The Best Fish on the Bay
And the best lure for catching them
The sun was high in the sky when I arrived at my fishing hole. Easing my skiff up to the shoreline on my electric motor, I put a little extra sunscreen on my face and arms while the water settled. The day looked to be a hot one.
A strong flood lapped high on the rock riprap along this likely looking stretch of white perch territory.
Flicking my favorite spinner bait shoreward, I focused on working a series of short erosion jetties in hopes of securing a good perch fry. Areas of shade were cast over a few of the jetties by the high trees crowding parts of the shoreline. If the whites were in the area, that’s where I suspected they would be concentrated.
Fish Are Biting ...
After a week or so of a virtually complete absence, rockfish have reappeared in the middle Bay. The Eastern Shore, with its clearer water, is superior, and fishing fresh menhaden in a chum slick is producing limits of stripers in the 30-inch range from Love Point all the way down to The Hill. Live-lining small perch for rockfish around the Bay Bridge has not yet proved productive but could start to work soon. I suspect, however, this fishery won‘t really take off until the bait spot arrive.
On my third cast, I had a thumping good hit, and my light rod bent hard over.
Tackling a Great Fish
I love summertime white perch fishing. It is probably the most relaxing, reliable and enjoyable angling to be had on the Chesapeake. And perch fillets, fried crispy, are fantastic.
In my excessive zeal for the sport, I’ve acquired a small but bulging tackle bag holding dozens upon dozens of perch-sized spinner baits, crank baits, spoons, shad darts and small jigs in a myriad of patterns and colors. But of all these lures, one outperforms all the rest.
The One that Works
The Worden’s Super Rooster Tail spinner bait — in one special pattern called a Clown Coach Dog — is the standard by which all other shallow-water perch baits can be measured. It is an unlikely looking candidate.
A fluorescent-yellow spinner body, featuring irregular orange-red blotches (sort of like the Dalmatian’s spots), dressed with a dark, natural hen-hackled skirt, it is armed with a free-swinging double hook. A single silver willow leaf-style blade spins freely on the lure’s arm. This bait has been a deadly perch catcher for me and many others, year after year, especially in the one-sixth-ounce size.
What it emulates in nature is unclear to me, but it triggers a white perch’s strike reflex. The rule of thumb with this bait is if you’re not catching any shallow-water perch while using it, none are there. Along the way it will also entice attacks from any rockfish you encounter, as well as the occasional yellow perch and chain pickerel.
I have found many second-best lures that will also catch white perch, and sometimes almost as well. They include the one-eighth-ounce Johnson Beetle Spin in white; a Tony Accetta Pet Spoon in gold with a yellow feather in size 12 and the same in silver with a white feather; the Tiny Trap by Bill Lewis in blue over chrome; the Strike King Bitsy Minnow in white and fire-tiger; and one-eighth-ounce Acme Kastmasters in gold or silver.
But for now, and until the fateful day when a lure comes along that can best it, the Rooster Tail Clown Coach Dog spinner bait will continue to reign.
Female Crabs to Lose Protection
Maryland Department of Natural Resources has fallen back into its old habit of doling out critical public natural resources to placate the relentless demands of commercial fishermen. After a commendable effort three years ago that rescued our blue crab population from near collapse by finally protecting female crabs, DNR is once again increasing commercial harvest limits on the very engine that provided that recovery: the females.
The sudden increase in overall crab numbers last year (the highest population in 20 years) brought a tremendous overall increase in harvest and income to the commercial watermen. Yet they have sought and are now getting the go-ahead to take more females. This decision has been made despite DNR’s recent finding that severe winter temperatures killed an estimated 30 percent of the Bay’s mature crabs.