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Volume xviii, Issue 11 ~ March 18 - March 24, 2010

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Good Luck and Bad

Two of us couldn’t help but catch. Then there was me.

We launched our skiff in the early afternoon, working downstream along the upper reaches of the Choptank River. Casting to likely areas of downed trees and bits of irregular shoreline, we moved briskly. The three of us were seeking the year’s first yellow perch, throwing lip-hooked minnows on shad darts and small spoons.

The day was beautiful, and the sun was shining with a warmth absent from our lives for far too long. Ours were not the highest of expectations, however. Despite the comfort of the newly temperate weather, we knew that the initial outings for springtime perch can be difficult.

This sortie would prove surprisingly successful, but not for everyone.

The first hookup came early. My cohorts, Christian Shou and Mike Ebersberger, had just untangled a god-awful snarl of line that had blossomed out of Christian’s light spin reel on his last cast. As they cleared it and Christian took up his slack line, it turned out a good fish was pulling on the other end.

The fish came along grudgingly and stayed deep until Christian fought it to the surface. The muscular behavior suggested a pickerel, not what we were seeking, so we were pleased to see a jumbo yellow perch break water alongside the boat.

Flashing its shining gold, green and bright orange spawning colors, the hefty devil charged back toward the bottom while Mike and I groped about for the net. It turned out we didn’t have one.

Nonplused, Christian derricked the big fish over the side and onto the deck while Mike and I held our breath.

Congratulating our successful friend for his unusual tactics and great luck, we doubled our efforts. A frustrating number of missed takes followed, until Mike finally solved the bite.

On detecting the slightest of resistance on his line, he would slack off, letting the perch mouth the bait for a long five count. He then gently resumed tension and set the hook only if he felt the fish. If he didn’t, he softly released the bait again to give the perch another chance. It worked … for him.

He picked up a nice fish every few minutes as Christian and I struggled. Finally, mastering Mike’s finesse, Christian got back into the fish as well.

I continued to have the devil of a time getting a bite, let alone catching.

My compatriots boated a fine number of fish the rest of the afternoon. Many of their perch were 11- to 14-inch beauties and fat till bursting. They only commented on my lack of performance every few moments.

As the sun set on the long day, we pulled the boat and headed home. A box full of superb yellow perch nestled in ice behind us. My torture was over.

The next day, we planned to return to the Choptank for another go.

Fish Are Biting

The yellow perch run is off to a roaring start. Recent warm rains and the milder weather have jump-started their spawn. Populations of the delicious and beautiful fish have rebounded since new commercial netting restrictions were put in place just last year. Recreational anglers are reporting good success along the Upper Choptank, at Tuckahoe and Hillsboro, Wayson’s Corner and Allen’s Fresh. Wye Mills should be seeing some action soon, as should the other traditional yellow perch hotspots. Check out the DNR website at the Hotspot Quick Link for the latest in real-time tips.

In Season

The snow goose conservation season is still open and will continue to please dedicated waterfowlers into April.

Conservation Notes

Proposed budget cuts to the Maryland Department of Natural Resource are going to devastate fisheries efforts as well as other conservation programs if executed as planned. Monies collected from fishing and hunting license sales and sportsmen-generated funds are being diverted to cover other budget shortfalls. And last year’s solemn promises for restoration of supposedly temporary DNR funding reductions are being forgotten. Let your elected representative know that you think this is a bad idea: 800-492-7122.

In an unexpected and shameful turnabout, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously to kill Senate Bill 362. It would have prevented convicted poachers whose hunting licenses are suspended from continuing to legally hunt on private property. Protest to Committee Chairwoman Joan Carter Conway; Vice Chairman Roy Dyson; and members Richard Colburn, David Harrington, Andrew Harris, Michael Lenett, Paul Pinsky, Edward Reilly and James Rosapepe at 800-492-7122.

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