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But where have the bigger fish gone?

Cutting the engine a good distance from the shoreline, we drifted quietly toward a projecting erosion jetty. It was the one that reached farthest from shore, creating a sort of false point along an edge full of shoreline protections. 

Nearing casting distance, I lowered my anchor, and we skidded to a stop. When our minor disturbance subsided, we prepped light spin rods.  

They were five- to six-footers with small 1,000 series reels spooled with ultra-thin, misty copolymer monofilament, ideal for the pursuit of white perch. All the better, they were tipped with gaudy spinner baits irresistible to the species.  

These long, narrow rock piles are common structures along the Bay. Perch gather there for relief from tidal currents and use the nooks and crannies for hiding from the many predator species in the Bay. Various critters such as minnows and grass shrimp that the whities feed upon also visit these jetties. 

My cast was met with an instant attack, a hook-up, then the buzz of my drag. It was a long, intense struggle to keep connected to the obviously large perch. A lot can go wrong during a perch battle, from a hook tearing away from too much rod pressure to a dislodged hook from too little. 

My buddy’s cast was firmly intercepted as well. Those first two fish measured 10 and 11 inches. They were also the biggest we would land, though we would eventually catch and release more than 75 fish. 

Perch aficionados repeat what I fear: The number of perch 10 inches and over has decreased to a distressing degree. 

White perch can reach 18 to 19 inches. But few encountered these days in the middle Chesapeake exceed nine inches; most are much smaller. That’s not a great recreational fishery.  

Informal (and off-the-record) conversations with Bay fisheries biologists suggest that diminishment is an unintended consequence of our commercial fisheries policy. Netters have few constraints beyond an eight-inch minimum size. Reporting is voluntary. Thus we have no solid basis for species management.  

Male perch begin spawning by two years old and females at three, when they are four to five inches long. The fish that grow slowest will spawn the most until they reach legal commercial target size of eight inches. Thereafter they are fair game. As the market for the fish has become ever more lucrative, I suspect harvests have grown — though nobody knows given the current voluntary reporting. 

Is that why we’re seeing and catching so many small white perch, at least in the middle Bay? 

Department of Natural Resources budgets and salaries are supported by the license fees from about 300,000 Maryland anglers, who rate the white perch as their most frequent catch. Seems to me that managing the species to create a quality recreational fishery is an appropriate objective. What do you think?  

 


Fish Finder 

Middle Bay fishing has been ever more miserable, with rockfish scarce and of barely legal size. A large school of quality stripers north of Swan Point (Hodge’s Bar) was quite hot and productive last month. But it was the only bite, and their numbers have been worn thin. Most areas from the Bay Bridge south on both shores remain barren. The fault has been laid in many directions, from an unusually cold spring, to dolphin pods chasing the rockfish north, to dead zones, to excess netting over winter, to a rumored increase in recreational poaching. 

Crabbing is another disappointment. Recreational harvests have become consistently miserable, and now commercial crabbers are reporting that they’re barely breaking even. The cold spring was blamed for the poor numbers. But now it appears that the scarcity could be the result of the high winter mortality, perhaps higher than even the winter dredge numbers indicate. Nobody really knows, though the big rains certainly didn’t help. Nor the resultant vast releases from the Conowingo Dam. 

Take care of yourself and the fish

Temperatures flirting with triple digits mean difficult times on the Chesapeake, not only for anglers but also for the fish.

The young and old are the most susceptible to heatstroke, but everyone needs to be aware of the danger, as it can be fatal.

Heatstroke often gives no warning, ­quickly rendering you unconscious. So take special precautions if fishing or paddling solo. Staying hydrated, continually drinking water, is a must when the temperatures go above the 80s. It would be particularly foolish for the solo adventurer not to don a life jacket.

Should you experience confusion, dizziness or unusual weakness during these hot days, immediately seek cooler conditions and slowly ingest cold drinks to lower your core body temperature. If the symptoms persist or the sufferer begins to lose consciousness, seek emergency medical care promptly.

Fish, too, are at risk during high temperatures. Catch-and-release fishing should be avoided once the mercury passes the 80-degree mark. Mortality skyrockets for rockfish (particularly those 24 inches and larger) hooked during these hot weather days, often despite best efforts to quickly release them.

A number of strategies will minimize heat problems for both the fish and you. Targeting the wee hours, from first light until 10am and from 6pm until last light will minimize exposure to the worst of the sun’s effects for both the angler and the game fish. Those hours are also prime times for the best bite.

Nighttime fishing is also an option for the more adventurous — as long as you are completely familiar with areas to be fished and prepared with good communications, extra flashlights, batteries, cold refreshments, a GPS and a fishing plan with specific locations in the hands of someone on shore. Wearing life jackets is also strongly recommended.

Rockfish are particularly active after dark and will often haunt shallower water in search of prey. I can attest that a striped bass will locate and inhale even a black fly or lure fished on a moonless night in three feet of water with no trouble. Your part as an angler is to exercise extreme stealth and silence in your approach.

It is illegal to be in possession of rockfish while angling after midnight and before 5am, rules that apply for shore anglers as well as boaters. Possession of any other legal species, though, is permitted. 

Croaker and seatrout are also very active after dark, often more so than any time during the day, and will move into shallower water and feed more aggressively. Use crab, bloodworm or shrimp as bait. Seatrout are suckers for Assassin-type soft jigs fished slowly near the bottom.

White perch in the larger sizes will likewise remain active in the darker hours. Searching with noise-producing lures such as one-eighth and one-quarter-ounce Rat-L-Traps is particularly productive and can often attract marauding rockfish, a definite challenge if you’re using ultra-light tackle. 

They're convenient, can be planted early and give higher yields

    If your soil does not drain well and gardening is in your blood, you should build raised beds. If your land is sloping severely, terraces  will help prevent erosion. Terraces are essentially raised beds using existing soil,  and are quite common in many Asian countries and in South America.
    For beds used exclusively for growing flowers or fruit, the walls can be built of almost any type of material. However, if the raised beds are to be used for growing root crops and greens, avoid using lumber treated with copper chromium arsenate. The arsenate in the wood moves into the soil, where it can be absorbed by roots and translocated into leaves of plants. There is no evidence that it will translocate into fruit or seeds.
    Wood treated only with micronized copper can safely be used for building raised beds. Copper is an essential plant nutrient. Other species of wood that can be used without chemical treatment are redwood and cedar. The fibers in these species are composed primarily of lignins, making them rot-resistant. However, they will rot in time. Lining the inside walls with four- to six-millimeter polyethylene sheeting, to minimize soil contact, will increase their useful life.
    A Bay Weekly reader recently told me he built his raised beds with four- and six-inch-diameter black locust logs. Dry black locust is used by cattle farmers for fence posts because it resists rot for at least 40 years. This reader built his walls three logs deep and secured them by drilling three-quarter-inch-diameter holes and pounding rebar through the logs into the ground.
    Cement board and cement blocks can also be used for building raised beds.
    If the raised beds are to be used for growing flowering plants, greens and small fruit, they need only be eight to 10 inches deep. Root crops need a depth of 14 to 16 inches.
    A common mistake in filling raised beds is using potting mixes. Most potting mixes are extremely high in organic matter, and their volume shrinks rapidly. The cellulose and hemicellulose in the organic matter oxidize and are digested by microorganisms, causing shrinkage. Another drawback of organic matter is its inability to retain water and nutrients, thus making it necessary to water and fertilize frequently.
    Raised beds should be filled only with sandy loam soil. To drain well, the soil should contain a minimum of 60 percent sand and not exceed 15 percent clay. The remaining components will be silt and organic matter. Organic matter can always be added by incorporating compost into the top four to six inches prior to planting.
    If you have a choice, purchase a manufactured soil containing 65 percent sand, 15 percent clay, 12 percent silt and eight percent organic matter. For soil for growing vegetables, flowers and most small fruit such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries specify a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.  For growing blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, andromeda and the like, specify a pH not to exceed 5.0.
    Raised beds can be planted earlier due to warmer soils and offer higher yields per square foot. It’s also easy to use plastic mulch to control weeds and to conserve moisture in raised beds. Design them three to four feet wide, and the center will accommodate most mulching-grade plastics and can easily be reached from either side. Raised beds will also make you do less bending.

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at [email protected] Include your name and address.
 

How could losing 147 million sooks be healthy?

    Good news is scarce these days, so I was relieved when I saw Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ results of the 2018 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.
    But I did a double-take when I read in the report,  “Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Population Healthy.”
    I was confused. Expecting to see the basis for the claims of health, I came upon the revelation of a 42 percent plunge in spawning female numbers. Wasn’t that seriously unhealthy?
    When, for the first time ever last year, the number of females reached the target level for healthy species reproduction, DNR celebrated. What had changed in a year? Wasn’t female abundance important any more? Aren’t spawning females key to growing and maintaining the overall population? How could losing 147 million sooks be a positive health indicator?
    Next I read that adult crabs were decreasing, too. We’d lost 23 percent — that’s 84 million crabs — in a year. Claims for a healthy crab population seemed to be getting more spurious.
    I was momentarily heartened when I read of a 34 percent increase in juvenile recruitment — until I recalled that last year’s juvenile counts were in the basement. Thirty four percent might not amount to much.
    By now, I suspected not-so-good news was getting a rosy package— not suprisingly as this is an election year.
    I found myself seeing the report as one more troubling signal that the commercial fishery may again be gaining political sway over species consideration. Among earlier troubling signs was the abrupt firing of Brenda Davis, the respected and successful manager of the department’s blue crab program. Rumor was that she had rebuffed a handful of watermen demanding the legal size of blue crabs be lowered by a quarter of an inch.
    That firing sent shock waves through the department ranks, already nervous after the sacking of some effective and popular fisheries program managers the past two years, again allegedly due to commercial displeasure.
    Then came the kicker. As I prepared a final draft of this column, the department published the annual Female Hard Crab Catch Limits for commercial crabbing based on the results of the 2017-2018 Winter Dredge Survey.
    Comparing these limits to last year’s, I hoped to see a reduction in female harvest numbers reflecting the severe winter mortalities. Yet this year’s limits were the same as last year’s — despite that 42 percent population drop. Yes, changes could come later in the season, post October 31 — just at the onset of cold weather, which is never easy on crabs.
    Arguably, but just barely, crabs could absorb another year of these now highly optimistic harvest limits. Unless, that is, we have another poor spawn or another severe winter. In that case, our beloved blue crabs may slip back into crisis, as they so often have. But the elections will be over by then.

Some plants want one, some the other

Anybody can shear plants, but not everybody can prune plants properly. Black and Decker, Stihl, Echo and other manufacturers of hedge clippers have caused many landscapes to look alike. Foundation plantings are shaped into cones, balls, cylinders or squares. Sheared plants lose their identity and begin to look alike regardless of species.

Pruning, on the other hand, helps plants exhibit their most desirable attributes. Spring-flowering plants like forsythia, weigela, spirea, viburnums and strawberry bush and summer-flowering plants such as roses, crape myrtle and hibiscus benefit from proper pruning.

Properly pruned forsythia, spirea and weigela should resemble fountains when in bloom. This characteristic can only be achieved by selectively removing the older stems near the ground and allowing only strong, healthy brownish-green stems to grow and arch. When pruned immediately after petals have fallen, the new stems will be covered with large flower buds that will burst open next spring. Properly pruned, these plants will develop stems four to six feet long in one growing season. They will need tending only once during the year. If you are shearing, you must do so almost monthly, if not more often.

With regards to viburnums and strawberry bush, you need only to prune out crossing branches and branches that are detracting from the appearance of the plant. Shearing these species removes most of the flowers.

Woody species that are adapted to shearing include azaleas, camellias, fir, hollies, junipers, pine, privet and yews. When shearing, shape the plant so it is narrower at the top and broader at the bottom. When the top of the plant is broader than the bottom, the bottom leaves are shaded out, leaving the lower part of the plant bare.

Allow an inch or more of current seasonal growth to remain on the plant. Shearing away all new growth, especially on older plants, results in individual small branches turning brown and dying.

Do not shear azaleas or camellias after mid-July. Flower bud initiation for these species begins in mid-August, so shearing in late July and August will result in fewer flowers the following spring. Flower bud initiation occurs only on young, vigorous-growing new shoots.

Heavily shearing junipers often results in plants becoming infested with spider mites. To avoid this problem, shear only once a year. Most species of junipers will generate two flushes of growth each year. The first flush generally ends in late June, and the second generally does not begin until mid-July. Delay shearing until the beginning of the second flush of growth.

Soon after you notice new light-colored growth at the ends of the branches, begin shearing. This will allow the plant to develop a feathery appearance and will minimize conditions favorable for spider mites.

Do not shear pine or spruce until the needles of the new growth are at least half the length of mature needles. Shearing these species too early will result in breaking many of the new branches.

When pruning and cutting roses, pay attention to leaf patterns. The leaves on roses have either three or five leaflets. If you examine the stem, you will notice that the leaves just below the flower buds have only three leaflets followed by several leaves with five leaflets. To promote the development of strong stems, always cut the stem above the bottom five-leaflet leaf.  The vegetative bud in the axis of the five-leaflet leaf is always larger than the vegetative bud in the axis of the three-leaflet leaf, resulting in stronger and longer stems.

Never prune or shear boxwood plants. The disease that causes boxwood decline is easily spread from plant to plant on the blade of pruning shears and hedge clippers. Boxwoods are best pruned by breaking stems on a cold winter day.

 

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at [email protected] Include your name and address.

The true music of nature is silence

One evening several years ago, when the Chesapeake had experienced a generous influx of gray trout (weakfish), I found a school outside the mouth of a small tributary south of the Magothy. It was just after dark, the tide was falling and the fish were positioned a long cast from the inlet to intercept the baitfish, shrimp and small crabs being carried out by the tidal current.

Throwing a black Clouser minnow on an eight-weight rod with floating line, I was letting the weighted fly sink and swing across the current along the channel cut. On every third or fourth cast, just as the line straightened below me, a fish would gently take the fly and I would set the hook. 

They were nice fish up to 23 inches. The fish fights were often extended, uncertain affairs as seatrout are known for their delicate mouth structure. Avoiding putting too much strain on them was a perfect application for the long and supple fly rod.

Anchored close and off one side of the inlet, I was fishing out of a small 14-foot aluminum skiff that I had modified with flush fore and aft deck areas suitable for fly casting. It was a handy little boat with one drawback: Its thin metal hull could be noisy.

I was very careful moving about, and if I did make a noise, I would wait long minutes before resuming any activity. It was a lovely, calm night, and the waters were extremely flat.

During that particular evening, it was so quiet I could make out the distant croaking that the seatrout — members of the drum family — often make underwater when feeding in schools.

Bringing a particularly heavy specimen on board, I rapped it between the eyes with the weighty end of an aluminum flashlight. It quivered and stiffened. Assured it was sufficiently stunned, I slid it into the ice in my cooler.

Giving the night a few minutes to settle, I once again took my place on the stern casting deck. I had just missed a strike on my last cast when a violent thumping and rattling broke out from amidships. Apparently my seatrout had regained consciousness.

The sound in the still of that evening was loud and raucous, and despite the fact that I waited a number of minutes before resuming my casting, the bite was over and done. The school of fish had fled the area and did not return that night.

The lesson of that evening often comes into mind as I’m fishing. Fish have acute hearing and depend on it to keep them safe. Sound beneath the waves travels five times faster than it does above. Being a thousand times denser than air, water is also an ideal medium for propagation. Sound travels farther, much farther, underwater than above. And fish hear it all clearly.

The Chesapeake’s excellent angling makes it easy to forget that noise discipline is an important factor in fishing success. Sure, some anglers catch fish with their engines running, rock and roll blasting and themselves exuberant. But the smarter, bigger fish have most likely already vacated the area. That’s a fact to keep in mind.

Fishing’s unpredictable, so you need to be able to adapt

We were drifting inside of the green channel marker off of Pod- ickery Point when my son got a quizzi- cal look on his face. Staring at the rapidly turn- ing spool of his reel Harrison said, “I think I’m hung up.”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Give it a minute.” The spool stopped for a beat, then started up again even faster.

I had promised my middle son suc- cess on some nice rockfish, forgetting that if you wish to amuse the fish gods, simply announce your plans. We intend- ed to drift soft crab, based on a hot tip from a charter boat skipper who had scored exceedingly well the day before.

Perfect, I thought, on waking. I knew just where the fish would likely be that morning and just what bait to use. But when I began my early-hour quest for crab, source after source said, ‘sorry, sold out.’ I feared that if the rockfish were keying on crab, anything else would be a very distant second choice.

At 10am, armed only with a bag of scraggly bloodworms purchased in desperation, we finally motored out to try live-lining.

It took a half-hour to find some likely marks off the edge of a nearby river channel before we could drop down pieces of worm on our No. 6 hooks. Feeling the tic-tic-tic of our rigs’ sinkers bouncing over shell bottom was reassuring, and soon we were swinging a couple of four- to five-inch perch.

I filled our live well, hooked up the aerator and deposited the baitfish with a sense of relief. Perhaps we could tempt some rockfish to eat after all.

Once we had a dozen small perch in our well, we headed for the Bay Bridge. It was almost noon, and the sun was bright and high.

About half way to our destination, we approached a cluster of boats sitting on chum slicks. Their anchor lines looked slack, and the postures of the anglers slumped in their craft suggest- ed things had not been going well.

As we skirted the fleet, I happened to glance down at my finder screen where some good marks strongly sug- gested rockfish. They were suspended from 10 feet to 15 feet. Our frisky perch just might prove tempting to them.

We had our live-lining outfits rigged and ready to go, so in no time, two lively baitfish were swimming down. Periodically boosting the perch into the rockfish danger zone, we slowly drifted along, pushed by a mild breeze.

Within just a few minutes, Harrison had his first run. When he slowly tight- ened the line — circle hooks, remember — his rod arched over. The drag began its hiss as the mono poured out. It was a good fish and a solid hookup. After sever- al minutes of lively struggle, we had a 29-incher in the net, then buried in ice.

Shortly after, I had a fat and healthy 25-inch striper.

Those two fish, as it turned out, were indeed blessings as our finder screen went empty. The school had fled for parts unknown.

We cruised likely looking areas for an hour or more with no results, then decided to head back to the ramp and to enjoy a late lunch. We had tempted the fish gods enough for one day. p

Meet angling legends, acquire knowledge and tackle
      Chesapeake Bay has produced some of the nation’s best-known anglers, starting with Lefty Kreh and including Bob Clouser, Bob Popovics, Kevin Josenhans, Steve Silvario, Blane Choklett, Joe Cap and Tony Friedrich. These angling luminaries and many more will be on hand to meet and share information at the 18th Annual Lefty Kreh Tie Fest on February 24 and 25 at the Lowes Annapolis Hotel.
       The event has become so popular that it has expanded to two full days of seminars, expositions and exhibits, all crammed full of angling information and techniques. The focus is fly fishing, but the knowledge to be gained here is invaluable for all types of light-tackle angling and covers a multitude of species and where and how to catch them.
      Striped bass, our beloved rockfish, will be discussed in detail. You’ll also hear about redfish, bluefish, speckled and gray trout, white perch, hickory and white shad as well as any other species that visit our waters. 
      If you’ve got a yen to talk fishing, hear information from the legendary pros or curiosity about fly- or light-tackle fishing, this is the place to be. Chesapeake-area fishing guides and guide services are in attendance and eager to discuss what’s available. Don’t miss this chance to meet and hear the most skilled and creative anglers of our day.
      Fly-tying and -casting demonstrations, rod-building techniques, new equipment and fly and lure components will be on site. There will be many free as well as for-fee seminars. Admission is $10 per day or $15 for both days. Anglers under 16 and active duty military personnel are admitted free of charge. Excellent food and beverages are offered for sale.
     For more information contact Tony Friedrich: 202-744-5013; [email protected] or Facebook , leftykrehtiefest). Or search online for Lefty Kreh Tie Fest 2018. 
Other Action
Capt. Tom Hooker Estate Sale, February 9 & 10
        For some great deals on top-grade angling tackle, try the action and prices of this estate sale. The fishing gear and equipment from Capt. Tom Hooker’s Chesapeake Bay Charter operation will be sold this Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm at 3802 Chesapeake Beach Rd., Chesapeake Beach. The sale includes rods, reel, line, lures, hooks, sinkers, coolers and much more. Info: Judy Howard at 410-353p5544.
 
Pasadena Sportfishing Show and Flea Market, February 17 & 18
       The 25th iteration brings lots of exhibits both indoors and out, with food and drink including their famous hot pit barbecue and oysters on the half-shell, sodas and adult beverages. Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company, 161 Ritchie Hwy., Severna Park: 410-439-3474.
 
2018 Saltwater Fishing Expo, February 24
        The area’s top charter captains will be in attendance and giving seminars on tactics and tips for the Annapolis Chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association Expo. Tackle, including lures and other equipment, on display and for sale. Delicious hot pit beef sandwiches, oysters, cold beer and other beverages sold. 8am-3pm, Annapolis Elks Lodge, 2517 Solomons Island Rd, Edgewater: $5 w/age discounts: 
http://saltwaterfishingexpo.com.

I’m buying long rods to fish from shore the windy days of early ­trophy rockfish season

       My latest fishing quest originated in last year’s trophy rockfish season as I was putting in a supply of ice for my skiff’s fish box. Parking near an SUV, I had paused to compare notes with the occupants who were as eager to get into some action as I was, using a different sort of gear.
      They were shore anglers, armed with the long surf-type fishing rods needed to get long casts off the shallow Bayside shorelines of the public areas that have become popular in recent years, especially during the early season.
      I admired the anglers for their zeal even as I pitied them for the endless and fishless hours I suspected they experienced in their pursuit of trophy rockfish from land. Yet the anglers assured me they were doing well.
      Since it was just over a week into the season, I smiled. Many anglers claim they are doing well, particularly if they aren’t. It’s really nobody’s business but their own.
      Just to reassure myself that I wasn’t missing anything, I asked if they had any pictures. Of course they did, and one dived into the SUV to fetch his phone. My jaw dropped at a picture of him and his two buddies with three of the biggest, fattest trophy rock I had seen yet that year. 
      He also confided that those fish weren’t the only ones they’d scored but conceded that they’d already been out four or five days during the trophy season. Plus, they had released some trophy-sized fish during the earlier March and April catch-and-release season. 
      My opinion of the opportunities afforded to shore anglers shifted considerably. I had not yet managed to get my skiff out on the water even once. It wasn’t that I lacked the free time. What I lacked was calm seas. It had been blowing since opening day.
      Weather is one of the biggest drawbacks of boat fishing during the trophy season. It’s not so much a problem if you’ve got a larger craft that can handle a good chop and provide shelter from the chilly winds that blow over the Chesapeake in April. For smaller skiffs like my 17-footer, it’s a showstopper. Getting out even once a week is often a challenge with our cold and windy springtime weather.
     Shoreside angling suddenly began to make a lot more sense. There are publicly accessible sites up and down both sides of the Bay, usually with a lee shore sheltered from the worst of any small craft advisory winds. If I wanted more time on the water, I decided, perhaps I should join the long-rod crowd. But the only long rods I had were fly rods.
      As it takes time (and financial resources) to put together a proper set of tackle, I put it off until the following year, which is now upon me. Doing a bit of research in the meantime, I determined what was needed and have begun to put together a couple of outfits. 
      The most popular surf sticks for shoreside fishing around the Chesapeake are nine- to 11-footers coupled with a 5000- or 6000-series spin reel capable of holding a few hundred yards of 20- to 30-pound monofilament or braid. The extra-capacity reels are necessary because shore-bound anglers often make casts of 150 to 300 feet, then have to contend with the sizeable runs of big fish.
      Right now I’m looking forward to a busy early season beginning in just a few weeks. When it’s too cold and windy to take out my skiff, I’m planning to be along a shoreline in a comfortable beach chair, clad in well insulated clothes and sipping a warm beverage, with an eye on my rods, waiting for trophy rockfish to come by and take my baits.
 
Wish a Fish Foundation Needs Your Extra Gear
      If you’ve got an excess of any kind of fishing equipment that you’re no longer using, the Wish a Fish Foundation could use it (410-913-9043). The Foundation is intending to raise money by selling donated fishing gear at the Pasadena Fishing Flea Market on Feb. 17 and 18 at Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Hall, 161 Ritchie Hwy., Severna Park.
      Wish A Fish accepts donations on Thursday, Feb. 15, when some afternoon and evening help would be welcome. Volunteers are also needed to help at the tables at the flea market (outside but in a tent) on the 17th and maybe 18th, 7:30am-2pm: 
410-439-3474.
 
 
 

The season is already underway

      It’s starting now. The yellow perch run is on the way, with the white perch run right behind it. Despite our wildly unpredictable weather this time of year, Maryland’s 2018 fishing season is opening up — whether you’re ready or not.
      Hardier practitioners will reap the first and richest bounties, as always, so don’t be misled by freezing temperatures. The fish may hesitate during periods of extreme cold but not for long. Temperature is not the primary element affecting the coming and going of fish. They’re also driven by the increasing sunlight, lunar phases, tidal flows and the inexorable changes in their bodies. Females are already swelled to bursting from the copious quantities of roe they are producing. Males are overflowing with milt.
       Staging areas are the right places to target, the deeper water up in the tributaries where the schools of fish will build up awaiting whatever secret signal their senses need to start for the headwaters to spawn. Yellow perch prefer 45- to 55-degree water for reproducing. Improbable as it seems, on a sunny, 60-degree day, the shallows of a tributary can easily reach those temperatures, though Bay waters may remain in the 30s.
       If nothing else, it’s the time to break out your spring perch fishing tackle and get it ready for action. Light lines need replacing more frequently than heavier tests, so check yours. If they appear chalky, stiff or in any way suspicious, replace them now. Four- to six-pound test is the way to go this time of year. Each spool refill at a local sports store costs $3 to $4.
        A seven-foot, medium-weight spin rod is adequate for pan fishing. However, maybe this spring is time to invest in a six- to six-and-a-half-foot light- or ultra-light-action rod matched with one of the many 1000-series spin reels. It is far more satisfying to use tackle matched to the fish, and casting the lightweight lures and baits you’ll be using will be far easier. Your accuracy will be vastly improved, and light bites will be far more detectable.
       The best terminal setup is a pair of shad darts about 18 inches below a small weighted casting bobber. You can tip the darts with grass shrimp, minnow, bloodworms, earthworms, butter worms or any combination. 
       You’ll also need some warm clothes: hip waders or high boots if you’re a bank angler, some warm wool gloves (fingerless are best) and a few hand warmers, just in case. If using minnows for bait, don’t forget a small bait net. Nothing will numb your hands faster than having to plunge them repeatedly into your live bucket for baits.
        A five-gallon pail remains the best general tackle container: bait bucket, fish holder and sometime seat for when the bite may be slow. A thermos full of hot beverage can also go a long way to making the cold more bearable.
       Yellow perch must be at least nine inches in length — a 14-incher is a citation — and the possession limit is 10 fish per day. They, like white perch, are best prepared cleaned, rolled in panko crumbs and fried in hot peanut or corn oil until golden brown. Many devotees insist that yellow perch are better than whites, though that argument could be endless.

Fish Finder

Yellow perch are moving up into the tributaries. During the last cold snap, stalwart anglers made some holes through the ice in the upper Magothy and caught a number of yellows and not just a few whites. Spawning is definitely happening, though small males of both species are always the first on station. Pickerel are also up there in the tribs. Their spawn is imminent. Don’t ignore crappie either, as they too are schooling and becoming active in fresher water.
 
Hunting Seasons
Wild turkey: Jan. 18-20
Duck: thru Jan. 27
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 31
Whitetail and Sika deer, bow season: thru Jan. 31
Canada goose: thru Feb. 3
Snow goose: thru Feb. 3
Rabbit: thru Feb. 28
Squirrel: thru Feb. 28
http://dnr.maryland.gov/huntersguide/Documents/Hunting_Seasons_Calendar.pdf