Volume XVII, Issue 39 # September 24 - September 30, 2009

The Old Man’s Legacy

60 dozen worms join 200 kids seeking fish on the new Bill Burton Pier

by Alan Doelp

As a parting favor to me, take a kid fishing,
and you might just find it as satisfying for you
as it is exciting for your pupil.

–Bill Burton

The Pasadena Sportfishing Group took Bill Burton’s words to heart and took a kid fishing. A couple hundred of them.

The club’s Kids’ Fishing Derby, an annual event, was renamed in honor of Burton this year and was timed for September 19, to coincide with the dedication of the Fort Smallwood Park fishing pier in Burton’s memory.

“The decision to name the pier — and the derby — after the longtime outdoors writer was an easy one,” said George Bentz, president and driving force behind the Pasadena Sportfishing Group and a friend of Burton’s for more than 40 years. “Bill’s irreplaceable,” Bentz said. “He did more for the sport of fishing than anyone I know. He always supported our group, and the things we were trying to do.”

Within minutes of casting her line into the choppy waters, Gibson Island Country School student Maya Kang reeled in the first fish at the Pasadena Sportfishing Group’s Kids’ Fishing Derby.

Burton’s oft-stated philosophy was that the best way to ensure a bright future for the Chesapeake Bay was to get kids involved. “Someday,” he used to say, “those kids will be voters and elected officials and marine biologists and bankers and philanthropists and if they grow up with the Bay, they’ll be inclined to take better care of it.”

Two hundred-plus of those future voters and philanthropists braved a chilly breeze to fish from Burton’s pier. The first 200 collected free fishing rods and reels, compliments of the Sportfishing Group, and they baited their hooks with complimentary worms, 60 dozen of them, donated by Fishbone’s Bait & Tackle shop, another Pasadena institution.

The youngsters stood, more or less patiently, while the obligatory speeches were made and the obligatory ribbon was cut. Then, rods in hand, the kids scampered down the length of the pier and cast their lines into the choppy waters.

Within minutes, the first fish was reeled in. By coincidence — or perhaps not — the 81⁄2-inch bluefish was caught by Maya Kang, a classmate of Burton’s granddaughter Mackenzie (better known to Bay Weekly readers as Grumpy). Maya’s mother, Laura Kang, is headmistress at the Gibson Island Country School, whose library now houses the Bill Burton Environmental Research Collection, consisting mainly of books and other materials donated by Burton.

Maya’s record didn’t stand for long, but when it fell, it was to yet another Gibson Island classmate, Kamron Young, who landed a 101⁄2-inch rockfish and took first place in the five-to-eight age category. Mackenzie, meanwhile, brought up a crab, but no fish.

Many of the kids cut short their fishing — some to chow on the free hot dogs and sodas provided by the Sportfishing Group — but a significant number eventually gave in to the chilly breeze and decided to postpone the really serious fishing until a warmer day.

The quote at the top of this article, taken from one of Burton’s farewell columns published in July, is inscribed on a memorial plaque at the foot of the fishing pier. County Executive John Leopold and Lois Burton, Bill’s widow, unveiled the plaque to mark the opening of the fishing derby and of the Burton pier.