[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] of the last of last year's fish, blues and flounder from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Then yesterday we had the first of this year's yellow perch.
I wish I could say they were the leaders of this year's spawning run. That would signal the start of another local fishing season. Alas, these were three little fish snatched from beneath the frozen surface of Lake Codorus in southeastern Pennsylvania.
No need to despair. The yellow perch run will materialize, as it magically does every year, and best guesses are that it will happen within a month.
That means it's time to get out the ultralight spinning gear, find a store tht stocks minnows and be ready to head for Allen's Fresh or creeks leading to the Magothy River, the South, the Seven or wherever your special perch hole lies.
Some people might laugh at this, but there are places where yellow perch are the principal commercial catch. Last November in Erie, Pa., I was flabbergasted to see small trawlers braving high seas and portentous cloud banks as they headed out to deep water.
What were they after? Yellow perch, the mainstay of the Lake Erie fishery.
And the three little prizes from Codbrus confirm why. These are superb eating fish, regardless of length and girth. If I'd had any luck at all I could tell you how the freshwater variety compares to yellow perch from the brackish waters of the Bay, but an ill-fated voyage to the frozen North East River north of Baltimore last week produced nothing but cold feet.
The prevailing wisdom is that the annual yellow perch spawning run occurs just after the ice moves out of shallow feeder creeks to the Bay. Generally it's the last of February or early March.
When they start to move, the fish, also known as neds, racoon perch and ring perch, usually arrive in waves on the flood tide. The big, roe-laden females are surrounded by attentive males or "jacks."
I've never seen a wave of perch moving up a tiny stream but Bob Bohrer, with whom I've shared a few panfish hunts, claims that they can be so thick that every cast brings one in and an angler can fill up buckets.
Then there are days when it's just like any othe fishing - slow and unpredictable. I've been on Allen's Fresh during the run when at day's end and stringer of a dozen fish was the envy of everyone.
Generally, a rule that I apply to most fishing works well with perch - use the lightest gear you can afford to. You're fishing for creatures that are unlikely to go over a pound in weight. Four-pound test line is plenty, and even two-pound test will do.
The lighter gear lets the minnow work more naturally and offers the angler a genuine, if brief, thrill while fighting the fish.
Most yellow perch anglers lip-hook their minnows on little shad darts or other small, weighted lures. Sometimes a minnow on a small (No. 6 or 8/ plain or spinner hook with split shot works just as well, and occasionally anglers do well on plain doll flies. Use a bobber a foot or two up the line when bait fishing - it increases the thrill and keeps the minnow off the bottom.
The two most popular spots for yellow perch locally are feeders to the South River about 10 miles west of Annapolis on Rte. 450 and Allen's Fresh at the top of the Wicomico, about a mile east of Rte. 301 on Rte. 234 in Carles County, Md.
You won't have any trouble finding out where to fish. The roadside will be jammed with cars and the creek banks crowded with anglers. Once you get the hang of it you can start looking for your own hole.
Bob Wilson from George Washington University wins the prize for the first yellow perch question of the year. He wrote last week to suggest that The Post run conversion tables for tides so that he and others can plan their trips to the streams to coincide with the flood tide.
I have conversion figures for the two specific spots he asked about, Allen's Fresh off Rte. 234 on the Wicomico River and Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock. Allen's Fresh high tide is about six hours before high water on the Potomac at Washington, Fredericksburg; is about an hour before.
But tides are imprecise, at best. The proper solution is to get your own tide table and do your own reckoning. It is an inexpensive, fascinating document about which John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says, "I couldn't live without mine."
For $3.75 you can have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's tide table for the east coast of North and South America, which will give you the next high tide in Greenland, in Chile or on Severn Run.
It's available at Washington Marina on Maine Avenue. The Map Store, 1636 I St. NW., Buzzard Point Marina at the foot of First Street SW or from National Oceanic Survey Distribution Division, 6501 Lafayette Ave., Riverdale, Md. 20840.
With all that data the perch won't stand a chance.