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Hooray for an Early Spring!

The Ides of March brings the year’s best fishing

Noah and Steven Busch of Cape St Claire take advantage of the mild, spring-like wear to wet their lines in the Magothy.

It was just the slightest bit of resistance.
    I was working my minnow-tipped Tony spoon deep across a wide section of the Upper Choptank when that hint of hesitation made me lift my rod tip. With the feeling of yet more resistance, I set the hook and was rewarded by a heavy surge at the end of the line on my ultra-light spinning rod.


    Yellow perch runs are winding down, though they will continue at an ever-slower rate at least through the rest of March. The whites have had a jump start with the warm weather, and good catches are now being made in all the traditional places, in some cases along with yellow perch. Red Bridges, the Tuckahoe, Hillsboro, Millington, all along the Choptank and the Wye are good bets. On the Western side the Patuxent has caught fire along with Black Walnut, the Magothy and the upper stretches of the Severn.
    Pickerel remain hot in both tidal and non-tidal waters.
    With water temperatures approaching 50 degrees, the Susquehanna Flats is poised to take off for catch-and-release rockfish. At Sandy Point and Matapeake, the bait-bite on catch-and-release stripers (using circle hooks only) is off to a good start as well.
    The fishing season appears to be stuck solidly on full throttle. Let’s just hope spring stays sprung this year and we don’t get a late-season snowstorm. The likelihood of that event gets more remote with the passing of each day.

    Eventually working it to the side of the boat, I was happy to see the stubborn devil staying deep, the sure sign of a good fish. Then a flash of gold stabbed up through the murky water. That color meant a yellow perch. My friend Mike E. grabbed the net, and as I finally eased the fish to the surface, he scooped the big fellow into the boat. It was my first keeper of the season and a tremendous feeling.
    Within a minute, Mike’s rod was bent hard over. As soon as I got my rig back in the water, another yellow ned smashed my bait. We had been just missing the big runs of these fish on trip after trip. Now the waiting was over. Though March, fishing can be just as trying as it is rewarding. At last, we were reaping the rewards.

Welcome the Ides of March

    The Ides of March, March 15, is noted for two reasons. The first is the notoriety the day, achieved when a Roman soothsayer spoke the words Beware the Ides of March and foretold to Julius Caesar his assassination on that day back in 44 BC.
    The Ides on the Tidewater, however, is known for another reason. It marks the apogee of our spring perch fishing, the fullness of the yellow perch run melding into the first surge of white perch action. It is a good time to be alive on the Chesapeake.
    And it will only get better. The Susquehanna Flats Catch-and-Release Season opened March 1. As water temperatures rapidly achieve the magic 50-degree mark, our big stripers will readily take artificial lures. A 30-pounder on a surface lure can be a fish of a lifetime.
    A less well-known catch-and-release fishery for stripers has been growing in popularity. Bloodworms and cut bait on circle hooks on bottom rigs at Sandy Point State Park on the Western Shore and at Matapeake State Park on the Eastern Shore. The bite is hottest during nighttime hours, but there can be action in daylight.
    We are also just weeks away from the Trophy Rockfish Season, scheduled to open April 21. That season has opened the last few years on April 15, but Department of Natural Resources has pushed it back a week because too many roe-bearing fish were being caught. The season’s timing is intended to target post-spawn stripers only, but cold-water releases of snow-pack melt from the Conowingo Dam over the last few years consistently delayed the spawn into the catch-and-kill season.
    This year, of course, we experienced an unusually warm winter and early spring, and there is virtually no snow pack up into Pennsylvania. This could translate into an extra-early spawn. We can only wait and see how the rockfish react to the turn of events.
    On the good news side of the equation, I would anticipate that there will be very few roe-laden fish caught. But on the downside, the number of really large migratory stripers boated may drop.
    Then there is the freshwater side of the equation. Largemouth bass on the spawning beds translate into big aggressive fish smashing anything that comes near them. The fireworks on the upper reaches of our tributaries and in the shallows of the impoundments can be memorable for the sweet-water angler.
    The same goes for big bull bluegills, and there is nothing I love more than tangling with these banty roosters with a small popping bug and a light fly rod. That is definitely the antidote that clears the last of winter’s cobwebs out of my foggy head.
    Hurray for an early spring. The mid-point of March sure goes better for us anglers on the Tidewater than it did for Julius Caesar.