Thursday, May 31, 2012

If you like to use small spot to live-line rockfish, they're here!

That rockfish might have taken a spot
What many Southern Maryland rockfish hunters have waited for has finally begun. Norfolk spot schools are slowly moving into the St. Mary's and Calvert counties waters. Great news for live-liners who need live, small spot to drop down to the stripers, especially around the Gas Docks, north of Cove Point. It already has happened. One charter fishing captain found around 70 of the little juicy baitfish inside the Patuxent River, around Helen's Bar and elsewhere. And what happened? Shortly thereafter, he tied into whopper rockfish at the Gas Docks perimeter. Of course, you know that pieces of bloodworm are the best bait on bottom rigs if you want to catch spot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The fishing is super as red drum and all kinds of bass are biting

Dick Fox, of Front Royal, Va., drove to Mexico Bay, N.Y., where Dick said the fishing is so good, the only way you can't hook smallmouth bass and trout would be to leave your rods and reels at home. How about this smallie?

On the right is Dick Fox's long-time friend, Karl Davis, who lives in Dunkirk, in upstate New York. Karl caught these two smallies and others while fishing in Mexico Bay. The guys used Senkos, tubes, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, poppers --- it didn't matter. The bass jumped on everything they saw.

Fred Drury of Stevens City, Va., accompanied Dick Fox to Mexico Bay and you can see that he wasted little time nailing well-fed "brown" fish. By the way, the guys also hooked some walleyes and largemouth bass.

  Marylander Mike Willett tied into a true trophy smallmouth that weighed over six pounds. That's as good as it gets for fans of smallies -- and who isn't a fan?

Dick Fox didn't just target the smallmouth bass, he and the fellows  also went after trout that the Mexico Bay area is known for. Here is a fat brown trout Dick caught trolling with outriggers.

The red drum (a.k.a. channel bass or redfish) are going bonkers in the lower Chesapeake Bay, anywhere from the Bay Bridge-Tunnel over to the area between buoys 8 and 10. Chunks of crab or whole crab are what they want, as you can see with the fine specimen caught by Dr. Ken Neill.

Ken Neill's frequent fishing partner, Charles Southall, wasn't complaining about the redfish action. The reds were tough and hungry. What a great fish!

Then comes Marty Magone, who lives within a stone's throw of Virginia's Lake Gaston. He fished North Carolina's Chowan River and as he threw a topwater frog lure across the pads, this bass hammered it. Nice fish!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here's a lesson in how to hurt a guy who's dying to eat crabs

So a fellow sells his house and moves to another state in a part that is at least 3 hours away from saltwater. It's a state where inland residents worry more about how good the barbecue or chicken-fried steak (with white gravy) tastes, not crabs as Marylanders do.

Look at Andy and Darlene grinning from ear to ear
And what do the friends of this fellow (who is dying for a bushel of hot, steamed crabs), do to make him feel really good? Since all of them live in Southern Maryland, they go out and order dozens of steamed blueclaws at a local restaurant, snap a photo with two of the miscreants holding crabs in their hands, and send it to the poor guy, knowing full well what kind of effect it will have on him.

May the ghost of the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, come to haunt all of you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A great fishing report because things are happening all over

There is plenty of good fishing in Southern Maryland, says the proprietor of Lexington Park's Tackle Box, Ken Lamb. A beautiful Memorial Day weekend with sunshine and summertime heat turned on the croakers just about everywhere.  
Mike McMullen shows off one of 38 croakers he hooked
Croakers, also known as hardheads, are in the Potomac River's tributaries, including the St. Mary's and Wicomico rivers. They're biting very well and white perch are mixed in at Ragged Point, St. George's Island, Piney Point, and Cornfield Harbor. 
In the Chesapeake Bay, the tasty croakers have appeared on the Middle Grounds, behind buoy 72A.  Bottom fishermen there scored on moving tides in the evening this week. They used pieces of bloodworms, strips of squid, whole small shrimp and pieces of peeler crab. Snapper bluefish have also shown up in the same area, mixing it up with the hardheads. On average, the croakers measure 12 to 15 inches and the bluefish seem to be in the same size class.
Sean Rodriguez got these in the Patuxent
Croakers also are caught steadily off the pier and beaches of St. Mary's County's Point Lookout State Park. Small blues are there as well, and now and then you'll connect on a handful of keeper-size rockfish.
The mouth of the Patuxent River shows lots of croakers for shore and pier fishermen.  Boaters find them in the mouth of Cuckold Creek, Kingston Hollow, Green Holly, and just off the O'Club.
Local angler Tony Barrett was trolling for rockfish a few days ago when he saw breaking fish at Cedar Point. He drifted into them and cast a surface popper to discover bluefish from 2 to 3 pounds. He landed three  before they sounded.
Lamb also reports that trollers have found rockfish in the Bay in the 19 to 30 inch range.  These  are the native fish that will be here all summer breaking in the bay, lurking in the shallows, pouncing on bait fish, soft crabs and perhaps one of your lures if cast in the right place.
Dr. Jack Scanlon with a topwater striper
The spotted sea trout are plentiful and willing to bite in the shallows of the Eastern Shore's inner islands. This is the Bay side of the Eastern Shore, such as the area of the Honga River and Hooper's Island. Skilled lure casters can limit out (10 per person) on trout from 15 to 28 inches!
White perch are in all the feeder creeks of the rivers, feeding on anything they can find.  Some tiny puppy drum have shown up as well.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jack Scanlon fished the Dorchester County side of the Bay, mostly in shallow water when he started his rockfish season with a bang. One striper after another struck topwater lures of all types and makes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How lies about hunters are spread by a national news network

Maryland hunter safety course instructor Joe Novak is more than a little upset about a web story spread far and wide by on May 25. If you're a hunter like Joe and I, you will be ticked off, too.

Novak said he read an article about Washington State auctioning off confiscated antlers to raise reward money for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife "Report a Poacher" program, which is okay. However, there are some glaring inaccuracies in the story written by web site reporter Maegan Vazquez.

"An enormous cache of deer, elk and moose antlers confiscated from poachers is being auctioned by state wildlife conservation officials in Washington," wrote Vazquez, "with the proceeds funding rewards for people who help bring illegal hunters to justice." (Please, read the last seven words in that sentence. Do you see the mentioning of bringing illegal "hunters" to justice?

That got Joe Novak's gander up. "The [thugs] who shoot game out of season or in excess of the legal limit are criminals, NOT hunters," said Joe. I completely concur. A hunter is a person who abides by the law. To be a hunter is to engage in a legal, respectable, time-honored recreational endeavor. If you do not follow the rules and regulations of all states concerning hunting, you are a lawbreaker, a miscreant and a criminal --- certainly not a hunter.

But what really upset Novak (and me) was a sentence taken from the clouds somewhere, totally invented, without any data and proof offered. It is so incredulous, the reporter should be taken to the woodshed for not double-checking figures that were provided by an anti-hunting animal rights organization that knows very well how much damage it can wreak if it find a gullible reporter.

Vazquez wrote, "According to the Human Society's website, illegal hunters kill tens of millions of animals every year." I suppose she meant the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which is totally immersed in attempts to stop recreational hunting, while many unaffiliated neighborhood Humane Society chapters generally have volunteers try to rescue cats, dogs, etc., and find homes for such animals.

"TENS OF MILLIONS EVERY YEAR. Really?" asks Joe Novak. "Tens being plural as in multiple tens? Really? Think about this. Lets say they accidentally phrased it incorrectly (I know the antis never do something accidentally; it was done with intent to distort what actually occurs just to make it appear far worse than it is.) Do the math: Just ten million [illegally killed animals] equals 200,000 per state every year. Or 548.94 per day which equals one every 2.63 minutes, or 22.83 per hour, 24 hours a day seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year in every state."

What an incredibly hurtful story it might turn out to be for our sport of hunting. Novak did a super job proving that people who start throwing around numbers, such as tens of millions, must be carefully checked out. Don't just take the word of an animal rights group intent on stopping hunters anyway they can.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A snakehead is dipped alive, and other tales of fun catches

Karen Redmon and Dwayne Sullivan were preparing to get on their boat, berthed at Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek (in St. Mary's County, Md.), when they spotted a good-sized fish in the shallows near the docks. Dwayne got a net and dipped the fish out of the water as if that was child's play. It was a snakehead -- the second one nabbed in the creek in a week.  Yeah, they're in the St. Jerome's waters now. But this one didn't make it to deeper, safer layers. It was dispatched lickety-split.

Our friend Dale Knupp sent this photo of a largemouth bass that he caught in one of the tidal Potomac's feeder creeks. "Take a look at this bass," he said. "It has a really yellow belly." Don't know what happened, Dale, but I know you turned it loose because you won't eat bass. I couldn't say the same about white or yellow perch when it comes to devouring a fish. Dale and his wife, Nancy, fish for perch quite often and there always will be some that are taken home for supper.

Once in a while, the fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski does a little fun-fishing . . . with a flyrod, yet. Here he is showing off a bass that he caught on a popping bug intended for bluegills. An insider told me that he rubs the popping bug on a slice of Lebanon bologna to give it a little flavor. Maybe he doesn't do that, but Andy is a firm believer in Smelly Jelly fish attractant.

That's a fine bluegill that jumped on one of Andy's poppers. This is the proper time of year to cast popping bugs, black ants, tiny little bumblebee streamers and other size 10, 12, or smaller fish attractors. The sunfish are sitting on their beds and they will strike anything that comes near their nests, usually found along shady shorelines.

Bob Lunsford shows off one of his bluegills, caught on a noisy popping bug. No, he's not sleeping. It's just that his fishing partner snapped the shutter when Bob's eyes were half closed. But wait a minute! It could be that Bob was napping. That guy can catch fish even when he sleeps.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bob gets his first snakehead and the first local flounder is caught

Here's Bob Lunsford, who retired from being chief of Maryland's freshwater fisheries. Those are not two big black holes in his head. I believe those are sunglasses, but can't be sure. Bob is showing off his first-ever Chinese snakehead. He caught it on a Baby 1-Minus lure in the tidal Potomac's Chicamuxen Creek (Charles County). The Chicamuxen is home to a bunch of those fighting critters, some of them weighing as much as 10 pounds or more.

James Russell fished with the fine charter captain  "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg and look what he came up with --- a fine flounder caught in local Maryland Bay waters. Christy Henderson, of Buzz's Marina, said it was the first flounder she has seen so far this season. Buzz's is located in Ridge, Md.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coastal Conservation Association skeet shoot set for June 9

The third annual Coastal Conservation Association Maryland (CCA MD) skeet shoot will be held Saturday, June 9, with a new twist — chapters competing against each other. It will be held at the Talbot Rod and Gun Club, 9226 Chapel Road, Easton, starting at noon.

Registration is $65, which includes targets, shells and lunch. There will be four-person teams with each shooter receiving 25 standard targets and 25 mixed, fun target presentations. A separate category for individuals not associated with a team is also available. The winning CCA MD chapter will receive a rotating trophy.

Online registrations can be completed at For additional information contact Joe Cap, 410-822-4428.

Monday, May 21, 2012

There were turkeys, croakers, trout, snakeheads -- you name it

Our friend, Dr. Jack Scanlon, proved once again that you don't have to head into high country to get a turkey. He shot this fine tom on Maryland's Eastern Shore during the state's spring gobbler season.

And how about little Savannah Pierce, granddaughter of Christy and Mike Henderson, of Buzz's Marina down in Ridge, St. Mary's County. Here she is admiring a beautiful spotted sea trout being held by charter fishing captain "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg. The trout jumped on the hook around the little islands, a straight shot across from St. Jerome's Creek.

Before the trophy season ended, these happy customers of charter fishing captain Greg Buckner show off a fine catch made from Buckner's boat, the Miss Susie

Almost forgot to mention pretty Savannnah Pierce's grandma, Christy Henderson. She doesn't look old enough to be a grandmother, does she? Christy is showing off a spotted sea trout caught on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay.

Durez Creek caught this 15-1/2-inch-long croaker from the public fishing pier at Point Lookout State Park. Durez now leads the Tackle Box's croaker contest for the month of May. Good show!

Will Neusline caught this catfish all by himself says grandpa. The 3-year-old did it while fishing in the popular St. Mary's Lake in -- where else? -- St. Mary's County. Way to go, Will!

Claire Weston caught this 25-inch-long chain pickerel in St. Mary's Lake. Terrific! And where are you going fishing this weekend?

Buzz's Marina owner Michael Henderson went out into St. Jerome's Creek, casting a white spinner from a kayak, when this 8.7-pound snakehead attacked the lure. It almost looks like a bowfin, but Mike said it was a snakehead 
and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What to do with all those alien fish species in the Potomac

Long-time tidal Potomac River fans are not surprised when they hear that this historic river might be home to more alien than native fish species. For example, the most popular fish in the upper, tidal parts of the Potomac is the largemouth bass. It draws an ever-growing number of anglers from all over, yet the largemouth is not a native species.

It was introduced by well-meaning amateurs who played games with Mother Nature, not aware that in the process it could upset the natural balance of a river system. But thus far, the bass' presence is being accepted even by the most hard-nosed fisheries biologist. Why? Because there is precious little that can be done about rooting out a "foreigner" once it has established itself in rivers or large lakes. Examples in the Potomac also include such unwanted aliens as the carp and gar.

The Potomac's native species include the rockfish (striped bass), shad, herring, white catfish, white and yellow perch, sturgeon and a number of minnows and daces. That's pretty much it.

Bill Hilton with a 72.2-pound blue catfish from the Potomac. He let it go.
The most recent unwanted introduction of an alien species is the Northern Chinese snakehead. Anglers were told that once they hooked one (these critters readily attack bass lures), they should kill it, not return it to the water even when dead, and just generally try to hunt it down and get rid of it.

Fat chance of that happening. The snakehead is here to stay; it multiplies like a flea and it is not going away -- attempts to eradicate it, notwithstanding. In fact, some local anglers are beginning to target it as a fun fish to catch and eat.

Then there's the blue catfish. Somehow it made its way from Virginia waters, such as the James and Rappahannock rivers, into the Potomac. It quickly established itself in the deep channels of the river, and when nighttime arrives it often moves onto shallow ledges where it hunts for food anywhere between Georgetown (in the District of Columbia) and Virginia's Gunston Cove area. It also is found in good numbers in the main stem near the Quantico Marine Base and below. One of the true hotspots are the staircase-like 20- to 30-foot ledges outside the mouth of Maryland's Piscataway Creek.

Gene Mueller with another Potomac "alien," the Chinese snakehead.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources isn't happy with the blue catfish's presence because it doesn't belong in the river and it will compete for some of the food that is intended for native species.

However, one blue catfish fan, Bill Hilton, who comes down all the way from West Virginia to fish for the blue "cats," disagrees.

"[The DNR says that the] blue catfish feed on American shad, white perch and other fish," says Hilton. "All fish, except plankton eaters like the gizzard shad, eat other fish," says Hilton who points out that the blue catfish's main diet consists of gizzard shad, unlike veritable feeding machines like our beloved rockfish who pretty much will eat anything they can fit into their gullets.

"Blue Catfish have co-existed in other river systems across the country just fine without [receiving] a death sentence [from state fisheries managers]," says Hilton, who firmly believes that the real culprits of occasional or frequent declines in certain fish populations are pollution and commercial fishermen. Hilton, in fact, is asking those who catch blue catfish to release the bigger specimens so they can produce new generations of "blues." If you want to eat one, keep smaller ones, but let the big ones go to fight another day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fishing is fine from the Potomac to the end of the Chesapeake

Larry Horne (left) and Charles Southall (right) show off the black drum they caught in the lowest parts of the Chesapeake Bay. In the middle, Hunter Southall, Charles' son, latched onto a nice red drum. By the way, both fish species taste about as good as any fish will ever taste.

Eddie Shade came over from Montross, Va., to catch himself a Maryland striper. He caught this 37-incher before the end of the trophy rockfish season.
Photo by our good friend, Christy Henderson, of Buzz's Marina

Debbie Oliver and Dave Rankin, of Welcome, Md., show off the two 40-inch stripers they trolled up near Buoy 72 before the end of the trophy rockfish season.

That's 9-year-old Chase Hill holding up two well-fed crappies caught in the upper tidal Potomac River. Chase fished with his dad, Sam Hill, both of Pomfret, Md., and the well-known local bass angler, Steve Hawks. Steve put the two on the crappies because after Chase wasn't allowed to go for a rockfish during the MSSA event on the Chesapeake Bay, Steve and Sam were happy to take the youngster on a crappie hunt.

Talk about a bunch of fine crappie fillets that are about to be sliced from the speckled fish after Chase and Sam Hill's fishing trip. Steve Hawks was tickled to death seeing the happy youngster get into the "specks." So what if they're not striped bass. As long as the kid got some bites; that's what counts.

Public invited to hear rod-building expert at fishing club meeting

Joe Cap, a member of the pro staff for St. Croix Rods and Rio, will discuss what makes a high quality fishing rod for the Chesapeake Bay at the Monday, May 21 meeting of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Patuxent River Chapter. The meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at Stoney’s Kingfisher in Solomons, is free and open to the public. Attendees can order from the Stoney’s menu at 6 p.m.

Cap, who has built custom rods for five years at Shore Tackle and Custom Rods in Grasonville, Md., will discuss technologies for light tackle, trolling, jigging and fly rods. He’ll describe the different weights, actions, guides, and other materials in effective rods and what goes into building custom rods. He’ll also discuss the right rods for the different types of fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do bass anglers remember Virginia's Back Bay? Here's an update

In 2009, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) began a 3-year largemouth bass stocking project in Back Bay with an experimental stocking of approximately 75,000 surplus largemouth bass. For those of you who do not know Back Bay, it is a huge, grass-infested area very close to the Atlantic Ocean side of the state and sits just a bit north of North Carolina's famed Currituck Sound.

Things are happening at Back Bay, Va.
It is through the post-stocking sampling, results, and ultimate success of that project that the DGIF was able to justify a large-scale stocking that will attempt to improve, and ultimately aid in restoration of, the largemouth bass fishery Back Bay. An official stocking request was made to American Sportfish Hatchery in Alabama for some 125,000 fingerling (1-2 inches long) largemouth bass that were stocked in Back Bay on May 8th. 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.

Virginia fisheries scientists are not concerned with stocking these bass in Back Bay, primarily because nearly 100% of the bass in the mid-Atlantic are hybrids to some degree. Pure strains of largemouth bass simply do not exist in the mid-Atlantic, east of the Mississippi River, as largemouth bass are not native fish to the mid-Atlantic or even east of the Mississippi, excluding some regions of Florida. As with a previous stockings, these fingerlings will be chemically marked to allow DGIF staff to track their movement, survival, and distribution within the bay.

In the 1970s, Back Bay was one of the top trophy bass fisheries in the nation. This outstanding bass fishery peaked in 1980, when 240 citation-sized largemouth bass (bass that weighed at least eight pounds) were reported to be caught in the bay. In recent years, Back Bay has undergone a tremendous recovery in terms of water quality and the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). The growth and coverage of SAV is near levels not seen since the early 1980's, and the fisheries populations have shown a positive response to this increased and improved habitat.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The snakeheads are everywhere and rockfish catches perk up

Local angler Mike Roselle fished for bass in Virginia's Quantico Creek, using Pulse Worms, when the ever-growing snakehead population in the upper tidal Potomac's system apparently took a liking to the chubby, ringed worms from Berkley.

Here he is holding up two young specimens that eventually ended up on the supper table. Mike likes the taste of snakeheads.

By the way, besides the Potomac, the alien invaders have now been reported in the Nanticoke River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in a creek on the western side of the Bay, not far from the Patuxent River.

Tony Martinoli, of Pasadena, Md., shows off a well-fed 45-inch striper that he caught near Buoy 72 in the Chesapeake. He stopped by the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park to have a picture snapped.

Kurt Hern and the crew of the Temperance caught trophy stripers and one fat black drum on trolled tandem bucktail rigs near the Hooper's Island Light on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay.

Artem Molchanov of Lexington Park, Md., caught this beautiful 47-inch rockfish trolling near the Point No Point light, not far from St. Jerome's Creek.

That's Heather Hewitt and Ben Windsor with a wild turkey, shot in Valley Lee, Md.  The problem is that we weren't told who shot the bird. Was it Heather (left) or Ben?

Cheater caught at a Lake Wylie, N.C., bass tournament

The web site a few days ago reported that the FLW tournament organization has banned a cheater from any future events.

The FLW said a North Carolina angler who finished 3rd in a BFL competition at Lake Wylie (south of Charlotte) last Saturday was disqualified and banned from the organization's future events. 

John Hoyle, of Rutherfordton, N.C. was penalized under the BFL No. 9 Sportsmanship Rule when one of the fish he brought to the weigh-in was found to have an 11-ounce weight in its gullet. Hoyle forfeited a $1,082 prize check. Oddly, the extra 11 ounces didn't help him since his total bag -- without the additional weight --  would have tipped the scales at 13-01 pounds, an ounce more than original 4th-place finisher Rob Digh. He'd have needed another 11 ounces to reach runner-up Roger Pope's 14-07 tally (Brian Huskins won with 14-08).

Hoyle's profile at credits him with having won more than $8,000 during his career in BFL events. He won more than half of that total last year when he received $4,394 for winning a March 19 event, also at Lake Wylie, with a 16-04 pound bag of bass. 

The tournament's co-angler standings were not affected by Hoyle's disqualification.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Maggie goes crappie fishing and she delivers the goods

Maggie hunkered down upriver, her back against the wind.
MARSHALL HALL, Md. -- I have no earthly idea how many of you fellows who fish from bass boats or even bigger craft make it a point to take your better half along when an outing is scheduled. Our friend Dale Knupp fishes almost exclusively with his wife, Nancy. Long-time fishing pal and former Maryland Freshwater Fisheries chief, Bob Lunsford (now retired), doesn't mind it one bit if his wife Pam wants to join him for a redfish trip in South Carolina or a simple yellow perch hunt in Maryland.

But that's pretty much it among my friends and acquaintances. The rest of the gang fishes with boat mates of the male persuasion. I was pretty much one of those guys until the woman whose name is next to mine on income tax returns made an offer that was hard to refuse. "I want to go crappie fishing," said Maggie, "and if I don't get to go, there might be a sudden shortage of apple pies, homemade peach preserves, chicken and dumplings, cranberry muffins --- you know, all the things you like."

This crappie beat a path to her 2-inch Power Minnow
With a threat like that hanging over my head, what could I do? Of course, I surrendered.

Not only did Maggie get to go crappie fishing, she had a professional fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski, show her where and how `to catch crappies. Many of you know Andy to be my regular fishing partner and so I asked him to make sure Maggie had a chance to latch on to the speckled taste delights.

Andy had no trouble hooking the tasty speckled fish.
A run from the Marshall Hall boat ramp had Maggie hunker down in the boat, back against the wind, half frozen, but without complaining. Andy and I looked at each other and smiled. "I don't think she'd like to come along when we go out in January," shouted Andy over the din of a 250 h.p. Evinrude.

However, once we were inside a certain Prince George's County feeder creek to the Potomac, with Andy shutting down the outboard and dropping the trolling motor over the bow, Maggie grabbed her rod and reel and she was ready to wage war on unsuspecting creek inhabitants. She had a 6-foot spinning rod, a spinning reel filled with 8-pound monofilament line that held a 2-inch Berkley Power Minnow. A bright red bobber was pinched to the line no more than three feet above the lure. Oh, before I forget, Maggie wanted a healthy dabbing of Smelly Jelly on her lure.

Yeah, she latched onto fat bass as well.
On her second cast toward a fallen tree along the shore, the bobber went under and she stuck the hook to a young crappie. She was delighted and completely understood that the little "speck" could not be dropped into the livewell, later to be cleaned and served at supper.

Andy, meanwhile, landed a whopper of a crappie. It found a home inside one of the boat's livewell tanks. Maggie quickly followed suit with a "slab" crappie of her own that anybody would have been proud to catch.

Okay, on occasion Maggie tried to see if there were any speckled fish up in a tree, but she'd jerk her lure free, straighten everything out, ignore sarcastic comments from her spouse, and once again cast into the watery hideouts where the crappie lived. The "specks" quite frequently found themselves in the company of largemouth bass, sunfish, catfish and yellow perch.

Andy couldn't resist trying on Maggie's fishing hat.
That's what I love about the tidal Potomac. You never know what will jump onto a rig intended for crappies. All three of us caught multiple species, with Andy catching bass, crappies and a fat yellow perch on a small plastic grub. I used a 2-inch Berkley Power Minnow and a 2-inch Gulp grub. Both worked. In fact, the Gulp grub attracted two well-fed channel catfish, as well as crappies and bass. Maggie nailed a bass here and there, a yellow perch, and plenty of crappies. She was delighted. The final count for the three of us included 19 largemouth bass, 2 yellow perch, 2 catfish, 1 redbreasted sunfish --- and of course enough crappies to invite good friends over for a fish fry.

The question now is this: Will I ever again be able to fish with the guys, or will the chief apple pie baker in the Mueller household demand equal time when the fishing bell rings? And you think you have problems. You don't.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Barrier islands in Virginia turn up hard-fighting channel bass

While many of us up here in Chesapeake Bay Country chase after trophy stripers, a lot of the anglers who live on Virginia's Eastern Shore or in Virginia Beach are after channel bass, a.k.a. redfish or red drum.
They're getting them in the shallows and ditches of Virginia's barrier islands. Here's Hunter Southall, who normally fishes out of Virginia Beach, showing off one of the tough gamefish. A quick photo by Dr. Ken Neill and then it's back into the water.

Hunter releases one of many redfish from the boat, Special Kate. The group of anglers aboard the boat included nationally recognized saltwater fisherman, Dr. Ken Neill, who just recently broke the Virginia state tautog record.

By the way, the guys on the Special Kate used Red Eye lures around Fisherman's Island to get "hooked up" with a fish that has been called every name in the book, but being an easily caught sissy is not one of them.

Gabe Sava, another Virginia Beach saltwater fan, shows off a beautiful redfish that locals down that way prefer to call red drum. It all depends which part of the coast you're fishing in. Either way, any of its three names fit and if you've never hooked a finned freight train before, try red drum fishing. Talk about muscle-stretching, elbow-hurting fishing "fun." The channel bass delivers the goods.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rain, sun, even fog, and the male bass were biting for us

Andy checked out a male bass, then let it go.
MARSHALL HALL, Charles County, Md. -- When I arrived at the boat ramp a half dozen or so tournament boats were about to be launched or already sat in the Potomac River's low tidal water. There was nothing to worry about with any of them. One Indiana boat owner loudly lamented the absence of submersed vegetation in some of the waters he had been practicing in for a big-bucks contest. Of course, what he said was ludicrous, considering all the green stuff we pull up almost anywhere we go on this river.

Then there was a fellow from Pennsylvania who appeared to be having trouble finding bass, so I don't suppose he'll be a threat to more celebrated national anglers. So it went until the fellows and their fancy sparkle boats were gone. 

Then my regular fishing partner, the pro guide Andy Andrzejewski arrived with his 22-foot Triton, ready to run over to Pohick Bay to pick up a long-time friend. Once that was done, the three of us would hunt for willing largemouths because Andy needed to find a few more likely spots since a client was coming to town the next day. It never hurts to have plenty of backup areas that will deliver fish.

Marty Magone and a pretty good male bass that took a plastic craw bait.
It began to rain. 

At the Pohick Bay launch ramp stood Marty Magone, our good friend from Lake Gaston, Va., who had been complaining about not getting enough fishing time in the Potomac although Marty really doesn't need the Potomac for bass. Not only is he very proficient in finding his favorite species in his home lake, Gaston, he also has a reputation for knowing the ins and outs of such North Carolina luminary rivers as the Chowan and Scuppernong. In fact, a number of his friends jokingly refer to him as the Scuppernong Weigh Master because of more than one sizable bass that he has measured and weighed there for friends.

Gene Mueller hoists one of his male bass.
Back in the Potomac, the fishing guide, Andy, wasted little time working a small inlet on the Virginia side of the river, casting and quickly sticking the hooks of a shallow-lipped Norman crankbait to a fair male bass. Of course, it was let go immediately. That was bass Number 1. Marty followed with another male bass that struck a green pumpkin Paca Craw bait. Eventually I, too, connected on yet another male bass using a Strike King Baby Rage Tail craw in the same color as Marty's.

The rain finally stopped -- but it started again five minutes later. 

A pattern began to develop. It became clear that the gravel-laden shoreline was home to a bunch of male bass that, according to biological custom, were guarding the spawning redds of mama bass that had finished their chores. The smaller males traditionally protect the spawning nests from predators (including the usually bigger female bass) and they will vigorously go after artificial baits they believe to pose a danger to freshly hatched bass fry.

Andy released several catfish that struck artificials . . .
Andy and Marty surely outfished me this time around, even though a bass would look at my craw imitations or Chatter Bait-like Pure Poison lures. 

A soft rain began to fall again, then it stopped abruptly.

By the time we finished chomping down on the Scuppernong Weigh Master's roast beef sandwiches and washed it down with diet sodas that he brought as well, we were ready to resume fishing. Thus far, over a dozen bass -- all of them males -- had been boated and released. But before we packed up to leave for the Greenway Flats on the Maryland side of the river, Andy and I munched on hazelnut-filled bars of dark chocolate supplied by Marty's love, the sweet Pauline.

The moment the outboard was shut down after we arrived on the grass-packed flats and Andy lowered his powerful trolling motor, a variety of lures once again attracted bass. For some reason, Andy switched to a black/blue pig'n'jig and the bass liked that as well as they did his plastic craw baits. However, only one female largemouth attacked Andy's lure. The rest of the three men's catch consisted only of male bass.

. . . and of course did the same to the bass.
We called a halt to the fun by 1 p.m. The day's total came to 24 bass (but only one female in the bunch), two catfish and one yellow perch.

The rain disappeared and the sun began to bake man and beast alike. As it approached 80 degrees, it certainly was comforting to have a well-working air conditioning unit in the pickup truck.

If you plan to do something similar to what we did, be sure to hurry up and get it done because by May 17-20 the Marshall Hall ramp as well as other ramps on the Maryland side will be choked with tournament boat traffic. There is a 100-plus boat FLW tournament coming to town and it's being headquartered at National Harbor. However, National Harbor can't accommodate bass boats that need to launch, so the tournament organizers told the contestants to pretty much use whatever public boat launches they want to use.

Good for the contestants, but bad for us local residents who pretty much pay for the building and maintenance of boat ramps.