Volume XVII, Issue 38 # September 17 - September 23, 2009

Fish Are Biting

Bad weather trashed the first half of September, but things have substantially improved. Breaking fish — blues, macs and rock — are active from Belvedere Shoals all the way down the Western Shore to south of Thomas Point. The Eastern Shore’s hotspot stretches from the southern tip of Poplar Island all the way across the mouth of the Eastern Bay. Breakers have also been reported at Love Point and up into the Chester. Live-lining continues to produce, and with the improved weather, plug casting is sure to be productive in the shallows. Spot and croaker remain in good numbers, and the perching is excellent, where the blues haven’t chased them away.

Small Victories

Perch are better than skunk

It was late by the time I launched the dingy. Low water and rain threats had held up my fishing trip until there were just a few hours left in the day. Then it was just a matter of going or regretting not going. I went.

Timing and windy weather had limited the choices. My destination became, through default, a small, wind-sheltered creek not too far away and that might have definite white perch. I had never fished it before, but I had been curious.

Putting in at a small ramp, I headed for the most obvious structure, long wooden bulkheads. But they turned out to be too new. Treated lumber takes years in the water before the toxins leach out and it finally hosts the kind of marine growth that is fish friendly. These constructions were still barren.

Then Came the Jumbo

I moved on to some rocky shoreline, tried a few bridge supports and then some boat piers. I was casting a small spinner bait and working it thoroughly, switching colors and sizes from time to time. There were no takers.

At the one-hour mark, that skunky feeling was coming over me when I turned into a woody section of some nearby shoreline.

Fallen trees are sometimes perch hangouts this time of year, and the first one I tried proved the charm. The first four casts were all hookups. The fish weren’t especially large, but they were scrappy and I was grateful.

At the second laydown came the jumbo. Perch are such hard fighters for their size, especially on ultra-light tackle, that even middling fish can seem big, right up till the last moment. But there was no question about this guy. My line just stopped. Then the fish ran toward deep water; no head shaking, no short didoes this way and that, just a hard, straight, depth-seeking run.

Immediately, I eased off on the drag and lightened my touch. I did not want to lose this guy. Still keeping a good bend in my rod, but not forcing it too hard over, I let the fish fight its fight.

It took quite a while. Big perch have great staying powers, but I finally got it near the boat. A glimpse of a thick, black back and the long, greenish gold flash of its side confirmed my estimate of its species and size.

Slowly I nursed the fish nearer the top and eased a small, long-handled net into the water. As I guided the bruiser in the last few inches — feeling just a touch foolish over my elaborate cautions — the lure popped free. My big, played-out perch settled gently into the net bag, and I lifted him into the boat.

The Use of Perch

The same location yielded another, almost as big, and another tense scrap. Then, as I moved down the shoreline and after a few more keepers, the shorter fish took over the bite again.

By quitting time, although I’d had had a substantial number of hookups, there weren’t a lot of eating-sized whities finning in the five-gallon pail that served as my live well.

There certainly weren’t enough to provision a family dinner. With no regret, I sloshed them all back over the side and promised, especially the big guy, a rematch in the near future.

On the short cruise back to the ramp, I was pleasantly content.

Perspective is a funny thing. So are white perch. They seem to make you appreciate the smaller things in life.

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