Frostbite Separates The Wimps From The Pickerel Fishermen


Magothy River Outings Are Strictly For The Hardy

January 13, 1991|By Capt. Bob Spore

Now that the goose season is over, it's time to discuss some seriouswinter fishing. None of this fair-weather fishing, but the kind of stuff you've got to be tough or crazy to do.

Two of my crazier neighbors were out the other day for a little pickerel fishing on the Magothy River. They did pretty well, too. They managed to avoid a serious case of hypothermia and arrived home with only minor frostbite in the fingers and a few chain pickerel.

The Magothy in years past was the home of some very good pickerelfishing. Water quality then went to hell. Sewage spills occurred several times a year, algae blooms followed the sewage spills, and the fish turned belly up.

I saw some nice chain pickerel floating by mypier during several of the fish kills. But it has been at least two or three years since we had a good fish kill. (Or is it a bad fish kill?)

It is difficult to determine whether the bay is improving or deteriorating, so I am encouraged when I hear reports of improved stocks of local species. These fish are not migrating through; they livehere.

Chain pickerel are predators that like to feed on fish smaller then themselves. A good lure-bait combination is a small bucktailor large shad dart with a live minnow lip-hooked to the lure.

Pickerel hide beside, under or on top of any object that will conceal them until they can attack. Rocks, tree stumps, pier pilings and oysterbars are likely spots to look for chain pickerel, often found in very shallow water.

Most successful outings employ a small boat, withfishermen casting in toward the shore and working the lure slowly back to the boat. The fish may be in only a few inches to a few feet ofwater.

Chain pickerel have a mouth full of ferocious teeth, but, unlike their cousin, the northern pike, they are rather docile when you get them in the boat. A little pressure on the gill plates will keep them from acting up when extricating your lure.

The fish are good eating but have a Y-shaped bone that makes boneless fileting almost impossible. Think of them as a protected species and release them; if you want seafood for supper, stop at one of the many seafood markets in the area.

Some prime eating fish are on tap, though -- whiteperch at the Chalk Point power plant on the Patuxent River. The warmwater discharged by the power plant creates a feeding atmosphere that is most exciting.

Generally, when you hear about this fishing itis too late, and the action is all over. December is usually the best month, but I think the fishing will peak later this year.

Chalk Point is near the town of Eagle Harbor. A natural launch ramp offers access to the Patuxent River. When winds are brisk and the temperature hovers below freezing, the mile run from the launch ramp to the canal leading to the power plant can be miserable. Once inside the canal, anglers are protected from the wind by high banks and pine trees. With just a little sun, you can be quite comfortable.

A medium-size shad dart or small bucktail fished with or without bait is all that's needed to tempt the perch. Don't be surprised if you catch more than a few stripers; they like Chalk Point also. Keep the lure near thebottom, where the fish are.

Fishing this time of year can be dangerous. Take special care to stay inside the boat. When you're bundledup to keep warm, you are not dressed to swim to shore. Should you get wet, hypothermia can be a life-threatening problem.

Be careful -- I can't afford to lose any readers. This is the rating season.

Bob Spore is a Coast Guard-registered charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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