A rocky beginning to rockfish season; Outdoors


What a difference a day makes.

Tuesday, the opening day of rockfish season in the bay proper, was not a fit day for angler (me) or anglee (fish). The sky was the color of a dirty gym sock and rain was spattering just enough to annoy the bespectacled.

The good weather couldn't last.

So with a song in my heart (theme from "Gilligan's Island") and visions of landing the big ones in my head, I set off with a party of four from West Decatur, Pa., on board Capt. Kerry Muse's Darlene II out of Deale.

By 7 a.m., we were three miles south of Old Gas Buoy, our lines rigged, surrounded by boats out of Chesapeake Beach. The water was choppy, the wind about 10 knots, and the rain was getting serious.

"I hear we're supposed to have good weather like this tomorrow, too," laughed Bill Potts, who had booked Darlene II for Tuesday and Wednesday.

My companions made bets and issued challenges to each other.

Then it was time to break out the pickles, jerky and pickled eggs. Nothing like good old-fashioned breakfast.

The good-luck foods worked. At 7: 35, Roger Shaw reeled in a 32 1/2-inch striper off a double rig (a 6-ounce big eye bucktail, with a 9-inch white sassy shad).

After that, nothing.

"We'll start throwing people overboard until we break the jinx," shouted Potts over the ever-increasing winds.

I was sure he was eyeing me, since the others in the party -- Shaw, Mary Beish and Patricia Selepack -- were friends and long-time bay charter clients.

The "Gilligan's Island" singers do a better job of telling the next part of story:

"The weather started getting rough

The Darlene II was tossed

If not for the courage of the fearless crew

Our lunches would be lost.

The winds gusted to 29 knots, the seas rose to four to five feet.

Our crew, Kenny Chase and Muse's son-in-law Bob Plantz (Naval Academy 1987), kept the lines clear and the lures clean, no small feat that day.

Inside the cabin, Muse kept trying to put us on a collision course with the fish, trolling all his favorite spots to no avail.

The coffee maker and microwave kept skipping across the counter as we bucked the waves.

"This is the worst weather I've seen and still been fishing," Muse hollered.

Captains on other boats in the area weren't having much luck, either, if the radio chatter was any indication.

Finally, at 1 p.m., with warnings that winds could crank up to 35 knots later in the afternoon, we headed in.

On Wednesday, the same group -- minus the obvious jinx -- went out and caught their limit by 11 a.m. The fish ranged from 29 to 32 inches. They caught white perch, too.

"It was a beautiful day!" said Muse with great enthusiasm.

Wish I was there.

Landing a bigger one

Much like the old woman who lived in a shoe, George Bentz of the Pasadena Sportfishing Group had so many anglers at his meetings, he didn't know what to do.

PSG, which has been meeting for eons at the Orchard Beach fire hall on Solley Road, grew too big for its digs. Meetings averaged 200 members, and some nights the guest speaker drew standing-room crowds.

Next month, PSG opens at its new home -- the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Co., at Ritchie Highway and Earleigh Heights Road.

"The other fire hall served us well, but we had a golden opportunity to get a larger hall with more parking and more room for our auction," Bentz explains.

The inaugural speaker is Ed Darwin, captain of the Becky D, who will share some techniques that make him one of the most successful charter jockeys around the Bay Bridge.

"He draws a crowd," says Bentz. "He knows where all the humps, lumps and bumps are."

Single parent workshop

Single parents and their children who would like to enjoy the outdoors together can take a free workshop Saturday that will introduce them to the basic skills needed for a weekend excursion.

The course, at Pocomoke River State Park just outside Snow Hill, will cover camping, cooking, fishing, canoeing and birding and wildlife viewing. In addition, instructors will suggest the best ways to choose equipment and stay safe during an outing.

"Studies have shown that the number of single-parent households is rising, making it more difficult for kids to become involved in outdoor sports," explains Dan Kuennen, director of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Rural Development Center, a sponsor of the event.

"It's tough for single parents to make the effort to interact with their children in any sport, let alone things that take as much time and knowledge as fishing, camping and canoeing."

The workshop also is being sponsored by the Worcester County Department of Tourism, the state Department of Natural Resources and Survival Products. It is open to parents and youngsters ages 7 to14.

Registration is limited. The deadline is Wednesday. Call 410-543-6656.

DU Family Fun Day

One last plug for a family event, if I may.

The Upper Bay Greenwing chapter of Ducks Unlimited is having its third annual Family Fun Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 3, at the Baltimore County Game and Fish Protective Association.

Children accompanied by an adult can build a bird house or feeder, practice casting or fly tying, get archery instruction and watch a falconry demonstration or waterfowl carvers.

The $10 admission covers the cost of all activities, a Greenwing T-shirt and lunch. Registered youngsters under 17 also receive a one-year DU Greenwing membership and a one-year subscription to a DU magazine.

Organizers would prefer families to register, but walk-ins will not be turned away.

Call Jane Zimmer during the day at 410-866-6200 or in the evening at 410-592-8626.

To read an expanded Outdoor Journal or the fishing report on line, go to www.sunspot.net/sports/outdoors.

To hear the fishing report, call SunDial and enter category 5378 on your touch-tone phone. The phone number is 410-783-1800 in the Baltimore area; 410-268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, 410-836-5028 in Harford and 410-848-0038 in Carroll.

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