The first few

Generally, the first week of March brings a change in Maryland. The rivers warm up a little from the winter and everything gets just a little bit green. The willows are the first to start as far as trees are concerned, but you notice the season more in the grass. If it had been a very cold winter, you might not notice it at all, everything will still be brown and gray. Nevertheless, changes in temperature, and the longer days will tip the scales ever-so-slightly away from winter enough to coax the first few hickory shad into running the Susquehanna river.

The mouth of Deer Creek, where it flows into the Susquehanna river has been widely held as the best place to catch hickory shad in the world. Invariably, that's where you'll find the first few fish (and the first few fisherman chasing them.) The fish will stage there, probably waiting for the Big School that will arrive sometime around the last few days of March to the first week of April. But what comes with numbers of fish are numbers of fisherman. Often, really great fishing can be had before the hordes of fisherman come swarming from various towns in Pennsylvania (it is in the spring that we Marylanders feel like out-of-staters on our own rivers). So I like the early bite.

You might fish for two or three hours for that many fish. On a good early day you might hook a half dozen or more in a few hours. When the masses come, you can expect to hook a shad every other cast, but again, that entails dealing with often shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and that "one guy" that messes everything up.

I'm lucky enough to know most of the regulars that fish this river. I can make a phone call and get a report with the kind of detail that a tourist fisherman would pay for. I grew up here, I paid my dues, and making good contacts with competent fisherman is part of the return on an investment that I had been making since I was old enough to drive.

This really is a great time of the year. It will often happen on one of those days, before the big crowds come that nice big pod of fish moves in. I'll have the river almost to myself, and will hook more than enough shad to convince myself that spring has finally sprung. This is the kind of feeling you get on the water that has to be experienced to be understood. You'll hook a nice hickory on the end of your drift your line goes tight, the drag will sing, and you can hear all around you the sounds of spring. Across the river the cormorants are moving in, black masses of evil birds that are here for the herring and generally mark the early river herring run. The ducks will be chasing each other around in their own version of "can I buy you a drink" -albeit a little less classy. Back at the parking lot you hear the ever present sound of the spring peepers . After a whole winter of lying low, fishing for trout, you know that the Susquehanna is finally waking up. Right now begins two months of a fishing frenzy. The Hickory shad will be running up into deer creek very soon, giving way to some of the best flyrodding imaginable. Big stripers will be cruising the flats, and the white shad (American shad to you non-Marylanders) will be up at the dam. White perch will infest the river by the beginning of May, and I'll usually dedicate a trip or two to them, (and a fish fry). No matter where I go, mid-March through mid-May I'll always wish I was in Maryland, fishing the mighty Susquehanna, my home river, and she'll be full of fish.

2 Responses to “The first few”

  1. # Anonymous Fish-N-Chip

    Great little article about an amazing river and it's special fish!!

    maybe I'll see ya there in the next week or two.


  2. # Blogger matt

    I wish that were true. This will be the first spring since I've been old enough to fish that I won't make it there.  

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