- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

WELCOME, Md. — When Eagle Schmeagle calls and suggests that we meet as late as 7:30 a.m. for a day's fishing, you can bet your last spool of monofilament line that he isn't talking about bass. The man with the odd nickname actually is the professional fishing guide, Dale Knupp, and if it's late summer and there are no immediate bookings for bass-eager clients, Knupp thinks mostly about white perch.

"I need more baggies filled with perch fillets," he says. "This fish is so delicious, and the more fillets I have in my freezer, the better I like it."

Incidentally, Knupp's nickname refers to a time when he showed displeasure with his pals' constant interruptions of his lure casting with notices of bald eagle sightings. After the umpteenth shout of, "There's another one," Knupp simply muttered under his breath, "Eagle Schmeagle. Seen one, seen 'em all."

One of his pals heard the intonation concerning our national bird, and the die was cast. Knupp would be Eagle Schmeagle then and forever.

But back to the 7:30 a.m. meeting.

He showed up in my driveway towing a heavy, well-appointed bass boat with only two lightweight rods visible on the deck's carpeting. It was a sure sign that he was after white perch, a silver-scaled, sharp-finned creature that rarely measures more than 10 or 11 inches in length.

The allure of this species is its prolific breeding, its ability to live almost anywhere as long as it's wet and its willingness to attack nilly-willy almost any artificial lure or natural bait that comes past its nose if the "food" offering isn't too large.

What the garden variety bluegill is to freshwater pond and lake anglers, the white perch is to Mid-Atlantic saltwater coves, tidal rivers, brackish bays and even sweet-water lakes where they've been introduced and now thrive. White perch are exceptionally democratic when it comes to matters of living space and terrain. And unlike glamor species who must have everything just "so," this gutsy little warrior is willing to accept quarters normally found suitable only to shallow water crabs and schools of minnows, although it can comfortably exist in water as deep as 20 and 25 feet.

Come along with Eagle Schmeagle and me and see what happened on a white perch outing typical of late August, September and even October.

The boat was launched at Goose Bay Marina in Charles County's Port Tobacco River, close to our homes. Almost immediately after chugging away from the slow-drive zone of the marina, a cast and retrieve with a <=-ounce white spinnerbait resulted in a strike from a perch that roamed close to a stand of waterlogged cattails. Since it measured only six or seven inches, it was let go.

The action didn't pick up until we crossed the Port Tobacco and cast the lightweight spinnerbaits to a series of boat docks, fallen trees and small pockets of milfoil and hydrilla water weeds. In short order a half-dozen keeper perch 8-, 9-, even 10-inch specimens were hooked. The catches were complemented by unexpected strikes from young striped bass, several baby bluefish and a fine channel catfish.

We decided to leave for the other side of the adjacent Potomac River, hoping to find more consistent hits from white perch on the Virginia shoreline not far from a place known as Mathias Point. It was a perfect choice. Eagle Schmeagle and I put a number of fat perch into the boat's livewell, all of them destined to grace a dinner table soon.

During the consistent casting of the lures in maybe two or three feet of water that abutted a series of rip-rap stones, the closer you aimed to the rocky sanctuary the quicker you would see a perch grab one of the whirling spinnerbaits. But here's a tip: If you don't get quick action, retrieve the lure in various speeds, then briefly stop, pick up the retrieve again and see what happens.

The Potomac's perch can now be found in Maryland from Point Lookout State Park clear up to the District line, as well as throughout the nearby Patuxent River and all their tidal feeder creeks, or the Chesapeake's Choptank, Chester, West, South, Rhode and Magothy rivers and Virginia's Rappahannock, James, Pamunkey, Mattaponi and Chickahominy. They prefer the aforementioned spinnerbaits particularly with skirts that have a blue cast to them. They can also be taken on a bladed lure known as Beetlespin, No. 1 and No. 2 Roostertail or Terminator inline spinners in white or chartreuse, Tiny Trap crankbaits and Silver Buddy lures. The perch even hit <=-ounce shad darts that can simply be cast from light line and slowly, erratically retrieved.

Use any of these and the perch will do the rest. Bait is really not needed unless you insist on using bloodworms, crab pieces or squid strips on small, bottom-rigged hooks.

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