- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

SALISBURY, Md.

My fishing pal - who must remain anonymous lest his boss discover he wasn’t nearly as sick as he told him over the phone - tossed a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait from a bait-casting outfit into the bronze waters of the Wicomico River and promptly had a fish strike it. However, it wasn’t the tidal largemouth bass that he had hoped for; it was a black crappie, all full of sass and resistance, but it lost its fight with the big human.

What that crappie saw in a lure that was nearly one-third the size of its body we’ll never know, and when my friend next cast a chrome-bodied Rat-L-Trap bass lure toward a picket line of boat docks, another crappie struck.

We were flabbergasted.

So what can two fellows do when the bass show absolutely no interest in the lures that were designed expressly for them? The answer is easy: Fish for whatever will bite; in this case, the ravenous crappies.

But with a never-ending stream of cars and trucks zipping across a low bridge on Route 50 and the wind blowing at a steady 20 mph, our ability to concentrate was dearly taxed.

Rather than mess around with any of the dozens of bass lures we had brought, I, for example, decided to get serious with the black-and-silver-flecked beauties that Southerners prefer over all others as far as providing a fish fry is concerned.

A 1/16-ounce jig hook was tied to 8-pound-test monofilament and a bright chartreuse-pink little grub sold under the quixotic name of “Electric Chicken” was pierced onto the hook. I attached a walnut-sized float to the line about 3 1/2 feet above the lure and moved the knot on the grub hook’s eyelet just enough so the lure would hang perpendicular to the line. This method allows you to cast into a maze of brush, boat docks or seawalls, and when you barely jiggle the rod tip, the little lure dances enticingly up and down under the water - something it can’t do if it is allowed to simply hang vertically, in line with the nylon.

With a half-dozen Canada geese protesting our presence, the first cast landed next to a marina dock piling. The bobber came to a rest for only a nanosecond. It suddenly disappeared from the surface, and I pulled the rod up sharply, setting the hook to - what else - a crappie.

My partner did likewise, hooking a crappie that occasionally is known as a calico bass, a papermouth, or, when they steal a bait and evade the hook, names that can’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

No matter where we pointed the boat, using a bow-mounted electric motor to propel the craft along quietly, we found crappies along fallen trees that were literally covered with turtles. We located the speckled beauties inside boat docks, seawalls and between bulkhead rocks. Some of them made fools of us; others ended up in the boat’s aerated live well where, later that day, they would be filleted, seasoned, fried and put on the table, served with hush puppies, a salad and a glass of iced tea.

You can do it, too, but a small boat is needed. You drive east on Route 50 (move onto Business Route 50 when you see the Salisbury signs); as you enter the town, watch for the water and turn right on Mill Street immediately after crossing the Wicomico. There’s also the first of two signs that say Riverside Boat Ramp. From Mill Street, blend onto Riverside Drive and turn right at yet another Riverside Boat Ramp sign. You’ll find two dual-lane launching ramps.

Whatever you do, be prepared for some excitement should you head upstream during a low tide, sliding under two low bridge overpasses and later forgetting that the tide has returned. You could be in for a long wait before the water drops enough to allow you to return. Keep an eye on the tide or simply fish across from the boat ramp and also head downstream to many fine places that await you.

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. Also check out Mueller’s weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog on washingtontimes.com/sports.

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