Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

 Vol. 10, No. 32

August 8-14, 2002

Current Issue

Rain Gardens in Dry Times

Dock of the Bay
Letters to the Editor
Bay Reflections
Burton on the Bay
Chesapeake Outdoors
Not Just for Kids
Eight Days a Week
What's Playing Where
Curtain Call
Music Notes
Sky Watch
Bay Classifieds
Behind Bay Weekly
Advertising Info
Distribution spots
Contact us

The Wonderfully Accommodating Perch

I’d rather have been out on the ocean chasing dolphin (mahi) and tuna. Because I had barely a two-hour window to fish, that wasn’t going to happen. Besides, the weekend crush of boats and the oppressive heat were enough to keep me from scaring up a few fish.

As it turned out, Chuck Foster was in the same boat, so we met at a ramp off Eastern Bay at a leisurely predawn hour and went off to jig up some fat perch so he could fry them up for Sunday supper.

The beauty of perch fishing is its simplicity. To get perch to bite, all an angler really has to do is get food in front of them. I’m by no means a perching expert, but I’ve rarely found them to be finicky. They always seem to go for grass shrimp and bloodworms. A basic five-foot spinning rod matched with a reel loaded with eight-or 10-pound test line is plenty stout to handle any perch. A top-and-bottom rig is commonly used and effective, but jig heads in white or yellow tipped with grass shrimp or bloodworm work equally well.

This wonderfully accommodating fish is found in waters of varying levels of salinities in the Bay, from Tangier Sound to Sassafras River. They hang around bridge pilings, oyster bars and deep holes. They truly are the Chesapeake’s ubiquitous fish. If rockfish are the franchise fish, white perch are the unsung heroes.

Unlike their anadromous cousins, rockfish, white perch are semi-anadromous spawners, moving into fresh waters of large rivers April through June when water temperatures range from 52 to 61 degrees.

Like many species of fish that use the shallows and grass beds as nursery grounds to avoid predators, white perch also find aquatic insects, small crustaceans and small fishes upon which to feed. Though most white perch are both caught by anglers and used as fuel for top predators such as rockfish and bluefish, they may live as long as 17 years.

The recreational fishery for white perch is significant, especially in Maryland, and in recent years recreational catches in the Bay have exceeded commercial catches. The recreational fishery is concentrated in the spring and autumn, when white perch are taken by drifting live bait or by trolling artificial lures near the surface. The Chesapeake Bay sport-catch record weighed 2.6 pounds and was taken in Maryland waters.

Fish Are Biting
Brad from Anglers says croaker and perch are still biting but have moved to deeper water. The dastardly heat wave has also taken a toll on our aquatic species, raising waters temperatures above 80 degrees and creating pockets of hypoxia and anoxia (low and no oxygen). Elevated water temps fuel alga blooms, as evidenced by the recent mahogany tide that depleted oxygen from waters around Choptank River.

DNR’s angling connector Angel Bolinger reminds that the flounder season reopens August 12 in the Chesapeake and coastal bays, and he invites fishermen to participate in DNR’s Summer Flounder Volunteer Survey. The data will augment and enhance existing data from the National Marine Fisheries Services’ Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey.

Join up at Look under fisheries, then survey. Print it out and take if fishing with you. After each trip, enter your findings at the same site. To get your copy by mail, call Angel Bolinger: 410/260-8294.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly