Sporting Life: Profiles in Tidewater Angling

Ed Robinson is the kind of angler you don’t hear much about around the Bay. He doesn’t have a boat (and doesn’t want one), doesn’t take many celebratory selfies and he’s not a big fish kind of guy, he just likes to bend a rod. He does, however, fish a lot and has accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge and has caught and mostly released more than just a share of the Tidewater’s fish. 

Ed recently called to invite me on a trip to the Patuxent River, one of the first tributaries to really blossom with a white perch run this time of year. Since it had been steadily raining all that day and I assumed the Pax would soon be in flood stage, I demurred. 

I should have known better. It seems the days I avoid are the ones I shouldn’t.  

Ed slammed them that trip with over 50 perch up to 13 inches. He also scored hickory shad, a few yellow perch and even a smallmouth bass, keeping only a tasty few of the whites for a fish fry. 

And here lies the essence of the spring fishing season. It was Ed’s fifth trip this spring and he’s had little success in these outings. Most anglers would have become reluctant to venture out with that kind of return on effort. But Ed knew that a prime payoff was just getting closer. 

     The big spawning runs are unpredictable and if someone calls or you hear news of a hot bite, chances are it is already over. You’ve got to be there right when it happens. Chasing rumors or reports of good action are inevitably doomed to frustration. The honey runs just don’t last long.  

     Over the years Ed has also refined his gear and his tactics. Since he is strictly a shore angler he has acquired a useful list of productive locations, many of which are unknown to any but locals whose list of phone numbers Ed also maintains. 

Ed also knows these locations are sometimes productive only at specific times of the year, at certain phases of the tide and for particular species with a specific method and bait. 

     Armed with two or three light spin rods, six pound test line and lots of jigs, spin baits, hi-lo rigs, hooks, sinkers and live baits, this angler maximizes every aspect of his approach and it shows in his success. Disdaining store-bought live baits for those he’s harvested himself, whenever possible, Ed tries to capture his offerings as close to the target zone as possible. 

      One of the biggest reasons for most anglers’ general difficulties in finding good shoreside fishing is the amount of public access to the Chesapeake and its tributaries. The access that is available is generally limited, widely scattered across the state and not easily found. 

     The Department of Natural Resources maintains maps and lists of all designated public access sites on its website (it is illegal to go on state-owned lands that are not specifically designated public access). At last check there were over 400 designated areas. 

     It takes time and effort to weed out suitable locations so anglers should expect a little difficulty at first in finding them. It is prudent to document those locations and their specifics but that is all part of the game. The Tidewater consists of a vast cornucopia of fine angling, it’s worth any effort to ferret out the better locations—just ask Ed Robinson. 


The springtime runs are definitely on, though the yellow perch have peaked and are now tapering off, white perch have taken up the slack and are showing in impressive surges. Eastern Shore sites such as Greensboro, Red Bridges and the Tuckahoe are good bets as are the upper Magothy around Beechwood Park and the upper South River and  Patuxent. Weighted bobbers set up with shad darts with grass shrimp or lip hooked minnows will get good action as will just about any type of worm. Cast around the shallows and twitched back is the traditional tactic, while during low water conditions fishing the deeper holes with hi-lo rigs with light sinkers and baited the same will also get fish. Hickory shad are due to show up soon but there are no reports of any numbers as yet and pickerel remain plentiful with some good sizes available this year.