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Any Way the Winds Blow

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January 6th. First trip of the new year. Check. First fish caught. Check again. Winds blow and and mahogany tide to contend with? Yep. It was one of “those days”—a sort of bewildering mix of conditions that foreshadowed doom and gloom, but didn’t impede the morning’s outing or bite after all. So, so weird. To venture into the home creek with a predicted steady wind at about 9 knots and gusts shooting the high teens was a bit ambitious. I’d be taking the small jon boat for a quick spin before the work day beckoned. I was jonesing to wet some lines and hopeful that pickerel and yellow perch would be willing to tug ’em. But the fishing reports these last couple days of unusally warm mid-60sF air temps had warned of mass algae blooms causing a mahogany tide throughout the Severn River watershed. Approaching the boat ramp at 7:30 a.m., it was confirmed. The water looked like a thick brown soup. Damn. And those winds were already picking up. Double damn.

Nevertheless, I launched and headed directly to a spot that (1) played out very well for me on a previous outing and (2) offered shoreline parrallel to the wind direction, so I could work a proper drift in the boat. Third, I discovered this wind direction also helped push some of the dirtier water out with the regular tide cycle (ebbing from 0.1′ to a slack low of -0.3′). We’re also fishing within the waxing full moon cycle, so maybe the fish would still be active from their overnight playtime. Maybe not. Only one way to find out. Go fishing.

Clean, healthy pickerel were abundant at this spot near the headwaters of a Severn creek.

Targeting pickerel and yellow perch exclusivily, I brought three spinning setups—light, medium-light, and medium rods paired to 2000 or 2500 class reels. All spooled with 10# Power Pro braid for the mainline and Seaguar Blue label flourcarbon leaders of 12# strength (barely light enough for the perch, and bottom range strength to hold up to toothy pickerel). For this outing, I decided to stick with soft plastics almost exclusively. To the light rig, a 1/16oz Northland Tackle Deep-Vee jighead (walleye) paired with a Moondog Bait Company slim shad (gold shiner) was tied. The medium-light got a 1/8oz Deep-Vee jighead (purpledecent) paired with an Old Skool Tackle Rip Shiner (violet purple). And the medium outfit received a 1/4oz Z-Man willowvibe (white) and Bass Assassin Sea Shad (purpledecent/red tail). These profiles would allow me to target a range of depths and upsize to larger fish if they were present.

The yellow perch ranged from a low of 9″ long to 12.” All fish caught on the lure you see here; a 2″ slim shad on a 1/16oz jighead.

Turns out, however, I only needed the light stick. The spot I drifted was shallow water from 2′ deep near shoreline to about 5′ where I positioned the boat. I began the morning pitching the lightest, smallest bait—the 2″ slim shad—toward shoreline and gently hopping the bait along the bottom on the retrieve. The boat was drifting southeast and after one small pickerel and perch took the bait on the first drift, I repeated. This time, I’d cast into the wind behind the boat and hop the bait along, letting the drift move everything along at a steady pace. This way, the lure would be swimming with the wind and current. And sure enough, plenty of fish presented themselves. Multiple hookups with frisky pickerel and solid yellow perch. The class of pickerel were only within the 18–21″ range of length, but were acrobatic and pulled nicely on the lighter gear. The yellow perch pulled their weight very well and this entire class of fish was approaching trophy size, with the largest coming in at 12.” Most were 11″ or slightly better. Because the bite was consistent, I stayed in this area, repeatedly drifting, catching, and releasing these beauties. I picked up each of the other two rods just a couple times to see if something larger might grab hold, but the fish that were there wanted the smaller profile.

This fat 12-incher has been entered in the annual CCA Pickerel Tournament, which also awards the longest yellow perch. Fingers crossed.

As the real tide inched closer to it’s low slack, the activity lingered…and the bite all but completely shut down. I moved to a small leeward pocket on the opposite side of the creek and reeled in two plump perch, which I figured indicated a small school. But repeat casts throughout this location came up empty. Odd. Having two hours of angling under my belt, plenty of fish to show for it, and winds blowing a cold front in, I called it a day and motored back to the ramp pondering why these seemingly bad conditions didn’t kill the bite. It was one of “those days.” See y’all on the water again, real soon!

Though few of the pickerel found at this spot exceeded 20,” they all fought well on light tackle.