Volume 14, Issue 16 ~ April 20 - April 26, 2006

The Sporting Life

by Dennis Doyle

Opening Day at the Tackle Shop

The Chesapeake is casting its spell again

Opening Day of rockfish trophy season is a traditional celebration. I spent this opening as I have a few others in recent years, working at party central of the experience. Anglers Sport Center is on Route 50 just before the Bay Bridge, but even if you just call it Anglers, everyone knows where you mean. I’ve clerked there a day or so most weeks since I retired, four years ago.

Issuing fishing licenses to eager anglers, I could identify accents, or passports, from at least five other continents: Europe; Asia; Africa; Australia and South America. Local dialects from permit seekers included the unique intonations of the Eastern Shore, the drawl of Bal’mor and the softer modulations of more rural areas of Anne Arundel County. Anglers was an international zone.

The atmosphere of the store was scented with fresh alewives, fishing reel oil and newly washed khaki. Conflicting stories of the morning catch echoed throughout the store. Early morning reports coming in on cell phones named Sandy Point, then Thomas Point. A call came in claiming Tolley Point, another Cedar Point and another Breezy Point. Fish were pretty much all over the Bay. That sent pulses racing, and more than a few license seekers, who had been committed to avoiding opening day traffic, suddenly changed their minds and rushed to get on the water. Others just doubled their bait orders and hurried on their way.

Originating almost 50 years ago on the site of a defunct gas station not far down the road from where it stands today, Anglers has survived financially, as the area transformed from rural to urban. The store is one of the remaining few of a gallant breed of sporting supply houses that once ranged throughout America. Most have been eliminated by the competition of merchandizing mega-marts offering an avalanche of inventory, cutthroat prices and little else.

Since 1957, In addition to supplying hunting, fishing

Fish Are Biting

Trophy rock have been caught from Love Point to Calvert Cliffs, scattered on the deep channel edges down to 20 feet. The best trolling baits have been tandem bucktails rigged with nine-inch sassy shads, parachutes and umbrella rigs in white or chartreuse. Bait fishermen are getting them on bloodworms and cut alewives (menhaden) at Sandy Point and Matapeake. And the Susquehanna Flats is finally alive with big stripers.

During spring trophy season, through May 15, each angler fishing the mainstem Bay from Brewerton Channel to the Maryland-Virginia line, is allowed to bring home one fish measuring 33 inches or longer per day.

Shad are in big numbers in the rivers at the head of the Bay — when there is enough water for them to move. Numbers of large croaker have been caught in commercial nets and crab pots near the Bay Bridge. White perch should be running, but reports are scarce.

and crabbing supplies to area sportsmen, Anglers has operated partially as a fur trappers’ exchange, a grocery store, U.S. Post Office and dairy supply. During the 1960s, it even had a legal slot machine or two on the counter.

The store moved in 1966 when original owner Joe Habel and a group of his friends began laying a new foundation about a half-mile closer to the Bay Bridge. It took a few months longer to erect than expected because the construction effort turned into an impromptu party. The legend is that an empty beer can was placed in every cavity of each concrete block laid up for the walls. In those days, Joe and his friends didn’t make a clear distinction between their fun, their work and their outdoor activities.

At the age of 19, Charlie Ebersberger, already a devout sportsman, started working at Anglers. About that same time, Joe Habel began to think of retiring. A year or so later, Charlie’s family bought part of the business, and a few years after that Fishing Charlie took over running the store. The structure has been expanded since then, and Charlie’s family became the sole owners, but essentially it has remained unchanged. If you’ve ever met Charlie, you know he’s there because of his passion for the outdoors, especially fishing. Son Mike is also working there, as dedicated an angler as his father.

At Anglers on day one of the 2006 trophy rockfish season, there was a mingling of a brotherhood that went beyond geographic, economic or social stratification. The sense of shared community was comfortable and unspoken. As the day wore on, a succession of anglers brought in trophy-sized rockfish to be measured and weighed and to have their pictures taken.

The Chesapeake and its bounty is casting its spell yet again.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.