Monday, October 10, 2011

Green Sunfish...and nothing else...on a Patuxent Swamp

Another week has come and gone. Summer has gone as well.  What the beautiful television weather people - and they are beautiful, aren't they - said would be a two day cold snap has become a 10-day pattern of cool, dry air that we have just started to embrace.  The first few days did not pass without cursing. Now it seems quite pleasant.

All kinds of nutty things are going in my life, so I went fishing.  I decided to revisit a beaver swamp along the Little Patuxent River and see if the cooler weather had worked up any largemouth...or even a Northern Snakehead.   It's just upstream from a place notoriously named "Snakehead Pond."   So there ya go.  Conditions were perfect (a little bright), and it wasn't long before the swamp's little green sunfish started hammering anything in the water that moved.  The bigger green sunfish followed.

I changed lures frequently, trying to entice another species of fish - any species - to help me unlock the secrets of this swamp's food web and prey ecology.  As too few people understand (cue: the guy who believes that brown trout are competing for resources with oh-so-pollution resistant eastern brook trout), you can learn a lot about a body of water from what lives - or doesn't live - there.  If you are catching green sunfish, you are probably catching a lot of green sunfish.  And small green sunfish.  The greenie - not native to Maryland but quite tolerant of our polluted, low-oxygen waters - is an aggressive feeder that outcompetes most other species for food resources, especially in disturbed or polluted waters, and waters with soft, nasty bottoms that don't encourage a lot of high quality fish prey to thrive.  Bottom line.

I kept using bigger and bigger lures, and finally had a lure sucked under the surface by what I was sure was a 14-17" largemouth or a juvenile snakehead.  But it wasn't. This handsome old gentleman was all business.

The greedy greenies kept striking and just would not relent.   After about 30 minutes and 30-40 fish landed, I had sized up to a 5" broken back minnow painted in "fire tiger."  It is an ugly ass lure, but I thought it might deter the greenies and hopefully entice a bass or snakehead (read: it is a well-known snakehead color/body combo).  

I can only imagine how curious you are about what I caught next. 

If you've handled a greenie, you know why their Appalachian nickname is "Rubbertail"

Oh yes.  Another trophy!!!    I had brought my Cabelas TQR fly rod with me, and thought I'd fool some other species with my fly presentation (note: who am I kidding?).   I threw out some big fat streamers, green damselflies, and hi-viz ants, all to no avail.   A few strikes by greenies, which by that time, I was trying to avoid.  No fish to hand.  However, an inline spinner on the spinning rod really torqued them.  It's my new lure for tough days - the Short Striker from Joe's Flies, in "Glo Trout."  I have caught bass, trout, and at least a half-dozen species of panfish on those lures.

Greenies eat anything, any time.  It is almost like their innate aggression to feed overrides other instincts that fish typically have, such as a preference to hunt in low light conditions.  Or an interest in not being eaten by herons. And so it's not surprising that the daylight started to get away from me, without any significant change in behavior by them.  At least the sunset was perfect.

This swamp vexes me.  Where are the big fish? I have fished it twice and covered about a third of its water.  Where are the bass, the snakehead? Or at least the pumpkinseed and bluegill that are so common to the sandy river that winds south, just beyond the trees? I cannot imagine that this beautiful, solitary place has shown me everything that it can, so I'll go back.  Once more. 


e.m.b. said...

Sunfish are so fun! That sunset is amazing...go back if only to see another one. :)

Wolfy said...

Nice pics RM. Grenies are voracious.

Your post title caught my eye - I've been stopping at the 231 bridge to Calvert Co (by Benedict) to cast a little bit for rockfish in the Patuxent River recently. Nothing worth posting about yet, but soon ...

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks Erin!

Wolfy, try Green Run SP, Patuxent side - sandbars on changing tide. Some long walks but good fishing.

Also, for some fun fly casting, try St. Mary's River Watershed Park. I fished there in mid-day this summer and had a blast.

Clif said...

There are worse species to have to try and avoid.

Kirk Mantay said...

It's an angler's embarrassment of riches, Clif - a strong fighting fish that's available in poor quality habitats that readily takes all kinds of lures.

I'd compare them to bluefish in saltwater - if you don't get the lure deep enough, fast enough, you're catching a bluefish.

BrookfieldAngler said...

Next time I am out there, which happens relatively often, we have to go hunting for those snakeheads!

P.S. you need to a yak for those swamps

Kirk Mantay said...

Yeah, absolutely, let's do it. You have my contact info! I have a fishing yak but that particular swamp is just small enough that it'd be a little overkill. Or maybe not.

DNR is doing everything they can to encourage people to take snakeheads - including advertising where they are being caught that week!

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