- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2003

It all started when my pal Andy called to say he and his grandchildren got into a bunch of white perch in the Port Tobacco River in Charles County. “They used little pieces of raw shrimp as bait, and they pulled in perch as quick as they cast their lines into the water,” he said.

White perch, in case you’re a newcomer to the Washington area, rarely grow to more than a pound in weight or 10 inches in length. They are an anadromous fish species, entering the upper parts of the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal rivers and creeks every spring to spawn, then returning to the deeper waters of the Bay. In the summer months, they also take up station in the lower portions of the rivers, where they provide countless hours of fishing joy for children everywhere.

Oh, before we forget: Quite a few tidal water Virginians and Marylanders swear white perch is the best tasting fish anywhere, bar none. You read it here.

So when Andy saw to it that his brood had all the fishing (and eventual eating) fun they could stand, my little grandson, Jake, was lifted into Poppie’s boat, and the two of us pretty much did the same.

On a steamy weekday morning, Jake cast his shrimp-baited line with a bobber into no more than three feet of water along the shores of the Port Tobacco, and he soon set the hook to a white perch, then another and yet another. Poppie, meanwhile, did just fine with an artificial lure — a ⅛-ounce lead-headed jig hook to which I threaded a white, 2-inch-long, curly tailed grub. (All I needed to do was fire the little lure under a boat dock or along the edges of wild celery grass and reel in a few feet of line, and a perch would slam into the lure as if it hadn’t eaten in a month.)

To be honest, most of the perch were small throwbacks, although you wouldn’t know it whenever they ferociously struck a bait or lure. But now and then a “Grande” would come along. (Andy calls the big perch “Grandes.” Why he uses the Spanish designation, I have no idea. Other fishermen occasionally refer to a whopper white perch as a “gorilla perch.” I guess all those nicknames speak for themselves.)

After Jake and I returned home and cleaned a dozen perch that would provide a sumptuous dinner for his St. Mary’s County family, our neighbor Pete Malnati stopped by and suggested we try to do the same and get a white perch feast for our clans.

Although “Doc,” the name I use most often for my veterinarian neighbor, has several boats of his own, he likes to be aboard my bass boat when we do the shoreline fishing thing, hunting for white perch. My boat has a bow-mounted electric trolling motor, and thanks to it we can motor along noiselessly, casting inline spinners, grubs or light spinnerbaits to fallen, waterlogged trees or dock pilings.

The two of us went out the following day and probably hooked and released a hundred little perch each, but occasionally a keeper-size specimen would come along, and we would deposit it in the boat’s aerated livewell. Doc graciously threw in a couple of whoppers of his own and said they would be mine to keep for supper.

Such white perch fishing can be done in a hundred tidal water places, some of it from shore, although a boat most definitely helps you catch more fish. In our case, we find perch action in the Port Tobacco River, where the great majority of the perch are small and hence released. Much the same can be done in the Wicomico River between Cobb Island in Charles County and Bushwood in St. Mary’s County. The entire Cobb Island area, including Neale Sound, has white perch in the summer. Just check out the shoreline grass beds during a high tide. They will be there.

Perch anglers can be seen in the Potomac fishing from the shore at Marshall Hall, while some boaters give it a shot around the Chotank Creek on the Potomac’s Virginia side in King George County or down in the Machodoc Creek or Nomini Creek in Westmoreland County. Back in Maryland, there are white perch to be caught along the Patuxent River rip-rap and breakwater of Greenwell State Park in St. Mary’s County. In fact, the perch range up and down the river’s shore, inside feeder creeks and the main stem around duck blinds, boat houses, fallen trees and grass bed edges from Solomons upstream past Benedict.

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

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