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Slim Pickins’

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A week of fishing and just a few specimens to show for it. I believe the recent weeble-wobble weather conditions made for slim pickins’ during the past two outings. The fish—specifically pickerel—were tough to come by. I really had to work to find them and, thankfully, just enough showed themselves to make the time on the water feel worthwhile. Well…getting on the water is always worthwhile, but even better when the fish cooperate.

On a very chilly Sunday afternoon (2/5), I plied my home creek on the Severn River. The water was a bit dirtier than usual for this time of year and some gentle, here and there rains were the likely culprit. The previous week’s air temps were also abysmally low, reaching the teens, which produced skim ice in the back end of the creek. The tide was moving into its flood cycle, but still very, very low water, so hugging the banks and targeting shoreline cover wasn’t in the cards.

Temps in the teens created a skim ice slick in the back coves of the shallows.

My best bet, I figured, would be hitting the ends of docks and the adjacent deeper water in the 7 to 10 foot zone with a 1/4oz Mepps in-line Aglia Streamer spinner (natural and gold colors). Let the lure sink about 5–7 feet, engage the spinner, and slowly bring it back on the retrieve. Basically, it’s a search bait at this point that hopefully would entice deeper sitting fish up for the attack. Methodically, I worked an entire creek’s docks and came up empty—not even a follow. I also had my eye on the sonar in case a pocket of yellow perch appeared, but they weren’t sighted either. A different approach, altogether, would be needed.

Against my initial hunch, I ventured toward the shallows—a “cove of productivity” when the water is higher. And it’s here that I switched to finesse mode, opting for a 1/16oz VMC Moon Eye jig (orange fire uv color) with a 2″ Moondog Bait rip shad (rasta color). This presentation is very small–both jig and plastic have a smaller profile than other lures of the “same” weight and length. It’s perfect for perch and other panfish. And in the shallows where tiny minnows proliferate, I figured this lure had a chance to catch fish—if any were actually there.

This little guy hit a small jig/shad proving a few fish were in the shallows.

A few casts in, I felt a tick, tick…and let the rod load up under the weight of a fiesty little pickerel. Finally, some life! Though not large by any measure, this little fellow showed me the way to more fish. Repeat casts to the bottom of the 4–5 foot deep flat produced three more hookups, two of which were pickerel in the 20″ class. This finished out the afternoon, just before the sun set. Good intentions turned into good vibes.

A nicer, 20″ specimen hit just a few casts later in about 5′ of water.

In five days time, the region would see the mercury wildy rise to the low-60s Fahrenheit, which predictably should turn fisheries on. I had hope, but also doubt. Overnight and into early Friday morning (2/10), temps hovered in the 50s. When I hit the water, the fish finder showed a 45-degree surface water temp, up about 5–6 degrees from mere days ago. Wild indeed.

The aluminum jon boat I use for fishing the smaller creeks of the river maneuvers efficiently through and around the spots I prefer to fish. But this efficiency is at the mercy of the wind and weather. And as I prepped the boat, the northwest wind began hitting gust velocity and seldom let up. This made the morning a challenge. With the water already showing white wisps and a surface action that was unappealing for shallow-water fishing, I fished slightly deeper water. A Rapala X-Rap size XR08 in hot steel color was the lure choice, worked through the 4–6-foot zone around docks in a semi-leeward position on the creek. Though a slow morning fishing-wise, the wind made it a very active outing. Lots of energy spent positioning the boat just right, in order to hit each spot with a cast or two before drifting on.

Thankfully, a solid pickerel (see lead photo and below) hit the X-Rap in the second hour of fishing, shortly before I called it quits. I love when I work the jerk bait through a spot and suddenly the rod bends heavy. That’s why we fish, right? That feeling. And though the pickins’ were, indeed, slim this past week, that tug has me eyeballing the forecasts for the week ahead and planning for the next fish to hit. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

Slim, but in the net. This pickerel hit an X-Rap jerk bait.