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Volume 16, Issue 35 - August 28 - September 3, 2008

One More Reason to Go Fishing

$5,000 worth of fun at Deale’s Pro-Am Fishing Tournament

Take the fun out of fishing and what do you have left? Fish sticks.

–Capt. Andy Scheible Sr. • Wynne, Maryland

It was about 50 years ago that Capt. Andy Scheible spoke those words to Buck Briscoe as we chugged down the Potomac toward the old Davidson Wreck on the Chesapeake for cobia. Buck, who as a no-pay volunteer spent practically all his time promoting St. Mary’s County, was sounding the skipper about a big fishing tournament for the county.

Back then tournaments were few. The biggest was the Chesapeake Bay Fishing Fair held one year on the Eastern Shore, the next on this side. The big winner won perhaps a new rod and reel, tops. An assortment of bucktails, a few decoys and other tackle went to lesser winners. No cash; tournament fishing was for fun and short-lived fame.

Buck was toying with the idea of a tournament that might pay out $500 to the winner, which was no small sum in those days, as a promotion to bring fame and fortune to St. Mary’s County, which lacked the prominence of Tilghman Island, Chesapeake Beach, Deale, Hoopers Island, Crisfield, Annapolis and Cambridge. The St. Mary’s fleet had the necessary good fishing but was off the beaten path. Buck wanted to put his county on the map and figured a contest with a handsome payout was the way to go.

Buck and Andy hashed it out, and by the time we returned to Scheible’s Fishing Center, the biggest fishing facility in Southern Maryland, Andy had prevailed. They’d try a few smaller versions of the existing Fishing Fair, no cash payoffs, for the fun of fishing.

I thought back on that day when I noted the Deale Captains’ Association’s plans for the first in a planned annual Deale Pro-Am Fishing Tournament Sept. 6 and 7.

The Money Angle

These days, fishing contests emphasize big bucks, real big bucks. The big winner of the annual spring Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen’s Association tournament can win $20,000 or more —depending on the number of side pots entered. I see nothing wrong with that, for the affair pays much of the costs for a full-time office and staff to promote the betterment of fishing and conservation in Chesapeake Bay.

That contest, one of several each year, draws serious anglers more interested in big fish and big bucks than in fun. But lesser tournaments, like the TunaMent, involving payoffs of several thousand dollars are more fun to fish.

A missed fish won’t mean the missing out on enough money to buy a new boat or to become an instant millionaire. Recently a 24-year-old Californian won a million bucks for his catch at Lake Murray in South Carolina. The best white marlin in Ocean City’s White Marlin Open can also make its catcher rich enough to retire and do nothing but fish. Can you have fun fishing in such competition? Think of the intensity.

Money — in terms of mounting fuel costs and the economy in general — has put Bay fishing in a bind. The recreational fleet has been hit hard. Charter skippers who ordinarily could plan on six or more charters a week are lucky to get one or two during the week, maybe two more on the weekend. While that boat sits idle at the dock, the payments still have to be made, the maintenance done, and insurance, dockage fees and other incidentals add to the burden.

They’ve had no choice other than to raise their prices, for fuel costs play a big role in expenses. Meanwhile, many of their customers have cash flow problems of their own.

More than a few charter skippers will go out of business this year, when the market for their boats and licenses is depressed big time. Some small tackle shops, possibly some bigger ones, won’t be able to weather the storm. To put it bluntly, the business of fishing stinks.

Big Fun in Deale

With some of the finest Bay fishing at their door, the Deale Captains’ Association got the notion before this dismal season opened to promote a tournament to boost charters for its members while getting the attention of charter customers. Much to its credit, the association didn’t go whole hog on big money, complicated rules, high entry fees and such. It made room for fun fishing in late season when not much competitive fishing is scheduled on the Chesapeake.

In this two-day affair, a boat can be entered for $75 a day. No captains’ meeting, no limit to the number of fishers on a boat, no lie detector test, no morning check-ins or blast-offs. You fish from the port you choose, and your fishing grounds can be anywhere in the Chesapeake. It’s a tournament where you can have fun. While doing so you might win close to $5,000 for top rockfish among other prizes — as long as your fish is weighed in at Deale Marina. The awards party follows at Deale Elks Club.

Eligible species are stripers, blues and Spanish mackerel. It’s the first tournament to my knowledge to include macks, which this year have arrived in abundance, big in size and many within easy (and inexpensive fuelwise) cruising distance from Deale. Check it all out at, call Capt. Kerry Muse at 800-381-2727, or stop in at Deale Marina.

Every Ounce Counts

I can’t drop the subject of tournament fishing without recalling a fish checked in at a big Chesapeake tournament 25 years ago. The judge found its innards packed with ice. In serious competitive fishing every ounce counts.

It didn’t count for Lev Wlodyka, who last year figured his 57-pound rockfish was the winner in the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass Derby. He was disqualified after tournament officials found nearly two pounds of lead in bullet-shaped weights in his fish’s stomach.

Officials reconsidered and found the weights had been in the rockfish’s stomach for some time. Wlodyka’s fish had fallen victim to a fishing technique called yo-yoing. The yo-yo is a dead baitfish weighed down from the inside, then jigged to sink to the bottom. It works very well.

But not for Wlodyka. After the weight of the lead was subtracted, he finished second.

The episode has bought outcries from some who consider the technique unsportsmanlike and others concerned that it can lead to toxic lead contamination of otherwise healthy stripers.

I prefer it that every bit of fun counts more. Enough said.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.