Volume 12, Issue 18 ~ April 29-May 5, 2004
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Chesapeake Outdoors
by C.D. Dollar

Angling Fanatics Keep on Trying
So what do you do when the fish won’t bite? Go fishing, of course. To put it bluntly, the Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release season has been disappointing, with catches of trophy-sized rock on fly and/or light tackle coming too far between casts.

It’s hard to pinpoint why this year’s season has been so unpredictable. Some days the culprits are obvious: poor water clarity, lack of baitfish, cold water temperatures or combinations of these factors. Other times all three factors have been decent and fishing has still been slow. One theory bounced around is that these fish come in pulses up to the Flats, and in the last several days we’ve experienced a lull in their run.

Yet therein lies the beauty of fishing: Each day is different, and the next retrieve reveals new opportunities previously denied.

To counter the reality of few fish, a change of scenery was in order. Dragging the boat south to join the trolling fleet currently experiencing good catches didn’t make any sense. So shad filled the void.

April showers came in sheets throughout the day, and gray clouds dampened the bursting May flowers. It was not the picture of Maryland fishing a marketer would paint to entice newcomers to the sweet water pursuit. Yet that mattered little to my friend, looking to experience what makes angling fanatics. So we ditched work (legitimately, of course, for those among you readers who make note of such inconsequential things) and lit out for Maryland’s Deer Creek to fish for hickory shad, which are in the midst of their spawning run.

Like their larger cousins the American shad, hickories are part of the herring family. Hickories are apt to have amber hues on their flanks, their lower jaw juts farther out and the spots along their shoulders are far less obvious than those of the American shad.

Both species are anadromous, returning the to the Chesapeake’s freshwater runs to spawn each spring. Hickory shad enter the Bay by early March, the first arrivals, with American shad weeks behind. Although there is a moratorium on possessing both American and hickory shad in all of Maryland’s waters, Maryland anglers can tangle with these hard chargers as a catch-and-release fishery.

Good spots include Tuckahoe Creek off the Choptank River, Nanticoke’s Marshyhope Creek and the upper Patuxent River to Queen Anne’s Bridge. The Potomac River shad runs at Fletcher’s Boat House in Washington, D.C., are productive as well.

The Grand Dame of all Bay rivers, of course, is the mighty Susquehanna. Despite the historically low numbers of shad, one would be hard pressed to find better shad fishing anywhere along the entire East Coast. Restoration and protection can only help increase the popularity of the once-common and still prized species.

The tailrace section immediately below Conowingo Dam offers exceptional shad fishing. As you might expect, it attracts the crowds. So to avoid the mob, we parked at Susquehanna State Park and waded a fair way up Deer Creek, under and over fallen trees and across slippery rocks. Our reward was solitude, with the only sounds coming from the coursing creek and falling rain. The fishing weren’t bad, neither.

Fish Are Biting
Optimum water temperatures (about 55 to 64 degrees) for big trophy rockfish have netted charter captains and recreational anglers their share of the Bay’s most prestigious gamefish. Some limited numbers of croaker as big as 18 inches have shown up off Hog’s Point and Cedar Point.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 29, 2004 @ 2:17am.