventually, even Dale had a chance to fill a plate and have a bite. Never mind Bob Lunsford. Pam probably won't have to fix dinner until the day after tomorrow. Where does he put it all?

Most everybody came to the serving table to get seconds
Was our annual perch get-together a success? Of course it was and next year we'll probably do the same thing again and if the yellow neds cooperate more vigorously, all the better.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Local anglers checked out Florida's huge Lake Okeechobee

Three long-time friends who live in the Washington area last week decided to visit the gigantic Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Not many inland lakes are seen from a spaceship, but Okeechobee shows up when our astronauts pass over the United States high up in space. There it is and it appears to be a huge hole in the middle of the Sunshine State. Okeechobee, which already was famous for its largemouth bass, huge bluegills, alligators and fine duck hunting, became even better known to fishermen when Maryland-born super angler Roland Martin moved to the Clewiston, Fla., area, opened a marina with all sorts of accommodations, including a bait operation that sold shiners that were big enough to have a taxidermist mount them.

Mike Willett weighs an 8-pound Okeechobee bass
Imagine then how pumped Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., Warren Cooksey, of Waldorf, Md., and Mike Willett, of Charlotte Hall, Md., were when they arrived at Okeechobee, and found rooms at Roland Martin's Marina. "It's a nice place, right in the heart of the action, with a huge boat ramp right down the street," said Fox, who also recommended that if you plan to come down to Okeechobee you'd be wise to check ahead and see if any major bass tournaments will be held. If so, you might have a hard time finding a hotel or motel room.

On the left you see Marylander Mike Willett check the weight of a Florida bass that turned out to weigh eight pounds. Although the fellows hoped to tie into one of those fabled Florida 10-pounders, it didn't happen this time, but who knows . . . if you keep coming to the lake, it's bound to.

Fox said, "Due to the wind, we mainly flipped creature-type baits in junebug color. The fish were holding real tight [to cover] once the sun got up and we discovered that we had to have clear water if we wanted success."

Warren Cooksey caught this bass in Okeechobee's saw grass
As far as other lures were concerned, Fox said that they caught a few largemouths on spinnerbaits, Senko fat worms and a lure called Skinny Dipper. "We found fish everywhere we went, but most weighed in the 1- and 2-pound range," he said. "[But} we mainly fished the south-east end of the lake because of the winds. We would go a half hour without a bite, then they would turn on again and we'd catch four or five and then they'd shut off."

What all bass hunters who go to Florida must realize is that the state's bass have a longer and easier breeding time than northern bass. The result, of course, is that the Sunshine State will have far more 1- and 2-pound bass than those 10-pounders all of us hope for.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Virginia and Maryland deer hunters did very well

Virginia deer season kill totals

The 2011/2012 Virginia whitetail deer season ended with a total of 231,454 deer killed by hunters. The number included 98,770 antlered bucks, 20,738 button bucks, and 111,830 does. The season showed a four percent increase over the 222,074 deer that were killed in 2010-11.

Archers using standard equipment (not crossbows), bagged 17,110 deer, representing seven percent of the overall deer kill. Crossbows resulted in 10,877 deer — five percent of the total. Muzzleloader hunters killed 55,306 deer — 24 percent of the total.

Maryland deer season kill totals

Although we published details of the Maryland deer totals on Jan. 6, it is interesting to note that the little state (compared to the much larger Virginia) is holding its own. Maryland hunters shot 98,029 deer with firearms, muzzleloaders and bows during the 2011/2012 season. This number, however, does represent a tiny decrease over the 2010/2011 hunt.

I recall the late 1950s and early 1960s when the total Maryland deer kill by hunters rarely exceeded 10,000. Compare that to current numbers. Wow!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Popular saltwater captain offers special service for kayakers

Capt. Brady Bounds, who for 29 years has helped sport anglers find lots of action in the Chesapeake Bay and its feeder rivers, has come up with an idea that just might float.

Capt. Bounds, fully aware that kayak owners are increasingly using their small craft to fish from, will use his guide boat to transport kayaks into areas of the Chesapeake and its tributaries, to waters that they normally would not attempt to reach because of distance and/or safety concerns.

"Many of these places have no fishing pressure [and] you may not see another boat all day except my guide boat, standing off, ready to assist if needed," says the USCG-licensed fishing captain, who is confident he can put kayak anglers on fish quickly and reliably.

Capt. Bounds will offer two types of service: Ferry the kayakers to a location and let them fish, and/or run his boat as a mother ship. The ferry service might include meeting kayakers at a boat ramp or on land, load up everybody, take them to a productive site, then return later that day to pick them up. The mother ship service basically does the same thing, but Capt. Bounds would stay in the vicinity, perhaps point out other nearby waters to move to, and in every way support his charges without leaving them.

The captain lives in Lexington Park, Md., but he is keenly familiar with the Bay's waters and is willing to go anywhere, from the Susquehanna Flats to the Choptank River, to Tangier Sound, Fishing Bay, Potomac and Patuxent rivers in Maryland, as well as Virginia's Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Rappahannock and James rivers.

For cost details, reservations and additional information, go to or phone 301/904-0471.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tidal Potomac's bass jumped on crankbaits and our Sting Rays

On the first day of March, with the weather people on every Washington TV station being wrong about the wind they had predicted to blow big-time, pro fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, who had to search for various productive bass spots because clients were coming to town, asked me to join him on the upper tidal Potomac River.

Andy and one of the chunky bass we caught
The weather was gorgeous, the water in great shape, although  upriver rain runoff threatened to change that within the next few days. The sun shone and the temperatures steadily climbed throughout the morning until they were well above the 55 degree mark (later that day they reached the upper 60s). Our first stop was a Virginia cove not far from Mt. Vernon. We smeared our beloved avocado color Mann's Sting Ray grubs with Smelly Jelly and in less than 10 feet of water caught enough bass to satisfy Andy. Both of us caught and released limits of largemouth bass and a number of yellow perch. "This place will do," he said.

The guide fired up the 250 h.p. Evinrude on the back of his 22-foot bass boat and headed north toward Wilson Bridge. In a cove on the Maryland shore, in water that ranged from less than 3 feet up to 8 and 9 feet, Andy began to cast and retrieve a medium-depth crankbait that wasn't quite as colorful as a firetiger model, but it came close. Chunky bass slammed into the crankbait as if they hadn't eaten in a month. On the way downriver, in a small river pocket that had some heavy bottom obstructions in the form of sunken wood, more bass jumped on the crankbaits, as well as the scent-laden green grubs.

By the way, it's time to start checking for submersed aquatic vegetation to begin growing. When you find some, crankbaits that are retrieved just over the tops of the fresh greenery can be deadly effective on bass, even catfish and snakeheads.

Bass guide Andy Andrzejewski found plenty of bass for soon-to-arrive clients