- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

HILLTOP, Md. An old saying that gladdens the hearts of unsuccessful anglers everywhere goes, "If you hooked a fish every time you went near the water, people would call it catching, not fishing."
How true. It probably was a profound, deep-thinking Greek like Aristotle or Yanni who came up with this gem.
But what has never been sufficiently explained is how anglers of every stripe can cast their lures into the same water, side by side, going through the same line retrieval routine and all that, yet only one or two out of a bunch of fellow fishing freaks consistently finds action. It's enough to make you want to pull your hair out, which definitely is not recommended for someone my age.
For example, a few days ago on a local Potomac River tributary in Southern Maryland, we were chasing what initially appeared to be elusive yellow perch, complaining about our lack of action. A fishing pal and I happened upon a young man in a johnboat in the upper reaches of the creek. We exchanged greetings, mentioning how slow the perch fishing had been, when he said, "I'm not having any trouble. Here, look, I'm culling perch." With that he reached down into a cooler and pulled up two fat-bellied females to show a sample of his catch.
Then the youngster said, "Hey, I'm leaving. I have enough. Why don't you two come in here and catch some of these fish." What a fine fellow.
We took his position, gave it a shot, never hooked a keeper perch and eventually left totally disgusted. Later, along a fine stretch of shoreline where the water dropped from one to seven feet or more and where myriad bottom roots and sunken trees attract baitfish and various bigger species that will feed on them, my boat partner and I cast tiny shad darts that were kept from hanging up on the underwater obstacles by a small plastic float. We promptly caught crappies, bluegills, even an oddball bass, but not the yellow perch the little darts were intended for.
Our search continued.
We happened upon a group of boats, their occupants fishing close to one another, talking, laughing, having a grand time. It was the annual perch roundup sponsored by the fishing guides of Reel Bass Adventures and the Charles County Tourism Department.
Naturally, the first report we received was that one of the best river guides in these parts, Andy Andrzejewski, and his two charges for the day, Francis and Al Guy, each had a legal limit of five fat-bellied roe perch and now were fishing strictly for fun, doing the catch-and-release thing. A boat directly next to Andrzejewski's 22-footer had only one keeper in its livewell. They were using the same little plastic grubs, the same jig heads and the same creamy Smelly Jelly fish attractant that was dabbed onto the lures. Eerie, isn't it?
Just below that second boat sat local bass hound Steve Hawks, pulling in fat yellow perch without difficulty, but an adjacent craft occupied by three fellows who normally are no slouches in the fish-catching department had a tough time with the gold/green-hued fish.
To be sure, one of the guests, Tim Groves, a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, hooked a 4-pound largemouth bass on a small perch grub, of all things. River guide Dale Knupp was Groves' captain and he knows a thing or two about bassy-looking hangouts. And what about Joann Roland, the woman who has put Charles County on the "must-see-and-do" list for out-of-town fishing tourists? Even she latched onto fat keeper perch while we found only throwbacks.
For them, the whole deal was magnificent while my fishing partner and I left, mumbling about the injustice of it all.
And how was your day?

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

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