You are currently viewing Mild, Then Hot Spring Fishing

Mild, Then Hot Spring Fishing

Given my time/availability, location, and what I’m personally seeing on the water this spring, I’ve settled into fishing a half-mile stretch of the upper Patuxent for the past month. The shad run has been—in my estimation—quite good and consistent thus far. In fact, the run started a couple weeks earlier than the past two seasons. The shad run has coincided with that of white perch—the species generally overlap their spring ambitions of running upriver to spawn. 

But, each week of fishing has been a touch different, as expected, with some outings running hotter than others. This was especially true within this single week of fishing. 

Last Friday (4/26), I ventured to my favored water and hiked downriver. With the region having had little rainfall in the past two weeks, the river flow and turbidity were mild. The water level a bit low. The plan was to slowly move back upriver and work all holes and deeper stretches with a tandem rig of shad darts and spoons in various colors. One of my light-fast rod/reel combos had a yellow/red dart and gold spoon tied 16 inches below. The other outfit had a chartreuse/black dart with a silver spoon.

I worked this plan. The shad did not cooperate. 

White perch, on the other hand, were very eager to play. The pockets of fish I found were all on the downriver side of the crossing bridge that marks the half-way mark of the shoreline I fish. Most of the downriver water is shaded—more so than the upriver side, which is a bit wider, open, and has less overhanging trees. It makes sense that perch would situate under the protection/cover of trees, shade, etc., as the river may also have roaming predators including northern snakehead, catfish, and even bass (largemouth and small). Most of the perch hit the spoons, with silver being favored. 

Overall, a fair day if only because the perch bite was consistent. Only a couple blueback herring and one surprise smallmouth bass rounded out the morning’s catch. Having enjoyed some good shad fishing at this location over the past month, this outing made me question if the runs of hickory, American, and herring were finishing up. Had I experienced the best of it early or will the runs kick into a higher gear? 

A week later—by yesterday, Thursday morning—the shad fishing picked back up. Though I’m not wholly convinced that the best is yet to come. I believe that ship has sailed. But there’s some good fishing to be had, at least for the next couple weeks until the shad finish their business.

Back to the river I went. Morning. Sunny and 70 degrees (approaching the day’s high of 80). Blue herons and osprey, among other bird species, were actively cruising above. A good sign! The water was similar to a week ago, but some more shad moved up, as evidenced by my very first cast. A large American shad. Now, the question is whether catching on the first cast is good luck or bad? By morning’s end, when I wrapped up at 10:30 a.m., I had caught three American, several hickory, and a couple bluebacks. I’d say whatever luck I had, was decent. 

The approach was similar in terms of outfits and using tandem rigs (all 1/16-ounce lures). However, on one rod I opted for a double-dart rig—chartreuse/black on top with a white/red/yellow dart on the bottom. 

All fish that I landed had hit the white dart. And all fish were caught in the sunshine of the aforementioned upriver stretch of water. (Again, “upriver” being relative to the bridge that crosses the stretch of river I fish.) 

Of note, upon arrival I ran into new friend Coach Clay already fishing the banks and eager to share the space, talk shop, and enjoy company. We had a hoot fishing the premise together. Clay caught a handful of hickory and at least one, dynamite American shad. Interestingly, most of his strikes came on a black/red dart, having noted during our last outing here two weeks prior that black was a dominant color. Go figure. I caught on white this day; he on black.

Shad are finicky and fun species. Hopefully, the run continues for another week or two. And hopefully we get a smidge of rain this weekend. The region needs it. See y’all on the water again, real soon!