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Sweet Water in the Springtime

More than a dozen species swim in Maryland’s freshwater

It was easily the 10th fish already that morning, and I had been barely an hour on the water. A nice largemouth came up and out, shaking its head, rattling its gills, throwing water everywhere and otherwise behaving just like on the Outdoor Channel. Except I wasn’t just watching; I was actually trying to stay hooked up with this one.

My new, light spin rod was bent to the corks. The reel drag was groaning, and I was enjoying myself so much I was almost feeling guilty. My pointer pup in the bow was feigning interest, even though she had already seen it often enough.

I finally managed the husky devil to the side of the boat, lifted it by its lower lip, unhooked my chartreuse spinner bait and dropped the fish, head first, back into the clear water. I love to catch bigmouths, but I much prefer to eat crappie, perch and bluegill. Perhaps that’s why they, instead of bass, are called the pan fish.

Fish Are Biting

Trophy-size rockfish are still found mid-Bay, though the spring run of giants is pretty much over. Resident rockfish up to the mid 30s in length are beginning to gather at Podickery, Hacketts, Love and Thomas points. Croaker are showing early, with a few big fish encountered in the evenings at Matapeake, Sandy Point and the mouth of the Severn. White perch haven’t established any post-spawn patterns as yet and are unpredictable, but some small schools are gathering over shell bottoms. Bass, bluegill, crappie and a few yellow perch are pleasing freshwater anglers. All that remains for a full fight card is for the crabs to turn on, and that’s not far away, either.

Proceeding up a shoreline cluttered with fallen trees and brushy debris, I had a plentitude of structure to work. Although the wind was bending the tops of the trees above me, the surrounding terrain shielded the surface of the lake from its effects. At water level, where I sat, it was just another calm, sunny morn.

This was my third trip on non-tidal waters in little over a week. I wanted to get as much sweet water time in as I could while springtime winds churned up the Chesapeake. I also wanted to get a few of these tasty, fresh-water critters on my dinner table.

This was the first time I had fished this particular lake. It had been recommended to me as a good crappie location, but initially good-sized fish were proving scarce. However, the bass were more than compensating me. I’d come to expect that, though. Maryland’s non-tidal waters provide superb fisheries for many different species.

I caught a number of nice largemouth bass that morning and eventually two dozen or so crappie, both black and white. Not many of the crappie proved keepers, but the hours that I fished, mid-morning till early afternoon, were not prime time for the bigger fish.

Slab-sides, as large crappie are often called, can be a late-hour bite. They sometimes won’t move into the shallows to feed until daylight starts to fade. I planned to return soon to explore that possibility further.

Sweet vs. Salt

Angling for striped bass, bluefish, sea trout and croaker on Maryland’s Chesapeake gets most of the exciting press in our area, but there are actually more freshwater (non-tidal) fishing licenses sold in Maryland than Bay licenses.

There are well over 100 public lakes, reservoirs and ponds available to Free State anglers, as well as 55 trout streams. If you add to that the 40 or so freshwater sources of our Bay tributaries, you have an incredible number of opportunities for great sweet water action.

Besides the largemouths and the crappie I encountered, many of these waters are home to pickerel, catfish, white perch, yellow perch, bluegills and sunfish. Other areas possess northern pike, muskies, walleye and smallmouth bass. Then, of course, are our trout waters with brookies, rainbows, goldens and browns.

Even if you are a dedicated Chesapeake angler, keep these options in mind. When the wind starts to blow or the bite on the Bay is off, you might visit some of the sweeter water in the state. But be careful. It can be even more addicting than the salt.

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