- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

If I hear “Jingle Bells” one more time, I believe I’ll commit hari-kari with a rusty fish fillet knife. It drives me crazy. That and the mind-numbing television advertisements that tell me I should buy my wife a gift that will last forever — a BMW automobile or a diamond necklace. Yeah, right. It would keep me in debt forever.

So two days ago I escaped the onslaught on my anemic wallet by hitching my boat to the pickup truck and towing it to a nearby tidal feeder creek that is part of the Potomac River. It turned out to be a wonderful idea.

Yes, it was cold, and yes, my broad aluminum boat had to crunch up sections of thin sheet ice before I had enough open water in which to drop a lure. But the payoff came when the sun helped get rid of the ice to make my boating a little less noisy.

No one else was around except an old man who goes into the Southern Maryland marshes to check for muskrats. Not long ago, a muskrat pelt could bring $5 or more, but now the meat of the rodent is more valuable. Pelts bring $2 or less; ready-to-cook ‘rat carcasses bring $4, maybe $5. (Don’t ruffle your nose. Muskrats taste delicious stewed, baked or fried.)

We waved, and the old-timer disappeared around a creek bend in his little johnboat while I looked for deep holes in the midsections of the creek, hoping to find a school of resident yellow perch, perhaps largemouth bass. Now and then the bass show up even in the coldest weather to sample the tiny minnow tubes or Sting Ray grubs that reek of the crawfish-flavored Smelly Jelly we winter fishing nuts dip the lures in.

In December and January, catches are never guaranteed, but good times amid nature’s wonders always are.

It began when I spotted two bald eagles in the throes of mating some thousand feet above the little waterway. Did you know eagles can mate in midair? It’s a sight to behold, trust me.

Then I spotted three wild turkeys busily scratching and parting dense layers of leaves to find a tasty worm or soggy acorn. They ran for high country above the creek when they saw my blue boat.

In a creek bend shoreline along the edge of the marsh, the receding tidal water fell from two to 10 feet, maybe more. One cast with a scent-laden green/red minnow tube on a 1/8-ounce jig hook found a fat resident yellow perch. She inhaled it, bulging roe-filled belly and all. I thought I’d found the mother lode when another fine perch sucked in the lure, but that was it for nearly half an hour, so I moved.

Yellow perch fight like wet dish rags. After you hook one, the chance of it getting away is slim. Still, when it’s the only game in town, you’re glad you have them to play with.

The surprise came in another creek bend’s outer edge when a well-fed, orange-scaled carp sucked in a 3-inch-long, green Sting Ray grub. This carp had the lure firmly in its mouth; it was no accidental snagging, and the fight it gave me was 100 times that of a yellow perch. It was all I could do to bring the pouty-lipped character to my net. When you fish with 8- or 10-pound testline in a tidal creek that’s full of snags and sharp marine growth, you will have your hands full subduing a powerful carp.

It was released, just like the five perch I eventually found. But when the tide stopped ebbing the fish quit biting.

I had a wonderful half-day, hooking a few winter fish and sipping scalding hot coffee, all the time glad to be away from “Jingle Bells,” mall crowds and TV.

Action down the bay and ocean — From the lower Chesapeake Bay, Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association said fishing for rockfish is inconsistent at best. Some days certain locations can be great, but the next day there might be little chance for a striper or speckled trout.

“Larger fish continue to be caught in the Chesapeake Bay from Buoy 42 on down to the Concrete Ships and at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel,” Neill said. “There just aren’t very many of them.”

Neill added it is possible to hook rockfish from Ocean City south to Oregon Inlet, N.C.

Plenty of baitfish are seen everywhere. On Monday, Neill found “working” birds and plenty of fish about 17 miles north of Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet. “We caught some 28- to 34-inch fish,” he said. “I ran farther north and found [many more] 25 miles north of Rudee. The fish I caught were in the mid to upper 30-inch range. They were thick enough that I could only troll with one rod.”

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



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