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New Year's Day

Finally, out of the cabin and onto the water

We had been fishing about two hours for yellow perch without a bite. Still, we were happy as clams. Mike E., poised in the front of my skiff, was not even upset the third time he fouled his spoon-rigged minnow in a tree over the opposite bank. I stowed my rod and moved our skiff toward his problem.

Fish Are Biting ...

    The Susquehanna Flats is still producing great catches of yellow perch. The neds are also showing now on the Tuckahoe and are imminent at Wye Mills (if the beavers haven’t dammed up the stream again), Waysons Corner and Allens Fresh. In another week or so, they should be coming on strong at Greensboro, Millington and Red Bridges. Minnows, grass shrimp and worms will catch ’em this time of year.
    White perch are schooling in deep Bay pockets and preparing to procreate. Pickerel are very active and following the perch as they ascend the tributaries. Mepps spinners will entice these toothy critters to strike. Crappie are becoming active as they stage to spawn in fresh water.

In Season

Resident Canada geese: thru Mar. 5
Light goose conservation season special permit required: thru April 1

    As we reached the tree, I put the electric motor into reverse to avoid running Mike into the arms of its lower branches as he reached up for his rig. “Yep we’re perch fishing,” he said as he fumbled it loose, ducked the threatening foliage and stepped down from the forward deck.
    None of our problems mattered. Not the sunless, chill day, the approaching rain clouds nor the poor bite. We were finally on the water. For a Tidewater angler, the first yellow perch trip of the year is New Year’s Day no matter what the outcome.
    I have followed my own advice this winter and had freshly spooled six-pound mono on both my light spin outfits. Mike had picked up a new supply of small, gold spoons and an assortment of shad darts, and we had a pail of frisky bull minnows.
    We had even packed a small bait bucket net, remembering that it can get mighty uncomfortable fishing minnows out of a pail of cold water with bare hands on a 40-degree day.
    “Did you check to see how early we caught ’em last year?” Mike asked as we swung back to mid-stream and into a listless current.
    “No, but I think it was about now. It doesn’t matter. This tide is killing us.” Mike didn’t bother to reply. He was too busy trying to catch the first fish.
    We had planned to arrive on this section of the Upper Choptank just after high tide. Springtime yellow perch like to move up the tributaries on incoming water. Then as the tide recedes and the downstream current increases, they’ll pause and feed. We were on time. The tide had been full flood and should have begun falling by now.
    What we hadn’t planned on was a brisk upriver breeze. Apparently it was blowing enough to hold the water at full flood. Perch, and most tidal fish for that matter, don’t feed much during slack water.
    We persevered another hour. Then, still fishless, with the tide still high and the current still slack, we headed back for the ramp. Three hours was good enough to get a feel that, poor conditions or not, we might be just a bit early this year.
    On the way back, I paused at areas that had produced perch for us in past seasons. Mike flipped out a lip-hooked minnow, still hoping to find fish. On our last stop his rod tip jerked down, his line cutting through the water. A minute later, a glowing yellow perch was aboard. Just short of 10 inches, the healthy buck was fat to bursting with milt for the imminent spawn.
    Not wanting to keep just one fish this late in the day, Mike released the frisky devil. We then worked the area thoroughly, just in case, but without success.
    One fish was not much, but it was better than no fish at all.
    A skunk had been averted, though just barely, on the first trip of the new season. We officially declared it a good omen. Better days were surely ahead.