ANNAPOLIS -- What better time for upper bay fishing than now, whether it be for panfish or blues?
If your catch of blues is disappointing, don't assume they have left. Despite their voracious reputation, these scrappy fish don't bite around the clock. Sometimes they only feed several hours a day.
Whether fishing for blues from shore at Fort Smallwood, or by boat, now's when to fish for them. When they aren't hungry, spend the in-between time chasing after white perch.
That's what Jim Oakey and I did aboard Capt. Ed Darwin's charterboat Becky-D out of Mill Creek, and we couldn't have asked for a better trip.
We played the schedule of the blues, most of which were of from 1 to 2 1/2 pounds; in between we steamed to the mouth of the Magothy, and loaded up with perch.
We started the day off Hacketts where trollers were taking blues, but Darwin doesn't resort to trolling unless nothing will bite any other way. He likes chumming, drift fishing and bottom fishing.
He wants to feel the strike. To him, trolling is too dull, easy and unchallenging. Just plain boring.
Mate Joe Astasuskas, on his first trip aboard the Becky-D, set up a chum line of juicy mashed spot, and we picked up a few blues though the tide was dying. Trollers around us were scoring, but Darwin steamed toward the Magothy.
There, he found a small wreck, and we started feeding grass shrimp to perch. The results must be seen to be believed. The tide was still running at the Magothy, and the fish were active.
Doubleheaders of perch -- most of which went a legitimate 10 inches with some close to 12 -- were not the exception. We were tossing back fish that most anglers would be happy to put in their coolers.
The trick was to get the bait right onto the wreck. You lose more rigs, but as in bass'n, if you're not getting hung up you're not catching at maximum efficiency.
No loran readings for this wreck; find your own wreck or lump. That's what Darwin does, so why should he share his research?
Small wonder the Department of Natural Resources calls upon him to pilot trips for its rock research -- or seek his advice for likely spots when it charters other skippers. Recently, the DNR hired another charterboat skipper though apprehensive about his chances of putting them on a lot of big rock, so Darwin got a call requesting advice.
Understandably, "trade secret" was his reply. He has to make a living, too, and bookings -- even for the master of the upper bay -- are tough this month, as most everyone awaits next week's opener of the rock season.
After a couple hours we had all the big perch we wanted -- and released many pan rock -- so we steamed back to waters off Hacketts where trollers still were catching blues.
Smaller ones on the top took both trolled small hoses and spoons; larger ones fed below the breaking fish. Keep that in mind if you want bigger blues for baking, or a better fight.
We set up a chum line, and this time the blues cooperated for nearly two hours before dispersing. We kept those we wanted -- mostly the more tasty smaller ones -- and tossed the others back.
We could have turned to trolling, but who wants that after ultra-light tackle fishing, and an ice chest loaded with all the fish we could use? Darwin, whose phone number is 254-1711, headed the Becky-D toward Mill Creek in midafternoon.