|Appreciation: Capt. Dave Byrd
By Chris Doherty
As the saying goes, the Chesapeake is the soul of Maryland. Ever since the first explorers ventured into the Bay, tales of men being drawn to its bountiful waters have woven the fabric that has become the Bay's legacy. One of these modern-day tales is worth taking a moment to recount.
Dave Byrd was an everyman. For close to 30 years, he lived the life of a suburban father and husband. Then, as thousands have before him, he had a vision. He wanted to combine work with his passion for fishing the Chesapeake. With his wife Kathy - and before his retirement from Giant Foods - he purchased what would be the first of two boats named JenTre, for his daughters Jennifer and Theresa.
In the early years, he had a plan to break even in the charter fishing business when it was time to retire from his full-time job at Giant. He met his goal right on schedule and even bought a bigger boat.
Over the years, for bachelor parties, work get-togethers and family reunions, we chartered Dave's boat out of Rod 'n' Reel and always caught our limit of fish and good company. I always got a kick out of the corny slogan on his answering machine and in his annual customer letter: "Fishing is Catching."
You didn't have to be an expert angler to feel at home on Dave's boats. His gruff sea captain manner was a thin veil for his warm, genuine love of fishing and heartfelt desire for everyone to have a good time. He possessed unlimited patience for first-time anglers, bad jokes and, especially, kids. As a bonus, you always got good cooking tips for your fish.
This spring, Dave reached the pinnacle of his profession: the prize rockfish at the annual Rod 'n' Reel tournament. That fish was a tribute to everyone who's ever sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic and dreamed of quitting it all to do something they'd actually want to do for a living. The transition to Captain Dave was complete.
This past July, we were able to sneak in a day with Dave and, as usual, caught our limit, with a pile of blues and a 22-inch Spanish mackerel to boot. It was a great day full of good memories, with some of the newest generation of our family getting their first taste of Bay fishing.
Just a few weeks later in September, I got the call that Dave had passed away. Previously undetected cancer had taken its swift toll, and he was gone at age 53.
If the Chesapeake is our collective soul, Dave embodied its spirit. The standing-room-only crowd at his memorial service represented a cross-section of this region: watermen, family, friends, and customers from all walks of life. A man and a body of water touched so many lives in so many ways. He left behind his wife, two daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and a legacy of great memories for so many people.
The strength of the Chesapeake is all who have come before us who have loved it, benefited from it and who have tried to leave it a little better than they found it. Dave, my friend, thanks for leaving it better than you found it, and yes, "Fishing is Catching."
Chris Doherty is a public relations executive in Baltimore.