A Catonsville man caught the biggest fish in Carroll County's Piney Run Reservoir in 2015, and one of biggest ever reeled in there.
Stephen Lenker, 58, is a lifelong Marylander who says he has been fishing all over the state since he was a boy. When he caught the fish that would eventually make him the county Big Fish Contest winner — a 15.9-pound, 32 1/8-inch striped bass — it was late April at one of the first fishing tournaments of the season.
The contest, which is held every year from April 1 to Oct. 31, challenges area fishermen to catch the biggest fish with a $500 prize as the bait.
To qualify to win, fish must be caught at Piney Run Lake, must be legal and must be alive and measured by Piney Run Park staff. The winner is judged by weight, with length used as a tie-breaker.
Lenker reeled in his winner April 25 at the Early Bird Fishing Tournament.
It was one of the largest fish that's ever been caught at the Sykesville lake, said Sandy Buterbaugh, Piney Run park superintendent.
"Oh, it was big," Buterbaugh said. "He caught a good one."
Every year, staff at the lake weigh in hundreds of fish, Buterbaugh said. Piney Run is a popular spot for anglers around the region, both because of its size and variety in fish, she said.
The size of the reservoir, about 300 acres, makes it perfect for fishing, Lenker said, especially in the early spring before weeds and other vegetation grow to their full size.
"It's a great little lake," he said, noting that the reservoir has a wide variety of species for a relatively small body of water.
He and a couple of his fishing partners trolled for awhile before he felt the tug on his line. Although he had no way of knowing that his fish — which took home a tournament prize as well — would hang on as the largest one caught in the lake all year, the competitor in him monitored the records from June to October, he said.
The Big Fish Award, he said, is now sitting with the rest of his trophies at his home.
Fishing is more than a hobby, said Lenker, who works as a maintenance planner and scheduler for a company based in Timonium.
"I've probably fished since I could walk," he said. "Instead of a teething ring, I was handed a fishing rod."
While he has fished in waters as far away as Puerto Rico, Lenker said some of the best fishing spots are local.
"I virtually fish from East to West," he said.
Although he said he'll never give away his methods, trolling is the key, he said.
"It's a tried and true method of just trolling," he said.
When the weather warms up, he'll be back to Piney Run, making another run at the title, he said. When you find a good spot, he said, you stick with it.
"Basically I just go back to the bread line," he said.