Looking out over a river smothered in white caps, I couldn't fathom how the dozen scaup remained so indifferent to the tempest raging all around them. Yet, they were, bobbing nonchalantly over the swells as if on a sightseeing tour of Venice. I have to believe the ospreys are more than a bit miffed about returning to their summer home only to be greeted with gale winds and frigid temperatures. As I watch the scene unfold, I'm tempted to bellow "Stella!" at the top of my lungs, like the great Brando did 60 years earlier. But half of you probably wouldn't get it, and besides my neighbor already thinks I'm a bit touched in the head.
I find some recompense in the fact that the late winter storm took it easy on us compared to New England folks, but the blast of cold wind and ice/snow nonetheless jammed up fishing plans and boat prep for many of us. By now you've probably heard that the trophy rockfish season will open April 15 and run through May 15. If not, here's the deal: You're allowed one rockfish per day, at 35 inches or larger, the same regs as last year. For the summer-resident season, which begins May 16 and ends Dec. 20, again you can keep two fish per day longer than 20 inches. Remember, as one of my alert readers thought should be underscored, only one of those stripers can be bigger than 28 inches.
Over on the coast the rules haven't changed. Anglers enjoy a two rockfish daily limit that measure 28 and 38 inches or larger than 44 inches. It is open year-round within the three-mile state boundary. All rock should be measured from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail, says fishery officials from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
While I'm in the "public service," component of the program, if you're taking part in the preseason catch-and-release rock fishing, refresh yourself on the boundary and rules. Equally if not more importantly, do everything you can to try and minimize the stress on the fish. Put another way, keep large rockfish in the water whenever possible, and if you do need to lift in the boat temporarily use cradle nets and limit the hero shots. And never, ever hang a big cow by her jaw using a gripper tool. Not only is it harmful to the striper, it's possibly some bad juju for you. OK, someone help me down from my soap box, and on with the show.
Yellow perch are done, with a few stragglers lingering. Meanwhile, the white perch are perhaps as confused as I am whether to head up river. For freshwater options, the state continues its trout stocking efforts. I'm keen to try for a hickory shad in a couple weeks. It'll also be interesting to see how the snowfall in the Susquehanna drainage might impact conditions on the Flats once the white stuff starts to melt. It's possible the runoff upriver might keep the Flats' water temps below the sweet spot of 54 to 60 degrees until at least early April.
Locally, Jim at Marty's Bait & Tackle reports that the white perch are "thick" at Waysons' Corner on the upper Patuxent. Try grass shrimp on shad darts with a float. Several of his customers have trolled up big rock near Thomas Point. One customer caught a 38-pound striper trolling a Grelen lure. I'd never heard of it, so Jim explained it's "a marble-eyed parachute lure that's been catching fish for over 20 years. They call them Bay Aliens. I just bought the company out."
"Some decent rockfish can be found by those willing to look around the channel ledges and around river mouths that are still open to (rock) fishing," says Travis Long of Chesapeake Beach. Also, he shared that he'll be conducting a seminar he's calling "Jigging 101" on April 8 at the open house for Bay Country Tackle.
Over on the Eastern Shore, Capt. Kevin Josenhans of Josenhans Fly Fishing is getting ready for TieFest this weekend and says while there are probably white perch still in the Nanticoke, but in lesser numbers. He's booked as much as "I want (to be) for Flats but not sure if this snow in Pennsylvania is going to delay my fishing up there."
Captain Walt of Light Tackle Charters is still fishing on the Pocomoke, catching a "straggler white perch here and there and a handful of yellow perch each trip. But the stragglers and handfuls have been large. Still plenty of crappie action to keep my clients happy, and the occasional pickerel always adds to the excitement."
SHOW SEASON WINDS DOWN: As the winter fishing show season winds down, two events are on the docket for this weekend. On Saturday, the Left Kreh's TieFest will be held at the Kent Island Yacht Club in Chester. Some of the nation's best saltwater fly tiers and anglers will be on hand to share their expertise. Show hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and highlights include casting demonstrations and more than 30 fly tiers showing off their skills. Admission is $10 for adults, kids 16 and under enter free.
Held on both weekend days Is the MSSA's Essex Middle River Chapter's "Fishing Flea Market." On Saturday the show runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday hours are 9 a.m.-2 p.m. It will be held at the Commodore Hall on 1909 Old Eastern Avenue in Essex, and admission is only $3.
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March 18: Left Kreh's TieFest. Kent Narrows Yacht Club, Chester MD. Show hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m., includes casting demonstrations and more than 30 fly tiers. $10 for adults, kids 16 and under enter free.
March 18-19: MSSA Essex Middle River Chapter's "Fishing Flea Market. Sat. hours 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun. hours 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Commodore Hall 1909 Old Eastern Avenue, Essex.
March 23: Annapolis Boat Sales hosts Capt. "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg. Light tackle techniques for trophy rockfish. 1725 South Piney Road, Chester. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 25: 3rd annual Hunting Legacy Dinner & Benefit, hosted by the Maryland Hunting Coalition. Noon-4 p.m., Martins Westminster. Tickets at mdhuntingcoalition.org.
March 28: Angler's Night Out, hosted by Boatyard Bar & Grill, in cooperation with CCA MD & Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Feature film is "Providence." Happy hour & appetizer specials from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., film starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 4th Street & Severn Avenue, Eastport.
April 15: Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day "Catch and Release Rockfish Tournament." Registration is open at boatyardbarandgrill.com. Contact email@example.com or (410) 216-6206 with questions.
April 20: CCA MD Annapolis Chapter Banquet. CBF's Merril Center, 6 Herndon Avenue, Annapolis. 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
April 21-23: Bay Bridge Boat Show. Details and tickets at annapolisboatshows.com/bay-bridge-boat-show.
May 5-7: MSSA's Championship on the Chesapeake. Save $25 with early registration. Details at mssa.net.
May 6: Small Boat Offshore Seminar, hosted by CCA MD Baltimore Chapter. Loew's Annapolis Hotel, 126 West Street, Annapolis.
May 8-11: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's 2017 Spring Meeting, Alexandria, Va. Visit asmfc.org of agenda.