If fishing can be a feast or famine activity, anglers in the Chesapeake Bay region have been eating high on the hog lately. As is typical with April, all good things happen at once. In the past two weeks, I’ve caught shad, white perch, yellow perch, bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and stripers. Throw in the walleye and snakeheads my friends are catching, and we’re smack in the middle of a virtual smorgasbord of good fishing. The weather has been spotty, but that hasn’t kept too many anglers off the water. Here’s my report:
Yellow Perch: It’s all but over now, but we enjoyed one of the best March ring-perch runs in recent memory. Neds ran big this year and they were plentiful. They were also a little earlier than usual. That made it nice for those of us who were just about going crazy with cabin fever. Most of my fishing was in the Eastern Shore creeks and rivers. I fished Tuckahoe Creek and the Choptank River from Denton up to Red Bridges park. Some days it was one fish after another and on other days it was slow. Yellow perch can be finicky at times. When they are spawning they typically move up the streams in waves. If you aren’t catching, stick around because chances are another wave will move through and you’ll start getting bites again. See my earlier post for more information about the yellow perch run.
White Perch: I thought the white perch spawn might be over until I got a call from my friend Phil Kerchner last week. He was still lighting up the black backs in the creeks near his place at Wye Mills. I called him last Sunday and we met on the banks of Tuckahoe Creek. It was one pre-spawn white perch after another for a little while. Our best lures were Bust ‘Em Baits stingers and small twister tails rigged in tandem on one-sixteenth-ounce jig heads. As the tide changed, the bite slowed down, but it picked back up before sunset and we took home a very nice stringer. White perch are my favorite fish to eat. I even prefer them over crappie and I think they’re way better than yellow perch. All things in moderation of course, but don’t feel bad about keeping what you want to eat because white perch aren’t threatened and they reproduce prolifically. They will generally hang around the spawning grounds for a little while after they spawn, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep catching them in the creeks for a couple of more weeks. After that, they’ll spread out along the shorelines where they can be targeted all summer long.
Shad: The shad run is in full swing. I’ve fished the Potomac around Fletcher’s Cove and Chain Bridge twice now and found shad in good numbers both times. Joe Yack is reporting shad in the Susquehanna now as well. The good news is that hickory shad are running big this year. I’ve seen at least two reports of hicks approaching five pounds. Some anglers mistakenly identify bigger hickory shad as white (American) shad because, when they are fully mature, they lose the spots on their shoulders. The key to identifying shad is to look at the lower jaw. If the lower jaw projects beyond the upper one with the mouth closed, it’s a hickory. I typically cast one-quarter or one-eighth ounce shad darts. It pays to experiment when you’re shad fishing because the same colors and techniques that work one day might not work the next. Last week, my fishing buddy Jay Yesker out-fished me by snap-jigging two quarter-ounce darts on eight-pound-test monofilament. (That’s Jay’s boys in the picture.) The fish were taking on the fall. Since my usual spinning rig is eight-pound-test braid with a similar size fluorocarbon leader, I couldn’t duplicate what he was doing because the force of the snap using the stretchless braid would break my leader. You can bet I was rigged with mono the next time I went out, but wouldn’t you know it, on that day the fish wanted a steady fast retrieve! You just don’t know until you go. The shad run should last for several more weeks, so there’s still plenty of time to get in on the action.
Crappie: I’ve only targeted crappie a couple of times this spring, but they are there to be caught. My buddy Carl Ward is one of the better crappie fishermen in the region. He’s been wearing them out in the ponds and creeks on the Eastern Shore. So is Jay Yesker pictured here. Crappie typically spawn once the water temperature gets into the 60s, but they stage in their spawning areas all through the spring. They build nests in gravel or sand near areas of heavy cover like treefalls or bushes. I like to fish for them with a float and fly, but they can also be caught with other panfishing techniques including the old tried-and-true method of drowning minnows. Check out this video for my TOP SECRET float and fly method. I expect to catch more crappie over the next couple of weeks if I can find time to target them.
Catfish: I haven’t targeted catfish, but I’ve caught a few. There are so many blue catfish in the Potomac River now that you can’t help but catch them. I’ve seen some very nice cats caught accidentally on shad darts this year. Anglers who are targeting them are doing very well. Jon Griffiths took his young son night fishing last week and caught blue cats up to sixty pounds near Fletcher’s Cove. The CCA Central Region Chapter recently held a blue catfish tournament. Steve Fogle won the boat division with a total weight of 51.18 pounds.
Snakeheads: Is Eastern Shore snakehead fishing a thing? Indeed it is. Up until a few years ago most of the snakehead fishing took place in tidal tributaries of the Potomac like Mattawoman Creek. Now, the fish are prolific in Eastern Shore rivers as well. While snakehead experts like Joe Bruce target them with artificial lures, the local Shore fishermen are catching them on minnows under floats. Snakeheads are showing up in good numbers in almost all the lower Eastern Shore rivers and, as Carl Ward reports, especially in the Upper Nanticoke and Transquaking. Current thinking is that they spawn in June and July but many fishermen believe they spawn earlier than that, maybe even as early as April. There’s no doubt that more are being caught this spring on the Eastern Shore than ever before.
Rockfish: Things are looking up. Nice stripers are being caught from shore in the rivers on both sides of the Bay now. The warm water discharges are still holding fish with the power plants in the Patapsco turning out better numbers than areas farther south. While fish can be caught near Baltimore Harbor by casting, a few guys are trolling umbrella rigs behind kayaks and picking off a fish here and there. There has been some very nice rockfish caught in the headwaters of the Potomac this week, and the Susquehanna River above the I-95 bridge is producing as well. The Susquehanna Flats area has been good, but not great as the fishing there is significantly influenced by weather conditions and water clarity. Until recently, I’ve kept my boat at Taylor’s Island Campground, but I’m now fishing back closer to home and launching off Kent Island. Our best day jigging on Thunder Road so far this year has been nine fish over forty-inches, but on most trips we’ve just caught one or two big fish. Not to be left out, planer board trollers are bringing in some trophy stripers this week with the most productive areas being the south side of Kent Island and the channel edges below the mouth of the Choptank.
So that’s my report. Catching is good no matter where you live, what you like to target, or how you like to fish. I hope you can get out and get in on this April smorgasbord of good fishing. Now is the time to eat at it up!
Related posts:- Tuckahoe Rain – Video Report
- Spring Patterns for Light Tackle
- Spring Thunder
- The Right Stuff – The Haunting
- Winter 2017 Speaking Schedule