upper bay

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On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.  –
from Shall we Gather at the River, Robert Lowery, 1864

With Stevensville church bells ringing in the distance, we pulled into the parking lot at the Kent Narrows boat ramp about 11:00 AM.  I always feel a little bad about fishing on Sunday mornings.  My father was a Church of Christ minister who preached for a small Appalachian congregation in the Clinch mountain highlands near Sneedville, Tennessee.  Needless to say, when I was a kid we went to church every time the doors opened.  Dad was also one of the best bass fishermen in the Southeast.  When the bass pros came to fish the big tournaments, he was the first person they contacted.  People said he was a fisher of fish and a fisher of men.  It wasn’t unusual to see him fishing in a suit and tie before or after church services, but we never missed church.

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To fizz or not to fizz, that is the question a lot of yellow perch fishermen have been asking lately. As you can see by this sonar shot, yellow perch can hold in a wide range of depths this time of year in the Chesapeake Bay. At issue is that a few of the fish we catch from the deepest water come up with distended swim bladders. Since we inevitably land a few that are under the legal size limit, they have to be released.  Because of all the air in their bodies, they can’t always swim back down.  This leaves them floating on top of the water where they are vulnerable to birds and other predators. The practice of puncturing a fishes swim bladder with a hypodermic needle or other sharp object to relieve pressure is called fizzing.  It works for some species, but for others it isn’t such a good idea.  What about yellow perch? This week, I put the question to the experts. I spoke with several fisheries biologists I know, including some at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  Here’s what I learned. Read More!