- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009

HILLTOP, Md.

Our traditional New Year’s Day fishing trip went off without a hitch, but there was one tiny problem.

The fish didn’t bite.

Truth be known, they didn’t nibble my lures or those of expert river guide Andy Andrzejewski, but the wife of one of our regular band of fishing loonies reeled in a keeper yellow perch.

Because of wind, rotten tides and low temperatures - 23 degrees when we launched the boats - we chose Charles County’s Nanjemoy Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River. In the upper stretches of the waterway, we could hide from bone-chilling breezes, but that might have been a mistake.

Andrzejewski started the Jan. 1 outings nearly 30 years ago. I joined him in this happy madness the past 15 New Year’s Days. It has become a contagious tradition that some of our close friends have joined, but we’ve also met hardy readers of The Washington Times who tried to guess where we’d be. They occasionally found us — amid much laughter and friendly banter.

In the past, Andy and I have had New Year’s Day outings on the Potomac River in Spoils Cove, near the Wilson Bridge, where a dozen other boaters would join us. We’d catch plenty of largemouth bass on artificial grubs. On the first day of the year, life was pure joy.

There also were river outings that gave us crappies and white or yellow perch, even a few stripers, and nary a complaint was heard. One year, we tried to launch our boat in the Patuxent River near Croom, Md., but the river was so iced up that we couldn’t get the boat into open water. We switched to the Potomac’s Mattawoman Creek and found it open enough. There, we even caught a few perch and sunfish.

One not-so-memorable trip to Virginia’s Lake Anna was so unproductive that Andy and I couldn’t even catch a cold - never mind a fish. In fact, that outing and this year’s attempt were the only two nonproducers in all those years.

On Thursday, Andrzejewski stood in the bow of his 22-foot bass boat, slowly maneuvering the powerful craft along a shoreline drop-off and watching the electronic fish locator.

“I don’t see a thing under us,” he said. “Not even a small school of perch or maybe a bass or two. I mean, fish don’t leave the creek and climb up on land to get away from the winter weather. They have to be here somewhere.”

The guide was right, but the fish didn’t show up. A couple of duck hunters came by, sitting in a narrow aluminum johnboat, surrounded by decoys and camouflage netting.

“You ought to try for crappies,” one said. “They’re especially big during the winter.”

We didn’t quite know what to make of that. Meanwhile, Nancy Knupp, the spouse of fishing guide Dale Knupp, hooked a yellow perch as the men looked on and continued to find only fishless grub hooks.

We decided to call it quits at about 1 p.m., returning home for a pork, sauerkraut, black-eyed peas and greens New Year’s Day dinner.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Also check out Gene Mueller’s Inside Outside blog on washingtontimes.com/sports.

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