Reel Report: Warm weather brings croaker and bluefish
By James Drake
The Memorial Day weekend always heralds in the beginning of the summer boating and vacation season.
The holiday this year came along with enough hot weather to also bring a decent run of bluefish and croaker for local anglers.
Maryland’s eighth annual Fishing Challenge is now under way with dozens of striped bass sporting special chartreuse 2012 tags swimming somewhere around the Chesapeake Bay.
One of them is designated as June’s “Diamond Jim” and is worth $10,000 to the lucky angler who catches it. If that very special fish isn’t caught during June, the July “Diamond Jim” will be valued at $20,000 and it goes up again to $25,000 if still uncaught by August. Should you catch one of the many dozens of tagged imposters, the reward is $500.
New this year is that the $25,000 “Diamond Jim” prize is guaranteed to be awarded. If one of the three designated “Diamond Jim” striped bass is not caught by Labor Day, the cash will be split equally among the anglers who catch imposters this summer.
Besides “Diamond Jim,” everyone who brings in an eligible award-size fish from any Maryland water, from among more than 80 sport fish species, and register it at a certified weigh-in station, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a boat, motor and trailer package from Tracker Marine, a tropical vacation package or other nice prizes to be given away at the Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point State Park on Sept. 8.
Example sizes include 11-inch bluegill, 21-inch largemouth bass, 18-inch croaker, 13-inch white perch and a 9-inch blue crab will even qualify.
To see the entire award species list and all of the rules, go to www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/challenge.
Southern Maryland lakes and ponds For the next few months, the finest fishing is going to be when the sun is fairly low in the sky. That means you’ll be getting up early or staying out late for the best chance at success. Once the sun climbs above the treetops, it’s time to head home and get busy with your honey-do lists.
Ken Lamb from The Tackle Box in Lexington Park said the largemouth bass fishing at St. Mary’s Lake is great. Also, there are more crappie, bluegill and chain pickerel there for the taking.
Mattawoman Creek Ken Penrod with the Life Outdoors Unlimited guides (301-937-0010) reported the grass beds between the state park and mouth have been one of the best habitats in the entire tidal Potomac for largemouths and snakehead.
Nearby, also try the points and coves in the Chicamuxen and all around Mallows Bay. The poor bass in Belmont Bay are still being mercilessly hammered daily by scores of fishermen.
Upper Potomac River Water levels have been up and down, but the good fishing remains constant. At Lander, the LOU pros recommended tubes or Case Magic Stiks cast to the upriver ponds, ledges and any other current breaks you may encounter.
Tidal Potomac River Andy Andrzejewski with the Reel Bass Adventures guide service (301-932-1509) told me the largemouths are everywhere and found now along marsh banks, in the grass beds, by spatterdock fields as well as around wood, rocks and marina pilings. Look first for an early-morning topwater bite then move on to frogs over the grass or small white spinner baits, soft plastics, chatter baits or a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus.
Expect bluegill to be on beds and aggressive. Penrod recommended that you try Greenway Flats, Pomonkey Bay and the drop-off between Dogue and Pohick casting spinner baits, Stiks and buzz baits.
Lower Potomac River Lamb reported that the croaker have moved up the river and are biting with a mix of white perch at Ragged Point, St. George Island, Piney Point and Cornfield Harbor.
My buddy, Franco Foraci, has been absolutely smashing white perch on artificals such as Kastmasters, Mepps spinners and Beetle Spins on the rock piles around Cobb Island.
“Save your money, you don’t need bloodworms,” said Foraci, who also caught nice croaker off Swan Point in 15 feet to 25 feet of water. Shrimp was the ticket for those.
Patuxent River Lots of croaker are in here. Lamb knows of shore and pier fishermen finding them by the mouth and boaters connecting upriver around Cuckold Creek, the Kingston hollow, Green Holly and the O’Club.
Deep Creek Lake LOU guides Bret Winegardner and Brent Nelson found some spawning bass in the back ends of coves with top-water poppers. Post-spawn fish are now around the shoreline grass and under shallow docks. Tubes have been the best lures for them.
Lake Anna Bluegill are on beds throughout the lake and this is a great time to break out the fly rods and cast to the coves and other shoreline pockets with a tiny popper. There are plenty of hungry catfish everywhere, taken best on chicken liver baits. An early-morning dock pattern is working on the largemouths.
Chesapeake Bay Capt. Sonney Forrest (443-532-0836) told me trollers are bringing in rigs with the tails of the Sassy Shads bitten off, so you might want to target those bluefish out there and keep the wire leaders handy. Forrest also has seen a couple of acres of breaking fish working bait recently by the Gas Docks.
Lamb said croaker are around the Middle Grounds behind Buoy 72A and more are caught daily off the pier and beaches at Point Lookout. He recommends a moving tide and nighttime fishing for the best shot at those hardhead.
Nearly all of the striped bass found in the bay now are the local residents in the 19- to 30-inch range if you find keepers, and some speckled trout are being taken in the shallows of the Eastern Shore and inner islands. Spot are just beginning to show up.
Atlantic Ocean Sue Foster at Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City reported a few flounder and a smattering of stripers in the surf but some very decent bluefish being caught around the Inlet, U.S. 50 Bridge and Oceanic Pier.
Assateague anglers even had some black drum action a few days ago. Some sea bass are taken offshore and the first sheepshead of the season has been seen. Way offshore, white marlin and wahoo have finally made an appearance.