Late check-in for big catch

15-year-old reels in 33.2-pound striped bass, misses out on prize

Charlie Stewart

Charlie Stewart shows off his 441⁄2-inch striped bass. (Photo by Charles Stewart / May 7, 2009)

In sports, we mostly write about the winners. Have an off day, finish off the podium, maybe you'll be listed in the fine print, but probably not.

The public likes a winner, too. With their thousands of empty seats, the Orioles and Washington Nationals know that all too well.

It's an unusual trait in that most of us don't make it to the top. We're not Michael Phelps or Kimmie Meissner or Katie Hoff.

Today, we'll deviate from the formula a little. We'll list the winners of last weekend's Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association tournament, but we'll start with a young fellow who, except for a clerical error, would have been a contender.

Last Sunday, "Little Charlie" Stewart went out with a cousin and buddy on the Ida Mae, his dad's boat. They made a beeline from Buzz's Marina in Ridge to Buoy 70, out beyond where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay.

At about 11 a.m, the 15-year-old student at Chopticon High reeled in a 33.2-pound, 44 1/2 -inch striped bass - the biggest fish he had ever landed. Naturally, he used a custom lure made by his dad, Tattoo Charlie, to keep them straight.

They took it to an official check-in station, and in the fuss of getting the fish weighed and getting the angler and fish photographed, the MSSA volunteer forgot to check the box indicating the entry was in the youth division. Tattoo Charlie acknowledges that he forgot to double-check the ticket before walking away.

The fish would have taken second place in the youth division, and "Little Charlie" would have earned a $500 savings bond.

"He's the best I could ask for in a son. Never had a problem out of him in 15 years, and that's saying something," says the senior Stewart, still kicking himself for the mistake. "He does deserve it."

Not much we can do about the savings bond, but we thought you all would like to see the big fish and what a winner looks like.

The three-day MSSA tournament attracted nearly 3,000 anglers on 560 boats, a great turnout.

The top three finishers in a the amateur division were: Chuck Falter, Middle River, 47.2 pounds, $10,000; Billy James, Arlington, Va., 45.30 pounds, $67,570; and John Dove, Annandale, Va., 45 pounds, $29,115.

In the professional angler and charter boat division, the top finishers were: Capt. Robert Wetherald, Newburg, 46.35 pounds, $10,200; Capt. Charlie Sisson, Chesapeake Beach, 42.55 pounds, $6,220; and Capt. Rick Huckleby, Solomons, 41.15 pounds, $4,480.

The awards ceremony will be May 14 at the Columbia Center in Severna Park.

Out and about
It's a walk in the park. It's a contest. It's two, two, two events in one.

For the second year, the Maryland State Park Service is running "Park Quest," an adventure and scavenger hunt with a pot of prizes at the end that begins Monday and runs through Aug. 8.

Last year's inaugural contest was strictly an Eastern Shore affair, involving a half-dozen parks. Families and friends formed more than 100 teams and competed to see who could answer the most questions about the flora and fauna (and a few man-made items) at each site. The quest took place in the woods and on the water, with the parks service supplying the boats and kayaks. Some scavenger hunts were timed, some weren't.

The competition required teamwork and problem solving. As the only member of Team Spartacus, I was adopted by two other groups - Team Wandering Wootens and Team Fearless Foxes, both of Ocean Pines - and had a blast.

This year the contest has expanded to 14 parks, from Swallow Falls in Garrett County to Assateague on the Atlantic Ocean.

Getting started is simple: Register online, go to a park, get a clue sheet and find the answers, which could be on a map, part of a sign, under your feet or over your head. It's all free.

Teams that complete eight Quests will qualify for the finale, in which teams compete for outdoor prize packages. Registration is limited to 300 teams.

The details are at: dnr.state.md.us/parkquest/index.asp


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