- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

WAYSON’S CORNER, Md. - Bob Lunsford, a fisheries biologist and well-regarded sport angler, looked at the large yellow perch he had just hooked and flipped into the boat, then shook his head and said, “What’s this world coming to? Tidal river yellow perch in 80-degree water? Isn’t perca flavescens supposed to be active only during the early spring days when it’s cold?”

Lunsford, who literally would rather fish than eat, made the statement tongue in cheek. He’s known all along that the fattest, best-fed, tidal water yellow neds, as Marylanders sometimes call these sharp-spined fish, often show up in the darndest places when we lads are out hunting bass.

So it was a little more than a week ago when Lunsford, who is in charge of trout hatchery and stocking programs for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, joined me on my bass barge on the upper tidal Patuxent River, not far from Wayson’s Corner. In fact, with every cast we made, we could see busy auto traffic flitting across Hill’s Bridge on the Prince George’s/Anne Arundel counties line.

Lunsford was wise to choose an expensive 1/4-ounce Terminator spinnerbait (his favorite). The chartreuse/white-skirted, whirly-bladed lure immediately latched onto a chunky largemouth bass that was hiding next to a dead, waterlogged tree. The bass lay there waiting to ambush unsuspecting minnows or baby menhaden that might wander past its lair.

After that single bass, the resident yellow perch showed a sudden interest in our lures. I don’t mean little skinny specimens either. No, these were well-developed, well-fed neds that would have done any winter and early spring perch hunter proud.

Imagine two grown men slowly gliding along — thanks to a bow-mounted electric trolling motor — laughing like young boys, hooking, missing, then hooking again a number of fat yellow perch that appeared to have taken up residence along several miles of Patuxent River marsh edges.

If we had one complaint, it was the “heavy” river traffic we encountered. Heck, in six hours of nonstop fishing, we saw two other small boats. The nerve of those people.

Yes, we’re having a little fun with that, what with us having suffered through tidal Potomac River outings this summer when a body might encounter 250 boats in one day — some days even more. The Patuxent in the area around Jug Bay and the Patuxent River Park’s Jackson Landing is a peaceful paradise compared to the much wider, larger, longer and certainly busier Potomac.

What also is noteworthy is that Lunsford and I caught pot-bellied Patuxent yellow perch along with some smaller white perch, one fat channel catfish, a bass, a large carp and a chain pickerel that shook off the hooks. The aforementioned gentleman from the DNR smiled from ear to ear because it was he who suggested fishing in this river.

It quickly became apparent that a couple of 1/4-ounce or 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits and perhaps one or two 1/8-ounce jig hook with a curly-tailed, scent-filled grub was all that was needed for a productive day on this river. As far as line on the reels is concerned, I prefer 20-pound test FireLine because it has a 6-pound test diameter and is strong enough to dislodge a hook that is stuck on a submerged piece of wood.

You’ll need to find vegetation-covered marsh banks that don’t have too thick a band of submerged hydrilla water weeds in front of them. If you do, go ahead and cast and retrieve those wobbling, whirling spinnerbaits, or gently pop your rod tip to cause a curly-tailed, chartreuse or white grub to hop around the bottom like a live, edible creature.

The fish will do the rest.

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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