- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005


When Bob Lunsford calls to say he’s getting decent yellow perch action in the tidal Patuxent River, you don’t argue with this Department of Natural Resources official.

No, you grab a couple of light spinning outfits, fill a thermos with hot coffee, hitch the boat to the truck and prepare to meet him at Jackson Landing in the Patuxent River Park, which is run by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

But first, an explanation is in order. During these days of loud complaints from sport anglers about commercial fishermen who want the Eastern Shore’s Choptank and Nanticoke rivers opened to yellow perch netting because there simply aren’t enough yellow perch to go around throughout the state, rest assured that the perch we were after would be released alive and healthy. We’d fish with lures that had barbless hooks and keep the fish handling to a bare minimum. Compare that to a net being drawn, loaded with thousands of perch that soon will repose on beds of crushed ice.

The tide stood at flood stage when Lunsford climbed into my boat. “It’ll be tough fishing in this high water,” he said, “but we’ll give it a shot upstream, a fair distance beyond the mouth of Western Branch.”

As we slowly idled past brown marsh banks and hundreds of mallard and black ducks that dabbled about in the shallow waters of little coves and bays on the Calvert County side of the river — many of which would soon sit high and dry — we tied 1/8-ounce jig hooks to our lines. (I preferred 20-pound-test super-line that has a diameter of 8-pound nylon, but Lunsford stuck with fairly light monofilament.)

When we finally stopped along a marshy dropoff that went from two and three feet of water down to nine feet or more, we quickly pushed 2-inch-long yellow or chartreuse curly-tailed grubs onto the hooks, allowing the hook point to emerge from the plastic lure body about half way down. There was a chance of losing the lure if it snagged on a bottom root or sunken tree if the mono was on the light side, but I could pull the hook free, reshape it to its original appearance and sharpen it with a whetstone.

Yes, both of us dipped our little grubs in a creamy fish attractant that smelled of crawfish, although I’m certain a scent such as shad, herring or garlic also would have worked. Some sport fishermen believe fish attractants actually do a better job of covering human odors than attracting fish, but I believe the better products draw a fish to the hook. As long as it helps catch something, I don’t care what the finned critters believe the stuff is supposed to do.

Lunsford and I cast our grubs into the shallows, dragged the little lures away from the underwater ledge and let them flutter down to a 9-foot bottom. We’d simply reel in a little line, lift the rod tip slightly, lower it again, reel a little more and “Bang!” both of us had a yellow perch. We released them, then drew a big, fat zero during the next 10 or 12 casts. The boat, meanwhile, drifted slowly along as the tide switched and began to ebb.

Inside a narrow shoreline pocket we caught several more yellows and this time also found a white perch and a juvenile rockfish. Then it was Skunksville again for the next 200 feet or so, to be followed by the odd yellow perch here and there.

Lunsford motioned toward a feeder creek and we entered it, casting the same grubs toward tree stumps and logs that dotted the little feeder’s shoreline. He apparently knew what was about to happen. Within three casts he caught a largemouth bass and I set the hook to a fat crappie.

When it began to rain (or was it sleet?) we put on foul-weather suits and fished for a while, but soon decided to stop and return to the boat launching ramp.

The perch fishing was fine, although we never found them bunched tightly into dense schools as they’ll do later this month and during January.

We must remind you that our perch outing happened just before the recent snow and extreme cold. Right now, it is advisable to check the rivers and ramps for ice. We’re doing it because our fishing will not stop during the cold season.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]



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