Cownose ray

Kathy Padgett got a surprise catch while jigging in the power plant discharge last week, a big cownose ray.

Crabbing has improved across the area, so a crab feast for Father’s Day won’t set you back as much as it would a few weeks ago. Or better yet, catch your own. A couple of hours working some chicken necks could net you two dozen or maybe more.

When we cook ours, we follow a secret handed-down family recipe that calls for a 10-ounce can of Budweiser and a blend of Old Bay and J.O. Spice. I’m not sure what’s more important, the beer or the spice. I just know it tastes amazing.

Whether you catch and cook them yourself or carry out, crabs for Father’s Day sounds like a good idea to me.

Southern Maryland lakes and ponds — Recreational angler Eric Packard fished St. Mary’s Lake earlier this week catching bass around laydowns on various baits. Three pickerel rounded out his catch.

The fishing at Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville hasn’t changed much since last week, according to manager Anthony Hancock. If you can find spots where there is aquatic vegetation growing, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits and jig and craw combos will work.

Patuxent River — There are some hopeful-yet-unconfirmed reports that small and mid-sized croaker are in the river now. Should be any day now that croaker and spot show up, but with the recent cool temperatures it might still be a while. There never was much of a croaker fishery last year in the Patuxent, so we’ll have to wait and see what 2019 brings.

Catfishing has cooled a bit in the creeks, with anglers complaining they aren’t the sure thing they once were.

Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151) said catfish is still a good bet with anglers catching them in the Patuxent, Potomac and even off the pier at Point Lookout.

Potomac River — Life Outdoors Unlimited guide Capt. Kenny Penrod (240-478-9055) had one of his best days on Mattawoman Creek when he found bass packed into an area of hydrilla teeming with crawfish.

Penrod’s recommendation is to follow the rule “where there is one fish, there are two fish.” Use a Big Mouth Shakey chatterbait on one rod to find the fish, then follow up (and slow down) with a Campground tube rigged Texas-style or a Case Magic Stik on another rod. Note that the Smallwood boat ramp will be closed tomorrow for a triathlon.

Packard fished Mattawoman Creek and Mallows Bay recently from his kayak and reports the snakehead are hungry for Whopper Ploppers. You might be lucky to catch one while fishing for bass. He caught his in Mallows Bay casting parallel to the arrowhead plants lining the creek, in about two feet of water.

Capt. Dennis Fleming of Fishamajig Guide Service (240-538-1260) reports that stripers can be found from Tall Timbers to the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge. Trolling and chumming works and light tackle anglers do well for keepers early and late in shallow water with current and structure.

In the Washington, D.C. sector, some anglers are catching the blue-flathead-channel slam. Plenty of smaller stripers are around with an occasional decent-sized fish in the mix. This should keep up another week or so.

Juniata and Susquehanna rivers (Pa.) — LOU guide Capt. Ken Penrod (240-447-2206) reports that both rivers are fishing well, not only for bass, but walleye and musky hook-ups this year are “way above average.”

Penrod recommends you get your topwater kick in the morning, especially with Whopper Ploppers, Zara Spooks and Obie HardHook buzzbaits. Spinnerbaits can cover a lot of water and score often.

Lake Anna (Va.) — Jim Hemby of Lake Anna Striper Guide Service reports that temperatures are returning to normal quickly, after a cool-off with the rain over the weekend.

Stripers have migrated to the mid-lake regions. In low-light conditions they are feeding aggressively in the upper water column and topwaters such as Redfins, Zara Spooks, Chug Baits and Pencil Poppers are recommended. Trolling or using live bait rigged on downlines are good methods when the fish move deep.

Bass are also feeding aggressively and are suckers for topwater baits. Bass will rise out of twenty feet of water to hit a Pop-R, especially in clear water. If you’re fishing over deep water, fish slower to give the bass time to locate and blow up your bait. Another good technique is to throw swimbaits counting them down using a slow retrieve.

Chesapeake Bay — Reader Kathy Padgett sent me a great photo of a surprise catch she landed while jigging in the power plant discharge last week.

While she was hoping for a monster rockfish on the other end of her Ugly Stick, it turned out to be a big cownose ray. Padgett said it must’ve been a female, because she went for a pretty pink lure. The ray was unharmed and carefully released.

There are plenty of rockfish in that area, but to keep in perspective the number of throwbacks to keepers, Lamb told me a customer and his buddy recently went jigging and caught an obscene number of fish in less than an hour and only three were keepers. Also, a 30- and a 38-inch rockfish were caught in the power plant discharge in the past week, so they’re out there.

Fleming reports that stripers are scare below Solomons, but available to trollers and light tackle fishermen around Parker’s Creek.

Mike Henderson at Buzz’s Marina (301-247-7887) expects things to pick up this weekend. It’s been slim-pickings for bottom fishermen but spot and croaker should be in the area soon.

Atlantic Ocean — The sea bass bite was fussy last week, and windy conditions earlier this week kept boats in port.

Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star (410-520-2076) posted a photo on Facebook of Ben Lacey of Chaptico with a double header. Not too shabby of a first sea bass trip ever as Lacey was lucky and limited out.

Still lots of flounder in the back bays, but unfortunately almost all are undersized.

Tip of the week

Unless you use an aerator, minnows often die an untimely death in hot weather if you just keep them in a regular bucket.

Try only putting barely enough water in your bucket to just about cover their backs. Their natural movement in swimming around in such a shallow area will add much needed oxygen to the water.