So far the winter of 2017 has been a mild one. Let’s hope it stays that way. We’re already catching lots of big stripers along with limits of yellow perch in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. While you won’t hear much on the Internet from me about trophy winter striper fishing, (Don’t worry, it’ll come out, just wait!) I’m happy to share information about how to catch the big ones at my upcoming seminars. In addition to the local and regional fishing shows, you can catch up with me at the Baltimore Boat Show‘s Chesapeake Bay Magazine Seminar Series and at Bass Pro Shops Crappie Madness and Spring Fishing Classic.
This year, in addition to a few talks designed to introduce anglers to light tackle fishing, I’ve added a brand new, more advanced presentation called “Amplitudes & Frequencies – New Technologies & Innovative Techniques for Trophy Light Tackle Stripers.” It’s all about choosing the right lures, line, rods, reels, and mastering specific techniques so you can think down the line and catch those finicky big fish that are so hard to come by. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science and anyone can do it. Here’s how John Page Williams quotes the concept in a recent issue of Anglers Journal magazine,
Over time, you start to recognize that, whenever your lure contacts something different like a stump, a log, or even a shell, it changes the frequency that’s transmitted up the line and through your rod. It eventually becomes something of a sixth sense because you’re so tuned in to the expected amplitudes and frequencies of the lure as it contacts the bottom that even the slightest change is registered. In that regard, a strike is very similar to an off note in a song, an out-of tune banjo string, or an epileptic spike in an EEG recording, because it’s a vibration that doesn’t fit the expected sequence. – Anglers Journal, Fall 2016
I’m also very exited about my presentation on Saturday, February 4th at the Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills Mall. This is the only talk I do all year about Maryland panfish – fishing for crappie, yellow perch, and white perch in the tidal tributaries to the Chesapeake. I’ll even throw in some information about hickory shad since we’re expecting another great run this spring in the Potomac River and on the Eastern Shore. Since I both spin and flycast for shad, I’m really looking forward to this year’s run. There will be give-aways, deep discounts, and even activities for the kids. Last year’s panfish seminar set a record for attendance at this Bass Pro Shops and I’m hoping we can break that record this year!
Coming up in March, I’ll be pulling out my old Martin D-18 guitar for the Northern Virginia CCA’s annual Banquet and Auction. It’s Saturday, March 18. I’ll be picking and grinning along to mostly original songs while throwing in a few fishing tales along the way. This has historically been one of the most enjoyable CCA events in the region, so I hope you’ll mark your calendars and join the fun!
As always, you can keep up with my schedule here, or on my Amazon Author’s Page, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook since that’s where I’m sharing the most information and posting my fishing reports these days. Good luck fishing in 2017. I hope to see you at the shows or on the water!
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!
Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s Party!” That’s how the late Robin Williams described it. March may have roared in like a lion, but she’s now lying like a lamb with weeks of warmer weather in the forecast. While the calendar might still say winter, spring, glorious spring has made her eloquent arrival to the snow-weary Mid-Atlantic. The peepers are peeping, the red buds are budding, and yesterday, through the morning fog, I caught a glimpse of an osprey soaring high above Kent Island. There are a lot of reasons why fishermen look forward to the arrival of spring. A big one is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time on March 13 when clocks spring forward to give us one more treasured after-work fishing hour. Another reason is that there are lots of fish around that are relatively easy to catch. Fishing and spring go together like, well like fish and fries.
Have you noticed how all the fast food restaurants put their fish sandwiches on sale this time of year? I believe humans are hard-wired to crave fish in the spring. It’s been right there in our DNA since the first hunter-gatherers wandered away from their warm winter hearths to find springtime streams teeming with spawning fish. For many fishermen, the urge is so strong it’s nearly impossible to stay away from the water in March and April. This is the time of year when fish are easiest to catch, and the time when we most want to eat them.
I’m not one to turn down the bounty of fresh fish. While I release many of the fish I catch, I can’t resist bringing home an occasional stringer for the table. I’m a big fan of eating locally produced fruits, meats, and vegetables. We get our honey from local hives, our beef from a nearby herd, and many of our vegetables from our garden. Since we live on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, it just comes naturally to eat fish from the waters around us. Unfortunately, those waters are very polluted, so there are strict consumption advisories about fish caught in this area. In fact, officials in Washington DC recently advised no consumption of rockfish caught in the District. I will no longer serve my family striped bass over 30 inches long from anywhere in the Bay because of the build up of toxins. It’s a personal decision, but one that I’m serious about. My children and grandchildren aren’t old enough to make choices for themselves about what is healthy. They’re too young for me to take a chance on poisoning them. Read More!
Why do you fish?
Recently, I put that question to some of the best fishermen I know, anglers with the right stuff who are continually successful. Their responses might surprise you. It isn’t a love of nature, the quest for solitude, or the thrill of the fight that drives them. Instead, they look at me with a what-kind-of-crazy-question-is-that glare and answer simply, BECAUSE I HAVE TO.
I get it. This winter has been hard on Chesapeake Bay anglers. Because of bad weather, opportunities to fish have been limited. It’s frustrating to the point of resentment. Take a look at any online discussion forum in the winter and you’ll see that some guys (and gals) take their frustrations out on their fellow anglers. Here’s what I think this frustration might look like in the format of a popular television commercial:
When you can’t fish, you get angry. When you get angry, you growl at people and animals. When you growl at animals, they growl back and you get chased by a bear. When you get chased by a bear, it shreds your pants and you hide naked in your neighbor’s garage. When you hide naked in your neighbor’s garage, her husband comes home and shoots holes in your boat. Don’t get holes shot in your boat. Go fishing. Read More!
Actually, Bourdain never said that. Well, he did, but it was about cooking, not fishing. Some of the best fishermen I know like to cook. I guess that’s because there are a lot of similarities. I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend time with some very talented up-and-coming striper fishermen. What impresses me most is their willingness to open their minds and learn. As a result, they’re enjoying some of the best fishing experiences of their lives. That willingness to learn is a trait I’m including in a book I’m working on called, The Right Stuff.
According to the website Cookingschools.com, there are ten top qualities of a great culinary professional. As I read through them, I found it interesting how each of those qualities apply just as easily to great fishing. I hope they won’t mind if I parody their list a little by substituting fishing terms. Take a look to see if you have the recipe for a quality fishing experience. The few words I substituted are in italics.
Creativity: A great angler must be very creative and always willing to try something new. Creativity inspires a lure’s presentation, which is very important to the overall fishing experience.
Passion: A great angler has a tremendous passion for fish and fishing. They enjoy the process of selecting gear, preparing for trips, and creating lures. Read More!
In the fifty years or so I’ve had to observe the behavior of fishermen, I’ve noticed a few trends. While collecting thoughts for my next book, I’m forming a list of traits that I think good fishermen have in common. In the book, I’ll concentrate primarily on gear and tackle but I also want to spend some time examining habits and attitudes that successful anglers share. You know, the right stuff. One penchant stands out above all the rest – good fishermen like to release fish. Not only do they like to let them go, but they look for ways to insure they survive once they swim away. Accomplished anglers find satisfaction in returning a fish to the water and they enjoy the thought that other fishermen will also have the opportunity to experience the thrill of a trophy catch.
I love to eat fish. I just returned from a week-long fishing trip to the Abacos Islands where my sons and I ate the fish we caught every day. I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to eat their catch, but every angler has to release fish from time to time. Better anglers can’t possibly eat all the fish they catch, nor do they want to. I’ve written about this in the past, so instead of going into a step-by-step breakdown of best-practices, I thought I’d try to make it a little more fun by turning it into a quiz. Think you have a good handle on how to take care of the fish you plan to release? Check it out: Read More!