In back yard, cast chances with Patapsco

On The Outdoors

June 24, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Three Canada geese struggled to gain altitude as they lifted from a grassy patch atop a small, rocky island -- wings stroking powerfully while they rose on thermal currents over the river.

Simultaneously, a woolly bugger drifted down a narrow chute of current and a smallmouth bass hit it like a freight train.

OK, a model freight train. It was, after all, the Patapsco, where bass fishing is usually small scale compared with regional reservoirs and the upper Potomac and Susquehanna rivers.

But the Patapsco, which runs some 30 miles north and west of Baltimore, is well-suited to a quick outing before or after work, and fly-fishing gear or light spinning tackle can put angling in the proper balance.

Mention Patapsco and the response often will be put-and-take trout, but the river holds smallmouth and largemouth bass, rock bass, crappie, bluegill and, well upriver, modest numbers of overwintering brown trout.

In the Daniels, Johnnycake Road and Ellicott City areas of the river, smallmouths and rock bass can put a little excitement into a summer evening.

The area just above Daniels Dam is a good choice for family fishing. There is adequate parking that's close to a well-cleared trail that runs for more than a mile along the Howard County side of the river.

Kids can fish for trout, bass and crappie from the grassy bank areas without continually retrieving nightcrawlers and bobbers from snags in the river.

Below the Daniels Dam, a good area for spinning gear or fly rods, the river is rocky and set with an old bridge pier, which break the current and aerate the water, making good habitat for smallmouths.

The Johnnycake Road area, above and below the old Frederick Road bridge, offers good pools and riffles and is easily waded. Rock bass and smallmouths are a good possibility here, with an occasional smallmouth reaching into 14-inch range.

In the Ellicott City and Oella areas, reaching more than a few hundred yards of river can require a hike in along state-owned shorelines, but fishing generally has been good.

For spinning, a light or ultra-light rod spooled with 4- to 6-pound test line will handle almost anything the river can offer -- although large carp are sometimes encountered in slower moving sections of the water course.

Small crayfish-pattern crankbaits, plastic grubs with eight-ounce or lighter jig heads and small pencil poppers all work well.

For fly anglers, a 5-weight rod and floating line will work well. Leaders should be as light, perhaps tapering to 4X, and minnow, crayfish, woolly bugger, white mayfly and popper patterns are good choices.

Fishing updates

Upper Chesapeake: Chumming for rockfish is clicking into gear, with anglers reporting good catches of 18- to 23-inch stripers and occasionally fish reaching 38 inches. Good locations have been the mud bottom between the main channel and the old east channel east of Sandy Point Light, Belvedere Shoal, LP Buoy and the Triple Buoys at the mouth of the Chester River. Trollers continue to do well for rockfish along the 40-foot contour from Baltimore Light to Sandy Point. Bottom fishermen at Snake Reef and along the edges near Love Point have been catching white perch, croaker, spot and occasional sea trout. The Susquehanna Flats, Seneca and Dundee Creek and the Sassafras River have been good locations for largemouth bass near wood structures.

Middle Chesapeake: Anglers fishing near Buoy No. 1 off the West River may be leading the switch to chumming, with limits of keepers improving in that area. However, trolling the western edges of the main channel still appears to be the best bet for rockfish in the mainstem. Light-tackle anglers in the South and Severn rivers as well as the Choptank and Little Choptank have been hitting 17- to 23-inch rockfish, and Eastern Bay reefs, oyster bars and edges have been good choices, as well. Sea trout and increasing numbers of spot are mixed with croaker at Holland Point Bar, in Eastern Bay, at the mouth of the Choptank and off Breezy Point. White perch can be found over hard bottoms along the western shore from Thomas Point Light to the Bay Bridge. The sharp edges in Eastern Bay and along the eastern edge of the main shipping channel are good bets for flounder.

Lower Chesapeake: Cobia are making an appearance, and a handful of anglers fishing crab baits for croaker have been surprised with cobia to 40 pounds. Spanish mackerel have been reported in pound nets as far north as Barren Island. Rockfish anglers continue to have success for 19- to 23-inch fish along the eastern edge of the shipping channel from Hooper Island Light to the Target Ship. Chummers have been doing well at the Targets, where occasional 34-inch rock have been caught. Bluefish in the 1- to 3-pound range are scattered through the region, while in Tangier Sound croaker fishing continues to be excellent and sea trout and spot are mixed in.

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