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Volume XVII, Issue 9 - February 26 - March 4, 2009
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Springtime Perchin’

Late winter is not too early

The first hit came a long three hours into our first yellow perch trip of the year. My rod surged down at the strike, and the small spinning reel hummed as line spooled out downstream. I guessed that either I had hooked a state record yellow — or it was something else.

The iridescent green flash that showed as the fish broached downriver confirmed my suspicions: It was a pickerel, and a nice one. Up to that time my fishing partner, Mike, and I had been facing an approaching sundown along with a total skunk. So the grass pike was good news indeed, even though it wasn’t a perch.

We had started that afternoon with high expectations. Last year we had not fished for yellow perch until well into March, when we found the white perch were already running in most rivers. We never did encounter any numbers of the earlier running yellows, so we resolved to fish sooner this year.

Remarkably, we had kept our promise.

Our Luck Turns

But our luck earlier that afternoon was non-existent. We had begun to suspect we had pushed the calendar up a little more than the past month’s low temperatures would allow for good fishing — until that lovely pickerel hit.

Then minutes later, the first yellow perch came up splashing and spitting mad. But it was a small buck, always the first of the spawners to show up high in the rivers. Well undersized, it went back in the drink to continue its spring frolic.

We continued to cast small gold spoons trailing a lip-hooked bull minnow at downed trees and submerged bushes lining the river bank. The next strike wasn’t long in coming. Mike got this one, and it was the pickerel twin of my 21-incher but heavier and full of roe. They’re spawning this time of year as well.

As we continued to fish, a couple more undersized neds hit our baits, along with a hungry pickerel at just about every downed tree we cast to. Then Mike had an extra hard strike and a rowdy largemouth bass came halfway out, shaking its head, heaving water about and behaving just the way they do on the magazine covers. Minutes later I got one as well, though not nearly the size of my partner’s three-pounder.

By the time we were shivering with the setting sun, the bite had tapered off and we were ready to head home. But we were excited at the prospects of the new season and pleased with the results of the day. It was a great pickerel adventure, the bass had been a pleasant surprise and it looked like the yellows had just started their spring run.

Perhaps we would yet be able to take advantage of this year’s increased limit of 10 yellow perch. This is one critter I am loathe to throw back. Yellow perch are one of the most delicious fish that swim the tidewaters. Deep-fried with a light breading and eaten with dipping sauces, it ranks up with the very best.

They are not quite as sweet as white perch, but their flavor is more complex and just as savory. Plus fishing for them is the sure cure for the blahs that inevitably come along with a foul winter’s endless string of low temperatures.

Fish Are Biting

Early anglers are getting some yellow perch at Allen’s Fresh, Blackwater, Wye Mills and Tuckahoe. It is early in the run as yet, but not too early to get in on it. Minnows and grass shrimp on shad darts and spoons work best. Pickerel are gathering high in the rivers as well. They too are on their spawning runs and feeding on their smaller yellow perch on the way. Any lure in yellow or gold will draw an attack from these toothy rascals. Spring trout are coming on strong at Tuckahoe along with the perch. Red wigglers (trout worms), wax worms, butter worms and meal worms are all working at one time for these delicious devils.

Poacher Alert

Recent news stories detailing enormous commercial poaching of stripers over the past four years, widespread fraudulent reporting of last year’s crab harvest and repeated instances of illegal oystering are casting an odorous pall over our commercial fisheries. The three watermen most recently arrested poaching oysters reportedly had over 37 violations on their collective records.

With all of the environmental and over-harvesting stresses on our Bay resources it might be a good idea for Maryland to put some serious penalties on this behavior — permanently revoking the commercial licenses of flagrant and repeat offenders.

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