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Perch Jerkin’

This was a fruitful-after-fruitless morning trip to the upper reaches of the Severn River, if only because I made an important pivot in the day’s plan. The original intent was striped bass on topwater at dawn and, from there…we’d see how the day unfolds. Trick is, you can’t always get what you want, so you really do have to try, try, try to get what you need. For me, it’s the tug…any tug.

Awaking at 4:30 a.m. wasn’t a problem for me as this would be my first dawn patrol for stripers of the fledging season that extends until late-fall. Anticipation ran high. Checking my fishing log, I decided to play a couple patterns that produced bass at this time last year. With mild weather predicted—about 60F to start the day, climbing into the mid-70s and only 5–6 knots winds from the north/northeast—plus an outgoing tide, conditions appeared favorable for a fun morning. The surface water temperature hovered between 73F and 76F. Another good checkmark in the conditions box.

Early dawn on the Severn River, motoring along to the first fishing spots of the day. This is paradise.

I set a nice troll out of the creek while it was still dark. I ran two spin outfits for light tackle trolling; each with a soft plastic on a jig head. The plastics were root beer color; one a paddletail, the other a curly-tail grub. I’ve had great success trolling these baits pre-dawn as I leave the creek. Unfortunately, no hits on either today. Not to worry. Certainly the topwater bite on the sandbar flats would be spectacular. Right?

For the next hour, I would motor to the south side of three different points jutting into the river; figuring the bait balls would be exiting the creeks and making a southern pass over them. Stripers would be sitting there awaiting a feast. I set my position and had three topwater lures at the ready: a classic Storm Chug Bug (in black); a Redemption Lures’ Smack n’ Shad (in cutie pie); and a Rapala Twitchin’ minnow (in pilchard). This was a good rotation of popping and surface/subsurface walking baits.

When white perch started hitting lures, I knew it was time to pivot the day’s gameplan altogether and target them exclusively.

But this pattern was for naught. The bait balls never showed as I was hoping for; in fact, as day broke and the sun inched higher, it became apparent the baitfish were actually further south of me and moving northward. Odd. Nevertheless, I tried my hand at topwater and came up empty; even though I was throwing my confidence lures, each offering a different action that I thought would trigger hungry strikes. Time to move on when the plan isn’t working and, so, I made the pivot. Abandon stripers and, instead, head to the docks for perch jerkin’.

Plying the many docks of the Severn River is my go-to on many outings. This time of year, the white perch have settled into the predictable pattern of staging at the ends of docks in deeper water (10–15′) and especially in the shady pockets in and around each. For precision casting and picking apart each dock, I turn to a 1/4oz silver Kastmaster. I replace the stock treble hook with a Berkeley Fusion19 dressed treble (size 6). With the feathered trailer, this presentation is a proven winner…as long as the perch are actually there. And today, they were plentiful…and jumbo.

The silver Acme Kastmaster is a proven lure for catching white perch under and around docks.

The first indication that this pattern would produce today was on the very first dock I worked. Gently casting into a stretch of shade parallel to the dock, I let the lure sink for about three seconds before easing it back with subtle to jerky jigging. I didn’t want the bait to fully sink to bottom; just maintain about 2–3′ from it. I pulled a couple frisky 8″ perch and threw them back. Then I pulled a 10.” And it was game on. Each dock I visited produced at least two perch in the 10+” class, plus many more in the 7–10″ range. It was a hoot. In about one hour’s worth of jerkin,’ I had a cooler full of fish and tacos on my mind.

Working the docks is a technique that pays dividends when done correctly. I believe I’ll write a Reel Tactics post on this presentation soon. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of fish to fillet.

Pivoting my entire game plan out of necessity ended up being the right move. It can pay to have more than one species on your mind when planning out your excursions. And I’m certainly thankful that the Severn River makes it easy to do so, with a variety of gamefish big and small. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

Jumbo white perch in the 10-plus” range made for fun day of light tackle fishing and filled the cooler.