Small Boat, Big Fish
by Marnie Morris
On sunny Sundays, my husband Trey and I like to put our canoe in the Patuxent River at Waysons Corner. We take along a small Igloo cooler packed with sandwiches, fruit, water and bloodworms. We load up the fishing rods and a tackle box that pretty much lacks tackle. The last time we went, the one bobber we had disintegrated when I went to attach it to my line.
Once aboard our great vessel, we paddle silently in the direction the tide tells us. My husband insists, wisely, that we go against the current on the way out and with it coming in. I try not to take this personally; I know hes the one with the stamina.
The tide Easter Sunday took us upstream into still barren marshways. We passed a threesome of men on shore, two just putting in their lines and one holding an enormous black rat snake. The man handling this snake was well into his 40s, but the smile of a 13-year-old had spread across his face. Before he put the snake back on its tree, we watched him dance, avoiding the serpents hug.
Last fall while paddling downstream toward Jug Bay, I too shined with a 13-year-olds smile. Rushing through the water about a foot and a half away from us, exposing its brilliant colors, was a scarlet kingsnake. I had remembered studying them in school: Yellow on black, friend of Jack; Red on Black, watch your back. (I later excitedly phoned the Department of Natural Resources to tell them of this unusual sighting, only to learn it was most likely someones escaped pet).
This day, we continued paddling upstream until we found the remains of a duck blind to tie our canoe to. There we stopped, baited our hooks, cast our lines and rested our bodies. An hour and a half later, we still hadnt had a nibble. We ate our lunches, and I sprawled out on the floor of the canoe, my head on a life cushion.
Until my fishing line made a loud whir. I looked down to see line flying out of control from my reel. Holy cow! Holy cow!! I screamed.
Understand, I never expect to catch anything on these trips. Were not prepared. The fishing rod is old, and theres not a lot of line on the reel. What is there is six-pound test, and its a little dry rotted at that.
I hopped up, forgetting were in a canoe. My better halfs hollering Calm down! Let him run with it! Hes holding on to the sides of the canoe, trying to stabilize our fine fishing vessel.
Let him run with it, he said. Flashing to the fishing shows my father insists on watching, I felt like Ive landed the Great Mother. Giggling, I reeled him in while my husband gave directions I didnt understand. Loosen the drag! Let him wear himself out! Loosen the tension on the rod! I reeled and stopped, reeled and stopped.
Youve got one huge catfish on that line, Trey yelled.
Meanwhile a dorsal fin pops up out of the water, exciting me even more. Its a shark, I yelled back. (I knew better, but I enjoy drama).
The surface waters swirling, I was bringing it in. Were not putting that thing in the canoe! Are you crazy? You want to get us arrested? I shouted.
Ten minutes from when the fight began, we had a 24-inch rockfish looking up at us beside the canoe. Stunned, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had no net. The fish looked back at us. Having the last laugh, it whipped its head, breaking the line. Off my fish went, the mother of mothers.
Mother Rockfish that is. Its spawning season and illegal to keep any rockfish in rivers March 1 through May 31. Its also illegal to practice catch and release.
I contemplate. I didnt mean to hook her. I had a bloodworm on a hook, and I would have found myself quite happy with a white perch or two. I feel guilty. Im a mother. Worse, I enjoyed this escapade.
Perhaps its time for a bigger boat and Bay waters.