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Bill May: The promising, and plentiful, Pocomoke River

Bill May: The promising, and plentiful, Pocomoke River
I took this yellow perch on a jig. (Bill May photo)

Well, I guess I can claim success.

First, I wanted to see the Pocomoke River. Second, I wanted to get outdoors this winter. Third, I wanted to experience some of that good winter pickerel and panfish action I enjoyed for years on the Magothy and Severn. Declaring success on the third item is a real stretch, but it seems to be the way things are done these days.

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So I set up a trip Thursday with old friend and veteran guide, Kevin Josenhans, to fish the Pocomoke for crappie, yellow perch and pickerel. Kevin has been guiding these winter trips for years, using light spinning tackle and jighead and grub combinations. Basically this is the same way we fished the Western Shore rivers, except we caught white perch in place of the crappies. For some reason the Magothy and Severn winter fishing has been dismal the last two years, while the Pocomoke has kept on producing — at least most days.

When I mentioned the upcoming trip to Joe Bruce, he surprised me by wanting to join me. Joe’s been averaging over 30 pickerel per trip fishing Delmarva ponds so far this year, but I guess he was nostalgic for our winter trips and for the Pocomoke, a river he fished for years before he moved to Carroll County.

Joe drove, so I kept scanning the fields of the Eastern Shore for deer, turkey and other critters. I didn’t see any critters, but I did comment on the standing water in so many fields. Neither of us thought any more about this phenomenon at the time.

Kevin Josenhans with one of our channel catfish that took a jig.
Kevin Josenhans with one of our channel catfish that took a jig. (Bill May photo)

When we arrived at the town of Snow Hill, I was immediately intrigued. It struck me as a place well a worthy addition to the list of Delmarva and western Maryland small towns I plan to visit and photograph.

We met Kevin at the Byrd Park ramp. Kevin had called ahead so we could have the nearby drawbridge raised to allow us to go upriver.

As always, Kevin’s 20-foot Parker center console was immaculate, despite its 15 years, and his tackle first rate — 5-foot-10 light-action Loomis rods, matching Shimano spinning reels spooled with 6-pound monofilament, 1/8-ounce bright-colored, wire-hook jigheads with 2-inch curlytail grubs.

To my surprise, he also had a bucket of minnows with an aerator pump.

We slowly motored about a half-mile above the bridge and began fishing in a hole about 8 feet deep. Kevin and I used the above tackle all day, with and without a minnow attached to the jighead and grub, using a bottom-hopping retrieves at varying speeds. Joe used his 4-weight Loomis fly rod with a sinking line and a bright yellow Bullethead Darter fly he designed.

It was just a slow day. We caught predominately yellow perch but also white perch, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, and one large mystery sucker none of us had ever seen before. We moved a lot and varied our techniques some, but it was always one fish here, one fish there, never any real pattern or school of fish and no pickerel or bass. The water was cloudy and full of debris from trees, from all the rains earlier that week, but Kevin refused to use this as an excuse.

But I was intrigued by the Pocomoke. The twisting river and many small bays along its bald cypress-lined banks reminded me of Virginia’s Piankatank and Dragon, although the Pocomoke does not have bowfin or — at least for now — snakeheads.

Joe Bruce with a typical yellow perch he took on his bullethead darter fly.
Joe Bruce with a typical yellow perch he took on his bullethead darter fly. (Bill May photo)

In warmer months spatterdock and overhanging trees along the banks along with points, channels and breakpoints along the bottom create ideal ambush spots and casting targets for a healthy largemouth bass and pickerel population. This is prime territory for the kayak, frog, fluke and other plastics tactics our gang has evolved tom in recent years.

But the Pocomoke River and adjoining area offer a lot more than fishing

Some major attractions in the Snow Hill area include:

The Pocomoke River Canoe Company offers rentals of canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, aluminum boats and portage service for paddling and fishing the Pocomoke River and Nassawango Creek. They also rent bicycles and sell tackle, licenses and other gear. See pocomokeriverpaddle.com.

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Pocomoke River Cruises also in Snow Hill offers pontoon boat river cruises with great wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. See pocomokerivercruises.com.

Pocomoke River State Park and Forest with locations in Snow Hill and Pocomoke City provides campgrounds, picnic areas, fishing, launch ramps, hiking trails, canoe and kayak rentals and other amenities.

Furnace Town Living Heritage Village depicts early 19th century life around the Nassawango Iron Furnace and also hosts festivals and special events. See furnacetown.org.

See visitworcester.org for the Worcester County Visitor’s Guide, “Maryland’s Beaches and Beyond.” This online guide gives information on Assateague, Ocean City and other attractions and includes lodging and much more on other outdoor attractions.

The Snow Hill area is worth a trip on its own, and it’s a great day trip from some major Delmarva destinations. It’s about 40 minutes from Ocean City, 90 minutes from Rehoboth, less than 30 minutes from Salisbury.

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