Tournament Fishing in Memory of Val Eshleman
By C.D. Dollar
I've feel a bit ashamed that it took me five years to fish the Val N. Eshleman Memorial Rockfish Tournament, held every fall at Kentmorr Harbour Marina on Kent Island. In many people's minds, it is the best tournament on the Bay - for reasons far more important than the money doled out. The tournament honors the all-too-brief life of Val Eshleman, the former general manager of Kentmorr Harbour and Yacht Basin who died on October 27, 1994 in a tragic accident at Kentmorr.
After fishing in my first Eshleman tournament, as part of Chuck Foster and Paul Willey's crew, I saw that this tournament was indeed different. My tournament experience is limited, mainly because the few others I've fished had a detached spirit to them. Val Eshleman loved to fish, but this tournament is about more than just catching fish. Even with limited knowledge of the event and the man it honored, I could tell this was a celebration of a person who by all accounts infused those around him with energy and love.
Don't get me wrong. It would have been a nice bonus to take home the top prize of $2,500, which went to Nick Sage for his 33516-inch rockfish. Our team, like many of the 62 boats that spent last Saturday and Sunday scouring the Bay for that winning striper, struggled to find the fish. I think the availability of bait and the sheer commotion on the Bay from fishing boats and sailboat races puts the fish off on the weekend more than it does during the week.
The tournament is organized by the Val N. Eshleman Foundation, created by family, friends and the staff of the Yacht Basin Co. and Kentmorr Harbour to support children's charities in Val's honor. Proceeds from the last four tournaments have raised more than $25,000 for Camp Sunrise, a place of peace, acceptance and fun for kids who have been diagnosed with cancer. The annual event is done entirely through the volunteer efforts of Eshleman's friends and family with the hope of continuing a legacy of a man who touched their lives so deeply and still does.
Fish Are Biting
Depending upon who you talk to, fishing has either been gang busters or bust. From personal experience, it's sure to be one or the other.
Marty Gary, biologist with Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, told me that compared to the last several years, chumming has not produced as effectively this year. And when anglers switch to trolling, that is not a sure ticket either. Many people are talking about the quantity of bait available to rockfish, which may mean that they can be more selective so that some of the larger fish are spread out. Also, the water temperature is still hovering around 70 degrees in some areas and is not cold enough to make the fish school in earnest.
Jim from Anglers (410/974-4013) says that bottom fishing is still very good in Bay waters around Annapolis. White perch can be found in the rivers and on the oyster bars in the Bay's main stem. Gum Thickets is still producing flounder up to 20 inches taken on drifted bait. Also, trolling for blues around the Bay Bridge is effective, and around the Stone Piles schools are still breaking hot.
Kent Narrows is beginning to get righteous as well. From West River past Parkers Creek to the Gooses and on down to the Gas Docks, keeper rockfish are being landed.
On the other side of the Bay, the Diamonds was hot last week and the Hill was a virtual parking lot on the weekend, which may mean fish or simply a case of the anchored boat syndrome: When fishermen see other fishermen collected, awesome fish must be present. Stone Rock is also attracting fish and fishermen, and the shallows and troughs around Poplar Island may produce rockfish, some blues and bottom species.
| Issue 39 |
Volume VII Number 39
September 30-October 1, 1999
New Bay Times
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