Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wye Mills

Last weekend I went crabbing with some friends from church.  I had tried to get some of them to try kayaking,  but they have been apprehensive about getting on a small boat in big water.  They were more willing to get on the water in a skiff that you didn't have to propel with your arms.  We wanted to try something new this time, so the agenda for this trip was to catch some crabs!  Enough to try to have a crab party.  We were joking that if our plan didn't work out we could just pick up a bushel on the way home, so we weren't too pressured to have to catch much.  Luckily, things did work out!

A 7 incher!  Look at those colors...
I got a recommendation from a friend to try crabbing at Wye Mills from a boat that you can rent at a boat house called Schnaitman's.  I looked it up, and got some helpful tips from the friendly guys at the MKF forum about the place.  We arrived early - a little before 6AM - to rent our boat.  We were surprised to see that there were already several people ahead of us unloading and getting in the boats.  I wasn't really sure what to do, so I asked a guy there, and he said that you just pick a boat, sit in it and wait for the owners to arrive to pay them to go out.  So we unloaded our fishing rods, crabbing gear, and ice boxes and picked a boat until 6AM.

The owners arrived at 6AM on the dot, and I got in line to pay for the boat and also to rent a dip net to scoop up the crabs in.  This was my first time operating a motor boat, and I am embarrassed to say that I screwed things up pretty badly.  I didn't know there was an anchor out in the water, and I kind of got the motor going, but then it stalled.  I tried to re-start it, and it kept getting hung up.  I thought that it might have gotten caught on some rope underwater, but I didn't see the anchor line so I shrugged it off and kept yanking the cord.  Of course after a while I yanked the handle off the rope and we were dead in the water.  Luckily the owner was watching, and had us paddle over so that he could fix it.  I could tell he wasn't happy, but he was real polite about it.  I was just glad this happened while he was nearby, and not while we were way out on the water.  I would have had no idea of what to do.

After the gentleman kindly got us started, we were off!  Since this was my first time, I wasn't really sure where to go or what to do, so my plan was to just look for "fishy" places to anchor by and just try fishing and crabbing.  For bait we had a pack of bloodworms and cooked shrimp for the fish, and chicken wings for the crabs.  It would have been cheaper to get chicken necks, but I couldn't find any at the grocery store the night before.  I also didn't realize that they sold chicken necks at the boathouse.  Anyway, we got to our first location at the mouth of the creek that the boathouse was on.  We anchored off and the guys put out their lines as I got the crabbing gear together.  

Double perch.
Double, Double perch!
The guys were immediately hooking up with some fish - albeit small fish...but they were getting pullage!  They were hooking up with perch, small croakers, and spot.  While they were busy with the fish, I got the handlines baited with chicken, and used one of the perch for the crab traps.  Within just a few minutes I brought up a crab on the handline - it was too small, but now we knew what to do. We each took a handline, and for the next hour or so we were fishing and catching crabs at the mouth of the creek.  We periodically checked the traps all day, but neither of them produced any crabs the entire time.  

One of the throwbacks.
The minimum size for crabs right now is 5 1/4", and we caught a lot of crabs that were probably around 5".  That's always how it goes, huh?  We still were able to catch a few and put them in the cooler.  I didn't realize this until after the trip, but we should have either kept the cooler lid open, or put the crabs in an open container and kept them moist.  When it was time to cook them later, they weren't really moving...or breathing.  Luckily we steamed them several hours later - but next time I will remember to keep them lively.

No other boats around.
The fishing was pretty steady the entire time.  When we started running out of shrimp and bloodworms, I put on some "squirmin' squirts" tube jigs on my bottom rigged bait hooks.  I should have done this sooner!  I was getting double perch almost every cast.  I think the fishing and crabbing here is probably similar to the fishing and crabbing on the Severn, where I first started kayak fishing last year.  Lots of perch, and lots of crabs.  However, the water at Wye Mills is less congested with boats (maybe it was because the weather wasn't that great this day), and the shorelines are less developed.  I would consider kayak crabbing here sometime.

The 7 inch crab again.
Anyway, we moved around maybe 3 or 4 more times during the trip and ended up with 12 crabs and 41 white perch.  All of our anchoring spots were also within a mile of the boathouse - we didn't have to go far.  Crabbing by handline was pretty fun, and I think next time I might take my wife and son - I'm sure they would have a good time.

That evening we steamed up the crabs, steamed some fish, and fried up the rest of the fish.  Everyone loved the food.  The wives joined us for dinner, and we had enough crabs to just get a taste of it - 3 per couple.  There were plenty of fish sticks from the dink perch that we brought home to fill the rest of our appetites.

Fish Chips
Steamed Crabs
Steamed Fish

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mattawoman Creek

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We moved a couple weeks earlier, and it had been a stressful couple of weeks trying to get everything transported to the new place and unpacking.  It had also been over a month since I've seen the water, so I was eager to attend July's MKF Meet and Greet.  It was at the Mattawoman creek in Indian Head, Maryland.

Spatterdock, and hydrilla right in front.

The plan from several of the members was to hit the water before sunrise to try for some topwater bass, and then to target some snakehead or blue cats later in the morning.  So off I was at 4:30 in the morning to get to the ramp before sunrise.  I was on the water a little after 6:30AM and was surprised at the scenery.  The Mattawoman has acres and acres of spatterdock along the edges of the creek, and then in front of those, there are thick growths of hydrilla. It looked fishy to me.  It was going to be a good fishing day.
There really isn't much of an exciting story to tell this time.  It was 7 hours of pretty much nothing.  I was casting plastic worms, a jitterbug, chatterbait, small grubs, a firetiger rapala crankbait, an electric chicken bass assassin shad, and cut bunker for catfish.  I did have some hits on the cut bunker from what I think were probably smaller catfish, but I never did hook up with them.  I did spent the last hour on the water targeting blue catfish with some nightcrawlers that one of the other members graciously gave to me.  I had a little bit of success with 2 blue catfish and a channel catfish.

Someone else's snakehead.  26 inches!

Luckily most of the other members at the Meet and Greet did better than I did.  Several people caught some really good sized snakeheads, and others caught several lunker bass, yellow perch, white perch, and sunfish. After seeing those snakeheads, though, I have caught the fever...I need to catch a snakehead sometime in my life.

The fish that saved me from a skunk.  Yes, there's a fish in my hand.

I brought home the 2 blue catfish that I caught, along with another one that another member gave to me.  This was my first time trying blue catfish, and I had heard that they were tasty, so I came home not entirely defeated.  I filleted them that night and fried them with some corn meal mixed with old bay and they were really good.  My wife even asked me to bring some more of those home.

The Mattawoman.