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. Read More!
April showers bring cherry blossoms and tourists to the Mid-Atlantic. Since cherry trees were first planted around the Tidal Basin in 1912, people from all over the world travel to Washington D.C. to welcome the arrival of spring. This is also the time when fishermen look forward to other visitors making their way up the Potomac. In late March, the hickory shad run begins bringing some of the most exciting fishing of the year.
Hickory and white shad are anadromous species that spend the vast majority of their lives at sea, but enter the Chesapeake region in the spring. They swim through the Bay and up the rivers looking for the fast water they need in order to spawn. Shad hold an important place in American history. The Native Americans fished for them extensively and used them to fertilize their crops. George Washington was known as a prolific shad angler and caught thousands near his home on at Mount Vernon. It was the spring shad run in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River that saved Washington’s army from starvation at Valley Forge. You can read about it in the Shad Foundation’s Shad Journal. Read More!
Revisiting my series on the common traits of good fishermen, I keep coming back to attitude and innovation. I recently crossed paths with Chesapeake Bay light tackle guide Dennis Fleming and the subject of “the right stuff” came up. Dennis noted that, regardless of experience level, some fishermen come on his boat with a natural talent for fishing. When I think of talent, I consider my experience with artists and musicians. There is no doubt that creativity comes more naturally to some people than to others. So, how important is natural talent and creativity to successful fishing? Obviously, the most important factor to success is time on the water. In fishing, there’s simply no substitute for experience. Still, there must be something to the observation that some anglers get it, and some never will. An important factor is that successful anglers are open to new ideas.
It’s been said that 10-percent of the fishermen catch 90-percent of the fish, and that good fishermen think like a fish. Hmm, “think like a fish?” Is that something that can be learned or taught? Embracing creativity and experimenting with innovative techniques is lot of what this website and my book, Chesapeake Light Tackle, An Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay is about. I try to pass along good ideas and tactics I’ve learned once I’ve had a chance to try them out. It all starts with an open mind. Read More!
“I only write when I’m inspired,” wrote William Faulkner. I’d find that statement comforting if he hadn’t followed it with, “and I’m inspired every morning at 9:00 AM.” Lately, my every-morning-at-9:00 AM-ritual hasn’t included much writing. Oh, I’ve had plenty to write about, it’s just that I’ve over-committed myself (again) so that every spare waking minute seems filled with obligation. When I have a spare hour, I usually go fishing. Since I bet you’d much rather hear about the fishing than the excuses, I’ll dive right in.
There’s nothing more inspiring than a big fish. That’s Uncle Phill Anderson in the cover shot holding up a nice light-tackle fish he jigged up on a recent foggy morning in the mid-Bay. (Shhh, don’t tell the meat-fleet we’re picking off fish of this class with light tackle. It might catch on!) When I left off a month ago, I was smack in the middle of a series about strike triggers. I’m discussing why striped bass attack a lure, and how they are attracted to their prey. As previously mentioned, almost any lure or technique will work on hunger-feeding fish. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or resources to always go fishing at the places where hungry fish are most abundant. We have to fish in the limited time we have available, and usually very close to home. While we may occasionally encounter groups of ravenous fish, most of the stripers in our neighborhoods are pretty hard to catch. In order to be consistently successful, we have to provoke strikes from fish that may not be inclined to bite by appealing to their five senses. I’ve written about sight, sound, and feel. This entry completes the strike triggers series with a look at smell and taste. Read More!
If you’ve ever traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, chances are good that you visited the Peabody Hotel lobby to see the world-famous mallards march down the red carpet. It’s a time-honored tradition that dates back to the 1930s when a couple of hunters from Arkansas decided it would be funny to put some live ducks in the hotel’s indoor fountain. The famous Peabody Marching Mallards have appeared on The Tonight Show, Sesame Street, The Oprah Winfrey Show, in People magazine and even graced the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. If you read the Peabody’s website, you’ll find that those lucky ducks are raised by a local farmer who loans them to the hotel. What you won’t read is that the farmer who provides the Peabody ducks is also an excellent fisherman. I know that for a fact because I fished with him all week. Read More!
Besides gannet storms, April showers bring cherry blossoms and tourists to the Mid-Atlantic. Since cherry trees were first planted around the Tidal Basin in 1912, people from all over the world travel to Washington DC to welcome the arrival of spring. This is also the time when fishermen look forward to other visitors making their way up the Potomac. In April, the hickory shad run begins bringing some of the most exciting fishing of the year. Hickory and white shad are anadromous species that spend the vast majority of their lives at sea, but enter the Chesapeake region in the spring. They swim through the Bay and up the rivers looking for the fast water they need in order to spawn. Shad hold an important place in American history. The Native Americans fished for them extensively and used them to fertilize their crops. George Washington was known as a prolific shad angler and caught thousands near his home on at Mount Vernon. It was the spring shad run in Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River that saved Washington’s army from starvation at Valley Forge.