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Count ’em, kids: only 20 more days till the first day of spring.
Ha! With this wacky weather we have had this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a Nor’easter that day!
But here we are, on the first day of March, a month when fishermen dream of soon being on some open water with a fishing rod in hand.
Yes, we had a couple of days of safe ice fishing, but then the weather turned and the ice even disappeared on some of the lakes in our area. During February, I even saw a gent fishing the open water outlet of Silver Lake using a bobber and his fishing rod.
And then, as if to confirm what I
had seen, a trip to Hubbard Park saw a youngster with an adult fishing a spot of open water by the duck island at the inlet to Mirror Lake.
Then, after a couple of days, a little of the open water began to ice up, but not that much.
March also brings back a flood of memories of perch fishing at Hamburg Cove off the Connecticut River. If it was March and the ice was off Hamburg Cove, fishermen would flock there if for no other reason than to break out the rod and reel.
Perch, both white and yellow were the quarry, and they were caught with live bait, worms and small jigs with rubber lures from our own Lunker City or some Charlie Brewer grubs. Chartreuse seemed to be the favorite colors, although I can remember catching them on just about every color conceivable.
It’s been a number of years since I fished Hamburg Cove in the spring of the year. I do not know how much action it gets now, but I have gotten some reports of little perch activity like the “good old days.”
When the perch fishing was hot, you would be hard-put to find a parking spot at Hamburg Cove. Most of the boats used were car toppers, like canoes and small 10- and 12-foot boats that would use an electric motor.
There were days when fishing for perch was absolute mayhem. Various watercraft, including some larger boats, would launch at Salmon River and make their way down river to Hamburg Cove.
I say this because, if the fishing was slow, everyone would be watching the other boats to see if anyone was over a school of white perch and head on over to the area if fish were being caught.
Although we did use live bait and night crawlers quite successfully, it was catching the perch, especially the white perch, on a lure that provided the most fun. They would really give you a tussle, especially the larger white perch.
But it was not only white and yellow perch that were caught down at Hamburg Cove. Every once in a while someone would hook up with either a northern pike, largemouth bass and even a sea-run trout now and then.
I can attest as to the largemouth bass being there because I hooked into one of the largest I have ever had on my line one time while fishing for white perch and — no fish story — I lost it. (Boy does that sound like a “fish story?”)
I was working my way around the cove looking for white perch using a chartreuse jig when it suddenly felt like I had hooked the bottom with my ultra-lite rig. Then I got a couple of fierce tugs on my line and I knew that it wasn’t the bottom!
I began to reel and the action I was getting from whatever was on the other end of the line had my heart pumping. It took a while because of the light tackle I was using, but I finally saw my adversary. It was a largemouth bass! Let me rephrase that: a huge largemouth bass!
The odd thing was it did not put up a spectacular fight like largemouth bass are prone to do. Instead, it kept a strong, but steady tug on my line until it came to the surface and I got my first glance at it.
I saw that my small jig was only hooked into the critter’s lip, so I started to reach for my landing net. I swear that beast of a bass gave me a haughty look as if to say, “Who in the heck do you think you are?”
And then it gave a vicious swipe of its tail and the jig broke loose and the bass disappeared back into the depths of Hamburg Cove.
I’ve relived that scenario a hundred times and have come to the conclusion that there is nothing I could have done differently. That’s why fishing is so much fun, even when the big ones get away. And the best part is you do not need a photo of the fish to bring back the memory because it will always be there in your mind.
Long gone now are the days when anglers would catch as many fish as possible and then sell them for pennies a pound. I could see it coming and wrote about it many times in the earlier years of this column. Sad to say, it fell on deaf ears. No need for names because the damage has already been done.
But as in many fisheries, especially those connected with saltwater species (the white perch are anadromous, meaning they swim in both fresh and salt water), over-fishing resulted in a depleted population of the white perch and, seemingly, interest in fishing for them fell off.
Today we have a new breed of leaders in our fisheries, both salt and fresh water, and it looks like they might be on the right path. The much-sought white perch on the Connecticut River, its coves and its tributaries now carry a size limit of 7-inch minimum and a daily creel limit of 30.
In other bodies of water there is no size limit or creel limit, but this makes me wonder: How much is too much? Only time will tell.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.