The hunt for 'river tuna' includes win-win bonuses


The hunt for river tuna begins at 5:15 in the cool morning darkness, with Richard Gick's 18-year-old Chevy pickup coughing and half-gagging along some back road in Howard County.

Gick, a decoy carver and outdoorsman, is all beard and baseball cap behind the steering wheel, kicking the clutch, pulling at the stick shift, talking to his truck, pretty much telling it to giddyap. We're headed for Triadelphia Reservoir, an impoundment of the Patuxent River along the Howard-Montgomery County line, to harvest some protein for the people who go to Bea Gaddy's emergency food center in East Baltimore.

We're after bottom feeders of the freshwater world - carp and catfish. "River tuna," says Gick.

It's the second day of Gick's second annual River Tuna and Catfish Tournament. Last year, 12 competing anglers brought more than 1,000 pounds of fish to Gaddy during a week of fishing in Maryland creeks and reservoirs. Gick, who's been contributing fish to Gaddy's kitchen for years, likes to set a good example for other tournament entrants. So he's fishing every day this week, at a secret place in Triadelphia he calls Tuna Island.

We get there through the simple aid of an electric motor pushing a 12-foot john boat, an old reliable named Pax. It's raining when we arrive at the island, a muddy plateau at the northwest end of Triadelphia fringed with willow trees and surrounded by cruising carp. The shallow water ripples and muddy clouds form as they move; you get the sense of a massive carp kingdom below the surface. Now and then one explodes out of the water, for no apparent reason.

After pushing Pax on shore and setting up two green plastic patio chairs, Gick baits three hooks with special dough balls concocted the night before. They're laced with McCormick anise. The chemists at our leading spice company are aware of the secondary uses of their many products. But they might not know of the anise's effectiveness in attracting carp. The smell brings them around. (And gives me cravings for espresso.) The result: Every 15 minutes or so, Gick jumps out of his chair, cranks the handle of his spinning reel, and pulls 3-and 4-pound carp to the muddy shore of Tuna Island. By 11 a.m., his cooler is half-filled with round-mouthed, golden-brown fish with armorlike scales.

"A lot of people think this is boring fishing, and I guess it is," Gick says. "People don't realize how patient you have to be to catch carp."

He's right. One must sit and stare at one's lines a lot.

Carp are pokey fish. They poke around in muddy water, sniffing for food. When they come across something interesting, such as an anise-laced dough ball, their first tendency is to play with it, then gum it, then slowly suck it into their mouths. If a carp angler reacts too quickly to a tug on the line, he might pull the bait completely away from his quarry. Gick has the timing down. He gets most of the carp that swim in his direction.

He brings them all to Bea Gaddy. Last year, she gave them away or broiled them up for dinner for the needy folks in her community.

Gick doesn't eat carp. But he takes a lot of pride in his little tournament - he hopes to have 20 contestants this year - though he knows some people look way down their snouts at the whole idea. After all, only a small minority of sport anglers - their motto: Carpe carplum! Seize the carp! - actually catch carp on purpose.

But this is a good purpose.

Three fishing shops - Clyde's, Outdoor Sportsman and Tochterman's - have contributed prizes for the top finishers in the River Tuna Tournament, which runs until Saturday.

Gick, of course, is ineligible for prizes - and not just because he runs the tournament. He's learned that charity provides many rewards - and some bonuses.

"Right there's the bonus," Gick says, pointing to a chevron of Canada geese in the gray sky over Tuna Island. "There's another bonus," he says, gesturing toward a cavity in the dead limb of a nearby willow tree, where a mother bluebird is hard at work feeding her babies. "Another bonus," he says, nodding at a beaver swimming through the channel around Tuna Island.

"Bonus," he says, pointing to a blue heron. A win-win, if there ever was one.

Museum for black cinema

Michael Johnson and his partners have a start date for their museum on black cinema. They hope to open the doors Oct. 1 to "Heritage, Shadows of the Silver Screen," at 5 W. North Ave., in a theater built in 1915, used for much of the century (originally as the Parkway, later as 5 West), but not for several years.

Johnson, whose Heritage Playhouse Cinema went under after a brief run at the old Playhouse on 25th Street, believes he'll have more success with a combination movie house and museum.

So the Heritage will have two exhibition halls - one named after Clarence Muse, a Baltimore native and character actor, one named after Oscar Michaux, the nation's first successful black director - dressed with set pieces, costumes, posters, and original scripts from the early days of black filmmaking.

The second-floor theater, seating 275, will be named after the late, great Howard Rollins Jr. Good luck to Johnson & Co.

A few good slogans

I see where Bohager's claims to be serving huge "El Nino steamed crabs." Because of the popularity of its salsa, Mencken's Cultured Pearl claims to have sold "more chips than Intel." All very clever and cute. But I can play this game, too.

I have a suggestion for a new sales slogan for Stewart's Root Beer on Pulaski Highway. It's now known as "Home of the Steamburger," which is intriguing to the steamburger-uninitiated. But it's the huge root beer float that's worth bragging about. My son, Nick, and I came up with this after a recent attempt to finish the treat: "It's the float that makes you bloat." Muster a strong Bawlmer accent and say it aloud. It works.

Pub Date: 6/17/98

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