Fifty years ago, Allen’s Fresh Bridge on Rt. 234 was the place to be during the first week of March. I remember well as a boy seeing anglers standing along the concrete railings with long stringers of big Yellow Perch. I looked forward to getting big enough to drive there myself and join the fun. However, by the time I got to be of driving age, the perch runs had diminished considerably.
As teenagers, during the peak of Yellow Ned season, Barry Roache and I launched an oak sided, plywood bottom prow that I built to fish ponds and creeks. Barry called my custom built vessel, “the Floating Hog Trough”. We could slide it into the back of our family ’56 Chevy station wagon and with a 5 horsepower Evinrude motor, it took us where we wanted to go beyond the shoreline.
On our only trip up Allen’s Fresh during early March in the Floating Hog Trough, we caught a single Yellow Perch on the minnows we brought for bait. We thought we held the advantage with our boat over the shore fishermen who had hoofed their way up the muddy trail along the creek. Few of them were catching any fish either, but one guy positioned at a choice spot in the bend up the creek was catching Yellow Perch on a regular basis.
So, we tied the boat to a sapling on shore and moved onto the wooded bank to watch this successful fisherman from a respectful distance. The experienced fisherman was kind enough to take us into his confidence about his location as well as his choice of bait.
“Boys, the Yaller Neds like to rest up a bit in this calm deep hole here at the bend before they have to fight their way over the shallows to spawn up in the Zekiah Swamp.” the Old Timer told us.
“Also,” he continued, “Everyone else here is using minnies for bait. Minnies work all right when the fish are thick, but when they‘re scattered like today, a grass shrimp will catch ‘em when the minnies won‘t buy a bite.” He opened up his cool cup of sawdust mixed with a few small grass shrimp to show us.
The Old Man imparted wisdom that no fishery scientist is even aware of: “Y’all see, boys, that grass shrimp is a threat to the eggs of those perch. They’ll bite that little bugger just to kill it.”
Who knows if that old codger was telling the truth, but he sure did have a nice stringer of fish.
With the former scarcity of Yellow Perch and the very low five fish limit in past years, I have preferred to fish for catfish in March while waiting for the waters to warm and other fish start to feed.
The most common catfish caught in the Upper Patuxent and Potomac River is the Channel Catfish. The White Catfish is the native species found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. I find that the White Catfish which has a larger head and less forked tail is a better tasting fish, but with proper preparation, any catfish can be made delicious.
Catfish can be caught year round with no creel limit and a ten inch minimum length. Bottom rigs baited with cut herring, spot, mud shad, fresh shrimp, soft shell clams (manoes) or soft crab will produce good catfish catches.
A couple weeks ago, while cleaning out the garage, I found an old log book with my fishing catches in Spring during the mid-1980’s. The average daily catch was about three dozen catfish that averaged about 2-3 pounds each. Now, I’ll catch far fewer but the average weight is 8-10 pounds each. Things are always changing in nature which makes fishing so interesting and challenging.
Perhaps the most challenging catfish quarry are the monster Blue Catfish that have taken up residence at and above Mattawoman Creek in the Potomac River. A Google search of [Potomac Blue Catfish] will reveal fifty pound plus catfish in our backyard waters that will bite on a year round basis. These fish are caught using whole herring baits or live sunfish. I look forward to embarking on a monster cat expedition in March and writing about it in a future edition of THE CHESAPEAKE.
So, until the waters warm and the Striped Bass become legal recreational fare in mid-April, the basic March options boil down to an increased limit of ten Yellow Perch or a mess of big catfish. Why not do both?
Larry Jarboe – copyright 2011 – firstname.lastname@example.org