Fishing trip that starts out disastrously still turns out to have a happy ending


October 28, 1990|By PETER BAKER

The counterman at Angler's reached into the bait cooler, said he had a deal on bloodworms and handed over a package for inspection.

"Two dozen for the price of one, if you don't mind that they have started to bleed out some," he said, adding that he had a good supply of fresh worms in the back room. "Be fine if you're going to use them all today."

With bloodworms running $4.50 a dozen, the deal seemed fair enough. Bloodworms catch spot, cut spot catches bluefish, and there was talk of good bottom fishing for blues just below Thomas Point and from the bay bridge to Love Point, all within a reasonable run for a 16-foot boat when the weather is good.

The forecast called for temperatures in the 70s and northwest wind around 10 knots. The tide would be flooding for the next couple of hours at Thomas Point and then past the bridge and Love Point as the morning wore on.

Our plan was to run out to Thomas Point, catch a few spot along the rock piles beneath the light house and then head south along the 30-foot contour in search of blues. If we were luckless there, we would run with the tide and catch the later stages of the flood at the bridge and above.

My companion was a man I have known for a number of years, once sailed with frequently and fish with occasionally -- usually when a day on the water seems more inspiring than a day in the office and a surfeit of sick leave has been accrued. [My friend's name has been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent.]

In those years, there have been times when our collective common sense would not crowd the space on the head of a pin. For a while the other day, it seemed that perhaps this was one of them.

Running out the Severn River past Tolly Point, the wind at our backs and the seas running evenly before us, the day seemed promising. By 8:30, the day had gone sour.

The wind, now in our faces and at 20 knots from the northwest, was making this small area of the Chesapeake chaotic, piling up short, steep, three- to four-foot seas as the flood tide, backed up against the rising bottom contour, lifted in waves onto the shallows around Thomas Point and was beaten back by the breeze.

Anchor? Here? You must be kidding.

Instead, we ran in toward Fishing Creek, where the submerged tip of Thomas Point curls from west to northeast and then east again -- and where sometimes sea trout and blues gather in the fall, waiting for the tide to flood across the narrow bar and sweep food into the deep entrance channel.

Here, too, the seas were heavy and when a commercial crabber up wind of us deserted his line of pots and headed in, we, too, ran for shelter. For awhile there was an amount of grumbling about bouncing around in a little boat not being worth a day of sick leave or bloodworms at any cost.

But from that point the day got a good deal sweeter and the quarry a good deal smaller.

As we came north inshore toward Tolly Point, with the heavy rods and bottom rigs stowed, we began to cast small, lead-headed jigs and bits of bloodworm to the rock retaining walls, pulling out perch, spot and occasionally 14- to 16-inch striped bass that made things interesting on 4-pound test.

It was, to use Buddy Harrison's terms, catching and not fishing. But it also was a lot of fun. There was no need to check the depth finder, no reason to look for circling birds or to be wary of lines trolled by other boats or infringing on some one else's territory.

It was as basic as fishing can be -- find an out cropping of rock or a pier or piling and cast along the down-current side of it. Let the jig hit bottom and then begin a slow retrieve, twitching the rod tip occasionally to kick up the bottom and spread the scent of the blood through the water. On about every other cast, something will hit the bait, and perhaps you will set the hook on 50 percent of the strikes.

In two hours of playing along the bay and Severn River shoreline and around the piers and pilings of Lake Ogleton, we used a dozen and a half bloodworms, caught perhaps 50 fish and released each carefully.

The sport of it was in the tackle we used, light spinning outfits with 4-pound test and one-eighth- or one-quarter-ounce jigs with the barbs pinched off the hooks. Lighter gear would have been sportier still.

The fun of it all was in picking our targets -- deciding where the low tide line was on rocky outcroppings and looking for older, barnacled pilings and docks where oyster and clam shells might have been dumped over the years -- and trying to cast to the mark. Once on the mark, the catching was easy.

It was small-time fishing, to be certain, but even a pinhead holds a data bank large enough to determine when it is time to come in out of the wind.

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