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Yellow Perch Lures

Posted by jlnorris on February 5, 2019 at 11:00 PM
People on several forums have asked about baits to use for yellow perch. The answer is that there are numerous baits that will work and all of them depend upon where you are fishing, the abundance and activity level of the fish and the skill of the fisherman. This is just about types of baits. For rigging and other tips see "My thoughts on winter fishing for yellow perch" below. Pictures of rigs are in Knots and Rigs in the photo gallery. I will also post some pictures of the types of lures described below when I get a chance. LIVE BAIT: A little smell almost always adds to the appeal of an artifical lure: Minnows will catch fish even on slow days, and for beginners, may be the best bait choice because they are as basic as it gets.. They can be used on a bare hook under a float, or soaked on the bottom. They can be used to tip a dart, jig or bucktail either under a float or retrieved across the bottom. For perch, I prefer minnows less than three inches long and under two inches is even better. Perch will take much larger minnows, but it also takes an average size perch much longer to get a larger minnow ingested to a point where hooking success is good. To me, it is even more of a problem when the perch ingests the minnow so deeply that it is difficult to remove the hook or worse yet, kills the perch. I have never had much success using circle hooks for perch either. Bull minnows or "minnies" are a good choice for baits but perch also feed heavily on small bluegills whenever they have access to them so 1 ½ to 2 inch bluegills are excellent baits. Worms, either red worms or night crawlers, will also catch fish as will small pieces of shrimp and cut fish. I mostly use worms, shrimp or cut fish to tip my darts or some type of artifical lure. Grass shrimp are good natural baits as well if you can find them. If you are lucky enough to catch some keeper perch, the eyes and small strips cut from the perch bellies are good for tipping artificals. ARTIFICAL LURES: Fast and furious when the bite is on: I generally prefer artifical lures because I can spend a lot more time actively fishing rather that baiting hooks and unhooking deeply hooked fish. There are an almost endless variety of articial lures available and almost all will work at some time or other provided they are within a reasonable size. Having said that, I have seen perch caught on lures that were as large as the perch so there are always exceptions. But, matching the hatch will always be more productive than those fluke bites. In general, on smaller, shallower waters, I use smaller baits such as Trout Magnets, Trout Magnet Crawfish, Johnson Beetle Critters, Berkley one inch Gulp minnows, Panfish Assassins, small Gulp baits such as Ice Fry, Power Bait Power Nymphs, tubes of all colors and similar small plastics that are 1 ½ inches or less. I also use a lot of shad darts in 1/64, 1/32 and 1/16 oz. sizes. My preferred dart colors are chartreuse green, pink, flourescent red or orange and gold. Dressing colors are generally greens, yellows, pinks, whites and gold. The majority of anglers use the small plastics and darts under floats with a twitching retrieve. An added advantage of the float rig is that the angler can pick up crappie and blue gill that are sometimes intemixed with the perch. Generally, I use the darts, and sometimes plastics, under a float also, but I often use the small plastics fished directly on the bottom with a slow twiching retrieve and have very good success. This method of fishing is so effective for me that I pour up special 1/8 oz. jig heads on a #4 hook so I can cast the small plastics and keep them dead on the bottom. It is fun to feel the "tic" in the line when a yellow perch sucks in the bait. On deeper waters I usually use lures that range from 1 ½ inches up to as much as 4 inches because the forage in deeper waters tends to be larger. Here again, I most often trend toward the smaller sizes. I always carry an assortment of Johnson Beetle Grubs and similar knock offs in a variety of colors. I am particularly fond of Crappie Magnets and while various colors will work, I am partial to Blakes Glow and several other of the glow in the dark colors. Crappie Magnets in green chartreuse with silver flecks and the orange and yellow chartreuse are also very productive. Moving up in size, I use the 3 inch Gulp Minnows, Power Bait Ripple Shads, Gary Yammamoto Tiny Ikas in emerald glitter, yellow chatreuse and glow, Gary Yammamoto 3" curly tail grubs in glow and chartreuse and generic paddle or curly tail minnows in black and silver, gold and green, white and chartreuse. The advantage of plastics is that they and the lead heads are relatively cheap so if you lose a bunch, they don't break the bank. I buy many of my plastics online from Barlow's Tackle ( https://www.barlowstackle.com/ )and I order the Crappie and Trout Magnets in bulk packages of 50 from Leland Lures ( https://troutmagnet.com/ ). I usually by the tiny Ikas and curly tail grubs locally. Often, I find some really good buys when Walmart reduces its prices to clear older inventory. The best yellow perch trip I ever had was jigging a ¾ oz. blade bait on the Susquehanna in March 2009. It was drop the blade down to the bottom, jig once or twice and reel up a nice size yellow perch. I also jigged up three walleye on the blade that day as well. Once I had caught literally dozens of fish and had a nice limit in the box, I switched to a Gulp minnow that I had dead sticked while I was jigging the blade bait. I am not even sure if I got a bite on the dead stick rig but once I started to give it some action, they were all over it. This reinforced an important lesson that day-action draws strikes! Because blades have a tendency to hook almost everything, one has to be careful as to where they are used; otherwise, it can get expensive very quickly. More to come later.


Posted by jlnorris on January 12, 2017 at 10:35 PM
Every year as winter approaches, the yellow perch school up and move toward their winter holding areas. As the water temperature drops, the fish respond by moving deeper. This is a typical pattern for the deeper upper bay rivers such as the Susquehanna or Sassafras. Locally, one of their prime holding places is the deep channels on the Susquehanna River. When the fish first arrive in these areas, they will hold in the relatively shallower waters and can be caught from shore or the floating piers. As they move deeper, anglers will generally have better success from a boat because of the ability to move around and scout for the schools of fish. In some rivers however, the fish congregate in shallower areas where they spend the winter. The method for fishing these two different environments are in some ways similar but also very different. One curious note here, deep water or shallow, the larger yellow perch eat small two to three inch bluegills like a kid eats potato chips. So if you can find them, bluegills will usually catch bigger fish anywhere. DEEP WATER DROPSHOTTING: Deep water dropshotting is generally confined to the deeper upper bay rivers where the depth range from ten to over sixty feet. However, once the fish get below 25 to 30 feet, they will suffer from barotrauma (basically the 'bends') so catch and release is not advisable. Even in the shallower reaches, it is also advisable to slowly reel the fish in rather than rapidly cranking them to the surface. There are many different rigs that fishermen use for deeper water fishing but almost all of them are a variation of a drop shot rig. Rod and reel combinations range from ultralight to medium weight spinning outfits, and while about any line will work, most anglers use some form of braided line. The advantage of the braid is less kinks and stretch which provides better sensitivity, allowing the angler to better feel the bite. Even when using braid, the bite may be so subtle that the angler will only feel the added weight of the fish on the line. While a lot of people use an ultralight rig, those rigs can quickly become over loaded by the amount of weight needed to overcome both depth and current. For me, the preferred rod and reel combination is a 6'-6" to 7' light or medium light action rod coupled with a size 20 or 25 reel spooled with ten pound braid. While most of my rods have the micro type guides, conventional larger size eyes actually work better because they will not freeze up as quickly on cold days. As I noted, there are many variations of the rig used to fish this bite. A few years ago, a friend tried to teach me how he tied a tandem rig. I could never get the hang of tying his rig so I came up with my own version. Once I showed it to my friend, he began to use it as well. I originally used 25 to 30 lb. mono to tie the rig, but I now use 12 lb. florocarbon or monofilament line. To tie the knot, start by tying a medium size Surgeon's loop at the bottom to attach the sinker. Move up the line about 15 inches and create a length of double line by grasping the line between thumb and finger creating a double line loop at least four inches long. The longer the double line you create, the easier it will be to tie and the longer the resulting leader will be. Next, create about an inch and a half diameter loop in the doubled line by grasping it again between the thumb and finger. Pass the end of the double line through the loop six times, moisten with saliva and pull tight. This will create a standing loop in the line. Generally, one side of the standing loop will be more or less perpedicular to the main line and the other will be at a slight angle to the main line. Clip the line that is at an angle about three eights to one half inch from the knot. This will create the leader to attach a lure or hook. Move up the line about another 12 to 15 inches and repeat the process to form another leader. Tie a lure or hook onto each leader using either a clinch knot or a Palomar knot. A diagram of the rig is at the end of this article. With practice, this rig can be tied quickly, but in order to save time on the water, the rig can be pre-tied and the hooks baited with plastic baits. Store finished rigs in small plastic bags like those found in crafts department at Walmart or craft stores. In the illustration, I show a small surgeon's loop at the top to attach to the main line. This coupled with a snap or snap swivel is a quick way to change prebaited rigs. An alternative to the loop is to tie the leader directly to the line using what my friend calls an "ugly knot". It is very simple to tie and is a very strong reliable knot. To tie it, lay the leader and main line parallel with both the end of the main line and the leader even with each other. Just as in the knot above, grasp both line and leader between the thumb and finger about three or four inches from their ends, double them both back and create about a inch and a half loop using the main line and the leader pinched between thumb and finger. Next, pass the free ends of the line and leader through the loop five times, moisten and pull tight. Trim the tag ends of the line and leader close to the resulting knot. As previously noted, I use a 10 lb. braid with the 12 lb leader and light wire hooks. This rig often allows me to straighten the hook or break off the sinker and salvage part or all of the rig. I generally pour the hooks with a 1/32 oz head on anywhere from a #4 to a # 1 hook. The light weight keeps the bait hanging below the main leader and near the bottom, but they are not used to keep the rig on the bottom. Many anglers use shad darts or plain hooks but I prefer to use the small lead head jigs. An adequate sized bass casting or banks sinker is used to keep the rig down on the bottom. It's size varies from ½ oz. to as much as 1 ½ oz. depending upon the water depth, current and location where the fish are holding. The smallest sinker that holds bottom and allows you to keep the line tight enough to feel the bite is always best. Yellow perch are bottom oriented fish. They will sometimes come up to take a bait, but in general, the closer to the bottom your baits are, the more apt you are to catch them. Baits are as varied as the number of anglers fishing, but most have one thing in common, they are some type of plastic, be it a paddle tail minnow or grub or some other type of worm, tube, or critter. Some use live minnows with good success, but they are much less durable than plastics and require a lot of rebaiting which can be time consuming and very uncomfortable in cold temperatures. Hard baits like Jigging Raps, blade baits, and small spoons will also work, but because of cost and the many hang ups, they are not really recommended. It is not at all uncommon to have a fish spit up two or three inch minnows when they come up so small to medium size baits are appropriate. More yellow perch are probably caught on curly tail grubs and paddle tale minnows than on any other lures, but there are many other types of plastics that will work. Because of the depths and the under water visibility, light or bright colors are often preferred but don't overlook browns, oranges and greens since these colors often represent underwater forage. I have had very good results with Yum or other beetles in orange or pink, Crappie Magnets in glow Chartreuse or glow green and chartreuse, Johnson Beetle Critters in smoke/orange or chartreuse, Yamamoto Tiny Ikas in glow white or emerald fleck, various paddle tail shad in natural, white, glow or chartreuse, 2 ½ or 3 inch Gulp minnows in all color variations, ???crappie??? shads and tubes in various color combinations, and of course, the already mentioned paddle tails and twister tails in various colors. As often as not, a simple 1 1/2" piece of rubber worm will catch lots of fish. How to fish depends upon where you are fishing from in relation to the fish. If fishing from a boat or pier, it is often possible to drop the lure almost vertically to the fish. Let the rig down to the bottom and bounce the sinker on the bottom. In low currents, this can be done and the rig maintained almost completely vertical. In heavier currents or deeper depths, the rig may have a tendency to drift each time the sinker is lifted off the bottom. This is ok and allows the coverage of more water so long as the bite is still detectable. Once the line is out to a point where either the bottom or the bite cannot be felt, then it is time to reel back in and start another drift. In other instances the rig will have to be cast upstream or well out into deeper water. In these instances, the rig is allowed to sink and slowly drift along the bottom or is slowly retrieved along bottom maintaining a tight line so the rig can be monitored continuously. Often, there will be a distinct "tic" that can be felt when the fish inhales the bait, but at other times, added weight will be the only indication that a fish has taken the bait. Quite often, there will only be a sense that something "just isn't right" with the feel of the line. When that happens, set the hook and more often than not, there will be a fish on the line. Doubles are not all that uncommon when a large school of fish is actively feeding. Sometimes, they prefer the presentation to be dead still on or near the bottom but moving active baits usually are better. SHALLOW WATER LOCATIONS Fishing for yellow perch in shallow water locations is quite different from fishing for them in the deeper waters. Typically when I think of shallow water fishing, I think in terms of bank fishing locations because that is what I am most accustomed to. However, many locations are accessable by boat and some are not accessable from shore at all. In general, the shallow water locations are less than ten feet deep and often less than six feet deep and currents are very slow. This allows the angler to use ultralight outfits and fish his presentations without additional weights other than the jig head, or heads, on his rig. Most fisherman prefer to fish their rigs under a float, either weighted or unweighted, and are very successful with that type of presentation. I prefer, and usually fish, directly on the bottom using a heavier 1/8 oz. jig head that I pour on a #4 hook. In either insance, a slow twitch and wind retrieve with frequent pauses is preferred. Either method can be very successful when the fish are biting. Here again, they sometimes prefer the presentation to be dead still on or near the bottom. For this fishing, the angler can pretty much go as light with rod, reel and line as he wants. However, too light a line will often result in lost lures and floats so I stick with the same 10 lb. braid and 12 lb. flouro carbon leader. I tie the rig similar to the dropshot rig but instead of tying a loop for a sinker, I tie the lure directly to the end of the line using either a clinch or Palomar knot. I then move up the line about 12 or 14 inches make a double line loop and tie the same leader knot that I use for dropshotting, clip the loop to make a leader and tie the second lure on with a clinch knot. For shallow water fishing, I very rarely use a snap or snap swivel but instead tie the leader directly to the braid with an "Ugly Knot." Many fisherman use only a single lure on their leader and some tie the lure directly to their braid. I have one friend who ties directly to the braid and consistently outfish almost everyone else-so much for the leader argument. Most anglers use a weighted float attached directly to the line so the lure remains at a fixed depth. I usually rig one rod for bottom fishing and a second one for float fishing. Depending on location and need, I may use a fixed clip on float or a sliding float with a stop knot. Each has it's own pros and cons. I usually prefer the slip float and stop knot because it is much easier to cast, but it is also more time consuming to tie when you break off. In general, the shallow water fishery is with smaller baits such as Trout Magnets, Beetle Critters, small twister or paddle tales, "crappie" shads and tubes, and of course, minnows. Miscellaneous small plastics, small (1/32 to 1/16 oz.) hair jigs and those with reflective dressings, with or without some type of plastic are also good bets. When thinking small, think in terms of two inches or less. It's not that shallow water perch won't take a larger bait, but rather, that most of the shallow water forage is just on the smaller side. As for locations, it is like I told someone the other day, drive around some of the local rivers, streams or ponds and see where there are cars parked. Chances are, they are local anglers on either YP or crappie or both. YP do not like a lot of current so they generally are found in areas where there are slow moving streams, lakes or ponds. The shallow upper areas of Chesapeake Bay rivers and their tributaries are generally this type of shallow water environment. Marinas are often very good areas if you are able to access them. Years ago, local tackle shops were the source of information but almost all of them have disappeared. I suppose the contemporary equivilent is the internet fishing forum. My local favoites in no particular order are Tidal Fish, Technical Fisherman and Pier and Surf. Those forums have some really good anglers. Some of whom will provide a wealth of know how and sometimes even good locations.

Susquehanna Spring Part III

Posted by jlnorris on April 4, 2014 at 11:10 PM

Well, it is the middle of May and spring keeps on rolling right along. The shad bite, such as it was this year, has faded. Oh, there may still be an occasional hickory still lingering around and a white shad may turn up now and then but for the most part, shad are done for the year. The white perch are now just about at their peak and will be up in the rocks spawning for a few more days, then in another week or so, the big white perch will have dropped back out of the river and into the bay as well. The days of easy fishing and abundant catches-or as a friend of mine fondly says the “brain dead fishing”-is about over for the year. From now on, anglers will have to work harder for their fish. Not only will the glut of spawning fish move out, but the target species of fish will change as well. Late spring (and summer) fishing is for rockfish, large mouth and small mouth bass, walleye, bait size perch, and of course, the ever present catfish.

Since the modified Rockfish season for the flats and the lower river just opened, I will concentrate this article on fishing for rockfish. Unfortunately, Rock fishing is often a hit or miss proposition at this time of year and the best fishing areas are upriver and will not be open until the first of June.

For the intermediate season, anglers can troll the deeper waters between the Lapidum Landing and Port Deposit. Favored lures for trolling are surgical tubes, rattletraps, broken back Rebels, blade baits, twisters or shads. The best trolling location is the area from the Lapidum ramp to Port Deposit. Those not wishing to troll can drift and jig the same area. Best bets for jigging are blade baits similar to the Silver Buddies, trout bombs, twisters or shads and bucktails. Another option is to anchor up and drift small white perch, chum or chunk. Small white perch can usually be caught on small shad darts near the rocks or grass beds down below the ramp or along the shore line. Since herring are no longer allowed, chunking or chumming with menhaden is the only good option left. Just remember to use circle hooks per the DNR regulations.

When season opens on the full river, the best results, or at least the most exciting, are often on top water lures in the skinny waters starting from around Spencer Island, up around the old bridge pilings, and continuing up river as far as you dare to run. This is early morning fishing which means getting to the fishing spots at the crack of dawn or earlier. That is no small feat if the gates are shut and not much water is running-it’s hard enough to run those waters at low flow in the light of day when you can see the rocks! Needless to say, if you don’t have a shallow draft wooden or aluminum boat, this fishing is not for you. But don’t despair, lots of anglers do well wade fishing from shore. Either in a boat or wading, the secret is to find the deep pockets with current flow and the areas of current flow between rocks. Cast upstream or across stream and rapidly retrieve your top water lure with a brisk pop. If a rock fish wants your lure, you can’t reel fast enough to take it away from it. Good choices are Atom Poppers, Creek Chubs, Smack-its or whatever you favorite topwater is. There is good fishing from shore on the rocks just above the old mill up through the riffles between the old mill and the mouth of Deer Creek and also from Deer Creek on up to the dam. Some folks do well with float tubes especially on weekends when they tend not to run as much water. They will start below the dam and wade/float downstream and either have someone pick them up at Deer Creek or hoof it back up the trail to their car at the dam.

One of the most reliable places is called “The Pool.” It is an area of deeper water on the Harford County side about half a mile above the mouth of Deer Creek. If you go to Bing maps, and chose the aerial option, you can see a very distinct area of deeper water between two ledges of rock just above Roberts Island that extends from the Harford County side all the way across the river. That is “The Pool”. As a sobering side note, if you scroll upriver toward the dam, you will see the rocks disappear as the leading edge of rising water advances where they have just opened the gates. This is as good a time as any to put in my standard caution about rising waters. In a boat, watch your anchor, especially the closer to the dam you get. When wading, keep an eye on the rocks and watch upstream for rising water. Often, you can actually hear the water coming well in advance. If you see or hear the water coming up, get back to shore immediately. The bottom is rocky and slick so never get out so far you can’t make it back to shore quickly.

The top water bite usually dies within about half an hour or less after the sun hits the water. When that happens, you can often switch to stick baits or soft plastic and still pick up a few fish during the rest of the day. Broken back Rebels in blue and chrome and white twister tails or plastic shad type baits are good choices as are Rattletraps. Tony’s in either#13 or #14 are a good bet as well. Shore anglers have a much harder time catching fish during the day than boat anglers but it can still be done.

When the water comes up, boat anglers can still concentrate on fast water runs and pools behind the rock ledges and boulders and can move more freely both up and down stream casting plugs, drifting small live perch or trolling. Some of the regulars do very well trolling small buck tails up in the rocks when the water is up but they have perfected the technique from years on the river. To troll anywhere above the old bridge piers, you really need to know the water. Downstream from the old mill on the Harford side is a good location to troll. A surgical tube tipped with a piece of bloodworm is a very good choice. You still have to be careful though. I was trolling down through there one day not paying too much attention to the water and trolled smack up on top of a big ol’ rock-no harm done, but a dumb thing to do none the less! One other word of caution, if you are well upstream and they shut the water off, it is a heck of a lot harder to come downstream on low water than it is to go upstream on low water. Lots of regulars have many dents in their boats to prove it. I wound up sitting smack on top of a big flat rock one day when they shut the gates down. It took a lot of pushing and tugging to get off of that one.

When the sun starts to drop off of the water, then the bite begins to pick up again and fish begin to be active on the surface also. The same basic fishing approach and lures apply in the evening as well.

The deep channel on the Harford side just off the rocks above the old mill have yielded lots of rock on broken back Rebels or poppers in the evenings at or just after dark. In general, don’t expect to catch any monster fish. Most of them will be from twelve to twenty some inches long, but then … there is always that one fish which seemingly comes out of no where to blast your lure. I still can see the tail on just such a one that I missed on an Atom Popper many years ago while standing on those rocks and casting down toward the old bridge pier. I have now idea how big it really was, but its tail was broader than both my hands put together and the boil looked like a washtub!

Tight lines to all!

Susquehanna Spring Part II

Posted by jlnorris on April 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM


It is the seventh day of January and it was 63 degrees today. Just four days ago I was bemoaning twenty degrees. Ah, tee shirt weather and I can hear the buds on the shad bush growing already!



In Part I, I wrote about the shad run and the dilemma that I face each spring trying to decide whether to fish for shad or white perch. Well as the water warms, it isn’t long before Mother Nature intervenes, solving that problem as the white perch run begins to overlap the shad run. But even before the white perch move into the upriver shallows, there are several weeks of deep water perch jerkin’ that starts anywhere from late March to the first week in April. As with all fishing, the weather variations add or subtract a few days here and there to the rhythm of the seasons.


The deep water fishing is exclusively limited to boat angling as the perch move from their winter haunts into the pre spawn staging areas around and above the I-95 Bridge. The fish will normally hold in twenty to thirty feet of water before moving ever shallower as they prepare to make their spawning run. A good depth finder is a real advantage, but you can usually tell where the fish are just by all the boats anchored up. The most successful deep water method of harvesting some succulent fillets is a double hook bait rig with enough weight to hold bottom. The choice of bait is as varied as the number of fisherman, but almost everyone agrees that bloodworms, although the most expensive, are the best. Others use grass shrimp, minnows, or night crawlers but leave the fish bites at home because the water is too cold for them to work. I generally use night crawlers because I catch them myself and keep a bucket full in wet news paper well into late spring.


The bottom rig again varies with the angler. While I prefer to tie my own rigs using the same setup that I developed for the early season yellow perch, many anglers use the old standby commercial coated steel standoff double hook rigs. They work fine except that losing several in a day can become expensive. Mine cost me a lot less and I can customize them to suit my notions as to what the fish want. I prefer to use spinner hooks, either nickel or chartreuse yellow or green, and add colored beads to my rigs as I feel they both add a little edge in enticing the fish to hit. Several manufacturers offer commercial spinner hook rigs if you don’t want to tie your own. Preferred hook size is either a number two or number four depending upon the size of the fish. I have also used double one sixteenth ounce baited shad darts tied to droppers with a heavier weight at the bottom. They worked also, but I prefer the spinner hook rig baited with no more than about a one inch piece of night crawler.


The fish will be smack on the bottom so once you have located a school of fish you need get your rig down to them. Sometimes you can drift, but generally the current will cause too fast a drift and lots of hang-ups so the best bet is to anchor up and start perch jerkin’. The best weight is one just heavy enough to keep in contact with the bottom while allowing you to walk the bait down steam with a short lift and drop. I generally start out with one half ounce and adjust up or down depending upon how well I am able to stay on the bottom. Being on the bottom is critical, and if you can’t maintain the bottom, you won’t catch very many fish. For this fishing, I usually use a light bait casting rod and reel with ten pound braid because I have better control as I lift and drop, walking the rig down stream. A light or medium light action spinning outfit works well also, but an ultra light struggles because of the weight necessary to maintain contact with the bottom. At the tale tell tap, tap, tap, set the hook and it is game on!


As the water warms, the perch begin to move up river and the angling armada follows right along with them. As they move shallower, they also begin to feed more aggressively. The same deep water rig works here as well, just adjust the amount of weight to correspond the depth and current. Once the fish get into around fifteen feet of water, I start being able to pick them up on tandem one eighth ounce shad dart rigs-florescent orange with yellow hair of course. Depending upon their aggressiveness, I may or may not tip the darts with a small piece of night crawler. The dart fishing is a faster pace and usually results in larger fish as well. It also allows me to go to ultra light tackle which is my favorite perching weapon. Another favorite technique is to drift and jig blade baits-quite often you get some bonus walleye fillets as a reward!


By mid April, the perch usually have moved up river off the Lapidum ramp and as far as the old mill. This is prime ultra light tackle fishing. The terminal tackle changes from heavy sinkers and bait to lures and the action really begins to pick up. As noted, my preferred lures are fluorescent orange shad darts with either yellow or chartreuse green hair but others swear by twister tails, tubes and various and sundry other lures. Later in the season, chartreuse green darts and twister tails work well too. One quarter or three eights ounce blade baits will work as well, but are quickly lost in the rocks. This is also surprise fishing time because a cast may bring a white perch, a walleye, a hickory shad or even on very rare occasions a white or American shad. Sometimes a stray rockfish will attack the dart or even a hooked perch-now that will test out your ultra light!


As the water continues to warm, the perch spread all the way to the dam and fishing is truly fantastic. Early mornings anchored up in an eddy behind a rock catching doubles on perch on almost every cast is as good as it gets. I like the early mornings because it is less crowded and nature is free to be itself without all the hubbub and manmade commotion. It is not at all uncommon to be sitting in the river catching perch on every cast and hearing a tom turkey gobble as he comes down from the roost and starts looking for a spring rendezvous of his own. One morning last year, I was able to video a Blue Heron catching and swallowing a hand sized white perch. A word of caution here as well; whether wading or in a boat, keep an eye on water levels as they can rise very rapidly.


It is not uncommon at all to catch well over a hundred perch in a morning. Obviously, almost all are carefully released with maybe a dozen or so taken for fillets. Fishing is not limited to early mornings and is generally good all day long. You just need to know where to look for the fish. High water or low, perch are a margin fish. They will hold in eddies behind rocks or adjacent to areas of current in deeper water along the shoreline. The lower water levels of early morning concentrate lots of fish into small areas of the deeper pockets. Find one of those pockets and the action is fast and furious. Whether fishing from shore or from a boat, I cast into the fast water and let the dart swing through the transition area where the current and eddy meet and then work the lures up along the edge of the fast water. With regularity, that will bring at least one strike, and more often than not, two. Often times a short pause after hooking one fish will result in a second fish taking the free hook. When the shad are still in the river it is not uncommon to hook a perch and then have it go for the ride of its life as a shad takes the other hook and goes into after burner runs complete with sky rocketing jumps. I’ve often wondered what the poor bewildered perch must think when that happens.


Yup, I can hear the shad bush buds just a-growing, come on spring!


















Susquehanna Spring Part I

Posted by jlnorris on April 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM

Well, it is the third day of January 2012 and it is about twenty degrees outside. Now isn’t that just lovely. Lots of folks are wishing for hard water so they can go ice fishing, but personally, I am ready for the shad bushes to bloom and the shad to run

Hickory Shad are usually the first fish that start showing up in the river in early spring. Depending upon weather and water temperature, they begin to show up at the mouth of Deer Creek around last or next to last week in March. It usually starts out very slow with anglers only picking up one or two fish a day early on.

Those first fish are almost invariably caught in the edge of the fast water at the mouth of Deer Creek. Preferred lures for early spring are the old reliable shad darts but on some days, #12 or #13 silver Tony Accetta spoons with green prismatic tape catch a lot of fish. I use both but usually stick with the darts because they are easier to cast and less expensive to lose, and believe me, if you fish for shad very much you are going to lose a lot of tackle. I use the same dart rig for shad as I do for white perch, and my preferred dart colors are the same fluorescent orange body with either a yellow or chartreuse green tail. I tie the rig directly to the line with the two darts tied in tandem using Palomar knots. I tie the first dart up the line about 12 inches and then tie the second dart to the tag end of the line from the first knot. I usually use eight or ten pound line when tying tandem rigs. Anything less is asking for trouble because shad go absolutely bonkers when hooked, and with any lighter line, I lose the last dart a lot due to double hookups. When the season is in full swing, double hookups are the rule rather than the exception. Always be sure to check the line for fraying after each fish and retie often. Early fishing is mostly a spinning event. Rod and reel combinations can be any where from ultra light to medium light and line weight can be as low as you feel the need to go.

As the water temperature climbs, more fish move in and by the middle of April, the run is on as the fish spread up river and into Deer Creek! This is the time when the long rod enthusiasts ply their trade in Deer Creek, primarily from above the Stafford Road Bridge up to the pumping station. By the third week in April the shad will spread all the way to the base of the dam, and the river is alive with shad. By this time shad will hit on a variety of lures from small spoons, such as Nungessers, to darts and jigs, to twisters.

This is the time when a fish on every cast with multiple doubles is often the rule rather than the exception. This is the time when the Conga lines form at the mouth of Deer Creek and below the dam as well. Ah, combat fishing at its finest! This is also the time when the big rockfish join the fray in the quest for a shad of their own. When you are waist deep in the river, it is unnerving when a 30 lb plus rockfish brushes past your legs as it swims by and it is down right unsettling to have one come up and take a shad almost out of your hand as you are trying to release it! Needless to say, there are more than a few broken lines when a huge striper grabs a shad and takes off down river.

Late April to mid May sometimes sees a run on the Hickory’s larger cousin, the white or American Shad. These fish are much larger and much scarcer than the Hickories and they fight differently as well. They can be caught pretty much in the same manner as the Hickories-if you are lucky. The fast water at the base of the dam seems to be the better location for the American Shad.

Boat fishing is the best way to go if you can. It gives a lot more freedom to move and seek out fish. It also lets you get away from the crowds on shore, but that is not to say that the water doesn’t get crowded as well.

Shad and white perch fishing share a lot in common. Shad tend to hold in the fast water and eddy margins just like perch do, so target those areas behind rocks and in current breaks near shore. Whether from shore or from a boat, cast into the fast water and let the lure swing through the margins. As for location, the Harford County shore line provides good to excellent fishing from the Lapidum ramp all the way to the base of the dam. The Cecil County side holds fish as well; it’s just a matter of finding some access to water that holds fish.

I’ve seen several waders take far too much risk to the point of having to yell to them that the water is coming up, so word of caution is appropriate here. If you are wading, keep a very close eye on the water levels. The same goes for watching your anchor if you are in a boat. When the gates open, the water can come up several feet very rapidly even well downstream.

Early season shad fishing does create one dilemma: I love to catch shad, but I also love to catch and eat white perch. So, I have to make a decision-do I go upriver for shad and action or do I go down river to deeper water for perch and fillets? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions! I am sure I have missed some fantastic perch fishing by deciding to go upriver for shad instead. However, by the middle of April, the perch start moving upriver as well and by the end of the month, they are beginning to take over as the shad begin to spawn and drop back into the bay on their way back to the ocean, but then that is another story!