by Chris Justice
Anglers know the waters they fish are the best of lifes teachers. Whether youre fishing a remote mountain stream in the Catoctins, a lily-padded cove in Liberty Reservoir or an oyster reef in Chesapeake Bay, you take fundamental truths from each experience.
As I prepare for this falls rockfish, I look back on my first two Bay fishing trips and the lessons they taught me about symmetry. Sometimes, this symmetry is found outside; at other times, it is found inside our hearts.
The spring rockfish season began with promise, cherry blossoms, trout and Easter egg hunts.
On a quiet Sunday morning at just that time of year, I met Bernie for my first fishing trip on the Bay. An earth-science professor from the local community college, he owns a small 16-foot runabout, docked at Holiday Hill Marina in Annapolis. We planned to navigate around Bloody Point for rockfish.
We had been planning this trip for weeks, and finally, our schedules opened. The anticipation was contagious as we prepared the boat. As I waited for the motor to start, I noticed a brown water snake skimming across the creeks surface. As the snake passed, so did the motor.
Bernie cranked, but nothing happened. The motor was shot. I just had it fixed a month ago, he said. We simultaneously raised our hands and shoulders in disbelief, then we returned home.
I was disappointed. I had psyched myself for this adventure only to find technology taking a vacation on my precious time. How dare it! But as my frustration waned, I chalked this dark day up to experience.
A few weeks later, we met at the college and drove to the marina. Another colleague, Dave, a retired chemistry professor and the boats half-owner, joined us.
Once again, all systems were go, and this time the motor cooperated. We charged out of the marina and onto the headwaters of South River. The ospreys were in full flight, plummeting like kamikaze pilots for dead or wounded fish. Herons stalked the shorelines like sentinels for a prehistoric army. The rush of anticipation filled me again.
We settled on a spot where eight boats had anchored. This was Bloody Point, an ominous name derived from a matrix of legends that read like a whos-who in Bay history. One account puts its genesis in battles between Virginia and Maryland landowners over Kent Island property rights. Another accuses colonists of massacring Native Americans at the southern lip of Kent Island. Yet another attributes the name to a pirate insurrection with the captain left to rot along the beach. Perhaps the most macabre of these tales finds ruthless slave trade profiteers disposing of sickened slaves by dumping them in the Bay along the islands southern tip.
Here at Bloody Point, I felt I was at the heart of the Bay. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the deepest section of the Bay, known locally as The Hole, is located directly off Bloody Point.
We dropped our lines and drifted menhaden chunks, steadying our nerves and settling into our spots. I surveyed the water for depth, drift, competition and bottom. Within five minutes, my ultra-light freshwater Ugly Stick slammed down and bowed. I hooked the fish immediately and proudly proclaimed, I got one! I fought the 21-inch rockfish well and landed it with caution. My first official cast in the Chesapeake had produced a rockfish dinner. Not a bad start.
The symmetry was clear. Be patient with me, and Ill be patient with you. Treat me with care, and Ill take care of you. This rockfish was the reward for my patience. Call me silly. Call me sentimental. But the Bay has been whispering those words of wisdom ever since.
The fall rockfish season ends with conclusions, fiery leaves, deer hunting and Thanksgiving.
Out on the water this time of year, if the fishing is slow, remember your first rockfish and what helped you catch it. Chances are, that same wisdom will be equally helpful today.
And whatever you do, dont call me when Im fishing.
When hes not fishing, Chris Justice teaches English at The Community College of Baltimore County. This is his first piece for Bay Weekly.