Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888
Volume xviii, Issue 13 ~ Apri 1 to April 7, 2010
What a difference a couple of weeks can make. It hardly seems long ago that I was huddled next to a roaring fire, my skiff buried deep under a blanket of snow and the thought of wetting a fishing line just a cruel, tormenting fantasy.
Strolling across my front porch in bare feet and shorts, I watched cheerfully twittering birds gather scraps for their spring nestings. Squirrels scampered up and down virtually every tree in the neighborhood, sampling the tasty buds suddenly sprouting everywhere.
And the fish are everywhere too.
One of the most delicious fish is in our ponds and lakes, but don’t expect to see any bulletins about the location of hot action. You’ll have to seek out your own honey holes with crappie.
The sudden onslaught of mild weather threw the temperature-delayed yellow perch run wide open by the second day of sunshine. Then the warm rains and 70-degree days that followed lit the white perch run on fire ahead of schedule. There is a surfeit of riches in them there creeks right now, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down a bit.
My first two outings for the yellows this March were awesome. Lady Luck toyed with me the first time (while my two partners filled the box). But the second trip restored my spirits and my fortunes. I have never caught such big, hefty fish in such numbers.
And though I have been recently laid low for some minor surgery, my usual angling accomplices have continued to score jumbo yellow and white perch with abandon.
The fillets that have been kindly dropped off at my door have been enormous and delicious, and it is all I can do to keep the envy from my heart at missing the action. This is definitely shaping up to be a spring to remember.
Anglers wanting to cash in on this continuing abundance of perch of both species can try the parks and ramps at Hillsboro, Greensboro and the Tuckahoe on the Eastern Shore. On the Western Shore, the headwaters of the Severn River, South River and the Magothy have healthy runs of both white and yellow perch continuing into April.
Next on the agenda are chain pickerel. Put out of reach by the ice and snow of previous months, the toothy scrappers are just now reaching peak activity. The fishery is catch-and-release only in tidal waters, where the fish should be schooling and exceptionally aggressive.
Try the many upper reaches off of the Magothy, the South and the Severn rivers for fish as long as your arm. Similar headwaters of the Choptank, Chester, Corsica and Miles are good places on the Eastern Shore. Most freshwater impoundments on both sides of the Bay also hold good numbers of pickerel. Concentrate on the laydowns, piers, around emerging weed beds and any sunken structure. Mepps minnows, Clousers and Deceivers in bright colors or a big live minnow under a bobber will get their immediate attention.
Crappie — aka calico bass, paper mouth and speck — are also ganging up and preparing for their spawn this spring. One of the most delicious fish in our ponds and lakes, this species has an ardent but close-mouthed following.
So don’t expect to see any bulletins about the location of hot action. You’ll have to seek out your own honey holes with crappie (pronounced properly with a broad a). But they are not hard to find. Quietly fish small- to medium-sized minnows under bobbers along deep-water shorelines that feature laydowns and sunken brush.
Hickory shad should also be on your spring dance card, and though it is still catch-and-release for this slowly rebounding species, their tango is worth the price of admission. A powerful, anadromous fish reaching lengths of 20 to 22 inches, these guys can produce awesome aerial displays.
A prime fish for the fly rod or ultra-light spin outfit, hickory shad love yellow-and-red marabou flies or small shad darts in bright colors. The tailrace of the Conowingo Dam is probably the best place in Maryland to tangle with hordes of this species. Deer Creek just north of Baltimore, Red Bridges, the Tuckahoe and Marshyhope Creeks will also produce fish.
The spring rockfish catch-and-release season has started now in the main stem of the Chesapeake with new restrictions in place designed to reduce pre-spawn fish mortality. No more than six rods can be trolled at any time (though more may be carried on board), and all lure hooks must be barbless or have the barbs squashed flat. No stinger or second hooks are permitted on any lures. All live-bait fishermen using hooks with a one-half-inch gap or larger must use non-offset circle hooks.
The Ninth Annual Opening Day Rockfish Tournament at the Boatyard Bar & Grill is scheduled for Saturday, April 17. Unequivocally the best opening day party on the Bay, this is a do-not-miss experience — and you don‘t have to fish to attend. The tournament is catch-and-release, there are tons of goodies to be awarded to tourney winners, and superb food and drink is served to everyone throughout the day. All proceeds go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association and the Annapolis Youth Fishing Camp.
Sign up soon if you intend to fish; last year the tournament, limited to 150 boats, sold out early: www.boatyardbarandgrill.com for details.
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