Burton on the Bay:

Let's Go Fishing

Join me and New Bay Times on our annual fishing trip September 27 ...

Let's go fishing. Consider this your personal invitation to join this writer and the staff of New Bay Times along with several dozen other readers on our annual fishing trip Sept. 27 at Tilghman Island.

By then, the rockfish season will once again be underway, and we have selected what we consider the peak of chumming for both blues and rock. The past couple years we selected comparable dates, and we were busy catching fish.

We should do even better this year; fishing during the spring trophy season, then during the early summer season that closed July 12 was the best in my memory -- and I've fished the Chesapeake and its tributaries regularly since 1956.


World Class Fishery

In Chesapeake Bay, we now have what legitimately can be called a world class fishery. Rockfish have bounded back beyond our wildest expectations. Not only are they plentiful, they are much bigger on the average than even those who have fished here much longer than I can recall.

What better opportunity to cash in on this bonanza of fish than to join us at Harrison's Chesapeake House at Tilghman Island. You don't have to be a bonafide angler to participate; we have a fleet of charterboats lined up for our party.

Skilled captains and mates will be on hand to help novices, not to mention other fishermen who are experienced in reeling in the bounty of the Bay. In our past outings, there have been anglers who caught the first big striper of their lives; many others who told us they never caught more.

The purpose of our junket is several-fold. We want our readers to get out on the Chesapeake to better appreciate what we have in its waters. We also like to catch fish -- and know there are countless others who do likewise, but never have the opportunity.

Also, this annual occasion originated as our protest against the spending of more than $140 million to build a football stadium in Baltimore when funding was needed for Bay restoration, libraries, improved law enforcement, schools and many other more worthwhile and much needed projects.

We took a poll of our readers as the stadium project controversy raged, and more than eight out of ten readers turned thumbs down on a publicly financed stadium for a rich owner and his multi-million dollar franchise. They voted by the hundreds, and some suggested we might show our objections by going fishing on a Sunday, the day when most National Football Leagues games are scheduled.

We're always on the lookout for an opportunity to go out on the Bay and catch some fish, so we took the bait and scheduled our first trip two years ago, and we caught an awful lot of fish. Most participants took their rockfish limits early, then caught blues, sea trout and flounder.

Last year, despite brisk winds we did even better, and this year we should top the '97 catch. Chesapeake and rockfish restoration efforts didn't get funding of the magnitude that would have been possible with $140 million plus that was diverted to the stadium, but the Bay is a tough old gal, so are rockfish, and together they make that world class fishery.


Make Chums Chumming

When the rockfishing ended on July 12, the angling was at its peak throughout the Bay and its tributaries. It might not have ever been better, the fish were big -- some of more than 30 inches -- and they were plentiful.

This might sound far-fetched, but I think it was harder not to catch a rockfish than it was to catch one. And much of the catching involved chumming, a sport that enables fishermen to feel the fight of the fish on light spinning tackle. We have nothing against trolling, but chumming is much more exciting -- and that's what fishing is all about.

For those who don't know what chumming is -- and don't be embarrassed to admit it if you're among them -- it's the technique of locating fish, then anchoring the boat in such a position that the chum tossed overboard drifts with the tide to the fish. The chum is ground-up or cut-up menhaden, a staple among the diets of sports fishes of the Chesapeake.

Once the menhaden are ground up in a gooey mess -- that's the job of the mate and captain ---it is ladled over the side to create an oily chum line. Fish have incredible senses of smell, and once they get a whiff of it, they move in and start feeding voraciously.

Not infrequently, they move right up in the chum line; sometimes they come right to the boat where you can see flashes of silver as they dart to grab a morsel. It's a sight to behold.

Meanwhile, you drift into the chum line a hook baited with a piece of menhaden (the skipper or mate will bait up for you if you're squeamish), which is often grabbed by a fish as it works amidst all the chunks of chum. You will know when a fish is on; you will feel the strike and line will start to peel off the reel.

Then, it's up to you to fight the fish on light tackle. You feel its incredible power and determination to get away. When the fish is brought close enough to the boat to be netted, again the captain or mate comes to your rescue and dips it in. It's fishing fun at its finest.

Again, let me remind you, no experience is necessary, it's a great way to introduce a spouse, friend or youngster to Bay fishing. The catching is as simple as described. It's an ideal opportunity to learn about fishing, and if you have a boat but never seem to be able to catch anything, what better way to learn how than to fish on a charterboat where the crew is experienced?


Additional Attractions

Bluefish are abundant in the lower Chesapeake, though they haven't invaded the Bay in great numbers yet this year, but they are on their way (the lower Bay is packed with them) and will undoubtedly be present in good numbers by late September. Though smaller than rockfish in recent years, they are better fighters and do much of their fighting on top of the water.

Capt. Buddy Harrison is one of the Chesapeake's better skippers and his fleet is manned by others who have been on the Bay for years. He will reserve sufficient charterboats for our trip, which in addition to fishing includes a hearty fishermen's breakfast at Chesapeake House, a box lunch for the boat and a mid- to late afternoon dinner of crabcakes and fried chicken.

Upon their return to the dock, fishermen can enjoy the dockside pavilion, where beverages will be available before dinner. Those who would like to spend the night before or the night after can make reservations at Chesapeake House. Fish cleaning is also available.

Our date comes at the busiest time of the season; thus reservations are required. The cost for fishing and meals is $100; rooms are additional and cost depends on the number assigned to a room. If you're interested, drop a line to this year's organizer Alan Doelp, care of New Bay Times, P.O. Box 358, 5861 Deale-Churchton Road, Deale, Md. 20751. Or call 410/867-0304 to have your name placed on the list. Don't procrastinate. Sign up early and be assured of joining us on a great day on the Bay.

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VolumeVI Number 29
July 23-29, 1998
New Bay Times

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