Sure a lot of folks are hooked on
saltwater fishing for rockfish in
the Bay and near offshore waters
along the Maryland and Virginia
coast. But there are other rockfish
you can target in the same region
this fall -- those that frequent
lakes and the upper sections of
stripers by those that pursue them,
these are the same fish as their
saltwater cousins, they just frequent
different areas. What follows are
overviews of seven of the top area
waters, plus tips on how to fish
them for stripers provided by local
Susquehanna River/Upper Bay
the northern reaches of the Chesapeake
Bay where the Susquehanna River
meets the Chesapeake Bay sits the
City of Havre de Grace. This area
is known as the Susquehanna Flats,
which is made up of very large expansive
sandbars that are perfect for striped
bass to feed on their prey. The
Susquehanna Flats range from twelve
inches to twelve feet. This area
is a Catch and Release fishery,
and you will need to consult the
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Regulation's prior to fishing this
area or planning your trip. You
can also contact the Staff at the
Havre de Grace City Yacht Basin
for further information at (410)
those of you who read the Reader's
Digest, in the May 2004 issue (America's
Best 100 new discoveries) Havre
de Grace, Maryland was listed as
the number one destination for anglers
in search of largemouth bass. The
quote from the article cited the
region as producing "largemouth
bass to seventeen pounds".
It is believed by most anglers in
the area that they were referring
to the spring migration of striped
bass locally known as rockfish.
The Furnace Bay area adjacent to
The Flats is a very well known and
popular fishing spot for the local
anglers. In the spring when the
striped bass make their annual migration
from their winter home off the North
Carolina's Outer Banks area they
move up the Chesapeake chasing after
the schools of herring and hickory
shad. The upper Chesapeake Bay is
probably the largest spawning area
for rockfish/stripers on the East
Coast. It is almost as good in the
fall, as the fish migrate back out
of the Bay.
weather and rain run-off amounts
can have a large effect on this
fishery, but it is common for angler's
to experience seventeen-pound catches
of striped bass in this area.
Karl Bunch fishes this same area
for largemouth bass. He and his
clients accidently catch rockfish
just about every trip. In October
and November he suggests using topwater
poppers and dog-walking baits on
the Susquehanna Flats until the
water temperature drops into the
Capt. Bunch notes the fish will
move out to deeper river spots like
the mouth of the Bush River and
the deep water just above the north
end of Garret Island. Vertically
jigged Silver Buddies and Riverside
Rippers are the bait of choice later
in the fall when fish are deeper.
and creel limits vary here from
year to year. You can find out the
current regulations by calling The
Fishin' Shop at 410/391-0101 or
by calling The City of Havre de
Grace Yacht Basin at 410/939-0015.
There is a very well maintained
boat ramp at the Yacht Basin, which
provides the visiting trailer boater
with easy access to the Susquehanna
River and the Susquehanna Flats,
North East River, Mouth of the Elk
River, Sassafras River, Bohemia
River and the Main Body of the Northern
Contact Capt. Karl by visiting www.karlsbassinadventures.com
Biggs is the fellow that made news
this spring when he landed a 40-4
striper from Gaston this past spring.
He also caught two in the 30-pounder
class, two 25 pounders and numerous
15-pound fish. So what's the big
deal? Well, until Biggs' breakout
spring, no one even imagined Gaston
had stripers that big.
the Spring, I think Gaston is coming
on pretty strong. Starting in October
04 the majority of the citation
fish produced in Virginia are coming
from Gaston according to the VDGIF,"
Biggs told W2.
utility contractor knows Spring
striper fishing is different than
Fall efforts and is looking forward
to the challenge.
not a big Fall fisherman, but I
know they're here and I'm going
to try and learn them. I concentrate
on the upper end of Gaston from
Holly Grove Creek up to the Kerr
Dam. I had a wonderful Spring in
this area, so I hope I the Fall
is as good."
typical day striper fishing on Gaston
starts with Biggs checking his dock
light for bait, mostly blue back
herring. Only with bait tank full
will he then head out in search
of Gaston's striper. He will typically
spend 30-45 minutes per spot, moving
when he catches just small fish
or when the bite is slow.
think Holly Grove Creek, from the
bridge out to the main lake, is
one of my favorites," notes
Biggs. "Hawtree Creek is another
good area to try."
In the main, upper section of Gaston,
there is a large area these fish
frequent. Just above the steel bridge
and between the railroad trestle
and I-85 is where you might find
Bigg's this fall.
anglers that prefer artificial lures,
Biggs says the mouth of Allen's
Creek is a good place to toss 3/4-oz.
white and chartreuse bucktails with
a curly tail jig.
"Me, I'm going to keep fishing
like I've been fishing with freelines,
sideplaners and corks with an occasional
downline depending on what I see
on the depthfinder," Biggs
average fall day on Gaston should
produce limits for each angler in
the boat -- that's four per angler.
If you've got the bait, Biggs notes
it's doesn't matter what time of
the day you fish.
occasion, Biggs will break down
and throw a pencil popper and bucktail
if the water is running hard behind
the Kerr Dam. Biggs reminds anglers
that navigation is dangerous in
this region. Once you get above
Little River or Buggs Island you
really need to be careful. Only
if the water is running hard is
it considered easily navigable.
is excited to use something he's
created dubbed the Stealth Planer
on Gaston this fall. This original
creation is a cigar-shaped cork
that functions as a planer to spread
a live bait anglers offerings in
a wide array behind the boat. Where
the Stealth Planer surpasses other
planers is how it works when fishing
herring. Biggs says you can really
tell how lively your bait is and
it also helps the angler to detect
else interesting about Biggs' Stealth
Planer approach: he fishes this
rig a little differently than most
by keeping the spools on his ABU
Garcia 5600C reels disengaged, yet
with the line out alarm on.
of these stripers hit so hard here,
all you have to do is engage the
handle and you are hooked up,"
explains the Gaston resident.
tuned to W2 on how to get some of
Biggs' Stealth Planers. They are
patented and now in the manufactured
just under 10,000 public acres,
Anna is on the small side to produce
truly massive stripers, but this
central Virginia lake has surpassed
all expectations and continues to
draw anglers from all over the region.
Sheer numbers of fish in the four-
to 10-pound range is the reason.
Anna's striper fishery is the result
of an aggressive stocking program
by the Virginia Department of Game
and Inland Fisheries. On a typical
year over 100,000 three-inch fish
are dumped into the lake. By three
years old, they usually reach the
minimum size limit of 20".
While initial estimates did not
predict Anna would ever produce
stripers approaching 20 pounds,
it has. In fact, the lake record
stands at just under 28 pounds.
C.C. McCotter has spend almost 20
years fishing Anna and the last
13 have been for hire. He's seen
some dramatic increases in the past
five years as far as the fishery.
am continually amazed at the amount
of stripers in this lake. When I
see numerous schools over 100-fish
strong on my Lowrance, I know the
VDGIF is doing a good job here,"
he says. "I think a lot of
anglers will be surprised how good
the striper fishery has become recently."
and his striper guides use both
live bait and lures to pursue fall
stripers on Anna. Some clients want
to use live bait, others prefer
to cast artificial lures. Each trip
is tailored to the client's desire.
October, he says Anna's stripers
will be on the move toward the upper
portion of creeks and other areas
of the lake with a good source of
food. Depending on the region of
Anna, that could be blueback herring,
gizzard shad or threadfin shad.
the midlake region we target creeks
with herring. Uplake you are on
more of a shad bite," he explains.
is it important to note the difference?
stripers can be picky. Pull a herring
in front of one that is feeding
on 3" threadfin shad and you
usually don't get bit. It's very
important to match your offering
to what the fish are feeding on,"
the 35-year-old guide notes.
October and November trips feature
the use of side planers, free lines
and corks when using live bait.
Artificial lure selection is fairly
simple. His choices include soft
plastic swim baits, walk-the-dog
topwaters and soft plastic jerkbaits.
All are usually fished in water
less than 15' deep, with the best
in less than 10'.
October through much of November
striper areas on Anna vary from
year-to-year based upon baitfish
migration. McCotter suggests visiting
anglers target the back of mid lake
creeks like Contrary and Pigeon,
the uplake region of the North Anna
around the mouth of Gold Mine Creek
and above the mouth of Terry's Run
in the Pamunkey Branch. A quick
boat ride through these areas around
4 o'clock in the afternoon should
tell you a lot about what's going
the end of November, he says some
of Anna's stripers will be headed
lake and often get bunched up at
the bridges. Sea gulls will also
begin to indicate baitfish concentrations.
Use these two clues to pattern stripers
during your visit.
and Holiday Mill Bridges are two
that usually have fish within a
quarter mile of them where you can
count on at least a week of super
striper fishing," the Lake
Anna angler reveals, "Keep
an eye out for birds early and late
in the day and you should be able
to find the stripers."
average day on Anna over the next
two months should produce 10-15
stripers of varying sizes. Live
bait trips often produce more fish.
Thirty-fish days are not unusual.
can reach McCotter's Lake Anna Guide
Service at www.mccotterslakeanna.com
or by calling 540/894-9144.
year was not the best for SML. An
infestation of parasitic copepods,
a poor spawn, a lack of threadfin
shad -- for whatever reason, it
was a tough year. 2004 has been
different. Smith Mountain's famed
striper fishery looks to be on the
rebound. While the 50-pound fish
it once produced won't be back for
a while, things are looking good
for an excellent fall season.
and Kathy Franscenini have called
Smith Mountain Lake home for the
past 20 years. They operate Spike's
Prime Time Fishin' from their lake
side home. They know SML stripers.
October and November, Capt. Kathy
notes the stripers will mostly be
deep. Yes, you read it right --
deep. Sure there are some breaking
fish that will stay up through the
end of October, and you can chase
these around all day with lures
or hope to get in front of them
with bait. But the money's on Spike
and Kathy who will target larger
schools of deeper fish.
typical morning set for Captain
Kathy includes four downlines (20-30'
deep), two planer boards and two
hit the lower stuff as they are
coming up. They hit the planers
as they are feeding and then go
back again," the female portion
of the Franscenini duo told W2.
"They really can be all over
the water column this time of year.
Definitely leave the planer boards
out during the day."
the tactics aren't really different
from the summer, the Fransceninis
will refocus on the upper end of
Smith Mountain. The Hales Ford Bridge
to the Hardy Bridge region is where
they'll be. If you want to try your
hand at some tricky navigation,
fish on up to the Bay Roc region.
channel points in the upper portion
of SML are your bet over the next
two months. Once the small gizzard
shad move to the back of the creeks,
that's where a lot of the fish will
go. Kathy suggests trying Stoney,
Indian, Hatfield, Beaverdam and
Lintonville Creeks for this pattern.
has been extremely effective on
Smith Mountain this year. The umbrella
rig has been the top choice of local
anglers, says Capt. Kathy. The key
is fishing them on 60-pound braided
line and tipping them with lime
green Sassy Shads around a large
bucktail. Getting this offering
down to 18-20' is also important.
Schoolies are what is mostly caught
using this pattern, but the bite
is consistent and fierce.
that want to catch SML stripers
on lures should use white/pearl
Zoom Super Flukes. The Fransceninis
have done very well with this lure
using it in a variety of retrieves
and presentations. Rigged on a 3/8-oz.
jig head you can fish them on the
drop, jerk them, swim them or vertically
How does Kathy feel the lake is
doing after the copepods?
are almost non-existent now. This
year has been pretty much a normal
year except for a volatile spring
season. The power generation schedule
has changed a lot, so this is the
major reason why we are re-learning
fish patterns," she says, "I
feel that there are still some big
fish left in the lake."
average morning with the Franceschinis
on Smith Mountain now produces 10
fish. Twenty-fish days are not uncommon.
the years, Jerry Sauter has landed
many land-locked rockfish over 30
pounds from Maryland Reservoirs.
He even held the state record for
a time. Of all the inland Maryland
waters, Sauter says Liberty Reservoir
stands out as the best striper producer.
current MD state record of 47-4
was pulled from Liberty. Sauter's
best fish of 40 pounds was also
a Liberty product.
really think someone will get one
out of there over 40 pounds again.
Not only do they have a lot of trout
in there, there's a lot of white
perch now, too," says the part-time
Bass Pro Shops employee.
October, Sauter suggests you target
the area of Liberty from the Nicodemus
Bridge into the headwaters. Use
live shiners from Reisterstown Bait
& Tackle (you must use reservoir-certified
bait) pulled on free lines with
or without planer boards and/or
corks. These offerings must be set
30 yards beyond the boat for the
fish to be attracted.
is also a good early fall tactic,
notes Sauter. His system employs
two rods in holders. The deep side
rod is rigged with a Mann's Stretch
20 plug. The shoreside rod is tipped
with a shallow Redfin.
haven't used them yet, but those
rainbow trout Storm swimbaits look
to be deadly," predicts the
late November and December, Sauter
says to stay closer to the ramp
and used the same tactics. There
is a reason for the change of focus.
Years ago when Sauter was hammering
the big stripers, the MDNR was stocking
rainbow trout in October. Liberty's
stripers would gorge on these morsels
right near the ramps.
they put them in early December.
Sauter says you should adjust your
fishing habits accordingly, keeping
in mind the trout are still dumped
in at the ramps and you can now
fish though December 31.
6. Buggs Island
known as a powerhouse largemouth
fishery and more recently for huge
blue catfish, Buggs Island is also
a great lake for striper anglers.
The lake is so large, these fish
actually reproduce successfully.
Buggs Island rockfish run all the
way up the Roanoke and Dan rivers
each spring so year classes are
produced without supplemental stockings.
the fall, the fish again run into
the upper reservoir, not to spawn,
but to follow the food bag of shad.
Around the first of October, the
fish will migrate into the Clarksville
area. You'll should find them from
Butcher's to Rudd's Creeks and at
the mouth of Grassy Creek. Most
of these fish are caught by anglers
using live bait on freelines or
free lines with sideplaners. There
is some trolling going on, but the
live bait fisherman out fishes the
in the mouth, Buggs Island stripers
will linger at the mouths of Grassy
and Buffalo Creek and up into the
river above Clarksville. Corks on
free lines are good now, as the
fish feed shallower. Some stripers
will also be up in Grassy and Island
November, stick with the same patterns
as October and focus on the Clarksville
and above area. This is the time
to fish a bucktail off a long clay
point using a bottom bouncing retrieve.
Try Bluestone Creek for bigger fish
(pushing 20 pounds) and Grassy for
numbers (up to 10 pounds) with the
bucktail pattern. Top choices include
a bucktail jig in white/chartreuse
and the Storm Wild Eye #4 Series
jigging is also very good on Buggs
by the end of November. Fish the
same long clay points, just fish
deeper. 35-45' is the preferred
range with a 3/4-oz. Hopkins spoon.
Get locked onto the right depth
and you can point hop. A good day
with this pattern could produce
Steve Chaconas doesn't target Potomac
River stripers, but like Capt. Bunch,
he catches a lot of them in the
fall on largemouth bass trips.
of his fish hit lipless crankbaits
like Lucky Craft LV-500s fished
around the deep points around Washington,
D.C. at South Point, the Wilson
Bridge, Blue Plains and Fort Washington.
Other good fall Potomac River spots
include the discharge at the Possum
Point Generating Plant, Buoys 44
and 43 and the overhead power line
pylons in the same area.
about any rock current break at
the mouth of a creek is worth a
cast or three. Serious Potomac River
striper anglers will hit the river
rigged up with a four-inch pearl
Sassy Shad, a Super Spook and a
3/4-oz. white spinnerbait. The beauty
of river fishing versus lake fishing
is the ability to catch dozens of
fish from one spot using artificial
Steve has caught Potomac River stripers
up to 15 pounds, but most fall fish
are around five.
the best spot on the entire Potomac
River for big stripers is all the
way down at the 301 Bridge crossing
in front of the Morgantown Generating
Plant discharge. This area is best
when the temperature differential
is highest. November is usually
a better month than October. Some
truly massive fish linger here during
the colder months of the winter
feeding on shad drawn to the warm
water. The top bait is a 6- to 8-inch
pearl or chartreuse Sassy Shad on
a one-ounce jig head. The current
is very strong here and several
humps exist so the heavy, large
lure is necessary to draw strikes
from fish often hugging the bottom.
for the Potomac River striper fishery
can be obtained by visiting www.mrc.state.va.us
. Contact Chaconas at www.nationalbass.com
Editor's Note: For detailed maps
of all these areas with launch ramp
information see the GMCO map selection
on pg 9 or go to www.woodsandwatersmagazine.com
. A good video to watch is River
Rockfish, also available from W2.