Pickerel dash for flash and love a fight

OUTDOORS

October 27, 1992|By PETER BAKER

HILLSBORO -- At the top of the path leading down into Tuckahoe State Park from Horse Shoe Road, November was trying hard to force its way into the last week of October, a stiff northwest breeze blowing cold across a cornfield of stubbles.

Beyond a tree line a couple of hundred yards past the road, a great number of geese were making a great racket.

But down the path toward Tuckahoe Creek, the woods close in and mute the sounds, block the wind. A doe, startled, bolts into the brush. Squirrels scurry onto tree trunks and peek around the edges until the intruder has passed.

In the spring, when the perch are running, this path would be well worn by fishermen. In another month it will be worn by deer hunters and the mornings will be punctuated by shotgun reports.

On Sunday, the path was undisturbed and the rattling of a half dozen spinners in their plastic box was the only unnatural sound.

Despite a good bit of rain the night before, the creek was clear, its bars and mud banks easily seen, the deeper channels marked by trails of fallen leaves drawn out from the shallows and gathered in the swifter current.

The first cast, with a chartreuse spinner with a black and red hair tail, went out toward the far bank, beyond the main current and between an overhanging tree and the end of a submerged log.

Less than 10 feet into the retrieve, the water boiled up from beneath the lure, a fish broke the surface, chartreuse spinner in its toothy maw, and was gone.

Pickerel. Big pickerel. Hot dog.

Chain pickerel, or pike as it is called on the Shore, doesn't have the following of black bass or even yellow perch. But it is a tenacious fish, a voracious eater and the denizen of this stretch of the Tuckahoe.

On Sunday a quick 90 minutes or so was spent catching a dozen and a half pickerel from 8 to 22 inches and all but the smallest hit the lures hard and put up a head-shaking fight before being brought to hand and released.

The chain pickerel is a member of the Esocidae family, the pikes, a long, thin fish with a mouth that resembles a duck bill. Its eyes are set well back on the sides of its head, giving it a sinister appearance. Its mouth is filled with sharp conical teeth.

What makes this stretch of the Tuckahoe good for pickerel are the amount of ambush cover and an abundance of food -- minnows, young perch, crayfish, frogs, snakes and even young birds.

What makes the pickerel a fun fish to catch are its predictability and ferocity. Find a small backwater or a stretch of submerged aquatic vegetation along this stretch and it is likely you will find a pickerel if you present your lure correctly.

More often than not, a pickerel will not chase a bait into open water, preferring to lie in ambush and then dart out to engulf its prey. So a lure should be cast along the edge of potential cover and retrieved quickly on the first couple of casts, hoping that the flash will stimulate a quick strike.

In the handful of bass spinners taken along the Tuckahoe Sunday, were various color combinations, all with hair tails.

Among them, the most effective were the silver and gold, with the gold catching more fish than any other. The silver and gold also were easier to see during the retrieve, allowing the lures to be dropped or raised as the bottom contour or structure changed.

Flash is important when fishing for pickerel. Shiny metal spoons will work well, as will minnow imitation crankbaits.

But no matter your choice of lure, be certain to use a six-inch, fine wire leader so that a pickerel doesn't bite through your line.

Other sections of the Tuckahoe -- upstream below and above the dam at Tuckahoe Lake, downstream toward Hillsboro and beyond, where the bass fishing can be very good -- seem to draw more attention.

But the half-mile stretch of narrow creek easily walked below Horse Shoe Road offers a simplistic kind of fishing. A light spinning rod and a handful of lures, or hooks, bobbers and minnows, night crawlers or grass shrimp will do just fine.

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