Rockfish photo

Johnny Caldwell jigged this 28-inch rockfish from below a school of breaking rock, blues and Spanish mackerel in the mouth of the Patuxent River last Saturday.

These past few days have been a bit cooler, and while there will still be a couple more hot days in our future (which happen to nearly always coincide with when I’m schlepping five kids around at the county fair), some nice sweater weather is soon to come our way.

Once you feel the need for a jacket early in the morning, you’ll know that prime fall fishing is here.

The general angling action out in the bay, rivers and creeks continues to be dazzling. Sure, we could use some rain, but we can’t have everything.

Let’s hope for a good soaker soon, but keep the hurricanes away.

Southern Maryland lakes and ponds — You won’t go wrong using topwaters early, but nowadays you can stay all morning, even when the sun is shining overhead.

Open up your tackle box and let the experiments begin. Plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and just about anything else could work on any given day as we head into fall.

Bass, bluegill and pickerel are all active at St. Mary’s Lake. You can also catch some fine crappie on jigs or bits of nightcrawler.

Patuxent River — Recreational fisherman E.B. Brown of Hollywood reports that Cuckold Creek has been quite productive.

Lately, schools of baitfish have been roaming the creek with rockfish taking bites at them periodically. Your most likely catch in the creek is perch, but the creek is also giving up catfish, spot and many sub-legal and even plenty of legal-sized rockfish.

Notably, several anglers have caught snakehead in the creek this week, some on beetle spins that were originally intended to snag perch. Crab pots are still catching keepers as well.

Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151) reports hordes of small speckled trout are keeping things interesting for anglers trolling the oyster beds with small bucktails. Lamb recommends Green Holly, Hawk’s Nest and the oyster bars upriver for outstanding perch fishing.

Potomac River — Reel Bass Adventures guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) reports that cooling water temperatures have not resulted in a corresponding increase in bass activity. In fact, most anglers are experiencing “challenging” fishing.

Hard cover has been more productive than grasses, so banging a rattletrap or shallow-running crankbait across rocks can result in a few bites. Finesse worms are a good choice, too.

Drops in front of marsh runs may give up bass on the smaller side on the low end of tides. Sub-legal rockfish are available to anglers fishing topwater poppers against bulkheads or bridge pilings on the turn of the tides.

Life Outdoors Unlimited guide Capt. Kenny Penrod III (240-478-9055) said he’s been fishing drops at the edge of grass or pad fields during lower tides with some success. Penrod has been using two crankbaits — one that dives three feet and another that goes about six feet deep. The best colors have been orange and shad. A bubblegum-colored swimming worm sometimes worked in the backs of creeks sometimes, too.

Lamb suggests a dozen bloodworms and a double hook bottom rig if you’re looking to catch a mess of spot this weekend. There are plenty of small spot to be had for live-lining as well, if it’s rockfish you’re after.

Perch can be found in the St. Mary’s River off Chancellor’s Point and in the horseshoe.

Juniata and Susquehanna rivers (Pa.) — The rivers badly need an influx of rain. LOU guide Capt. Ken Penrod (240-447-2206) said there are areas on the North Brand and the West Branch that are going well, while the main stem from the confluence to Holtwood is “shocking.”

If water levels rise, Penrod recommends Campground tubes in the KP Series paired with Johnny’s RAB jig heads, available at Riverfront Campground. To order, call Johnny at 717-834-5252.

Lake Anna (Va.) — McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service (www.mccotterslakeanna.com) reports “fair to good” fishing when you can find active schools.

Target schooling largemouth down-lake from the dam up to Dike 1. You might be able to catch a few on a Tiger Shad spinnerbait in the afternoons in creeks like Sturgeon, Contrary, Mitchell, Marshall and Pigeon. Up-lake, bass are on crankbait holes (rocks, ledges, and brush) but still prefer plastic worms.

There’s been good striper fishing for those using lures like a Redfin or Super Spook, Jr. to target breaking fish in the morning within a mile of either side of the Route 208 marinas.

Chesapeake Bay — Lamb said look for birds and you’ll find rockfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel schooled up. Prime locations are down the ship’s channel and in the mouths of the rivers.

Lure casters are having spectacular results casting spoons and bucktails. You’ll find undersized rockfish on top and the big ones underneath.

There are also some big bull red fish foraging under some of these schools, as well as in the area below the Target Ship, where cobia have been caught by trollers, chummers and sight casters. Make sure to have some red hoses in your line-up for the cobia.

As was true last year, there are plenty of rockfish north of the Bay Bridge, with live-lining the pilings a popular method to limit out quickly. Circle hooks are required when live-lining or chumming.

Recreational angler Eric Packard fished the bay along Driftwood Beach in Lusby from his kayak earlier this week, looking for spotted sea trout. Packard didn’t find any specks, but he caught over 60 rockfish (he lost count at 62).

Most of the fish were under but a few measured over 19 inches with the biggest at 21 inches. He caught them all on a 1/4-ounce jig with white paddle tail. Bigger fish were offshore near the crab pots.

Atlantic Ocean — A 15-foot juvenile sperm whale was found on the beach in Ocean City around 114th Street early Sunday morning. Veterinarians from the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue were unable to rescue the animal and it died at 1:30 p.m. Experts say the whale appeared to be severely undernourished and a necropsy should shed more light on what led to its demise.

The sea bass fishing continues to be good overall. The Angler (410-289-7424) reports limits of sea bass up to three pounds and a few flounder up to 3 1/2 pounds on its most recent trip.

The Chesapeake Bay Sportfishing Association’s Flounder Tournament was last weekend. The top three flounder were caught behind Assateague Island, in the West Channel and at the Old Grounds.

Tip of the week

If you do catch yourself one of those big red drum, remember the rules. Only one can be caught per fisherman per day and it must measure between 18 and 27 inches. And you’ve got to throw back those really big guys that weigh up to 50 pounds.