Volume XVII, Issue 20 # May 14 - May 20, 2009

The lizard is a hated enemy of spawning bass because lizards eat bass eggs. Largemouth will viciously attack any that come near.

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

Plan A, Plan B, Plan X

Arriving early at the small lake, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful weather. After days of rain, this morning was breaking just like the weatherman said. It was going to be a perfect day.

It was too windy to fish the Chesapeake, with gusts up to 20 knots. But the tall trees surrounding this freshwater impoundment sheltered it. I had thought about this trip extensively while enduring the last sopping week, and in anticipation I had developed a Plan A and Plan B.

My fishing log reflected that last season at this time of year I had done well on largemouth bass, tangling with dozens of them in May on soft plastic frogs thrown into the lily pads. A seven-foot, fast-action rod, a light casting reel spooled with 20-pound braid and a bag of assorted frogs with their proper hooks were the perfect tackle for Plan A.

Plan B was going to include my old reliable friend the bluegill. Already having at least one 50-fish day this spring, I was sure I would find at least 45 swimming in the same areas. The other five fish had accompanied me to dinner that evening and would be unavailable.

I set up my two favorite bream rods. One was an eight-foot, three-weight fly rod for throwing small spiders and other terrestrial flies up close to the shoreline. The second was a six-foot-nine-inch six-weight for rifling size-eight bluegill poppers onto the flats and back under the trees.

The only downside of the planned outing was the recent rain. One of the more vexing patterns I have noted over the years is that a freshwater bite often shuts down immediately after a period of rain. However, since the winds ruled out the Bay, it was either this or another day spent on household errands.

Plan A

Because it was early morning and bluegills wouldn’t be on their beds until the sun warmed the shallows, the bass were the correct quarry to start. Launching my small skiff, I noted that the lily pads weren’t as extensive as I had expected. The chilly spring with the cold rains had held back their usual resurgence; however, I also knew that a bass still has to eat.

But not that day. The pads were empty. I tried every bucketmouth hangout I knew, most of those I suspected, then — just in case — fished the areas that hadn’t produced much in the past. But there were no takers.

I switched from throwing frogs in the pads to lizards around the shoreline. The lizard is a hated enemy of spawning bass because lizards eat bass eggs. Largemouth will viciously attack any that come near. Nothing. I kept at it until the sun was well up in the sky.

Plan B

Now it was up to my buddy the bluegill to save the day. I worked the shallows, dimpled with ’gill spawning beds. They were empty. The rains had flushed them barren.

I worked the drip line of the trees surrounding the lake, also to no avail. Then at last I had a strike. It was a particularly rowdy bluegill that fought with amazing tenacity. It took me a long time to get this devil to the boat, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a bright male with spawning colors more intense than I have seen yet this year. I gently slipped it back into the water to resume its business.

I took two more from the same location, each fish a little larger than the one preceding it, perhaps an omen. Expecting the fish had finally turned on I moved down the shoreline with great optimism. There were no further takers.

I tried to content myself with fly-casting, something I’ve often found great therapy. I concentrated on getting an especially tight loop that would reach well back under the trees. My mood brightened with a few particularly successful casts even though they drew no strikes.

Well, I thought, it’s still a nice day, and since it really couldn’t get much worse fishwise, I might as well relax, unwind and enjoy the weather. A clap of thunder echoed off of the lake as I looked up and saw the dark, towering storm clouds almost upon me.

Fish Are Biting

Trophy-sized rockfish are still being encountered throughout the mid-Bay, lately joined by our lesser sized resident stripers. Most of the fish have completed their spawning, but there are still others on their own unique timetable. Giants remain a possibility. Croaker are moving up the Bay, but reliable catches are still well to our south. No sign of spot as yet, and white perch have been mysteriously absent. The netters couldn’t have gotten them all, could they?

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