- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

This could be the week when schools of spawning yellow perch enter the shallow tidal streams that flow into major waterways like the Potomac, Patuxent, Chester, Choptank, Rappahannock and James rivers.

Locally, the tidal Potomac's tributaries receive the bulk of attention from perch hunters, particularly the ever-popular Wicomico River's headwaters in Charles County.

In a place along the Wicomico known as Allen's Fresh (Route 234, off Route 301, south of La Plata) the perch might arrive by the thousands to squirt their roe over creek bottom and near-shore obstacles. The fishing from limited shore access can be hectic and occasionally last only for a few days before the spawners leave the "Fresh." However, there are times when the small male perch and much larger females are available for nearly two weeks. Let's hope this is one of those years.

Much of the perch supply also depends on the presence of downstream fish nets. Although sport anglers must abide by a 5-perch-per-day creel limit, 9-inch minimum sizes and fish hooks whose inside barbs have been filed off or pinched down, commercial netters are under no such restrictions. They can take thousands of perch and we are forced to live with it. (Incidentally, in Virginia even the sport anglers are not restricted, but Marylanders must obey strict regulations.)

Meanwhile, Bob Rice, one of the Allen's Fresh regulars who almost daily comes to see if the perch have arrived and then monitors the ever-important water temperatures (46 degrees is ideal), says, "I checked it out [day before] yesterday and had no luck, but a couple of fellows I know caught fat roe fish at the Cedars, so it seems they're staging close by but haven't started the run yet."

The Cedars that Rice is talking about is a local landmark just below the Route 234 creek crossing, along a high bank with tall cedar trees. A couple of deep holes are found in front of the place, but access from land is restricted to friends and acquaintances of the landowner. It is not a public place, although johnboaters frequently are seen there, but they launch their light craft from the narrow public access lane inside the woods, adjacent to Allen's Fresh bridge.

The beginnings of yellow perch arrivals are noted in Virginia's Chickahominy River, near Williamsburg. Rumors also reach us that roe-filled yellow "neds," as Marylanders refer to them, have been hooked in small numbers in Virginia's Pamunkey River around Catlett, as well as the nearby Patuxent River in Wayson's Corner. As far as additional Potomac tributaries are concerned, never overlook the Occoquan River on the Virginia shore and the Mattawoman Creek in Maryland.

For those of you who seek other species, quite a few tidal largemouth bass and crappies, not to mention huge carp, are hooked. As water temperatures are climbing (they stood at 41 degrees yesterday), bass come into the shallows in the afternoons to feed and prefer Silver Buddy-type baits, slowly worked ¼-ounce crankbaits, Sting Ray grubs, and spinnerbaits that are slowly crawled along the bottom. Crappies like little grubs and tube baits in and around underwater brush and trees in 10 to 14 feet of water. Of course, if the perch are around, they'll hit crappie lures.

If you want to do a little fishing in Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, the fishermen who launch at Anna Point Marina and High Point Marina agree that jerkbaits have done very well on bass in the mid-lake region. Some decent striped bass also are available from Dillard's Bridge to Terry's Run and around Dike 3.

Health problems in Potomac feeders? The Virginia Department of Health says it is going to close the Virginia tributaries to the Potomac River from the Route 301 bridge down to the Maryland line south of Smith Point, which will include the Great Wicomico River (not to be confused with Maryland's Wicomico River).

From an Internet report by the VDH's Robert Croonenberghs, the emergency condemnation is called because of concentrations of the dinoflagellate algae Dinophysis. This algae has the potential to produce a toxin that is concentrated in shellfish. When consumed the toxin can cause diarrhea.

Croonenberghs says, "We do not know whether the algae is a toxin producer yet or not and expect analytical results from FDA late this week. If it is not toxic, at this point we expect to reopen the river immediately. So far, our sampling results seem to indicate that the tributaries have lower concentrations than the main stem of the Potomac."

The VDH has taken samples from the Yeocomico and Coan rivers in the Northern Neck, both of which are sizable Virginia tributaries of the Potomac River. The river will remain closed until the VDH has solid data to indicate it is safe to reopen.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.



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