Dec. 2006


Bustin' Bass on Maryland's Pocomoke River
By Charlie Petrocci


As saltwater fishing begins to wind down along Maryland’s coast, some anglers opt to chase a few rockfish off the beach or trade their rods for guns. But few anglers realize hidden between the Chesapeake and the beach are a string of brackish water tidal creeks offering great late fall freshwater fishing, especially for that little leaping green machine, the largemouth bass.

Pocomoke River bass are not big but what they lack in size they often make up for in number.
The Eastern Shore bristles with shallow water creeks and rivers that drain into the Chesapeake Bay, and most host a variety of saltwater, brackish and freshwater game species. Of these, one of the most productive is the Pocomoke River, a long, deep ancient river whose headwaters begin in Delaware and snake almost 75 miles south- west into lower Maryland, creating Pocomoke Sound.

“The best times to fish the Pocomoke are during the cool months of spring and fall,” said veteran angler Jake Taylor of Salisbury. “And the best fall fishing is accomplished boat,” he added. And there is an assortment of fish to target, including shad, silver perch, yellow perch, pickerel, catfish, crappie, sunfish, carp and largemouth bass. Striped bass, some over 20 pounds, can also be caught as they seasonally migrate up the river during the cool weather months. Matter of fact as I write this I know they are in the river right now. This river is also home to big gar, one of the last of the true prehistoric predators. But the perennial sport fish on the river is the largemouth bass.

Pocomoke River bass are not the monsters you find in Florida, but they are healthy. And its not uncommon to tie into several three to four pounder’s on any given day. What they lack in size they make up for in numbers, with anglers sometimes hooking 20-30 per outing. Most Pocomoke bass fish will average in the two pound range.

These bass are tidal fish, meaning that depending on tides, wind and moon, salinity can vary quite a bit. But these fish are born into it, so they can tolerate moderate changes in salinity. This river is also defined by its tannic stained waters, sandy bottoms, deep holes, bald cypress trees and acres of spatterdock plants (water lily). This can be guerilla style fishing at its best. And you don’t need a rocket ship boat to catch fish here. I usually fish from my canoe, kayak or 10-ft. tin boat with an electric motor in the fall months, and they all slide into the back of my pickup truck.

First time fishermen will find the whole river “fishy,” since there are endless coves, bends, and surface vegetation which all hold bass. Hot spots include channel edges next to spatterdock rafts, woody shorelines, docks, duck blinds and around cypress knees. Most local anglers agree the best river fishing occurs during the first few hours of a falling tide, as bait flushed out from cover turns bass on.

I love the finesse fishing and explosive hits of using top water or shallow swimming plugs. And my rods are usually a 6-foot medium action spinning or bait-cast outfit laced with 8 to 12 pound test line. “With its tannic stained waters, I prefer lures with darker colors such as brown, gray, crawfish and black, with some splashes of fleck mixed in. But I have caught nice fish using chartreuse as well,” said Taylor. Spinner baits, jig n pig’s, and rubber worms rigged Carolina or Texas style are also deadly on bass in the cooler months.

A nice paddle fishing trip begins at Porters Crossing, located north of Snow Hill. For the first half mile it’s a jungle scene, but eventually the river widens. “The best thing to do is leave one vehicle in Snow Hill and fish your way back to the town park,” said Lisa Challenger of Worcester County Tourism. Another nice day trip is to fish from Snow Hill to Shad Landing State Park, casting as you follow a falling tide.

Good boat ramps are located at: Pocomoke City Waterfront Park; Winter Quarters Park; Milburn Landing State Park; Shad Landing State Park; and two ramps at Byrd Park in Snow Hill. All are accessible from either Route 13 or Route 113 and they can handle anything from a kayak to large rocket shaped bass boats.

There are also bridge access points at Porters Crossing, Whiton Crossing and Burbage Crossing, all off of Route 113. Another great place to paddle and fish is Nassawango Creek, which feeds into the Pocomoke. Drop-in sites are at Nassawango Road or Red House Road, both off Route 12. All these areas have limited parking. Small boat rentals are available at Shad Landing State Park and Snow Hill, complete with drop-off service for paddlers. The Worcester County Tourism office in Snow Hill has river maps and information (410) 632-3110.

Besides being a beautiful river with few fishermen, anglers only need a Chesapeake Tidal Fishing license to fish from Porters Crossing, down river. So the next time you feel the urge to get in touch with your fresh water fishing side, in a land born of saltwater, check out the Pocomoke River. It’s got scenery, wildlife and some really friendly bass.


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