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Fish Are Biting

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Volume 16, Issue 4 - January 24 - January 30, 2008

Get Ready, Get Set …

for the 2008 Angling Season

The darkness before the dawn has passed. Our winter solstice was over a month ago. The past few days have been bitter cold, but the days are getting longer and the sun shines earlier. It may be still some time before our weather is comfortable, but temperate days are getting closer — not further away.

Angling action throughout the Tidewater is poised to take off. For trolling stalwarts with heated cabins, catch-and-release for stripers along the deep-water Bay channels never really ceased until they were iced in by the recent cold snap. It will start back up as soon as the ice clears.

Not too many years ago, when the striper fly-fishing mania had me firmly by the throat, just to see if I could, I fished the Kent Narrows area at night and caught rockfish every month of the year.

January and February were challenging comfort-wise but definitely do-able with a deep sinking line, a dark fly on a slow retrieve and the patience to wait out the bite. But my logbook also notes 40-degree nights assisting me in my quest.

The Early Bird

Right now, in spite of our current temperatures, it is none too early to prepare your tackle, make a plan for the season and even make a few early runs to be sure you’re in on the action as soon as it starts.

Remember that the first anglers in on the bite don’t talk about it; they just enjoy it. If you wait for the fishing reports to come in, you’re already two weeks behind.

I intend to start this season in a little more than a week, assuming I can find ice-free water. February can be the best month for the chain pickerel bite. On a bright, still afternoon with a #3 Mepps spinner, a small Rattle Trap or a shad dart with a trailing minnow, you can count on some lightning-quick strikes from this handsome predator.

In mid-month, I’ll be out trying for some early yellow perch. Though I don’t plan to keep any roe-laden fish I catch, I definitely intend on tangling with a few. There is nothing like a sunny afternoon’s perch catching to dispel the memory of the harsher days of this cruel month.

Last year, a small spoon tipped with a lip-hooked minnow and a shad dart dropper with a grass shrimp was the key for a lovely bunch of neds to 14 inches. I’m counting on a repeat of that success this year.

I’m watching closely for the sunny day forecasts to be sure I don’t miss out on either fishery. Between the pickerel and the yellow perch, February could be a busy month.

The first of March should mark warmer weather and the beginning of the Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release season. This is the light-tackle dream season. where the opportunities to tangle with rockfish beasts in shallow water are never better.

Dust off your casting and spinning gear, spool up some fresh line, sharpen the hooks on your larger top-water plugs, long streamer flies and soft jigs and be sure your drag is in top shape. The key to action for this event is water temperature. When the gauge begins to register over 50 degrees, clear your schedule, because giant stripers will be on the bite.

March also brings the hickory shad up into the Tidewater on their spring spawning run A catch-and-release fishery, this traditional Maryland activity gives ultra-light and fly-fishing anglers lots of springtime action. A spirited, fast-moving fish, the hickory is prone to aerial displays and lots of water thrashing. Fifty-fish days are not uncommon.

All of these fisheries will be peaking in April, at which time the white perch run will also be starting up. The weather may be frigid right now, but good angling is not too far away.

A temperate spell is all that is necessary to get out for some early spring action. So be ready, and make sure your gear is ready as well. The best time to go fishing is whenever you can.

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