- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dale Knupp swung one yellow perch after another over the sides of his bass boat, smiling from ear to ear, while I sat on the boat’s rear deck chair, dumbfounded and bewildered. I hadn’t felt even the slightest touch from a perch although the two of us used the same “baits” — small fringed, plastic lures known as Minnow Tubes that had been dabbed with a creamy fish attractant that reeked of garlic or pureed crawfish.

You’d think that I’d have enough sense to ask my partner to let me see what it was he was doing that I wasn’t. No, not me. Being a stubborn fool — the hallmark of my German ancestry — I stuck with my 2-inch-long Minnow Tube, alternating between it and a 2-inch Berkley Power Grub that in past years always delivered plenty of action from the golden-hued fish.

Meanwhile, Knupp, a Coast Guard-licensed fishing guide who usually delivers quality bass outings for his clients, chuckled and taunted me by continually saying, “Hey, look what I’ve got.” It would be another yellow perch, a juvenile rockfish, catfish, white perch, and in one case a large, red-scaled carp.

I began to hate my fishing partner.

We sat in a tidal feeder creek of the Potomac River in Charles County, carefully watching a depth finder and on several occasions found small bunches of spotted markings on the locator’s screen as we motored across shallow ledges that fell into 11 and 12 feet of water. The sonar signals normally came from yellow perch that in February and early March will head up into the shallow reaches of most of the local creeks to spawn.

Knupp finally heard enough of the grumblings that came from the stern of his craft.

“Let me look at your lure,” he said and instantly found the difference between mine and his. I had inserted a 1/8-ounce round-headed jig hook into the body of my Minnow Tube, completely hiding the jig hook’s head, although the hook point would be totally exposed. Knupp didn’t bother with that. He simply inserted the hook into the top of the lure, pushed it down and allowed the hook to come out of the body. His “bait” appeared to be longer because the ball-headed jig was out in the open, not hidden inside the lure body as mine was.

Imagine that. A fish not normally thought of as being overly bright believed that Knupp’s lure appeared more inviting than mine. Go figure.

“They want the longer look today, I guess,” Knupp said.

Sure enough, as soon as I copied the guide and executed a short cast — tick, tick — I felt the touch of a fish. It was a fat, roe-filled yellow perch. That was followed with half a dozen more as we drifted over a fairly broad expanse of tidal creek water.

This type of cold-weather fishing can now be done in the Potomac’s tributaries, including the Occoquan, Potomac [Creek], Aquia, Mattawoman, Nanjemoy and other feeder creeks. Catches also are possible in the upper tidal Patuxent River around the Patuxent River Park near Croom Airport Road, as well as the middle and upper parts of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Be sure to consult the tidal water regulations to see the names of rivers where you can’t keep any fish. Those that are open allow you to have five perch a day that measure at least 9 inches. In Virginia, the rules are far more liberal as far as sizes and creel limits are concerned. I’ve hooked resident yellow perch in deep marsh creek pockets of the Rappahannock and Pamunkey rivers this time of year. You can do the same.

But always remember that some days it’s the fish that teach us a lesson. All that is required of us is to have enough sense to pay attention.

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

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