Season needn't put freeze on fishing

ON THE OUTDOORS

January 04, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Fishing often takes a back seat to fishing shows in January, but in Maryland there are a number of places to catch fish even in the coldest months of the year.

"I look at it this way," said Joe Bruce, who owns the Fisherman's Edge fly fishing shop on Edmondson Avenue, "if the temperature outside is more than 40 degrees and the wind isn't blowing much, then its a nice day out there for winter."

And on those nice days when the wind is under 15 knots and the sun is out to warm the extremities and the water, Bruce knows the fish will be hitting at select areas of fresh or brackish water.

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"Think of what is available," said Bruce. "Yellow perch, pickerel, bass, shad and stripers in brackish water, sunfish and smallmouth bass in fresh water and trout in the tailwater areas. Even in winter, there is something for just about everyone who wants to get out."

For anglers who would rather wade than launch a boat at this time of year, the tailwater fisheries such as the Gunpowder below Prettyboy dam are probably the best bets, because water temperatures usually will be stable in the 40s or low 50s and, Bruce said, a few hours of sunshine will coax a hatch of midges or olives.

For other fresh or brackish areas, the key often is finding a warmwater discharge from a power plant or industrial facility. Warm-water discharges attract fish in winter, but most, Bruce said, are accessible only by boat.

"But for waders in brackish water, Carroll Island is probably the only choice at this time of year," said Bruce. "Yellow perch, bass, pickerel -- they are all mixed up in there."

The Carroll Island power plant is on Carroll Island Road off Eastern Boulevard.

For boaters in the same area, Bruce said, Seneca, Saltpeter and Dundee creeks all can be hot for perch, pickerel and bass at this time of year, and even the Inner Harbor provides good winter fishing for rockfish and some shad.

"The problem is getting the boat in the water, because the ramp areas can be frozen over," said Bruce. "So, you have to pick your days just to be able to get to where the fish are."

In the harbor area, Bruce recommends a warmwater discharge about a quarter-mile upstream of the Hanover Street Bridge, the discharge areas at Bethlehem Steel and American Sugar.

"There are other areas in the harbor," Bruce said. "You can see them; they produce a steamy effect on the water.

"But the best tool to have aboard is a thermometer that gives a water-surface temperature or one you can lower into the water to get deeper readings."

The Severn, Magothy and South rivers all have been good for yellow perch and pickerel recently, and, Bruce said, Curtis Creek has been a great place to fish.

"We were out the other day and it was just fantastic," he said. "We caught 39 pickerel in one day and 73 in four days, along with some stripers up to 6 pounds."

Other warmwater discharge areas that have strong potential at this time of year are the Morgantown power plant on the Lower Potomac River near the Route 301 bridge, Chalk Point on the Patuxent and Brandon Shores on the Patapsco.

On the upper Potomac, the power plants at Williamsport and Dickerson provide good angling for smallmouth bass, sunfish, crappie and catfish through the winter.

For yellow perch and pickerel, Bruce prefers to use a yellow and white Clouser and a 10-foot sink tip. Rod weights of 4, 5 or 6 will work well, he said.

As the winter moves on and the herring and shad begin to run, Bruce said he will begin to concentrate more on rockfish with bigger patterns and heavier gear.

"You get into the larger patterns, like a 9-inch deceiver, and deeper holes for rockfish," said Bruce, "and you really need heavy, sinking lines to get down to the fish."

A 9-weight rod would be acceptable, he added, and sinking lines might range to 350 grains.

"It's not for everyone," said Bruce. "But if you feel the need for winter fishing, there are a lot of possibilities, and sometimes it's just a matter of how much you can take."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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