There's a new idewater fishing rule in Maryland. As of May 1, if you fish in Maryland's part of the Chesapeake Bay, you run the risk of winning $25,000.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has decided to go ahead with a $450,000 Chesapeake Bay sport fishing tournament. Each month, the department will release 20 fish, tagged with a string tag: 10 blues, five trout and five white perch.
One of the blues will be worth $25,000 and the other nine $1,000; one trout and one perch will each be worth $5,000 and the others $1,000.
To win the big money -- the $25,000 for the blue and $5,000 for the trout and perch -- you'll have to catch the fish within 30 days after the date of its release. Otherwise, those fish revert to the $1,000 category.
There's no entry fee. The fish must be caught in Mayland waters and be verified -- intact with the tag -- by the natural resources department. The last batch of 20 fish will be released at the beginning of October, but the tournament runs to Dec. 31.
There's also a chance to win more money -- any tournament fish caught from a charter boat is worth 50 percent more. For more information, call 301/269-3765.
LURING THE BASS
If you don't have a black jig and pig, get one. If you do, move it to the top shelf of your tackle box.
At this time of year large- smallmouth bass just can't seem to say no to this lure -- a black-headed jig with a black bucktail that is hooked onto a black Uncle Josh No. 101 spin frog (pork rind).
"It most closely resembles a crayfish, and that's what the big bass eat to get that big," says Rob Gilford of The Rod Rack in Frederick.
It was a black jig and pig that brought in this year's largest largemouth, the 13-pounder taken from Lake Anna on March 20. (Incidentally, that lunker was almost as big around as it was long, making it as ugly as it was heavy: Its length was 24 inches, its girth 23 inches.)
A few days later, a 12-pound, 11- ounce largemouth was caught in a private lake in Nottoway County, Va. -- again, on a black jig and pig, according to Roy Edwards of the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Edwards adds that the lure was also responsible for these citation largemouths: two in Lake Smith (10 pounds, 4 ounces and 8 pounds, 9 ounces -- both caught by Steve Plude of Norfolk, who, on the next day, caught a 61/2 pounder on the same hook); a 9-pound, 5-ounce lunker in Lake Philpott and an 8-pounder in Lake Gaston.
Closer to home, the black jig and pig landed a 7-pounder and a 6-pounder in the Rappahannock River, Edwards says.
Don't forget that trout season in Virginia opens Saturday at noon.
Maryland's trout season opened last Saturday, and Ray Amor of Annandale reports that even in the wet, cold weather the action was hot around Thurmont, near the Camp David presidential retreat. By 5:30 a.m., official starting time of the season, about 30 anglers were waiting (and wading) at Friends Creek, Amor says.
And over at Benz Pond, he reports, about 35 anglers were going after the trout. Amor also checked out Fishermen's Creek, he says, where his license was checked out by the game warden.
Don't forget that, to fish trout, Maryland requires a freshwater license with a trout stamp ($3.50); Virginia requires a permit to fish in designated waters stocked with trout ($4 for residents, $10 for nonresidents) in addition to the state's regular fishing license.
Amor used Velveeta cheese balls on a No. 8 hook to catch five nice- sized rainbows (between 10 and 12 inches) in about two hours, he says. Other fishermen were having luck with salmon eggs and yellow corn, he says.
On the Potomac River, a lot of white perch are being caught, and a few catfish and some herring are starting to show up, reports Joe Fletcher of Fletcher's Boat House. The perch are biting best on bloodworms, he says.
The water levels in the Potomac haven't risen as much in the Washington area as they have up river, and the fishing hasn't dropped off as much either, Fletcher says, adding that he expects the fishing to be excellent this weekend if the weather warms up.
Farther up river, a lot of smallmouth bass are being taken, "more than you would expect this time of the year, particularly with the water temperatures still below 50 degrees," says Gilford of The Rod Rack. He says most of the action he's heard about is near Brunswick and farther up river near Williamsport.
If the surface temperature reaches 50 degrees this week, Gilford expects the smallmouth bass to get really active.
Elsewhere in Maryland, high water levels have hurt fishing in the Susquehanna, says Joe Townsend at Townsend's Rock Run Landing in Port Deposit. There was a surprise early run of herring this week, but "not too many were caught," Townsend says.
Meanwhile, the white perch are biting in the Kent Narrows area, according to several reports from the Eastern Shore.
And in the Occoquan River, white perch and half- crappies are going after blood worms, and small shiners and shad have started hitting shad darts says Andy Lynn of the Lynn Co. The upper end of the Occoquan Reservoir is producing some spectacular northern pike catches, he says, with five citations (15-pounders) taken so far. Jumbo minnows are working best on the northern pike.
Lynn also reports that seven citation muskellunge and "super-size" walleye were caught (and released) in Lake in Fairfax by state inland fisheries commission officials.
The Boston mackerel (or Atlantic mackerel) arrived off City, Md., this week, and the boats are returning "solid loaded with them," says Capt. Jack Bunting. Three headboats are available for mackerel fishing in Ocean City -- the Angler 301/289- 7424; Mariner 301/289-9125; and Miss Ocean City 301/289-8234).
THE TANGLED ANGLER SAYS:
No, a lunker lure is not a pretty girl in a bikini. It is any lure designed, intended, or even rumored to catch large bass. This covers a lot of water: specifically, crankbaits (diving and floating), spinnerbaits, jigs, plastic worms, minnows, even surgical hose.
SAFETY TIP OF THE WEEK
If you're going to fish in a boat, wear boat shoes with a good tread. Before you put on last year's boat shoes, check the tread. If it's worn, you run the risk of slipping on wet surfaces and hurting yourself. But whatever shape your shoes are in, don't go barefoot on a fishing boat.