Pros find it's still too early for perch fishing

OUTDOORS

June 15, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Capt. Ed Darwin's first decision of the day was the hardest -- whether to run south from Mill Creek near Annapolis to fish for black drum off Poplar Island or to head north and go for white perch on the humps off Gibson Island and Bodkin Point.

"Got crowded off the drum over the weekend and haven't heard of many being caught since last Friday anyway, so I guess we'll see what's happening with the perch," Darwin said yesterday morning. "And besides, David has never caught a fish."

Yesterday was a day off for Darwin, who runs the charter boat Becky D, and he had aboard Bill Burton, former outdoor editor of The Evening Sun, Bill Pike, a retired patent attorney and longtime fishing buddy, and David Thompson, a Stevensville middle schooler.

"Might be something up there on the inside [of Craighill Channel], if you know how to read the marks," said Pike, who has been fishing the bay since the early 1950s and, since rockfish fishing has been restricted, would rather catch a white perch than anything else.

"Probably won't be as good as the railroad bridge [foundations in the Severn River], but there ought to be

some perch around."

Between Darwin and Pike, there was a storehouse of knowledge on perch fishing, a library of hand-drawn charts and mental notes compiled over three decades of fishing together.

Darwin will tell you that Pike taught him how to fish; Pike will say that he led Darwin toward the water, but that Darwin has taken fishing to a higher level.

David Thompson, a standout in goal for his team's soccer and lacrosse teams, just wanted to catch a fish. Any fish first, and then as many as possible thereafter.

Pike and Darwin were willing and expert teachers, although their texts may have seemed somewhat out of date.

At the helm of the Becky D was a modest array of electronic equipment -- Loran, VFH radios, radar, a pair of color fish finders and so on. But Pike and Darwin were finding their underwater humps by reading the marks, lining up their positions by triangular fixes on buoys, points, bay bridge pilings or houses and water towers on shore.

"If you can read the marks, you don't need all that other stuff," Pike said, his hand pointing west, then east, then north and south. "From here, line up the double chimneys on that big house with the channel buoy, then line up the beacon with the end of the trees on Sandy Point, and you will come up on a hump.

And where there is a hump with a hard or shell bottom, there will be white perch when the time is right.

"It is still a little early yet for perch to be thick here," Darwin said, while the color depth sounder showed the bottom contour rising from 25 to 16 feet. "Last week of June and all of July normally are best, but let's give it a try."

On the first hump, David caught

his first fish, a perch about 11-inches long, and won the modest pool Burton had put together among us for first perch caught over 10 inches.

But on the humps -- and Pike and Darwin worked their way through a number of spots between the mouth of the Magothy and Bodkin Point South -- it really was too early for good perch fishing. A few larger perch were brought in, but most were under 8 inches and were put back.

Out of desperation or frustration, Darwin headed the Becky D south again toward the Bay Bridge, on the chance that there might be some large perch around the pilings.

"Can't catch perch on grass shrimp, they're not there," Pike said. "Can't catch something on grass shrimp at the bridge this time of year, and you're not a fisherman.

"But you can almost bet what we'll catch will have stripes."

In fact, a number of the fish caught at the bridges were stripers, but several others were fat white perch up to 13 inches.

Give it another 10 days to two weeks, and the bridge and the humps inside Craighill Channel should be prime for perch.

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