Why I Fish the Potomac Perch Run
BROWN ISN’T WORKING TODAY. Neither is white. Even orange on a inexperienced jighead isn’t getting bit. It’s a cold sunny April day and I’m out with Paula and Gordon in a Fletcher’s rowboat, bouncing tandem bucktail jigs for white perch. Yearly the Potomac’s migratory species—shad, herring, and perch—swim up out of the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. Yearly, the three of us exit to satisfy them. It’s how we mark the dying of winter and the start of spring, the tip and begin of one other circuit on the massive merry-go-round. It’s how we honor the stupefying truth that each one three of us are nonetheless alive to see it. Nobody says a phrase about any of this. That’s a part of the ritual.
We’ve tried a number of traditionally productive holes, spots combining the deep water and rocky backside that perch desire. I bought bit as quickly as my rig hit backside. Perch don’t actually combat. There’s only a sudden quickening in your palms that tells of a fish on the road. I had a double on yellow jigs, two keeper fish. Gordon picked up an excellent larger single on a brown jig and threw it within the cooler. However simply as quick as we caught these fish, issues went chilly. Now he’s making an attempt orange. Anglers like us fixate on coloration as a result of it’s one of many few issues we will management. However it doesn’t matter what you’re throwing if the fish aren’t there, so now we’re drifting, hoping to luck into a college.
“I’m not comfortable,” Paula broadcasts. Whereas that is no shock, it’s additionally one of many nice issues about her. In contrast to some folks, Paula Smith by no means makes you guess her temper. She comes proper out and tells you. Immediately she sports activities her customary subject uniform: a black beanie below her Tilley hat, chin strap deployed towards the gusty wind, a person’s inexperienced military coat, one among Gordon’s previous shirts, denims, and sneakers she in all probability fished out of a dumpster. “They gotta be right here, you already know?” she says to nobody particularly. She’s overlaying her bets, one white, one purple. As soon as once more, I ponder how this unusual, gruff, nearly filterless lady has change into one among my oldest pals. It says extra about me than her, I’m simply unsure what. Extra Christmases than not, I’ve dinner with Paula and Gordon.
Paula shakes out a cigarette and lights it in a 20-knot wind on the primary attempt. Quickly we’re each smoking the cigarette. She sees my grimace and cackles. “You want these?” she asks, feigning a priority she clearly doesn’t really feel. “New model. No components, lotsa nicotine. Simply the best way I like ’em, honey.”
Drifting isn’t producing both, so Gordon tells Paula to drop the anchor and pours a cup of espresso from his thermos. “Humorous factor about local weather change,” he says. “All of the flowers and bushes are blooming a month early, however the perch are coming a month later. Mid-April as an alternative of mid-March. I checked my journals.” Seventy years in the past, when Gordon was a boy, he may fill a 5-gallon bucket in a few hours. Now three anglers are fortunate to get half that in a whole season. The netters downstream take them in big numbers, and loads of the fish we do catch—purple with a yellow collar is lastly placing a couple of fish within the cooler—bear scars from nets. The perch appear to be they at all times do once you deliver them up into the sunshine—surprised at this vibrant world. Paula and Gordon subsist totally on wild fish, waterfowl, deer, and the greens they develop out again. That is about placing fish within the freezer.
“How lengthy we been fishing collectively, Paula?” I ask out of nowhere. “Twenty years?”
“No,” she scoffs reflexively, as if that may’t probably be proper. Then she reconsiders. “Effectively, possibly.” I feel it’s extra like 30 years. A minimum of. Truly, I can’t consider a time after I didn’t know Paula.
We pull the anchor and motor downstream utilizing the two.5hp kicker Gordon purchased after he offered his boat. At Windy Run, we begin choosing up a couple of. “That’ll work!” Paula crows after I pull up a double on purple jigs with a little bit of Mylar flash in them. They’re each keepers. Paula’s utilizing gaudy yellow jigs with a brown collar. Gordon is silently outfishing us each from the again of the boat. He’s throwing a green-and-yellow combo.
The previous perch insanity comes over us because the chew picks up. It’s abundance mania, the sudden, euphoric consciousness of ripeness and many that should be gathered now. We don’t dare jinx it by speaking. There may be solely the subsequent fish and the subsequent fish and the subsequent fish, and the need of getting them effectively, which implies with out haste.
In 10 minutes it’s over. We hold fishing however they’ve moved on. We’ve bought possibly 25 keepers. A younger bald eagle of no particular coloration flies overhead. “Good to see that,” Paula murmurs. It seems like an omen.
Again on the dock, I carry the little motor to Gordon’s truck. We take the oars and life jackets again to the boathouse. The fish go right into a cooler. We stock our gear to the vehicles.
I ask, as I at all times do, in the event that they don’t need some assist cleansing the perch.
“Uh-uh, honey,” Paula says. “I’ve seen you fillet, and it ain’t fairly. Come by the home someday, and I’ll offer you a packet of perch. If we have now any left, I imply.” We nod to one another. They head out in Gordon’s truck.
And similar to that, one other yr has begun.
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