- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

BENEDICT, Md.

When the weather is hot and humid what does a professional bass fishing guide do for fun and relaxation? In the case of Dale Knupp, the answer is easy. He’ll hitch his boat to the back of his pickup, help his wife Nancy into the front seat and drive the 30 minutes from his La Plata home to the Patuxent River to search for white perch.

The boat is launched at Hallowing Point on the Calvert County side of the Route 231 bridge, a local favorite for trot-lining crabbers and small-boat fishermen, and the Knupps get into the mix of things as new boaters forget to have their craft ready for launch, instead wait to remove straps and load coolers and rods as they sit on the ramp, while others who follow boating etiquette are fuming because they want to get going.

After the comfortable craft is finally slipped from its trailer, the two soon find themselves heading downstream toward any feeder creek or tree-lined main stem shoreline to look for what most of the residents in Chesapeake Bay Country believe is the tastiest fish of all: the white perch.

Some of the older perch hunters in Southern Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia get their best perch bites by using weighted bottom rigs with small chunks of peeler crab, pieces of bloodworm, even bits of shrimp or strips of squid on the hooks when fishing in deep water. But the Knupps and an ever-growing cult of perch fanatics know that when the white perch begin to reside along shallow shorelines of a river or feeder stream - which is what they’re doing now - all that is required to fill a cooler with tasty fish is to cast and retrieve a 1/8-ounce white or chartreuse spinnerbait, perhaps a straight inline spinner, or a tiny version of the popular Rat-L-Trap bass lure, the Tiny Trap, and other similar lip-less crankbaits.

On a recent outing, we watched the Knupps casting and retrieving their lightweight spinnerbaits into the waters surrounding fallen trees, dock pilings and grassy edges along the shorelines of St. Leonard, Cuckold and Battle creeks - to name only three of a dozen productive feeders - and a section of the Patuxent’s main stem not far from Sheridan Point.

Without fail, the two connected on perch.

“Darn it,” I heard the bass guide shout. “I just had a good one get off the hook,” which then was followed by Nancy Knupp flipping a chunky silvery perch into the boat. (A “good one” is a perch of 9 to 12 inches.) Never fear, both Knupps are above-average perch catchers.

If the fish are judged worthy of a frying pan they’re deposited into an aerated livewell aboard the bass boat. In fact, there are days when the couple never closes the lid of the rectangular tank. All you hear is the sound of fish plopping into the water-filled, bubbling well.

Be reminded that these perch fanatics don’t overdo it - and they never waste a fish that comes home with them. All of them are either filleted and the skin is removed or the scales are scraped off, bodies cleaned, fins and heads discarded. Either way, portions or whole perch are soon battered, fried and devoured, accompanied by a salad, cooked or steamed vegetables and perhaps a potato or two. The remaining, cleaned perch are frozen in waterfilled baggies.

Can you do it? Of course, you can.

Besides the Patuxent between St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, white perch now can be hooked in the lower tidal Potomac and all of its feeder creeks. The same goes for Maryland’s Choptank, Nanticoke, Pocomoke, Chester, Magothy, South, West and Rhode rivers. Add also the tidal Rappahannock River and just about all the creeks, streams, bays, coves and small rivers in Virginia’s Northern Neck.

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

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