Fishing Potomac River can produce some strange results

Bill Burton

September 24, 1991|By Bill Burton

CHICAMUXEN -- Guide Glenn Peacock's stock in trade is the largemouth bass. On this fish he has established a fine business practically year 'round on the Potomac River near Washington, also a reputation good enough to rate a booking by George Bush.

But these days Peacock's mind wanders from the green fish he loves to challenge with soft plastic baits. Now sharing his thoughts and anticipations are the bigger silver-finned creatures with the black stripes. Rockfish.

Come Oct. 5, Peacock and his clientele will enjoy the best of both worlds -- bass on slack, low, and in-between waters; rockfish on high waters, the higher the better. The locale will be the same, primarily in the District of Columbia sector and within a 20-minute run from there, though there he can work in rock as far south as the Route 301 bridge.

Calvert Bregel and I had no choice when we boarded Peacock's bassboat at Smallwood State Park below Washington. The district's rock season doesn't start until Oct. 5, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission's long split season on Oct. 11.

So it was bass we were after, and bass we caught in a short junket that started with casting into the hydrilla beds off Quantico Marine Base on the river's Virginia side. Then we headed into a creek near there, the name of which I can't pronounce, never mind spell. But it was an occasion to remember.

Often when we cast, small ripples broke out where the line met the water -- small fish attracted to the crease on the surface. Bregel reeled in half a black plastic worm.

Bregel cast again, then retrieved half of the remaining worm. Peacock reached into the boat's rod locker, whipped out a flyrod, and soon had a small bluefish on a gnat-sized fly. Then, he got another.

Hey, this is on the outskirts of Washington. How far north have bluefish moved upriver in this year of drought? Incidentally, Peacock also plucked a small sunfish on a fly.

Then it was my turn to experience something different as salinity increases in unusual places because of the dry summer. I got a sluggish toadfish-like strike on a plastic worm, set the hook, reeled in duringthe brief lackluster effort and as the lure came near I saw a crab clinging to the hook.

The crustacean scampered off with the curved tail section of the worm in its claw. That was enough for us, so we hit hydrilla beds on this side of the river, only to have the big cookie cutter disrupt angling at one of Peacock's better spots.

The cutter is a big dredge-like piece of equipment designed to reap mats of hydrilla to clear channels for boat passage. Fish can work their way through hydrilla, but not boats. That's how thick the stuff gets, and unless cleared it blocks passage into some small tributaries.

Once the cookie cutter commenced operating a couple hundred yards away, the commotion scattered the bass. So we moved off to some submerged pilings several hundred more yards away where grubs and worms again produced.

The technique along the pilings, old derelicts and hydrilla was to cast to the edge, allow the lure to bottom out, then bring it in slowly in slight jerks. It works best on low tide, an advantage we lost fooling with the blues in the creek.

Bregel hooked a large bass, but lost it in the hydrilla because of his insistence on an ultra-light rod. Hydrilla attracts bass, but is not open enough to fight them on light tackle.

When rockfishing starts, Peacock -- with spinning gear -- will troll spoonbill Rebels or Rat-L-Traps, cast silver bucktails with plastic worms added, or shad-bodied plugs of pearl or chartreuse.

Most of the rock will go 5 pounds or more -- last year he got one of 15 pounds, a nice feat on spinning tackle, and practically in downtown Washington. Cost is $225 a day for two; $25 for a third angler. Call him at 1-301-589-1644.

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