Chesapeake Outdoors ~ by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 12

March 21-27, 2002

Current Issue
Digging Spring
New Gateways to America’s Past
Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Not Just for Kids
Bay Life
Eight Days a Week
Parker's Oscar Preview
What's Playing Where
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us

Signs of Spring

Some folks will tell you that the surest sign of spring is the return of osprey from their winter digs in Central and South America, an occurrence that usually happens around St. Patrick’s Day. While an osprey-sighting is a pretty consistent indicator year in and year out of spring’s welcomed return — I saw my first fish hawk of the year last Friday as it soared high above the waters of Blackwalnut Creek — there are other signs that winter’s grip is loosening.

Tundra swans returning north and songbirds migrating through are other natural happenings this time of year. But the preponderance of fishing rods sticking out of vehicles in every conceivable manner — out of truck beds and car windows or racked against the back window of a truck cab — is just as reliable a sign.

You may see some of these same vehicles parked off roads and highways, near Route 4 in Southern Maryland or off Route 50 on the Shore. These anglers first target yellow perch, which start their spawning march from the lower tributaries to the upper reaches in search of suitable spawning habitat in late February.

The spate of unseasonably warm weather in past weeks may have triggered the yellow perch run early, and Department of Natural Resources biologists estimate that the spawn is nearly completed. A call to Rob Jepson from Angler’s confirmed this, anecdotally at least.

“The Wye Mills run was hot but seemed to be very short lived,” Jepson said. “Now guys are just waiting for the white perch run to kick in.”

Blink and you missed the run. See what happens when I don’t bust out the ultra-light gear quick enough? I must have rockfish on the brain.

For white perch, the guy shouldn’t have to wait long. I spoke last night at the gas station with a fellow returning from white-perch fishing with his son off a small creek on the Magothy River. Grass shrimp added to shad darts worked well for him.

The next fish in the spawning lineup is the hickory shad. Their run usually precedes American shad runs, typically coming during March and April. Hickory shad, also called jacks or tailor shad, are a highly migratory schooling species that can be great sport on fly gear.

Hickory shad differ from their cousins by a strongly projecting lower jaw. They are also smaller than American shad but larger than alewife and blueback herring. Next to spawn are the big shad, called American or white shad, which biologists believe are river-specific, meaning that each major river along the Atlantic coast appears to have a discrete spawning stock.

At one time, Chesapeake rivers such as the Susquehanna, James, Potomac and Nanticoke supported large populations of American shad. Today, however, the Connecticut, Hudson and Delaware rivers are the primary systems that support viable American shad stocks.

Time to stop writing and starting fishing.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly