Elements win battle on the Choptank

OUTDOORS

September 15, 1992|By PETER BAKER

The river had been good earlier in the day, despite a fast-receding tide and a steady wind pushing the muddy water even faster across Pealiquor Shoal below Denton on the Choptank.

It was Saturday, and the river was not crowded -- the Choptank, it seems, is almost never crowded with bass fishermen, who launch their boats and disappear into innumerable creeks and deeper tidal guts.

Thirty minutes past dawn, there had been but eight vehicles and trailers in the launch ramp parking lot at Martinak State Park.

The word on the Choptank is that, for the best bass fishing, one goes either above Denton toward Greensboro or downriver from the park to Tuckahoe Creek.

On another day, we would have spent a fair amount of time fishing the edges and holes of the lily pads with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. But with the wind augmenting the falling tide, the beds of lily pads were being drained.

What on another day would have been prime fishing areas, on this day were planted flats cut by shallow channels weeping mud into the river.

Upriver, beyond Denton, a handful of bass had been taken from among the submerged branches of fallen trees jutting into the river channel, four of them coming up to hit a silver and black popper and one taking a grape-colored plastic worm with a pink paddle tail.

The river below Pealiquor Shoal had been less than bountiful, although the western shoreline seemed for a while to hold promise.

Downriver from Martinak, the river channel runs close to the western shore, dropping off from a hard, wooded bank studded with stumps, fallen trees and knots of roots to depths of 20 or more feet in the space of 10 or 15 yards -- and one silly bass did manage to take the paddle-tailed worm off the edge of a solitary bush on a lonely clump of land.

The wind and tide, however, were strong and the trolling motor was weak, and we decided to get out of the river and head into Watts Creek, where the wind would be light and, rumor has it, the fishing can be very good.

Watts Creek runs off the Choptank in an easterly direction, past the launch ramp at Martinak, and twists its way through a variety of bass habitats.

The channel is narrow and unmarked, but even with a very low tide on Saturday, center line was four to five feet well back into the creek.

Watts Creek also is a meeting place of sorts. Perhaps, as it was for us, it is the last chance to fish before hauling out the boat and heading back to the Western Shore. In two hours on the creek, we encountered six fishermen, more than we had spoken with in five hours out on the river.

In the creek we were all in the same boat, so to speak. No one was catching anything worth bragging about and in fact most anglers we spoke with were catching nothing at all.

But one fellow, patiently pitching a dark plastic worm to submerged logs, seemed to have the right idea. Two in the livewell, he said as we passed.

We were playing a different game, laying out in the center of the narrow channel and casting a big, black and yellow spinner in deeper water behind the clouds of killifish that were gathered every so often along the muddy creek bank.

Quite frankly, the patient fellow with the dark worm had more success than we did -- although the one 3-pounder that did take the yellow and black spinner was the biggest fish we had seen all day.

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