Fall Fishin’ Buddies Derby

The Fall Fishin’ Buddies Derby was held Oct. 12 at Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville. A total of 46 teams headed out to the lake that morning to vie for bragging rights and even a trophy in several categories defined by age, species and manner of catching (from shore or boat) and many went home with trophies.

‘Tis the final installment of the 2019 Reel Report, and what better way to end the season than to celebrate the winners of the Fall Fishin’ Buddies Derby at Gilbert Run Park?

The competition was held on Oct. 12 on a beautiful fall morning in picturesque Dentsville. A total of 46 teams headed out to the lake that morning to vie for bragging rights and even a trophy in several categories defined by age, species and manner of catching (from shore or boat).

The four main species — bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish — were all present and accounted for. Trout, which hadn’t been stocked in time for the tournament, were a no-show. Overall, the teams caught nine bass, 171 bluegill and four crappie. Oftentimes catfish aren’t part of the catch, but this year the team of Jadzia and Dartagnan Fischer were able to snag the honors for both largest catfish and most catfish with a fine 10-inch specimen.

Other notable catches include Landon Sanders and Justin Hamilton’s 9 1/4-inch bluegill that led the 6- to 10-year-old boat division and Connor Fields and Paul King’s 9-inch bass that took largest in the 11-15 boat division.

You may have noticed that most of the fish caught in the tournament were bluegill. You can look no further than the team of James Thorne Jr. and James Thorne Sr. and the team of Alex Morris and Joan Thorne to know who was responsible for running up those numbers. They caught 32 and 48 bluegill, respectively.

Now what I like best about these tournaments is that they remind me of why fishing is so important to me and probably most of you who read this column. It’s not really about who caught the biggest fish or the most, but about the time we spend with loved ones learning, laughing and just plain enjoying the outdoors together.

Most anglers can recall a parent, grandparent, spouse, neighbor or mentor who taught them all they know about using a rod and reel. And these tournaments are the perfect way for us grown-ups to do our part to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.

Congratulations to the winners and congratulations to all the teams that came out to fish together. You’re all winners in my book.

Southern Maryland lakes and ponds — Anthony Hancock, manager of Gilbert Run Park, reports anglers are finding bluegill and redear sunfish near the edges of grass beds and around wood cover. They are biting on small pieces of nightcrawler, crickets or mealworms fished close to the bottom (add a small piece of split shot or two will be just the right weight to cast to the edge of the grass and hold near the bottom).

A few crappie have been caught near deeper dock pilings and along deeper wood structure. Dangling a small live minnow under a slip bobber is the ticket. Small white curly tail grubs or crappie tubes will work as well.

Bass are into a fall pattern now, with slow-moving soft plastic lures and jig-and-craw combos the go-to baits to use.

Patuxent River — Ken Lamb of the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151) said perch are now becoming harder to catch in the creeks.

They will start to make their winter quarters in the deep holes in rivers until next spring. That doesn’t mean they’ll stop eating, though, so you just have to get your double hook bottom rigs in the right spot to find them, about 30 to 40 feet deep. Bait them with bits of bloodworm and you’ll be brining home a tasty mess of white perch most any tide change.

Potomac River — Reel Bass Adventures guide Andy Andrzejewski (301-932-1509) reports changing weather conditions and fluctuating tidal levels have been making bass fishing challenging.

Crayfish are the main prey for bass. Look for birds diving over grass beds to find areas bass will be foraging in. Andrzejewski recommends targeting those areas with a topwater popper in red. The bite, he says, can last well into the day. He also recommends working the same area with a shallow-running spinnerbait or chatterbait.

Rocky cover has bass that will strike a shallow-running crankbait (crayfish color is a good choice). Try a rattletrap or swimbait to connect with stripers that can be found around current breaks off points and rocks.

Aqualand Marina (301-259-2222) reports trollers working mid-river humps and coming back with limits of rockfish. Catches should remain steady for the next few weeks as fish migrate downriver toward the bay.

Lake Anna (Va.) — McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service (540-894-9144) reports water temperatures dropping into the 60s with the lake poised to enter a new phase of annual fishing patterns. Soon there should be vast areas of no fish and small areas with big schools of fish. Find these hot zones and the fishing can be excellent.

The backs of mid-lake creeks often hold herring and the bass school up to corral them for a buffet-style smashing. In the upper sections of the lake, use baits that allow you to cover a lot of water like spinnerbaits or lipless crankbaits. The biggest limits/catches come when you slow down and pitch creature baits or jigs to willow grass lines in the upper portions of the North Anna and Pamunkey branches.

Crappie have been on docks, shallow brush piles and rocks in the upper section of the lake. They’ll slowly move toward deeper holding areas, including bridge pilings, until the water temperatures fall into the low 50s, then they will group up offshore and follow threadfin schools.

Chesapeake Bay — The cool weather has definitely sparked the rockfish into biting as size and numbers have increased since the arrival of cooler weather, reports Capt. Dennis Fleming with Fishamajig Guide Service (240-538-1260).

Fleming said the shallow water bite is “as good as it gets” in the lower Patuxent and the eastern shore across the bay. Small bucktails, crankbaits and even fly fishing are racking up nice catches for light tackle anglers.

Lamb said the “red hot” bite of a week ago has slowed, but rockfish are still plentiful and eager to bite.

The spot have left the rivers and bay and have migrated to the Atlantic already. Bluefish and speckled trout will be around a little longer, but even they should be gone by the first week in December.

Atlantic Ocean — Capt. Monty Hawkins on the Morning Star (410-520-2076) reports plenty of sea bass limits when the weather cooperates. Bonus species include tog, triggerfish and the occasional bluefish, and also a sighting of a 300- to 400-pound bluefin tuna breaking the surface inshore as it was making its way south.

White marlin and mahi mahi in the Baltimore Canyon and a 128-pound swordfish from the Poor Man’s Canyon are recent off-shore catches.

Tip of the week

Hancock said the lake should receive a trout stocking either this week or next week, giving Gilbert Run Park patrons a chance at catching some nice trout.

The park will remain open seven days a week until Nov. 1. From Nov. 2 to 17, the park will be open only on weekends. The park will be closed for the season starting Nov. 18 and reopen weekends only during the month of March.