The Father of Bay Charter Fishing
When Lester Trott, 95 years old this year, was born in Annapolis, the capital city had scarcely 9,000 residents.
Les and his family, which included two older brothers, lived for a time in Eastport on Duvall’s Cove (or Well’s Cove), swimming in the clear waters of Spa Creek and trapping muskrats to sell their hides for pocket money. They netted big eight-inch-plus blue crabs — called channel crabs because of their size — that had molted and were hiding in the thick grass growing in the shallows in front of their house.
If you didn’t catch blue crabs, you could buy them for 25 cents a dozen.
There was no such thing as a charter fishing boat. After Labor Day, fishing on the Bay gave way to hunting season.
Boating on the Chesapeake was all business with the exception of a few yachtsmen with custom-made sailboats.
Booking the First Charter
Soon after Lester’s birth, his father, Thomas, a dedicated angler and waterman, started the first charter-boat sport-fishing business in Annapolis with his 32-foot boat, the Maryland, a Potomac Dory. This 1918 venture proved successful. Lester’s first memories are of walking with his dad to their boat, moored at City Dock, and talking to prospective customers.
One October, his dad convinced a couple of sportsmen to go fishing. They caught so many big stripers it made the news, even the Baltimore papers. People were astounded that such large fish were here in the colder weather. Thomas Trott became the preeminent sport-fishing skipper on the Chesapeake.
The First Lure on the Bay
In 1928, a 50-foot boat from New England cruised into Annapolis harbor, L.B. Huntington at the helm. Huntington was promoting an unheard of fishing item, an artificial lure he had invented. He wanted the best captain in the Bay to introduce the Huntington Drone Spoon, and he sought out Thomas Trott.
At that point in saltwater fishing, options were simple: bait fishing, period. You had your choice of crab, cut fish or clams. The flashing Huntington Drone Spoon was designed to imitate a swimming alewife or herring and to be trolled behind the boat. Tom Trott was eager to help introduce the lure. It proved an instant winner.
Trott and Huntington expanded their mutual sport fishing charter operations to the lower Potomac. Trott built a comfortable 50-foot cabin cruiser with accommodations for his whole family. During the summer months when the kids were out of school, they would live on board the boat at St. Patrick’s Creek on the Potomac River, their new charter-fishing operation center.
Carrying on His Father’s Work
Over the younger Trott’s lifetime, the fleets filling the Annapolis harbor and the surrounding marinas transitioned from skipjacks, bugeyes and deadrises to motor cruisers, sailboats and sport-fishing boats. Many of the new craft were constructed locally by names such as Trumpy, Chance, Rogers and the Annapolis Yacht Yard as Annapolis grew into the recreational boating capital of the Eastern Seaboard.
Lester loved boats, but he made his living promoting their pleasures in magazines, advertising and tourism. He had a hand in the creation of the first Bay boating magazine, The Chesapeake Skipper, and was loosely associated with the publication in its various forms for years. The Skipper evolved into Chesapeake Bay Magazine.
Lester moved into tourism, promoting Annapolis as a boating and sailing destination helping launch the U.S. Boat Shows in Annapolis, creating Chesapeake Appreciation Days and working in Maryland’s first state-wide tourism initiatives.
He still watches over the water from the home in Chesapeake Harbor he shares with Jerri, his wife of 62 years. Two daughters and their families live nearby.