- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2004

MARBURY, Md.

So it’s November and the first truly cold nights begin to visit. Rains come and go and daytimes often are fraught with bone-chilling winds. In anticipation of the coming deer season, more than a few of our friends are now in the woods checking the worthiness of last year’s tree stands, while some are hunting squirrels or grouse in upland forests.

However, my tidal river guide pals, Andy Andrzejewski and Dale Knupp, along with hundreds of other knowledgeable insiders, haven’t forgotten the wonderful, wacky bass fishing that November can deliver.

There’ll be days, such as a couple we had recently, when it is entirely possible to convince a bass (sometimes even a striper) to strike a topwater popping lure — never mind shallow, medium or deep-diving crankbaits — perhaps slowly retrieved 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits with a sparse skirt surrounding the hook.

Of course, we’ll also use plastic grubs, mostly the beaver-tailed Sting Ray models that are dabbed with a fish-attracting cream known as Smelly Jelly.

Some of the fish now will spend their lives in a twilight zone of bright, then muted, then very dark water. They’ll visit marsh edge shallows less than 2 feet deep one calm, sunny morning or afternoon but will quickly disappear into the nearby deep, dark channel ledges the next. But one thing is certain: The fish haven’t stopped eating.

These are the times when serious bass hounds are separated from those who are happy if they only see a bald eagle while on the water.

These also are days when an unexpected soft rain might drive most boaters back to the ramp but some are just hard-headed enough to stick around, don a rainsuit, and continue fishing. It’s those anglers who’ll shake their heads in wonderment when someone says, “It’s winter and time to pack it in until next spring.”

Andrzejewski and Knupp, as well as most other fishing guides who have come to know the vagaries of tidal water bass, will fish to their hearts’ delight until the first solid ice greets them at a boat launch facility. Heck, even then it doesn’t stop. One of the bass guides, Brent Nelson, sent an e-mail the other day to say, “Get ready. When it freezes up at Deep Creek Lake, you and I are going ice fishing.” Anything to get through dreary winter days suits Brent just fine.

I hasten to add that before I go ice fishing, it had better be a super freeze for a long time. You see, Brent and I are kind of like a large container of Wendy’s french fries: biggie-sized.

But let’s get back to the November bass fishing. We checked out if it is true that the largemouths will come into shallow water along a marsh bank after the sun had warmed those shallows awhile. It happened in a Potomac River feeder creek not far from the Mattawoman. After several days of sunny weather, the water wasn’t all that cold, and we could see tiny splashes along a dirt bank. It was a small school of minnows, obviously fleeing the open jaws of something.

One cast each from the three of us resulted in rotten weeds for one, a bass on a topwater lure for the second and a yellow perch on a Mann’s Baby One-Minus for the third fellow.

Later a soft rain began to fall but nothing so drenching it would cancel the outing. In fact, that’s when the action really began. Crankbaits, 1/4-ounce long-lipped models in shad or crawfish colors, found fish all along a 6- to 9-foot-deep channel that climbed into staircase-like shallow edges along a 300-yard stretch of the creek.

We hooked bass and surprising numbers of resident yellow perch, even a couple of juvenile stripers. But now word has it that bigger, keeper-size rockfish are roaming the main stem of the river in similar looking waters, including shallow edges that fall into a deep channel.

I’ll try the stripers during some of the November days when I’m not hunting deer.

Perhaps we should start a campaign to cancel the entire month of February and hook the extra days onto October and November — two months that are simply not long enough.

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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