When fishing for white perch, don't overlook water current

On the Outdoors

June 20, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

The Woodpile settled to anchor on the edge of an oyster rock, where the water depth increased from 12 to 25 feet and the fish finder marked fish close to the bottom.

The day was warm and calm, but the current was running well as the tide ebbed, and after a bloodworm was cut into 1-inch segments and the hooks of a double-bottom rig were baited, the fun began.

Within seconds of sinker reaching bottom, a strike and a run that took a few yards of line off the light spinning reel, before the fish was brought to the boat and released.

The rig, bait intact, was sent over again, and this time fish took each hook, and the light rod bowed deeply. This time, a 6-incher was released and a 9-incher was slipped into the cooler.

The fish feeding on the bottom were white perch, a smaller and some believe tastier cousin of the rockfish, which captures the fancy of many Chesapeake Bay fishermen at this time of year.

But while rockfish now must be at least 26 inches to keep, there is no minimum size limit for white perch caught on hook and line, and finding them sometimes can be as easy as choosing the right edge of an oyster bar or rock pile.

As with most bait fishing, a moving current is most helpful, carrying the taste of the bait to nearby fish, which often lay head-to the current and close to current breaks along underwater edges, where food is swept to them.

If the tide is rising, choose the upstream edge; if the tide is falling, locate close to the downstream edge. If you are fishing an area where there are depressions in an uneven bottom contour, try to select the upstream or downstream edge of a hole.

Catching white perch, once you have found them, is even easier. Bloodworm sections, grass shrimp or cut crab baits all work well for white perch, which usually hit hard for their size and fight well against light tackle.

They are perfect fish for kids -- or adults for that matter -- with limited attention spans, because the action can be continual for 20 minutes to an hour or more at each location. And the cost of bait, bottom rigs and sinkers is minimal.

Don Cosden, who runs the Department of Natural Resources stock assessment program for Chesapeake Bay fishes, said last week that the white perch populations are large.

"White perch have had some great reproduction years recently," said Cosden, "mirroring the good years for striped bass [rockfish] in 1989 and 1993, for example."

In the upper and middle bay, good locations for white perch fishing are Fort Carroll and the Key Bridge in the Patapsco River, 7-foot Knoll in the bay off the Patapsco, the lumps along the western shore near the mouth of the Magothy River, Snake Reef, the Bay Bridge pilings and Hacketts, Tolley and Thomas Points.

Chesapeake Bay update

In the lower bay, chummers continue to do well for rockfish, with many boats limiting out with fish over 30 inches.

In the middle bay, trollers have been doing best on rockfish along channel edges off Thomas Point and Parkers Creek.

Chummers in the upper bay are doing well on keeper stripers along the Eastern Shore from Love Point to the Bay Bridge.

River reports

Recent rains have rivers high and muddy. Drifted eels have been taking rockfish to 34 inches in the Susquehanna in the Lapidum area, and grass shrimp has produced good white perch fishing. On the tidal Potomac, edges of grass beds have been best for largemouth bass. In the Upper Potomac, which already was high from previous rainfall, heavy rains the past few days have made it unfishable in virtually all areas.

Reservoir updates

At Loch Raven, Peerce's and Hampton coves have been providing good largemouth bass fishing; crappie fishing has been good along bridge pilings and pickerel are rampant in the shallows.

Ocean City updates

Squid and minnow combinations continue to take lots of flounder along channel edges in the back bays, but the number of smaller fish in the area has been increasing.

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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