The karma of angling—or mojo, or payback, or pay it forward…whatever you call the mysticism between good days and bad—is a funny thing and a quality of the sport that we’ll never fully understand, though try as we might. I’ve written about skunk outings and how they’re an opportunity to absorb the beauty of nature and fine tune your fishing senses when the actual bite is dead. Writing about skunks is therapeutic too. After all, I had a week of recent spring outing, but not much to show for them other than a few pretty photos. The writing helps. But no sooner did I reflect on those skunks, writing about them and what I needed to do to adjust, did my very next outing deliver in a very big way!
For the past month and change, I’ve been targeting snakehead on most of my outings. Largemouth too. And both species will hit the same lures, so I visited multiple spots where the potential to hook into either existed. On Friday, April 22nd—Earth Day no less—I pulled on my boots and decided to hoof it to a very fishy spot. This was a spot I scouted a full week ago just after a vicious spring cold front dumped an inch of rain and dipped the mercury down. Needless to say, I skunked then, and wrote about that outing as such. With about five days since that front pushed through-and-out the region, and with sunnier/warmer weather settling things down, I had a hunch this same spot might produce.
Visiting this location along the Little Patuxent River is fairly easy and I’d suggest aiming for early mornings or mid-afternoons (basically during traditional workday hours) to beat the crowd. On weekends, its a wild card and I think this spot sees consistent pressure during gorgeous spring and summer days. I took advantage of some early morning free time and had the place all to myself. The freedom to roam the banks and cast as you wish is priceless when bank fishing. Thank you fishing gods.
I had three outfits rigged for this trip. Two 6’6″ medium spinning setups; one rigged with a chatterbait in natural colors of green/brown/grey, and another with a pearlescent 4″ paddletail, weedless. Both with 15# braid and a 3′ leader of 20# flourocarbon. The third rig was my light gear spin setup with 10# braid, and 8# mono leader, and for this outing a 1/16oz jighead tipped with the 2″ plastic shad.
Initially, I alternated between the chatterbait and paddletail by casting parallel to the bank and around visible cover. In smaller river systems like this, there’s a ton of laydown trees, which is attractive to a variety of species. On one cast, I had eyes on a largemouth bass who opted out of the meal at the last second of the retrieve. Darn. For the first hour of fishing, I didn’t have much to show. But at one spot, I did observe blurpy bubble pops on the water’s surface, which is a usual tipoff to a snakehead’s presence. Yet, I couldn’t get a take on the first-choice lures. Darn.
Switching gears, I decided to work the light rig in similar spots with the hope of hooking white perch or maybe a finnicky bass to avoid yet another dreaded skunk. Having no takes, I returned to the original honey hole and tossed the little lure a few more times before calling it quits. I actually nailed the exact spot where those bubbles rose earlier—a shaded area between to small laydowns. And to my surprise, I had a heavy hit, especially so on the light setup. Initially I thought bass, but the runs felt different; heavier, more pronounced turns with deliberate running. I had to play with the drag setting back and forth because I was on fine line (literally) between landing and losing this fish. Additionally, the 1/16oz jighead features a hook meant for panfish. This hook could and would bend. But, as I saw the leader connection break the surface, I knew I was close. And I finally got the visual that I’ve been chasing all spring…a northern snakehead! Carefully, I was able to bank the fish, snap a few photos, and release her gently. She played with me very well and wasn’t too squirrely.
What a way to finish the week…especially coming on the heels of a dry run. By my estimate, this snakehead went 30-31 inches and came in at or near the 10 pound mark. Perhaps a touch less. Regardless, I put her up there in my favorite catches of the year thus far. Maybe she’s tops. Then again, there’s always the next best fish. See y’all on the water again, real soon!