Volume 12, Issue 46 ~ November 11 - November 17, 2004
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Earth Journal
The writer, frying up some of her bountiful white perch catch.

How We Caught Our Own Fall Fish Fry
by Carol Swanson

I wasn’t seeing double when I saw two fish as I reeled up my line with the first catch on this November day. Both fish were bright silver, and both good enough size to keep. My fishing partner identified them as white perch. Then, less than a minute after I landed mine, he also caught one.

Catching white perch wasn’t our intention. Normally we venture into Chesapeake Bay for rockfish or flounder. But this fall, neither of us had heard much about catching rockfish; fishermen said the water was too warm, advising that it’s usually November before rock come back into the Bay.

About two weeks ago, we heard that rockfish were back and biting on spot. Bait shops don’t sell spot, and by this time of year, spot are supposed to have left our waters. But this year, the fishermen said, spot were in the Patuxent biting on blood worms.

So with the Bay rough, we bought blood worms and headed for the Patuxent. There, we planned to catch some bait and be ready for rockfish.

Launching at Solomons, we headed up the river. After the first bend, next to the Navy Recreational Center Pier, fish showed on our electronic finder.

We rigged our poles, tying on bottom double rigs with four ounces of sinker. Then we skewered blood worms up a medium-size hook with a teaser. We dropped our lines and fished as the boat drifted from 45 into 20 feet of water.

Hardly a minute passed before I felt the first tug. I pulled up my rod and reeled in those two fat perch, one on each hook.

As the bite continued, we reeled up plenty of singles and a few more double catches. “One more drift,” we kept saying, “one more drift.” Every drift produced fish.

Over the next two hours, we threw one perch after another into the live well. Neither of us had seen so much action for some time so reeling up constant fish felt good. The lack of a hearty rockfish on the line didn’t even cross our minds as we competed for the next catch. With rockfish, you’re limited to one a day and the season ends in December, but there’s no limit on white perch and the season lasts year round.

Perch ranging from eight to 12 inches bit our hooks on every drift until we ran out of blood worms. Then we tried squid, but the fish weren’t interested.

The bite was over, but we both felt the buzz of success.

We counted 21 white perch, and we released nearly the same amount of smaller perch as well as some small rockfish and one token spot.

We planned a fish feast. The crabs feasted well that day, too, as my partner gutted and cleaned the perch on the river, discarding the waste over the side of the boat.

The fish were deep-fry ready. All that was needed was to roll them in egg wash and flour — you can kick it up a notch by adding Old Bay to the flour — before five minutes in the fryer.

Some fishermen don’t keep white perch, complaining that bones make them difficult to eat. But after cooking, the bones pull out easily. Even when a couple of small bones didn’t pull out with the backbone, eating perch was easier than picking crab. The soft white meat tastes similar to crabmeat, too.

Soon the chill will beat out all but the heartiest souls who fish the Bay, but there’s still time to head up a river and catch a tasty perch.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.