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A Happy La Nina New Year

Out with the old, in with the new

Winter has been kind to us. I said farewell to the old year drifting under the Bay Bridge in calm and temperate conditions, catching (and releasing) a few fat five-pound rockfish.
    Our weather was so unusually mild during the last of 2011 that the water temperatures in parts of the mid-Bay rose three degrees. Judging by the 10-day forecast, into January I can still hold off on winterizing my skiff.
    A white perch fish fry may still be possible. But one thing may get in my way: Chain pickerel fishing in the upper tributaries has started out fantastic.
    The Severn River Rod and Keg Club (SRRKC on its message board) reports an already fierce competition. Though the magic 24-inch mark (citation size) has yet to be broken, a few fish entered on the leader board are just short of that measurement. It is simply a matter of time before bigger fish are registered.
    Magothy River pickerel anglers, though not as organized as their Severn River brethren, are also doing well.
    So far we are having a soft hard-weather season, and I plan on making the most of it.

Thank La Nina

    The reason behind this mild weather is a distant event that impacts our wintertime climate in a big way. Called the Southern Oscillation, it is caused by a warm, wandering ocean current phenomenon that develops in the Pacific Ocean off of South America during Christmas time.
    When the warm current comes close to that continent, it is called an El Niño (Christ Child) and 2010-’11 was just such an event. We experienced a particularly cold winter/spring during that period.
    When these warm currents are absent near the southern continent, it is known as a La Nina (the girl child) event. While bringing colder temps to South American waters, La Nina often results in milder winters in our area. This winter and coming spring (2011-’12) is part of a developing La Nina episode.
    The occasional snow flurry and frigid weather is conceded for this year by most weathermen during late January into February. But there is a good chance we will have more comfortable conditions than we experienced last year.


Pickerel fishing is red-hot right now and getting hotter every day. Chain pickerel seem to increase their activity as the weather gets colder, but the warmer temps haven’t slowed them down. Minnows on a shad dart under a bobber in the upper tributaries make the traditional fish-getter. Mepps Spinners and small trolled Rapalas will get them, too. White perch fishing is difficult right now in the customary deep-water wintering grounds. Rumors have it they are being caught in the creeks and rivers, however. Minnows and bloodworms are just the thing to pick up a delicious wintertime perch fish fry.

   In Season         

Whitetail and sika deer, bow: Jan. 2-5 & 9-31
Whitetail and sika deer, firearms: Jan. 6 & 7
Mourning doves: thru Jan. 7
Woodcock: Jan. 12-28
Canada goose, migratory: thru Jan. 28
Canada goose, resident; late season: thru March 3
Common snipe: thru Jan. 28
Light (snow) goose: thru Jan. 28
Ducks: thru Jan. 28
Sea ducks: thru Jan. 28
Ruffed grouse: thru Jan. 31
Bobwhite quail: thru Feb. 15
Cottontail rabbit: thru Feb. 29

The Angling Hook

    The angling implications of La Nina are excellent.
    Yellow perch season was definitely difficult last year, with the effects of our hard winter continuing well into springtime. But if La Nina has her way, in 2012 we should have a banner year for the neds.
    La Nina could also bring less rainfall into the later spring months. So perhaps we will be seeing less of the high muddy water coming down the tributaries that made early white perch fishing almost impossible in 2011.
    With decreased rainfall, the muddy water releases from the Conowingo Dam into the Susquehanna Flats should be minimal during the rockfish  catch-and-release season. I am skeptical that this fishery is in any way harmless to spawning, but I have to admit that it is an ideal first-of-the-year opportunity to tangle with really big rockfish on light tackle. I may have to stow my conscience in March and break out my fly rod.
    Altogether, I’m looking forward to  2012. It is with these hopes that I wish you a Happy New Year. Always keep in mind that around the Chesapeake, when the fishing is good it is very, very good. When it’s bad, it is still pretty darn good.