I had the pleasure of spending a few hours on the Chesapeake Bay with Attorney General Janet Reno during last Saturday's trophy striped bass season opener.
We accompanied Department of Natural Resources officials Pete Jensen, Francis McFadden and John Verrico. Also on board was Ann Hook, a friend of Reno's, and two security men.
Actually, the DNR officials and I didn't plan on having the United States' first woman attorney general on board. But just as the DNR police boat was preparing to leave the Annapolis City Dock, I noticed two women strolling by, followed closely by two attentive men.
I mentioned to McFadden that the taller woman looked familiar. He looked and realized it was Reno.
Jensen, the director of fisheries for the DNR, asked McFadden to invite Reno on our trip. Reno asked her security men if it would be OK, and they said if she wanted to go out on the boat, she could.
And that's how the former Dade County, Fla., district attorney ended up in our boat for what turned out to be a pleasant couple of hours.
"I love the water," Reno said as we pulled away from the Annapolis dock. After we were out on the water, she said, "Now I know what a bird must feel like when it is set free from a cage."
Two things were clear about Reno. She is not a stranger to boats or fishing and, secondly, she appears to be uncomfortable with the sudden limelight that has been cast upon her.
Reno has sailed her home state's Florida waters and marshlands extensively.
"No," she said in answer to a question, "I probably will not put my own boat in the water up here, but a friend has a nice sailboat and has offered its use to me whenever I wish. I'll probably accept the temptation as duties permit."
Reno calls herself "a casual fisherman . . . meaning that I almost always troll a spoon or other lure while I am sailing."
Still, from her questions about the condition of the bay's striped bass, flounder, bluefish and other species, she gave the impression that she knew more about fishing than she revealed.
Reno said that other than "a few business trips over the years, I haven't spent much time in the Maryland area. But I am impressed by how close I now find myself to both the mountains and the ocean.
"I am also looking forward to revisiting Blackwater Refuge. I was taken there some years ago and was amazed at the numbers of wild ducks and geese we found. The marshlands of the Eastern Shore are quite similar to what I am used to seeing in the Everglades."
As I write this, fishing for rockfish is still on the spotty side, but heating up.
I have made a half-dozen calls to area checking stations and charter captains, and all agree that middle bay rockfishing should remain good for at least a few more days.
Middle bay anglers are doing quite well by checking in a reasonable number of fish in the 40- to 50-pound range and quite a few (unlike last year) that meet or slightly exceed the minimum 36-inch length. None of this is surprising Jensen.
"I think that by the time this season is finished, we'll have checked in about 1,500 trophy rock and will have released that many [36 inches or better]," he said.
"We've had a good spawn, and there is no reason to believe that it will not continue, but you have to remember that these fish are generally individuals -- not schooled fish. When the water up the creeks and inlets is right, they -- in, spawn and then make a -- for the ocean."
Are these fish a recovered species, as many experienced bay watchers are claiming?
"I am willing to say that, yes, the striped bass is now out of trouble," Jensen said. "From one end of the bay to the other, numbers are up and the spawn has been all we could have hoped for. Even the rockfish that we stocked are now spawning and I fully expect to put a 45-day fall season in place this year."
DeShong is fishing champ
Westminster's Corey DeShong took home the Champion's Trophy at last Saturday's fifth annual Fishing Rodeo by reeling in a 20 1/2 -inch catfish at the Westminster Community Pond.
The free event, sponsored by the Optimist Club of Westminster, attracted more than 300 youngsters up to the age of 15. Boy Scout Troop 420 assisted with the clean-up chores.
The Westminster Community Pond, at the intersection of routes 140 and 97, is a popular fishing hole that is stocked with catfish, bluegills, trout and bass.