Big one gets away again in fishing tourney

April 05, 1993|By Maureen Rice | Maureen Rice,Contributing Writer

Where could you get a 28,471 percent profit on an investment?

At Piney Run Park, if you happened to be a lucky angler in the 11th annual Early Bird Fishing Tournament.

The big one, a tagged striped bass worth $10,000 -- which would have given some gifted fisherman the massive profit over the $35 entry fee -- eluded capture for the 10th year in a row Saturday. Still, the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association awarded $3,300 in prizes to cold but happy fishermen.

The ten winners, all veterans of several fishing tournaments, said they plan to return next year to try their luck again. The losers did, too.

"I'll be back next year," said Bob Pitcher of Sykesville. "This is one crazy thing I get to do every year." Mr. Pitcher didn't catch any fish.

"This is my 10th year in this tournament," said Anthony Disantostefano of Westminster, "and this is the first time I've won anything."

Mr. Disantostefano caught two fish, both of them winners. His partner, Ted Reichhart, didn't get a nibble but he said didn't mind because, by prior agreement, the two share winnings.

"This beats the heck out of working around the house anyway," Mr. Reichhart said.

Shoreline fishermen did as well as those in boats, and the fish bit throughout the day.

The largest fish, a 9.07-pound, 29 1/2 -inch striped bass, was caught by Bob Pessagno of Chester at 7 a.m., and the third-largest fish caught from a boat was weighed in as the contest closed. None of the tagged fish were caught, which is unusual, tournament officials said.

"We really don't feed the fish so they won't . . . bite," said Don Smith, the tournament director. "We buy insurance to cover the winnings, and our premium is the same whether anyone catches the $10,000 tagged striped bass or not. We really would like to see that fish get caught, too. It would make believers out of people."

The only time someone caught the $10,000 bass was in 1983, the tournament's first year.

The weather, an important factor in fishing tournaments, cooperated.

"I've done this for three years, and I've seen more fish today than I've ever seen," said Dave Blazer, a Department of Natural Resources manager who acted as weigh master.

"Last year we had boats tipped over from the winds, and the year before that we had torrential rains."

Others disagreed.

"The water was murky, I guess because of the rains, and it's too windy," said Pete Moss. His boat team caught only one fish, which turned out to be the largest trout. Mike Weigard brought that one in.

The Early Bird tournament, which until this year was held on the last Saturday in March, was scheduled this year amid hopes that the bad weather that has dogged previous tournaments would be only a memory.

"We've traditionally had terrible weather for the tournament," said Jo Anne Hunter, manager of Piney Run Park. "And this year we decided that we'd open the tournament in April, even though it's the first weekend for our season, to try to get some good weather for the anglers."

The park, which began charging regular-season rates April 1, has been the site of the tournament since it began.

Shoreline anglers had a new gambit this year. Using the Ava Irene, the park's pontoon boat, allowed them to change places each hour over the 10 miles of shoreline to play hide and seek with the fish and to beat them at their own game.

"Shoreline anglers usually don't have as good a chance as boat fishermen to catch fish, because you can move around in a boat a lot more," Mr. Smith said. "But I've seen a shoreline angler [who] only caught three fish, but those three fish were worth $900."

Moving the shoreline anglers around more might help their chances, Mr. Smith said, but the time spent moving from one spot to another cuts fishing time.

The fish that are caught in the tournament must be turned in alive at the weigh station, and many are returned to the water. There are fish from previous tournaments in the lake each year, officials said.

Any tagged fish, tagged any year, is worth at least $100 on the day of the tournament to a registered fisherman. Several of this year's tagged fish were worth a lot more.

"This year the Maryland Freshwater Fisheries group tagged over 40 fish for this tournament," said Mr. Smith. "That's a big job, catching them all. But there are, considering the life expectancies of fish, at least 100 tagged fish out there in the lake right now."

Along with the $10,000 striped bass still out there are a $1,000 catfish and a $1,000 bluegill.

Mr. Pessagno's largest fish won him $700. Steve Swain of Glen Burnie won $300 for the second-largest tournament fish, a 2.8-pound striped bass. Tom Foor of Baltimore won $150 for the third-largest fish, also a striped bass.

Among shoreliners, James Brown of Baltimore won $600 for a 15-inch, 1.39-pound striped bass; Virgil Hughes of Westminster won $200 for the second-largest fish, a 15-inch, 1.37-pound trout; and Ricky Miller of Hampstead won $100 for the third-largest, a 14 1/2 -inch, 1.32-pound trout.

Apart from the overall winners, the largest fish of the day in their categories were caught by William Thomas of Catonsville (striped bass), Mr. Disantostefano (bluegill), Eric Price of Stewartstown, Pa., (crappie) and Mr. Weigard of Beluame (trout).

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