Five Easy Fish for Father’s DayPosted on: June 7, 2019 By: FHMD
As a child growing up near Middle River on the upper Chesapeake Bay, my father would take us down to the marina docks and we would use our sturdy cane poles to catch a variety of panfish. Nothing was big, and seldom did we bring home enough for a legitimate meal. But it was the beginning of a life-long journey and love for fish and fishing. And for a father-and-child fishing expedition in Maryland waters, those simple beginnings are all that is needed to launch a lifetime of memories. Not all species of fish need a full arsenal of gear to achieve success. Here is a game plan for five of the most co-operative species in our Free State waters to take advantage of for Father’s Day.
Bluegills and Close Kin
In almost every public pond, lake, and stream in Maryland you will find bluegill sunfish and other closely related species. From late May through late June, many waters will see them spawning at a hectic pace with dark males scurrying in and around circular nests in the shallows. Many sunfish species will hang around docks and boat slips, and along piers and bulkheads. They can easily be caught with garden worms, small plastic panfish jigs or often even on small pieces of bread on a tiny #10 hook.
Push-button reels and small bobbers set three feet above the hook is a time-honored standard for catching them throughout much of the summer and into the fall. Beware of the spines on the sunfish as they can poke a youngsters’ hand. Most “sunnies” will run five to seven inches, but many of our public waters and park ponds have fish exceeding eight inches and bigger. Eastern Shore mill ponds and state parks have high populations of sunfish. I caught my first bluegill at age five – and I haven’t been the same since!
With the entire Chesapeake complex riddled with tidal rivers and creeks, finding public access for summertime white perch is not a problem. White perch are the saltwater equivalent of bluegills in freshwater… abundant, willing biters that offer great table fare as well. They hang around bulkheads, marina docks, jetties, bridge pilings and abutments throughout many of our waterways. For those families with boats, they are found in many areas where moderate current and shallow shoals exit, often biting best on a moving tide.
Many baits will catch eager white perch, with pieces of clam snouts, razor clams, blood worms, grass shrimp and bull minnows doing well on bottom rigs with #4 and #6 baitholder-style hooks. Small artificial lures such as spoons, spinners and jigs will take them, as well as minnows and shrimp products. Often the best catches of summertime, white perch can be caught on cloudy days or early and late in the day. A fan favorite, white perch make delicious eating and can be the basis for a great fish fry!
With a tremendous amount of fresh water entering the upper bay tributaries the past two years, many anglers are starting to see more and more quality-sized channel catfish in the rivers and tributaries north of the Bay Bridge. The Susquehanna, Bush, Middle, Choptank and Chester Rivers are good starting spots for boat and shoreline anglers wishing to catch their five-fish limit of channel catfish. Often, fish averaging five pounds are in the mix, with fish over 10 pounds not rare. Again, a variety of fresh-cut baits, chicken livers, hot dog chunks and fresh shrimp will catch the cats on bottom or fish finder rigs along channel areas of rivers and creeks.
A high number of channel catfish were encountered last summer throughout the upper bay while anglers were pursuing striped bass with live and cut baits. Stronger tackle may be needed to tame these hard-charging fish. Medium spinning gear and lines testing 12- to 20-pound test should cover all the catfish bases.
Numerous in-land systems like the Susquehanna and Monocacy have fishable channel cat populations and they will go for the same baits. Many small public park ponds contain channel catfish and some of these fish have grown to huge proportions, sometimes in the 15- to 20-pound range. On the lower Potomac River from Washington D.C. down river, extremely abundant blue catfish can provide fast action and tasty fillets for boat and bank fishermen with oodles of four- to 10-pound class fish. As temperatures soar, nighttime may be the best time for summer cats.
Yes, largemouth bass – the premier sportfish in the country, can be caught and enjoyed by inexperienced anglers, and family outings can lead to memorable catches. These fish, like the sunfish, are practically everywhere, and those small park and community lakes often have abundant populations of 12- to 15-inch class fish that can serve as the basis for future bass fishing champions. Additionally, many small, overlooked public venues have a few rogue largemouths swimming around that will weigh from four to six pounds…a fine fish anywhere!
Plastic worms from four to seven inches rigged on 2/0 offset worm hooks will catch the lion’s share of bass throughout much of the summer. Light spinning gear with eight- or 10-pound test lines will handle all but the biggest of these fish. Fish unweighted plastic stick worms, frogs or creature baits around docks, boat slips, pilings, fallen trees or weed beds. If you can fish some waters at night, then there are opportunities to land bigger fish that come out after dark.
Yes, bass fishing is a highly competitive sport that fuels a huge angling industry, but you do not have to be a “pro” to enjoy bass fishing or even catch a big fish. Take the kids early or late in the day and see what happens. You don’t need two dozen rods, a ton of tackle or even a bass boat to enjoy this great gamefish.
And, yes, Carp
If ever there was a great fish to learn on, it would be the common carp, found in almost every body of water in Maryland. If you want to have a little excitement with big fish frequently topping 20 pounds, then the lowly carp can be both co-operative and challenging.
Carp fishing can be simple or complex. But for almost all situations, canned, whole-kernel corn will draw and catch carp in almost any lake, river or pond where they exist. Thread a few kernels on a #6 baitholder hook, pinch a few split shots a foot above the hook and cast out wherever you visibly see carp tailing or cruising in shallow backwaters or the coves of many lakes. Again, medium spinning gear and eight- to 12-pound test monofilament should handle the majority of the fish. You can also mold pieces of soft bread or rolls onto a hook and flavor it with strawberry or vanilla extract to appeal to the carp’s sense of smell.
Carp are powerful fighters but take a bait gently. We always would leave our bail open and allow the fish to run before setting the hook. Be patient in playing larger carp, as they are extremely enduring and powerful. Some of my most memorable fights have been with giant carp that smashed my jig or soft plastic lure, as they will do. In muddy waters, carp are not nearly as spooked and skittish as when they are found in clear environs.
Practically every tidal system in Maryland holds carp, as well as the many tributaries of the Potomac and the inland reservoirs and many millponds as well. Use a forked stick for a rod holder, bring a cooler with lunch, and hunker down in the shade for some laid-back big fish action this summer!
Before heading out, be sure to visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources online for all necessary information, licenses, and regulations. Also, check out the Plan Your Trip section of our website to find lodging options, fishing charters and guides, and outdoor retailers to get the most out of your fishing trip in Maryland.
Why not add a relaxing road trip to your itinerary while you’re fishing in Maryland? Take a little time with the family on your fishing trip to cruise our state’s scenic byways.
This post was written by Jim Gronaw
Images courtesy of the author