A Great Summer Morn
By Dennis Doyle
I threw the small spinnerbait flat and hard enough to reach just off of the edge of the rocks along the shoreline. It was 9 a.m. and the incoming tide was beginning to slack. Though conditions should have been excellent for white perch, I knew I could well be in big trouble soon. The impending period of dead current could worsen the bite, not that I was in the middle of anything even approaching a good one.
My earlier efforts had been soundly thwarted by those dratted cownose rays. A large school of them had settled in all along the shallow shoreline that I had chosen to start my quest and when the big rays move in, the white perch move out. Hooking two of these monsters on my light tackle within the first 20 yards or so had chased me right out of the area
A few small whities had been bumping my spinnerbait along this second location but so far, my live well was devoid of eating-sized perch and the sun was getting up in the sky. Then I hit paydirt—as soon as I made the first turn of my reel’s handle. The sound of a thick perch taking drag warmed up my spirits considerably.
It didn’t run too far, reassuring me it wasn’t another ray, and when it stopped it sulked long enough to convince me it wasn’t a rockfish either, also a welcomed feeling. A 16-inch striper can emulate a big perch uncannily well. Leaning on the fish a bit to encourage another run, I was rewarded by the renewed buzz of my small Shimano as the chunky devil made a spirited escape attempt, stretching my 6-pound mono till it hummed.
I played the fish tentatively not wishing to lose the first keeper, a major superstition of mine, and finally got him to the boat and into my net. An 11-incher doesn’t seem like much of a fish to anyone who is not a dedicated perch angler, but to a fellow that truly loves the species as I do, it is a handsome and welcomed specimen indeed.
Dropping it into my aerated bucket I closed it up against the sun’s brightening rays and readied another cast. My outlook on the day had improved substantially and I was ready when the next rascal slammed my yellow and orange rooster tail. This one gave me a battle to match the first, a great sign indeed.
Then disaster struck, the fish was off. Not only was it off it had taken my lure with it. Checking the end of my line for the dreaded curly cue that indicates a bad knot, I was at least relieved to note a clean break. There had been some kind of line flaw I had not noticed. Running my thumbnail down the last 10 feet of line, I found yet another nicked section, so I cut off about 20 feet and retied a new spinner, cursing myself for not having done this earlier.
With the recent heat wave, I had otherwise planned this perch outing carefully. Working the shorelines means having enough time to find fish before the water drops below half tide. Bigger white perch prefer a bit of water under their bellies and, I’ve found, they tend to mover further off of the shallower shorelines as the waterlines drop and can be difficult to find.
I was now in the sweet spot of my planned outing and had plenty of good territory to cover before the tide would drop too much for working the shallows. A few keepers later plus double-digit throwbacks kept me busy while the sun and the temps climbed. Just before noon I called it quits.
Four nice perch translated into eight crispy fillets, just enough for a nice lunch for two. Another great summer morn on the Chesapeake. Sometimes things work out just right.
The rockfish bite continues to be frustrating. Most of the charter boats and commercial hook and liners head way north past the Bridge and around Hodges Bar and live lining the same school of fish they’ve been targeting all season. When these fish are worn out, who knows what’s going to happen but there’s still time to get in on that bite. Just start early. Both live lining and chumming are producing limits. The Bridge is giving up an occasional quality striper in the high twenties (inches) on live spot and some big perch are holding on the bridge supports on the Eastern side. Crabbing has mostly gone nowhere but some stalwarts, though not many, are getting limits on razor clams. And there is one last important note, the rockfish season will be closed from July 16 through the end of the month, and catch and release is also prohibited.