Loch Raven angler suddenly earns stripes


If it's a Saturday between spring and mid-autumn, William (Bluegill Bill) Dankmeyer probably can be found at Loch Raven Reservoir, trolling the coves and drop-offs for panfish and sometimes catching a surprise.

"I moved here from Wisconsin 13 years ago and I haven't missed many Saturdays since," said Dankmeyer, who drives down from his home in Bel Air and rents boats from the Loch Raven Fishing Center.

"Bluegills, that's really my bag. I'm always looking for the state record, but 3 pounds, 7 ounces has become a bit of a challenge."

So lately Bluegill Bill has been fishing more often for crappie, usually finding them deep in the reservoir on light line and small jigs.

"They're harder to find than bluegills, down 40 or 45 feet sometimes," said Dankmeyer, special projects engineer for Dale/Incor, a Baltimore manufacturer of steel framing studs.

"And that's what I was doing near the No. 1 bridge on Oct. 16, when the rod suddenly went down."

Dankmeyer said his first thought was that a big northern pike had taken the jig, but after a 30-minute fight on 4-pound test line, he brought a rockfish to the boat, a 34.5-inch hybrid striper weighing 16 pounds, 10 ounces.

"I was a little more than surprised to catch this fish," Dankmeyer said, "because everyone says there aren't any more rockfish in Loch Raven."

Robert Lunsford, director of restoration and enhancement programs with the state Fisheries Service, said a rockfish-stocking program at Loch Raven ended more than a decade ago.

"Electro-fishing surveys used to turn up a couple of hundred stripers," said Lunsford. "Now, they might turn up one or two. So this is a very unusual catch."

The stocking program was terminated, Lunsford said, because the reservoir doesn't seem to have the prey base to support a species as voracious as rockfish.

"The perception was there were already enough top-line predators like northerns and largemouth and smallmouth bass, and stripers were competing with them," Lunsford said.

Dankmeyer said he's heard stories from other fishermen at the reservoir about the days when anglers would catch a few rockfish a day.

"I know there are 20-pound northerns and 8-pound smallies in there. I've seen them," said Dankmeyer. "But I never have caught one there, and you really don't think about rockfish there anymore."

While Dankmeyer said the Loch Raven rockfish is the "highlight of my years of fishing," it isn't just the catching that keeps him coming back to Loch Raven.

"When you're alone and it's quiet, nature opens up around you," said Dankmeyer, who at 64 is married and has seven grandchildren.

"Loons and geese, and deer that come down to the shoreline -- 10-pointers that put their whole heads under water to feed on the submerged weeds.

"Sometimes I go over to Feather Island, sit on a rock while I eat lunch and just watch. It's amazing what you can see."

After 40 years with Dale/Incor one might think Dankmeyer would be looking ahead to more fishing time, but he said retirement isn't yet in his plans.

"You can't just fish every day," said Dankmeyer. "I like getting up and going to work. It makes that one day a week of fishing a lot more fun."

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