Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888
Volume xviii, Issue 14 ~ Apri 8 to April 14, 2010
Riesen Young with the start of a good stringer of fish at Red Bridges on the Upper Choptank.
The first fish of the day was a feisty white perch. My fishing partner, Ed Robinson, had hooked it with a grass shrimp on a shad dart under a small bobber, the traditional terminal tackle of shore-side anglers on this stretch of the Upper Choptank. We had just arrived, but it was a welcome relief when the perch’s silvery sides flashed through the swollen river’s murky waters.
Housebound and restless for the better part of a month due to some minor surgery and the recent rains, I had been floundering in a woeful mood. Seeing a fish come in so quickly lifted my spirits. Moments later, my own perch hookup on a dart and minnow dispelled the balance of my melancholy.
Ed rushed back to the car for the ice chest as I put another minnow on my small chartreuse dart and flipped it back into the water. Clearly, the makings of a good fish fry were at hand.
The forsythia had been in full bloom all along the roadside on the way to the river. With the smell of spring strong in the air and the now obviously plentiful perch, this was a wonderful day to be an angler.
For the next two hours we hauled in fish after fish. Though there were many throwbacks, enough bigger fish came to hand that there were soon plenty in the cooler for a good-sized meal. We were also entertained by an occasional yellow perch, a few frisky bluegills and even a couple of hickory shad.
The Choptank was still running high and had been since our record snowfalls began to melt in the surrounding watershed in early March. That influx of freshwater, plus the unusually warm weather, had jump-started both yellow and white perch spawns like I had never seen before.
With a swollen river, a lot of submerged vegetation for cover and the very early and active spawns, I am guessing that this year’s recruitment is going to be highly successful. That means lots and lots of strong, young yellow and white perch will be swimming in the Chesapeake in the near future.
The next day’s fish fry was an even greater success. Trying a new variation, we used a McCormick Tempura Batter for breading the fillets, which we’d cut in half for finger-sized pieces.
Disregarding the instructions that came with the mix, I dumped it in a large shallow bowl and stirred in ice-cold beer until I had a lumpy mixture that clung nicely to the perch pieces. Then I dropped the pieces in about two inches of 400-degree peanut oil.
Accumulating the finished fish in a warm oven on a platter lined with several layers of oil absorbent paper towels, I soon built up a heaping pile of golden, crispy perch. Smelling the feast, my kids began sneaking in and stealing pieces every time my head was turned.
On the table, the fish was fantastic accompanied with steamed, fresh green beans dripping with butter. We varied the dipping condiments for the fish from our homemade tartar sauce to Louisiana and Goya Botanita Hot Sauces to soy sauce to just a simple spritz of fresh lemon. The platter was laid bare within 15 minutes. I ate so many that my stomach groaned for the better part of an hour.
April 17 marks what should be an official Maryland state holiday: It’s the opening day of the trophy rockfish season. And if you want to celebrate it in real style, you might want to fish in the morning (or not) and celebrate in the afternoon at the Boatyard Bar and Grill Opening Day Rockfish Tournament Party (www.boatyardbarandgrill.com). The most sporting of all the Bay fishing tournaments, this catch-and-release competition is the most ecologically aware, with all the proceeds going to worthy Bay non-profits. The plentiful food and adult beverages, included in admission, are the very best. The winners of the tourney get a plaque with a profile of the fish, and their names, displayed in the establishment in perpetuity — plus a ton of goodies donated by Anglers Sport Center.
It really is the best party on the Bay. If you want to compete, sign up for the tournament soon, as it was sold out last year. Buy your tickets for the party (4-8pm) at the door.
Both the yellow and white perch runs have peaked, but you can still catch plenty of stragglers at Tuckahoe, Hillsboro, Greensboro, Red Bridges, Wayson’s and Black Walnut Point.
The rockfish trophy season opens April 17 with the best chance of success going to trollers working the top 20-foot levels in and along the deeper channels. Fishing bloodworms on the bottom can occasionally score some big fish, especially in the very early mornings and late evenings at Sandy Point and Matapeake State Parks.
Hickory shad have shown up at Deer Creek north of Baltimore as well as in the Upper Choptank and the Tuckahoe. The warm sunshine has got the bluegills moving into their shallow-water spawning sites. Pickerel and largemouth bass are lurking in ambush near emerging weedbeds, laydowns and submerged brush piles.
It’s a fantastic spring on the Chesapeake. Everything is exploding everywhere.
Spring turkey season opens April 18.
© COPYRIGHT 2010 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.