Burton on the Bay:
We're All Going Fishin'
Won't You Come Along?

I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing.

    -Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler: 1654


That's what we're gonna do here at New Bay Times. We're all gonna go fishing, and it couldn't be at a better time, though it has long been said that the answer to the question concerning the best time to go fishing is "whenever you can."

In late September, angling for rockfish is at its best in Chesapeake Bay Country - and though the fish aren't the biggest, they're the most plentiful. They're also the hungriest as they gobble anything available as they start to fatten up for the winter.

That's one of the reasons we've chosen Sept. 26 for our Fourth Annual New Bay Times Fishing Frenzy out of Capt. Buddy Harrison's legendary Harrison's Chesapeake House at Tilghman Island. Equally important is our second reason: It's our way of thumbing our nose at the politicians who earlier this decade used funds that could have gone to Bay restoration and other worthwhile projects to build a palace to attract the Cleveland Browns and millionaire owner Art Modell to Baltimore.

So, while the millionaire grid stars play for their millionaire owner in a gratis multi-million-dollar stadium, we're a'goin' fish'n on the good ol' Chesapeake Bay. We're lay'n aside business here at the New Bay Times for a day of relaxing fun and frolic to catch a lot of fish, then head home with the makings of some fancy and fresh table fare.

If old Izaak Walton were still around, he'd be invited. As are you - and all New Bay Times readers. After all, it was our readership that suggested we come up with an angling trip on a Sunday during the pro football season to express our opposition to the financing of a stadium when so many other projects and programs were in need of attention and funds.


Chumming with Chums

Coincidentally, late September is the time when chumming for rockfish, also bluefish, is at its peak - and chumming is an awful lot of fun. It's a technique that does not involve riding around in a boat all day dragging baits from the stern while waiting for a fish to strike. Chumming is a pure and simple hands-on method of fishing that anyone from less than eight to more than 80 can employ to go out on the Bay and reel 'em in.

Chumming has been our technique since our first trip, and it has paid off handsomely. Most of our anglers have taken fresh rockfish home; many have caught their limit and all have had a lot of fun doing so - even on the one trip when the Bay wasn't as cooperative as it could have been and whipped up some whitecaps.

No big rods and reels involved in chumming. This is a light tackle sport. You use small rods and reels, light line - and when I say you I mean you use those rods and reels. You hold them. You pay out the line with the baited hooks, then wait for an obliging fish. No experience necessary.

If you're a bit squeamish about baiting your hook, the captain, mate or a fellow angler will do it for you. No problem: The bait is nothing more than a piece of cut menhaden or perhaps a razor clam.

And with that light tackle, once a fish is hooked, you feel every ounce of its scrap. Fear not, we haven't had any of our anglers pulled overboard by a snollygaster. Your only job is to bring the fish close enough to the boat for someone to net it for you.

That's how simple chumming is. The captain and mate do all the work. They locate the fish on electronics, then anchor in such a position that, as it slowly settles to the bottom, the chum will drift to the school of fish.

The crew chops or grinds up the chum, and they spoon it into the Bay, sparingly enough to abide by the old rule that in chumming one's intent isn't to feed the fish, instead to attract them to the chum line as the tide carries it from the boat.

For the stripers, it's a smorgasbord. They start feeding on the small pieces, and as fish try to outdo the others, they move closer to the boat. Sometimes, they get so close their flashy and silvery sides can be seen as they dart in all directions to take a bite of chum.

And though rockfish are the target species, catches in chum lines involve other species. Bluefish are notorious for invading chum lines, and in our previous outings we've taken many of them. We've also reeled in sea trout, hardheads, Norfolk spot, white perch and flounder.

We will be primarily fishing waters near the mouth of the Choptank, places like the Diamonds, Stone Rock, Sharps Island Flats; maybe a few boats will take a longer run to the Natural Gas Plant below Calvert Cliffs on this side of the Bay. The skipper makes the decision, usually based on where the fish bit best the previous day and on the running time needed to reach appropriate locations.

So there you pretty much have the fishing side of our annual affair. You need not be an experienced angler. Even if you've never fished before, you can quickly learn when chumming. In a minute or two, the crew can familiarize you with the process. It's a great opportunity to introduce a spouse or child to the fishes of the Chesapeake.


Fun Before and After

Our day starts at 6am with a bountiful buffet breakfast at Harrison's. Boats depart promptly at 7am with a box lunch provided to each fisherman, The fleet returns before 3pm, where there will be socializing and fish story telling in the dockside pavilion.

Before heading home and as the catch is cleaned, all will enjoy a Chesapeake House buffet dinner featuring crabcakes, fried chicken and the works, at which we will also be awarding prizes covering everything from biggest fish to most caught by a boat. There's even a prize for being skunked, which can be hard to do when fishing a chum line.

The whole affair - breakfast, lunch dinner and a day's fishing - is priced at $110 a person, half-price for children under 10. Gratuities for the mate and meals are extra.

We realize a few anglers have longer trips than others to Chesapeake House, and a 6am breakfast can mean getting up in the middle of the night. So we've made arrangements with Capt. Buddy for one large boat to leave the docks at 8am. Breakfast will still be available. To sign up for this schedule, mark your sign-up coupon with a prominent 8am departure on it, so you won't be scheduled for earlier sailing. We also recommend for this boat that you sign up early to ensure a spot.

Some of us will be going to Tilghman the night before for an informal get-together, as well as to get more sleep. If you prefer to do likewise, call Harrison's at 410/886-2121 to make reservations for a room - only a room. For the fishing trip itself, please book through New Bay Times so we can plan boat assignments. If making a room reservation, inform Harrison's you are fishing with the Bill Burton/New Bay Times group.

Elsewhere in this edition you will find a reservation blank. (Click here for print distribution spots.) So what are you waiting for? Let's go fishing.

| Issue 34 |

Volume VII Number 34
August 26 - September 1, 1999
New Bay Times

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