Big tidal bluegills were the catch of the day at Marshyhope Creek as the tides caused fish to position behind and next to structure.
Big tidal bluegills were the catch of the day at Marshyhope Creek as the tides caused fish to position behind and next to structure. (Jim Gronaw photo)

A couple weeks ago Manchester resident Bob Elias and I got a hankerin' to hit some different fishing spots and explore some "new to us" waters on the Eastern Shore.

The timing looked good as predicted record highs in the eighties prevailed, giving us hassle-free weather for pond hopping on the Shore. Bob did an online reservation in the town of Denton and I loaded up the Trail Blazer and we were on our way.


For those of you who are not familiar with fishing on the Shore, picture this ... it is an expansive flatland environment that is still deeply rooted in agriculture, specked with small towns here and there between far-reaching fields and heavy woodlands. Throughout the region, and in much of Delaware, are many tidal rivers and creeks that harbor bass, pickerel, yellow perch, white perch, crappies and seasonal runs of shad and herring. Hit it just right in any one of the many spillways, millponds and creeks and you may have a smorgasbord of fishing opts before you. Traditionally, the Delmarva region usually runs about 3-4 weeks ahead of our Mason Dixon progression of spring.

Bob and I first stopped at Wye Mills Lake, a 50-acre state owned and managed millpond that is just 15 miles on the other side of the Bay Bridge. Wye Mills has produced quality bass and panfish species over the years as well as seasonal yellow perch runs in the creek below the dam. Our float and fly light tackle efforts produced a lot of bluegills and a few small bass here. However, most of the bluegills were on the smallish side. With much of the day still ahead of us we headed to Tuckahoe State Park to fish the spillway and lake. Fishing was slow here, with just a few bluegills and red breast sunfish to show for our efforts.

Lots of people were out enjoying this record warmth, but clearly the fish were not up in the large spillway below the lake, I took a water temperature and it was 50 degrees. Ten more degrees warmer would have seen a pile of fish of multiple species in this area.

It was time to make another move, so we headed south to the town of Federalsburg where we fished a section of Marshyhope Creek, a small meandering tidal flow that serpentines into Delaware and then branches off with numerous creeks being halted by colonial era millponds. The Marshyhope has the same menu as many other Delmarva waters and, as always, timing is key for spring fishing. Bob and I found an area below one of the many bridges on the creek where hungry tidal bluegills ambushed our jigs and gave us some pretty good ultralight tackle action. These fish averaged larger than the previous two spots and the action was more consistent. I found another incoming creek that held a volume of fish to include pumpkinseeds, red eared sunfish and some small bass.

All total, we probably caught and released 100 bluegills from the Marshyhope in the few hours we were there. Tired and hungry, we felt pleased with our efforts and headed back to check into the hotel and grab a bite to eat.

The next morning we made plans to hit Smithville Lake, a 43-acre state-owned and managed millpond that has reportedly yielded big red ears and quality bass and chain pickerel. The small parking lot at the lake soon had several trailers and trucks in it as other folks had fishing on their minds as well. After a slow start, Bob began picking up big bluegills and red ears with his shad dart/meal worm combo in shallow water. For some reason, he was hooking plenty of big panfish and I could hardly buy a fish. His bobber would go under, he'd set the hook, and another 10-inch plus red ear would come to hand.

My bobber would go under, I'd set the hook, and my jig would come back empty of bait or perhaps a very small bluegill. Switching rods, jigs, and baits I finally ran out of excuses as Bob kept piling up the fish and brandishing nearly one pound sunfish in my face. I proved one thing, however ... I can lose fish just as well on the 9-foot rod as I can on the 7-foot rod, maybe better!

Bob also picked up a nice yellow perch and lost a big chain pickerel that bit through the 4-pound line right at the bank. Still, it had been an excellent day and I eventually caught one of the big red ears. We witnessed another angler boat a 4-pound class bass that morning and chatted with DNR personnel who were in the process of placing Christmas trees in the lake for additional fish structures. A good day and a long ride home got us back to Westminster by 3 p.m.

Fishing the numerous millponds, spillways and tidal creeks of Delmarva can be rewarding and challenging. By the time you read this most creeks will have concluded the anticipated yellow perch runs and white perch and crappie may be the headliners. Look for bass and pickerel to steal the show in many ponds. Access is best with a canoe or kayak as most of the ponds have unimproved ramps and limited parking. We saw numerous kayaks and mini-boats during our trips. Check out the Maryland DNR website and maps that can put you on a variety of waters up and down the Eastern Shore.

Traditionally, April can be a great month but we are having an early spring so sooner may be better for some "Shore Good" fishing.