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Jim Gronaw: Casting my fishing goals for 2020

Well, the new year has been rung in, the Christmas presents have been returned and the off-season outdoor shows are upon us. Time to reflect, time to look ahead. Everyone has an idea of what it is that they might wish to accomplish in the coming year.

To some, it might be that long-awaited trip to a far-off destination for some exotic species. Others may desire pursuit of trophy-class fish close to home. Yet others would just as soon slow it down and fish for sunnies with their grand kids.

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So, what would you like for 2020? New boat, new PB’s or more time on the water? How about adding to your “fish list” of different species? Tackle and gear seem to always get the call. Even when we know we have enough, it seems we can always make an excuse for “one more rod.” Here are a few ideas I have for the new season in 2020.

New Species

Most of my fishing is pretty basic, with a strong major in panfish where bluegills and crappies lead the way. I dig bass, pickerel, carp and cats and the seasonal trout options in the Mid Atlantic can get me stirring as well. But I’d really like to catch a northern snakehead this year while I am still able to toss a kayak in a truck. Best opportunities for snakeheads are currently on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland with the Dorchester County/Blackwater Complex holding high numbers with some big fish to boot.

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From chats with friends who have done the gig, it seems as though the areas on the shore are getting pretty crowded with many anglers gunning for these aggressive predators in many waters throughout the Chesapeake region. The YouTube videos on snakeheads look exciting and fun, but environmental concerns still remain to be realized as these fish continue to establish themselves throughout Maryland waters.

Flathead catfish are also high on my hit list for 2020. Yup, yet another invasive.

I have several connections to put me on them, but it just hasn’t happened yet. The Susquehanna River in both Maryland and Pennsylvania would be the prime spot as giants are also in several Upper Bay rivers as well. I’ve got the gear and the tackle to land these brutes, so no new purchases are needed.

Fresh, lively sunfish species are what is traditionally needed for success and I have plenty of places to get bait. Here again, timing and scheduling are matters I need to address.

Although not necessarily a “new” specie to me, I have developed a fondness for native/naturalized trout species, in particular, brown trout populations that are not too far from my doorstep. Some of them I knew about and others I wasn’t aware of. They are here and there, and some of them are big. Like other angling endeavors, a little work and planning are prime ingredients for success.

New Personal Bests

Almost all the time, I will take a big fish when it comes along, which some years is not very often. Some of my PB’s were accidental catches made while seeking other game. But this year I have been thinking long and hard about how I can put an 8-pound class, or bigger, largemouth bass in my kayak or on the bank.

I know of a few places where some of them are, and even would go so far as to believe that a 10-pound bass would be a legit possibility. However, all the stars and planets have to align, and I need, again, to do my homework and time it right in order to make this thing happen. Clearly, for me, it would be a “once in a lifetime” catch.

The time and effort to catch a new personal best largemouth bass could take a big bite out of time and effort for other species. Maybe I'll just get lucky.
The time and effort to catch a new personal best largemouth bass could take a big bite out of time and effort for other species. Maybe I'll just get lucky. (Jim Gronaw Photo)

At this point I need a largemouth exceeding 24-inches to break my PB for the species, so I wrestle with the realization that this goal may end up taking huge amounts of angling time away from other species or else just plain, dumb luck, which is what I am hoping for anyway.

A new channel catfish PB would be sweet. Last year, my good friend Alvie Sickle and I caught some good ones in various lairs of the Monocacy River. River catties fight harder than those pond fish and seeing some 30-inch plus fish from Old Muddy was a welcomed sight.

It could possibly happen, along with a new carp catch as well. And it is also nice to see impressive smallmouth sizes throughout the entire central Maryland watersheds. We’ll see.

Fish New Places

I fish a lot, but I don’t get out much ... if that makes any sense. I have a network of at least 2-dozen private and public lakes, many of which are way under the radar, where big fish can show up. Knowing most of these waters intimately allows for me to make some great, close-to-home catches most years. Throw in another dozen or so public venues and I have lots of places to fish.

Still, the lure of new water and different scenery makes for great expectations. The anti-social networks can sometimes lead to “new-to-me” fishing spots but the “brag, don’t tell” mentality of the Facebook crowd usually just serves as high-level boasting platforms for today’s ego-inspired anglers. Yes, I’ve fallen into that rat trap myself. Hence, I’m asking for forgiveness.

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But yes, more Eastern Shore fishing, maybe for giant red ear sunfish, a trip for shad on the Rappahannock or even a freshwater striper fishing adventure to Lake Anna. It doesn’t have to be any place special, just new and different.

My son wants to head to Lake Erie one day for those football-shaped, 5-pound smallmouths or perhaps a dream trip to Lake Havasu for 4-pound red ear sunfish, with a side order of 3-pound smallies, thank you.

More than likely, I’ll happily settle for some early spring trout with the grand girls, Elena and Abby, and maybe do a long weekend with my son out to Deep Creek Lake. And when you really think about it, if you are doing things with the people you love it’s going to be special anyway.

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