- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

Here’s some unsolicited advice: Never stick your neck out and do dumb stuff like predicting when a spawning run of fish will materialize.

I did just that last Thursday, figuring the weekend warm spell would be just what was needed to coax the local yellow perch into entering the upper ends of various tidal spawning creeks.

I couldn’t have been more wrong — and was reminded of it loud and clear.

While I was checking for the fish Monday morning at the Allen’s Fresh portion of the tidal Wicomico River in Charles County, Md., there were remarks from other anglers who wanted to know what they could do to help tune up my “crystal ball.”

The perch didn’t show up at the Fresh and, as of this writing, still haven’t. It’s the second consecutive year that something seems to be wrong at the Fresh — unless the fish plan on arriving much later than usual. The perch also didn’t do a thing up around the Wayson’s Corner area of the Patuxent River, and they didn’t show in sufficient numbers in Virginia’s Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers, down past Bowling Green, although some are hooked there now.

We did have some roe-filled Nanjemoy Creek females snatch up 3-inch-long Mann’s Sting Ray grubs that had been generously dabbed with baitfish-flavored Smelly Jelly.

However, I think I’ll get out of the prediction business.

Meanwhile, there are scattered yellow perch, crappies, bass and small catfish hooked on scent-filled grubs just above the Wilson Bridge, outside and inside the Spoils Cove, and in the little cove below Fox Ferry Point.

Bass and crappies in Virginia — Boaters, even some shoreline bank sitters, are scoring on crappies and bass in good numbers even in smaller county- and state-owned lakes, but if it’s big water you prefer, head for Lake Anna (west of Fredericksburg) where rip-rap banks, lake points, and the channels and dips inside the feeder creeks hold largemouth bass that show a liking for dropshot-rigged finesse worms, pigs ‘n’ jigs and jig ‘n’ craw combinations.

Many of these fish already are in a type of pre-spawn mode. They’re cruising, looking for food or checking out likely nesting sites, and they’re not bashful about striking a well-presented soft-plastic lure, jig, or slow-rolled spinnerbait.

If it’s crappies you want, a bucket filled with small minnows or shiners will definitely help, but you can do it with just a 1/16-ounce white or yellow marabou jig, or plastic curly-tailed grub under a bobber. Many of the waters surrounding boat docks have been “seeded” with brush piles that naturally attract crappies and some bass. Not only that, at Lake Anna it isn’t tough to find beaver huts in the backs of most of its creeks. Fish with a tiny jig under a bobber around those snag-filled crappie hideouts.

I’ve managed to stop losing crappie jigs by using 30-pound Stealth SpiderLine. The line is soft, casts easy, and its diameter is roughly the same as 8-pound monofilament line. If a shad dart or a jig becomes hooked on an underwater branch or other obstruction, I can pull the lure free by straightening the hook open just enough to allow it to pop free. Then I re-bend it with a pair of needlenose pliers. A quick touch-up of the hook with a small whetstone pays off when the fish start biting.

Crappies are biting very well at Kerr Reservoir down on the Virginia/Carolina line, and word has it that 2-pounders are not at all unusual. Of course Kerr, also known as Buggs Island Lake, is known nationwide as one of the better crappie lakes.

Kerr’s bass and stripers are now hooked on a variety of lures, while at the neighboring Lake Gaston, the bass and crappies are beginning to cooperate more frequently.

Don’t forget turkey season — Local turkey hunters know that their seasons begin in early or late April, depending which state they hunt in. In Virginia it begins April 10; in Maryland, April 19; West Virginia, April 26. With that in mind, every Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the country — all 163 of them — will celebrate National Wild Turkey Federation Day on March 21.

The special day was arranged through the company’s sponsorship of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Dick’s store associates, local NWTF chapters and other organizations that will present seminars, product demonstrations, prize drawings and other activities.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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