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Volume 15, Issue 12 ~ March 22 - March 28, 2007

There’s Gold in the Rivers

Yellow perch are biting — when the weather allows

The Tuckahoe was still. A flooding tide had stifled the river’s normal current and held the water high on its banks.

Mike and I had just arrived, and we were anxious anglers. Acting on a hot tip that a good bite was likely that afternoon, we were out on our first yellow perch trip of the year.

Picking a likely location on the shoreline, I began working a small gold spoon rigged below a shad dart. Both lures were baited with a trailing minnow, but I had mixed feelings for success.

The yellow perch run so far this year has dueled with outrageously erratic weather. Just about the time water temperatures reached the point that yellow perch begin to actively spawn and feed, a blizzard or cold snap shut everything down.

Fish Are Biting

Yet another late winter storm has intercepted the yellow perch run, but warmer temperatures in the coming week should soon alleviate any lasting effects. White perch have already begun to show in the middle tributaries, and Bay waters continue to warm. The angler’s year has commenced in the Tidewater, and nature’s gods are smiling on us.

On March 15, everything finally seemed in sync once again, but we were far from certain our efforts would result in success.

Those doubts were interrupted by a slight tug on my line. Was my spoon hanging on some bottom structure, or was it a fish? I paused my retrieve, then slowly swept the rod tip to the side, feeling for resistance.

A solid strike deeply bent my light rod. I set the hook, and a beautifully marked golden yellow perch broke the surface, initiating a wild, mid-river tantrum.

After a few long moments of particularly cautious fight on my part, I finally eased him onto the bank. He was officially landed, my first of 2007.

Showing the bright orange fin of a spawning male with glowing yellow flanks and dark green vertical bands, this perch was particularly handsome. Quickly removing the hook, I released the still-lively devil back into the Tuckahoe.

He was probably a little over legal size, but I wanted to start the year off with some river karma on my side. And to be honest, we wanted bigger fish to fry.

My gesture was soon rewarded with another spawn-bright male on my line. Called yellow neds by anglers with an affection for Tidewater tradition, this one was about 12 inches. He went on ice to join us later for dinner.

Within minutes, Mike began tangling with what we originally thought was a truly jumbo perch but at streamside turned into a husky chain pickerel of about 18 inches. A male as well, and quite upset at being inconvenienced, he was quickly loosed to rejoin the mating game that their species is also involved in this time of year.

When the tide fell and the river’s current resumed, the yellows started to bite in earnest. My friend landed a couple of nice neds in quick succession, and my score increased, as well. Our cooler began glowing with gold.

As evening neared, it began to shower and temperatures dropped uncomfortably. I pulled on a warm rain jacket. Mike, dressed in his usual foul weather outfit of sandals, shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt, just hunched over and kept casting.

A Job Well Done

Both of us were relieved to get the job done as we limited out with some very nice fish just at darkness. We cleaned up some trash from the nearby streamside for a little more river karma, threw our gear in the back and jumped in the truck.

Turning the heater on high and heading home, we congratulated ourselves on our lucky first run. Within a half-hour we were back on home ground, tired, wet and dirty, but quite pleased. Actually we were beaming from such a promising start to the angling year.

We both agreed that there is no other place quite like the Chesapeake. The bounty of this natural cornucopia is astounding; we are indeed blessed to be living here. With white perch, rockfish, bluefish, croaker, seatrout and crabs all coming at us within the next few months, I just don’t know how we’re going to cope. I reckon we’ll just have to do the best we can.

Special thanks to Anthony Mattera for alerting us to the impending yellow perch bite last Thursday and for sharing the river. We’ll try to return the favor asap.

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