Giant rockfish helps Queenstown man earn stripes

The Baltimore Sun

If you still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, you know that the end of a good thing has its ugly side.

Not so with the striped bass season, which seems to just keep on giving even as it approaches the Dec. 31 closing date.

On Nov. 28, Luke Kushner caught a 52.5-pound, 45.5-inch striped bass in the Severn River off Bay Ridge in Annapolis.

Five days later, while fishing at the Bay Bridge, Bill White upped the ante with a 57-pound, 53-inch striper - the size of the average third-grade boy.

For White, a Queenstown resident, the catch was a form of redemption after losing a monster fish several years ago when a swivel failed as he reeled his catch to the side of the boat.

White and George Robinson, his business partner and fishing buddy from Havre de Grace, decided to take advantage of a late fall day with little wind - a rarity this year - and do a little multitasking. So as they held a conference call with potential customers midmorning, White steered his boat to a spot near the Bay Bridge and set up eight rods.

Robinson was still on his BlackBerry at 1 p.m., when the rod shook.

"It took out a lot of line in less than a minute. It was clear it was a big fish," said White, who has been fishing for 40 of his 48 years. "After about 10 minutes, it surfaced about 200 feet back and you could see the whole thing and there was no doubt."

Remembering the big one that got away, White said he turned to Robinson and suggested that they do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition from water to deck, stowing gear and clearing a wide area on the stern.

After a 30-minute fight, White reeled the fish alongside and with it a pile of bad memories.

"I got to the leader and said, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't go 0-for-2.' Luckily, the fish cooperated," he said.

With a lot of the striper spilling out of the net, the men managed to wrestle it into the boat. They motored back to shore and took the fish to Angler Sport Center in Annapolis - where he bought his lucky crippled alewife lure just days earlier - for weighing and measuring.

(Kushner caught his striper in 24 feet of water on an 8-ounce tandem rig attached to wire line with 6-ounce, in-line sinker. It, too, was checked in at Anglers.)

"After losing that fish seven or eight years ago, I was bummed. [I was told,] 'That was a beast. You'll never see one like that again in your lifetime,' " White said. "But I rearranged my gear and upgraded, and I was rewarded."

The Chesapeake Bay record, set in 1995, is 67 pounds, 8 ounces. The Atlantic Ocean state record, set two years ago, is 57 pounds, 2 ounces.

"There's definitely a lot of big fish out there right now. I think the Maryland record is going to fall in the next couple of years. The rockfishing is as good as it's ever been," White said.

And what of the fish?

"I gave it to the chef at the Gibson Island Club. I didn't eat any of it. I had a burger," he said, laughing. "It had been a long day."

DNR seeks input

Speaking of fleeting time, the days are dwindling to comment on the Department of Natural Resources' options for regulations covering snapping turtles, sharks, crabs and striped bass, and the penalties proposed to deal with scofflaws.

Biologists presented a range of proposals at Wednesday's meeting of the Tidal Fisheries and Sport Fisheries advisory commissions. The options are at

The feedback period for snapping turtles and striped bass ends Thursday. The comment period for crabs ends Dec. 17. DNR managers will review your input before drafting a formal proposal. A hearing will be scheduled for after the holidays.

Lobster trails

After last week's column about the Rock Hall waterman and mate catching a lobster in a crab pot off Swan Point, another resident, Diane Oliver, sent me an e-mail that might clear up the mystery as to its means of migration.

Take it away, Diane:

"I was coming out of the local Happy Harry's Drug Store, and there in the parking lot, seeming to be clawing at me was a small lobster. How it got there, I have no idea. I'm guessing a seafood delivery truck lost a passenger, but who knows?

"I'm thinking that this lobster is going to be run over in the parking lot. I pick him up and take him to my home in Rock Hall, put him in the kitchen sink, and look up online what a lobster eats. I try a couple things, but he doesn't seem to want any of it and I think, 'What am I doing? Going to raise a lobster?'

"He doesn't seem happy, either, and after four or five hours in my sink, I pick him up and walk to the end of the street and release him into Swan Creek in Rock Hall, only a lobster walk to Swan Point.

"Now, this was two years ago. Is it possible for a lobster to live for two years in this area? I wonder!"

As head of CSI: Rock Hall, I declare this case solved.

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