Rockfish, bass abound in Potomac

OUTDOORS

September 25, 1994|By LONNY WEAVER

When Bob Denyer of Reel Bass Adventures suggested that I %% give the Carroll County doves a breather and hit the tidal Potomac River for some largemouth bass or striped bass (rockfish) fishing earlier this week, I jumped at the invitation. %%

%% The Potomac is possibly the finest bass fishery in North America right now.

A few days before my visit, the area played host to an official B.A.S.S. tournament (a qualifier for the B.A.S.S. Masters

Championship) and wound up setting daily and total tournament weight and creel limit records.

Reel Bass Adventures is a new guiding group that has been making quite a name for itself. The group consists of 10 veteran guides sporting more than 175 years of combined fishing experience.

All 10 guides were booked to work on this particular day out of Popes Creek, within sight of the Harry W. Nice Bridge connecting Maryland with Virginia on U.S. Route 301.

I was pleased to find that I would be teamed with Richie Gaines, a young man who has managed to put together a superb reputation over some eight years of professional guiding.

As we moved away from the dock at Captain Billy's Crab House, Gaines suggested, "We go a little ways down river, then work our way back to the bridge, then further up river a couple of miles. The rockfishing has been nothing short of great for days now."

This portion of the Potomac is best described as brackish, and it holds incredible numbers and varieties of fish. But, with the striped bass season just a few days away at the time, I was itching to get into some light tackle, catch-and-release rockfishing.

Gaines picked a stone pile at Channel Marker 33, located a little below the Route 301 bridge. I snapped a 3/4 -ounce chrome Rattle Trap on the end of my 12-pound test line and tossed out a 50-foot cast up against the rocks on the up-current side. I hadn't retrieved 10 feet of line when a striper slammed my lure and immediately began to peel line.

The spinning rod I had chosen was a lively 6-foot Shimano Aero graphite that has a surprising amount of backbone, and it needed it to fight this fish.

"Wow, that's a nice fish," Gaines said when I finally wrestled it to the surface and close enough for him to net. "If this were a few days from now, that would be a keeper for sure."

We didn't have a scale or a tape, but it was easily a 25-incher weighing in the area of 6 to 7 pounds.

We gently released the fish and put out a second cast, then a third. The fourth cast I made dropped the Rattle Trap against the rock pile again, but on the down-current side. And another fish, obviously even larger, grabbed my lure and played a tune on the reel's drag system.

Then the line went limp. But, then the fish peeled line again. This went on for some time.

But, by some angler's miracle, the line held and we were both totally surprised some minutes later when the fish revealed itself to be a truly huge catfish. Not only was the species a surprise to take a Rattle Trap, but equally surprising was that I had hooked it in the tail.

As we released this fish that had to have been pushing better than 10 pounds, Gaines said: "A catfish often hits a baitfish with its tail to stun it and that would explain why you hooked it there. There are some big cats in this river, but I never would have expected one to take a Trap."

From then on things got a little more normal. We kept busy catching 12- to 15-inch rockfish the rest of the trip, which included stops around the Route 301 bridge pilings, Mathias Point and especially hot fishing action at Channel Marker 6, within sight of Nanjemoy Creek, which is a truly superb largemouth bass area.

"Any underwater hump will hold rockfish on this river. It's kind of a shame that we have such a beautiful day, because these fish are very light sensitive and the best fishing is usually on overcast days. Also, you need a morning or evening running tide to get into this fish. I favor the Rattle Trap, Sassy Shad and when you fish the Chesapeake up by the Bay Bridges later on, try a willow blade spinner. It's absolutely deadly," Gaines said.

Reel Bass Adventures offers an excellent free fishing report that is available by calling (301) 839-2858.

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