In the Mid-Atlantic region winter yellow perch fishing at tidal creeks is a great way to bend a rod when it's snowing, but to many people yellow perch are the first harbingers of spring. Sure, they’ve been biting all winter if you knew where to find them and were willing to brave the elements. But as their spring run begins huge schools move into areas that are easily accessed. Just as soon as their numbers begin to decline, white perch move in to take their place. And as a result, countless families up and down the shores of Chesapeake Country enjoy their first fresh fish meals of the spring. Ready to join in on the action? Stop by your local tackle shop to load up on minnow, grass shrimp, darts, and micro-jigs, and head for any of the countless perch run hotspots in the Mid-Atlantic region. Here are three classic destinations, to get you started:
Perch Hotspot #1: Hillsboro, MD (Eastern Shore)
Anglers flock to the spot where Main Street crosses Tuckahoe Creek in Hillsboro, Maryland, each and every spring. There’s access and parking along the banks just a few yards up-river of the bridge, and more parking and more access just down-diver at the boat ramp. That means that both shoreline anglers and boat anglers alike can enjoy perch-jerking here.
Shoreline anglers can pick a comfortable spot to set up their beach chair and Y-shaped sticks, toss out their lines, and kick back. Since the perch are passing through on their way to the spawning grounds as opposed to setting up shop in a specific place, it’s rare that any one spot is all that much more productive than another. Casting out minnow or grass shrimp on bottom rigs, drifting bobbers, and slowly retrieving shad darts tipped with either bait are all productive methods.
Boat anglers can drift the river, or head up the creek, go under the bridge, and fish around the old railroad bridge. Another great spot is just past the railroad bridge, where a small fork causes the river to grow quite tight, with a nice channel running through where it’s squeezed. Also a good choice is heading down-river from the ramp, going around the first bend, and past the little fork that goes off to the right. Just past this fork you’ll see a big brush pile of fallen trees on the left-hand side of the creek – a spot that often holds perch and sometimes produces a crappie or three, as well.
One note of caution if you head here with a boat: the ramp is small and the river is narrow; this access point is best used by jon boats of 14 feet or less, car-toppers, canoes, and kayaks. We should also point out that on a sunny Saturday during the peak of the run the parking lot can occasionally be filled to capacity, so it’s best to come early if you need room to park with a trailer.
Hotspot #2: Wayson’s Corner & Jug Bay, MD (Western Shore)
Within an easy drive of the metro areas, Wayson’s corner on the upper Patuxent River is another area that sees lots of fishermen spring into action when the perch begin their spring runs. This spot is part of the Patuxent Park, just north of the better-known Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary.
There’s plenty of room to park in the shadow of the Rt. 4 bridge, and a short walk down an obvious gravel path to the fishing pier. Ignore the narrow cut to the right, which doesn’t offer enough depth to hold any fish, and cast out into the main river channel with the same types of offerings – minnow and grass shrimp or tipped darts. On high water you may also get some fish up near the edges on a bobber rig, but generally speaking this spot is best fished deep.
While there is no boat ramp here, there is a small dock and a hand put-in appropriate for car-toppers and kayaks. Just about any bend in the river where there’s a hole deeper than the surrounding waters can be productive. Note that there’s often a fairly strong current to fight in this section of the river, and you don’t want to go for miles and miles with the current unless you’re an Olympic-level paddler who can fight it heading back.
Anglers with larger boats can put in at the boat ramp down-river at Jackson’s Landing in Jug Bay, which can accommodate fishing machines up to about 16 feet. Be cautious as you cruise, however, because there are submerged trees all over the place in this section of the river and the channel seems to appear and mysteriously disappear without any rhyme or reason. That said, if you head up-river there’s an excellent hole which often fills up with fish where the first big creek (the Western Branch) shoots off to the left.
Hotspot #3: The Northwest River, VA (Western Shore)
The Northwest River is well known as a yellow perch hotspot, with the bite usually starting in February and often lasting through the spring. Minnow under bobbers drifted through the holes and channels are the normal offering, usually lip-hooked on a small dart or on a bare (number two to four) hook with a split-shot added a foot up the line for weight.
Of particular interest to many will be the access point at the Route 168 bridge – especially if you’re a shoreline angler who’s pining for a boat of your own. Kayak and canoe rentals are available here from Adventure Kayak and SUP (note, you have to make advanced reservations). You can also bank fish (Bob’s Fishing Hole charges a buck), launch larger trailer boats, and get your bait all at the same time. Added bonus: there’s a good chance crappie will be biting strong in this vicinity, too.
There are about a zillion and one other access points for car-toppers, yakkers, and shoreline anglers on the river, but many have very limited parking (just a space or two). A visit to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries web page will show you plenty of access points.
So: out of all the spring yellow perch run hotspots out there, how many have we covered here? About 1/1000th. From the Susquehanna to the Magothy, to the Potomac to the Choptank, to the Pamunkey to the Chickahominy, virtually any tidal tributary with a decent flow and the creeks that feed it will support a perch run of one level or another. If you want to find your own secluded personal hotspot, a little scouting and effort is all it will take. But these three hotspots are all top-rated contenders, and visiting them is one of the best ways to kick of a new spring in Chesapeake Country.