This is the last Friday of September, and that means there’s just one more month of fishing reports and then the Reel Report will take a break until April 2020. It also means there’s some fine fall fishing still on the horizon.

The local lakes and ponds have cooled down, so the action has been heating up.

My buddy Eric Packard sent me a text last week while I was tied up with family affairs, letting me know he was fishing St. Mary’s Lake and had caught 27 bass and was still counting.

The final tally? An impressive 49 bass and one pickerel, all caught on a 1/4-ounce Ned rig.

Packard wasn’t the only one the fish gods smiled upon that afternoon. On that same day at St. Mary’s Lake, a pair of anglers caught 44 bass and two pickerel between them using wacky-rigged worms. Yes, that is some fine fall fishing, indeed.

And now that it’s fall, that means the annual Fall Fishin’ Buddies Derby is returning to Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville for another fun Saturday of fishing for the whole family.

This fall’s derby will take place on from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 12. Anglers will compete by teams that consist of one adult 21 or older and one child 6 to 15). Teams can fish from shore or by boat and will compete in separate divisions. All teams will be eligible for numerous door prizes and trophies will be awarded in multiple categories.

Registration must be completed online by Oct. 9. The cost is $10 per team and includes lunch for each participant.

To register, go to or For more information, call the Gilbert Run Park office at 301-932-1083 or 301-870-3388.

Southern Maryland lakes and ponds — Anthony Hancock, manager at Gilbert Run Park, got married last week. Congratulations!

Hancock took a few minutes to send me a fishing report before leaving on his honeymoon. He said the fish are still in a summer pattern, but conditions are changing quickly for the better.

Bass are biting topwater lures longer into the morning hours and earlier in the evening. Finding the edge of grass is important for catching bass. Spinnerbaits, shallow-running crankbaits and jig-and-craw combos fished near the edges will bring strikes. Slowly fished soft plastics in natural colors are working during daytime, too. Senko stickbait type lures have been especially effective.

Bluegill and redear sunfish are also holding in those areas near the edges of grass and will eat small pieces of nightcrawler or mealworms fished under a bobber.

Patuxent River — Perch fishing in the creeks has been “excellent,” according to Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151).

Drive them crazy by tipping your lure with a bit of bloodworm or squid. Perch are still in summertime mode biting in the early morning and at sunset. When the temperatures cool, expect the perch to bit midday on moving tides, too.

Crabs are large, heavy and plentiful. I’ve been catching a dozen keepers every two days in the pots off my pier.

Potomac River — Reel Bass Adventures guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) reports bass catches remain below expectations. Recent tournament results back that up.

It takes some searching to find bass. Andrzejewski recommends a pattern of fishing grasses with topwater poppers, small white spinnerbaits or wacky-rigged stick worms. Creek ledges in front of spatterdock fields and marsh runs may give up a bass or two to anglers using finesse baits.

Small stripers are active around rocks, bridge pilings and bulkheads and will strike poppers or rattletraps.

Life Outdoors Unlimited guide Capt. Kenny Penrod III (240-478-9055) reports there’s still green hydrilla in Mattawoman, Quantico, Chixamuxen, Neabsco and Powell creeks, but it’s starting to show holes, canopies and lanes.

Penrod recommends throwing shallow-diving crankbaits to grass and pad drop off edges on an outgoing tide in low light, twitching a frog over matted grass canopies with clean water beneath and fishing creek drop-offs with a Campground tube.

Juniata and Susquehanna rivers (Pa.) — “Not worth the drive,” is what LOU guru Capt. Ken Penrod (240-447-2206) is saying this week.

The lower 20 miles of the Juniata and the section of the Susquehanna between Montgomery Ferry and Harrisburg is especially poor. Penrod said there are sections of the West Branch and North Branch that are doing better.

Lake Anna (Va.) — C.C. McCotter of McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service (540-894-3540) reports that with scant rainfall and a scheduled outage ending at the power plant, fishing is about the take off for the fall.

Bass anglers are finding hot zones in the upper portions of the lake. Little reliable action has been had down-lake and mid-lake unless you know where the brushpiles are and enjoy shaky head worm fishing. Up-lake, anglers are finding bass willing to take pitched creature and craw baits around willowgrass, docks, rocks and wood in 5 to 10 feet of water.

Anglers can catch plenty of crappie using 6-pound test line and a 2-inch jig or minnows below slip bobbers.

Chesapeake Bay — Mackerel can be found in the bay all the way up to Baltimore Harbor. According to Lamb, limits of 10 fish per person have been common for trollers chasing breaking fish in all directions.

Clarke, Drone, and Hard Head Custom Bait spoons are popular brands. Lamb recommends bright colors, especially pink. Number one planers are the devices that get the spoon at the right water level and brings the fish to the surface once it takes the lure.

Lamb said he thinks mackerel will be hanging around longer than usual this year and might not begin their migration to the ocean until well into October.

Atlantic Ocean — Lots of swordfish catches in the canyons have been reported this week.

According to Larry Jock of the Coastal Fisherman (, anglers on the Marli headed out during the day this past Monday and returned with a 424-pound swordfish from the Baltimore Canyon.

They were fishing in 1,600 feet of water and caught it on an eel during the second drop.

At the Oceanic Pier (410-289-2602), bluefish and hickory shad are biting at night under the lights with a good number of keeper-sized flounder keeping anglers busy during the day.

Tip of the week

Fall officially began earlier this week and — once we get beyond this hot spell and maybe get a little rain, God-willing because I just laid out grass seed — cooler temperatures are going to trigger changes in the fishing patterns.

Stay flexible and don’t be afraid to change tactics as new conditions dictate. Most fish only get more active as water temperatures drop, so now’s not the time to put your fishing gear back in the garage till next season.