An angler from Hurlock is the new Maryland state Chesapeake Division record holder for longnose gar, with a catch that weighed 18.3 pounds, according to a Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release.
Samson Matthews, 22, was fishing for blue catfish with a friend March 2 near the Eldorado Bridge along Marshyhope Creek. After about 10 minutes of fishing in 20 feet of water with small chunks of gizzard shad as bait, Matthews felt a strong pull, a tight line, and lots of thrashing.
“I didn’t even know what it was at first,” Matthews said. After pulling the fish into the boat, both anglers knew they had a potential record breaker.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists certified the species as longnose gar — Lepisosteus osseus — a prehistoric-looking fish distinguished by its long nose and hard scales. The catch was officially weighed at Kool Ice and Seafood in Cambridge, which confirmed the fish narrowly beat the 2019 record held by David Confair.
After the weighing, Matthews released his record longnose gar back into the Marshyhope.
Due to large teeth, the longnose gar poses a threat of cuts of laceration, so caution should be taken during handling of the species, which is yet another reason to have a good set of fish grips available when you’re fishing. You just never know what might be at the end of your line. Their eggs are poisonous to humans and should not be eaten.
Maryland maintains state records in four divisions — Atlantic, Chesapeake, Nontidal, and Invasive — and awards plaques to anglers who achieve record catches. Fish caught from privately-owned, fee-fishing waters are ineligible.
Anglers who think they have a potential record catch should fill out the state record application and call 443-569-1381 or 410-260-8325. The department suggests the fish be immersed in ice water to preserve its weight until it can be checked, confirmed, and certified.
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Yellow perch spawning runs are underway and are peaking. This should be a very good year for them, but please only keep what you can eat so we’ll have plenty of fish in the years ahead.
According to fisheries biologist Paul Piavis, the 2011 year class of yellow perch was a strong one, and those perch will measure 13 inches or more this year. He also reports a strong 2015 year class, and those perch will measure 10 inches or better, followed by a strong 2014 year class.
In more open waters, they tend to hold in deep channels before they get the urge to spawn and ascend the tidal rivers. Fishing with enough weight to hold bottom and a two-hook bottom rig baited with small minnows, grass shrimp, or perhaps small jigs is a good way to catch them.
As the perch move far up the rivers and into small and more confined waters, fishing with ultra-light tackle is a good tactic. Casting small shad darts, beetle spins, and small grub-type jigs is a fun way to catch them. Fishing small minnows and grass shrimp on a small shad dart or a bait hook is also very effective. Thin, low-poundage braid line with a 4- to 6-pound fluorocarbon leader is a good choice for casting light jigs — some can be as light as a 1/32 ounce. It can pay to have a lightweight fluorocarbon leader to break off from snags, or a heavier leader may allow you to bend or break the hook to free the line. Submerged branches and tree limbs in the more confined waters tend to gobble up lures.
When fishing with lightweight jigs, a good technique is to cast slightly upstream and walk the jig along the bottom in a sweeping motion, keeping a slight belly in your line to detect twitches that indicate a strike. If you can check the tide tables, a low flood tide is often the best. Generally, 46 degrees is when yellow perch feel the urge to move into the spawning areas, and once the water hits 48 degrees it is on. The run can happen fairly quickly, often at night, and once it’s over the post-spawn yellow perch depart quickly.
The Chester River is a good place to fish for yellow perch, from Chestertown upriver to Millington. The Sassafras River also has a yellow perch run — the area from Georgetown to the town of Sassafras offers popular places to fish. Many other locations are just as good. We can thank the hard work of the Coastal Conservation Association’s volunteers in collaboration with the DNR for effectively managing this species to the benefit of all user groups.
Anglers may begin to see some white perch in the lower to middle sections of the region’s tidal rivers. They can be found deep as they stage for their spawning runs later this month. Fishing bottom rigs baited with pieces of bloodworms will entice them to bite.
Fishing with fresh cut bait of gizzard shad, white perch, or other favorite baits is an excellent way to catch blue catfish and also channel catfish.
Crappie seem to be holding in 5 feet or 6 feet of water near most any kind of structure. Bridge piers, marina docks, fallen treetops, and sunken structure is where you’ll find them. Tidal rivers and farm ponds are good places to look for them this time of the year. Small minnows or marabou jigs under a slip bobber are one of the best ways to catch them. Largemouth bass are becoming active and are moving to shallower waters between the deeper drop-offs and the shallower areas where grass will emerge in the next month or so. The snakehead bite should kick into gear again later this month.
On the Atlantic Coast, tautog fishing has been very good at the wreck and reef sites.
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Duck blind know-it-all
Longnose gars are able to breathe air from the atmosphere.