Chesapeake Anglers’ Alert

      Now is the time.

      One of the better tasting fish (tied with white perch for first place), yellow perch are making their spring spawning run as you read. This is the best time to go after them, indeed probably the only time of the year when they are concentrated enough to make them your target. 

       The neds (also called yellow neds and ring perch) are the first sporting fish of the year for Maryland anglers. Since we’ve all been housebound, the first chance to bend a pole with a fish of excellent table quality is not to be overlooked.

       Smaller males have already been steadily arriving at the headwater spawning sites to await the arrival of the roe-bearing females. Once on site, males remain in area headwaters until the females stop showing up. The females generally leave once they’ve spawned out to return downstream. 

      Yellow perch are unique in the tidewater in that they exude their roe in continuous accordion-like sacks designed by nature to tumble along with the current until they foul, suspended on brush, downed trees or elevated bottom structure, where the eggs will hatch.

      Approaching spawning, the fish school up and hold as deep as 15 feet, milling about as they await the final urge to ascend to the headwaters where they were born. A good electronic fish finder is invaluable during these beginning phases. So is a quiet approach.

      To target these fish in the deeper areas, choose medium- to light-action spin rods with matching reels and four- to eight-pound mono. Small sinkers on a hi-lo rig or jigs bearing lip-hooked minnows are the primary choice of anglers this time of year, when live bait is the most reliable producer. A piece of worm or a grass shrimp on the second hook or jig can provide a good alternative when the fish become persnickety.

       Minimum size is nine inches; the daily possession limit is 10 fish.

       Serious runs to the spawning grounds await warmer weather. At that point, the fish ascend to the shallow headwaters. There, they are best quested with very light rods, light line and baits suspended 18 inches or so under a weighted casting bobber.

      Simple unbaited shad darts, small jigs, spinner baits or small crank baits become effective when the fish are concentrated densely enough to cause them to become competitive (rather than careful). Color is important but unpredictable.

      Anglers in shallow water may cast their baits out, then settle in and wait for a bite. Alternatively, they may work the cast back in twitches and pauses, directing subsequent casts in shifting patterns to cover all the area in range.

      Dawn and dusk are prime times. Low and falling tides favor the deeper holes and channels. Incoming and higher tides favor shallower areas with submerged trees, brush, rocks or other spawning favoring structure.


Fish Finder
Heavy rains have made most tributaries unfishable, but only temporarily. As levels drop and waters clear, the fishing should go gangbusters.
With the rise in temperatures and the rain runoff providing certain scent direction for the perch to locate their natal waters, all systems are go for a serious increase in spawning activity. The yellows are first in line, the white perch will be right behind them and probably intermingled from time to time.
Pickerel will be mixed in as they traditionally follow the spawning runs high into the tributaries and are themselves beginning to spawn. Depending on the rivers, crappie and catfish will be showing up as well.