It's time to cut off those not granting right-of-way

Bill Burton

September 03, 1991|By Bill Burton

CHESAPEAKE BEACH -- In the ongoing differences between charter skippers and recreational anglers, the latter are not always right. So, let's place some blame where it belongs.

We're trolling a school that has just ceased breaking water, but we can't get a strike. They should bite -- if only we could edge 30 feet to the right. But, we can't.

For the umpteenth time we're boxed in. Immediately ahead is a private 23-foot Grady White sportsfisherman with a guy at the wheel who doesn't belong at the wheel.

Is he too embarrassed to look back at us, is he lacking in knowledge of the rules of the road, or is he just a plain fish hog? He is cutting across our bow at an angle just 30 feet ahead.

He is lucky. Our skipper is a soft-spoken gentleman, he's also a fellow who isn't about to play chicken -- a brush with the intruder would have him filling out Coast Guard forms for days.

Welcome aboard the 42-foot Special Angel, an immaculate, fast, diesel-powered charterboat, and the man at the helm is Capt. Chuck Klein, who fishes out of the Rod 'n Reel Docks. He remains calm, gradually giving way, but I know the inner turmoil bubbling beneath. He likes to catch fish too much -- and it's not the first time this has happened this day -- nor will it be the last.

If ever a bill is introduced into the legislature to remove the grandfather clause that excludes older skippers from taking safe boating courses, the Maryland Charterboat Association should carry all the legislators on a fishing trip for a day just to let them see the lack of courtesy and the ignorance that abounds in the private fleet.

The bill would breeze through Annapolis.

Moments before, a large sailboat cut us off. He has the right of way, you say? No, this one is under power -- with no rags flopping.

No fish from the school, so we head to another. Now, a small 17-foot Mako speeds across our bow, leaving Klein no alternative but to practically make a U-turn. Fortunately, our mate F. Lee Bailey -- yes that's his real name -- had just retired one of our trolling rods to provide more water between baits so he didn't have to untangle any lines.

Chalk up another miss in a breaking school.

It's not that we aren't catching fish; we are. On the dash at the wheel Klein is keeping score. Every time Lou Aymard, his 17-year-old son Mark and I score, he makes another check mark on a piece of paper.

We have only been trolling the Gooses for three hours, and our count stands at 35. We have five more to go to get our creel limit of 10 each. Klein doesn't trust his memory; not when we hit schools of fish right, and several rods bend at once.

Counting fish in the box is virtually impossible once more than 15 are tossed in. He wants the score in ball-point black and white -- just in case the Marine Police are patrolling the area with tickets that skippers say can cost them up to $500.

We had started at Sharps Island Flats where Klein had found bigger blues and mackerel the previous day, but we didn't do much. The tide was slack. So we came here where the fish were smaller -- 1 1/2 to 4 pounds, but thick, with breaking schools everywhere.

There are enough fish for everyone, to each his own school. But private boats like to follow charterboats, get as close as they can -- literally too close -- to share in the bounty. Don't they know, they could catch more, if they did like we do; locate a school, skirt the edge to avoid driving the fish down, and catch several from each one?

The Aymards pick up two more fish, now it's 37. I catch another; then a new school gives the father the 39th, and we want the 40th bad. Mark gets it, and we can celebrate. Bluefishing is over, and we have two choices. We can go to the Choptank where the headboat Tom Hooker out of the Rod 'n Reel makes great flounder and spot catches, or go back to the Flats to try for Spanish mackerel.

We choose the latter, but the tide still isn't right, but still, we've got enough fish for Bailey to fillet, and beat the traffic back to the city. Contact Klein at 1-800-233-2080.

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