Toepher merges his dreams, business

On The Outdoors

June 23, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

SOLOMONS -- It is an easy run from the public launch under the Gov. Thomas Johnson bridge out the Patuxent River to the gas docks above Cove Point, and Captain Bo Toepher's 25-footer makes it faster than most fishing boats.

Even at half-throttle, the twin 150 horsepower Mercury outboards easily step the well-used Boston Whaler onto a plane and build a 25-knot breeze into the sultry morning.

Toepher is a new kid on the block, a licensed captain with a craving for saltwater fly fishing and a boat capable of getting you to the fish fast -- even across broad stretches of open water.

"The gas dock should be good," said Toepher, 35-year-old father of five who got his guide's license only this year. "Rockfish were breaking there yesterday morning. But if it isn't, we'll try Cedar Point Rip -- and if we have to we'll run down to the Triangle off Point Lookout or over to Tangier Sound. It's only about an hour run to Tangier."

But the rockfish were breaking over the big pipe that runs from shore out to the gas dock, where once ocean-going, bulk natural-gas carriers tied up, but which has been out of service for several years.

The pipeline and the piers and pilings of the massive dock are well-known among fishermen and well suited to those who like to cast to structure or breaking fish rather than troll.

Last Monday morning, a half-dozen boats were fishing inside the gas dock -- including captains Brady Bounds of Lexington Park and Norm Bartlett of Joppa.

On his first cast, using an 8-weight rod, a 30-grain sink tip and a two-inch fly with an epoxy head and a green body, Toepher hooked up with a rockfish, a 16-incher that took line and bowed the fly rod deeply before being landed and released.

Several more similarly sized rockfish were caught through the morning between the gas dock and Cedar Point Rip at the lower mouth of the Patuxent, and while none came within 4 inches of the 26-inch minimum, on light tackle all fought like trophies.

"That's what got me hooked on fly fishing -- the fight," said Toepher. "The ability to go one-on-one with the fish, without wire line and weights and a rod as stiff as a broomstick.

"And I think that is what a lot of other people like about it, too."

Saltwater fly fishing has become increasingly popular in recent years, although the great majority of bay fishermen still chum, troll or bottom fish using conventional tackle.

Stripers on the fly also is great sport fishing during the summer, when from July 5 to Aug. 29 rockfish are catch and release only. When the fall season opens Aug. 30, there also will be many opportunities for keepers at an 18-inch minimum and two fish per day.

The largest rockfish taken on the fly by Toepher, he said, was a 44-incher caught at Cedar Point Rip early in the spring season.

But fly fishing isn't limited to rockfish. As the summer wears on, Toepher said, sea trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and channel bass in the sounds all are possible targets.

"I can do any kind of fishing -- troll or chum or even fish live baits under kites, which is a gas in itself," said Toepher, "but what I prefer to do now is fly fish."

Such was not always the case, and if Toepher's plans pan out, might not always be the case.

For 16 years, Toepher, whose primary source of income is from his family's construction business, was hooked on offshore fishing -- tuna, marlin, sailfish.

"I really liked the stuff of big boats and big fish," said Toepher, who lives in Prince Frederick. "But with a wife and five kids, it got kind of hard to afford to do it as often as I wanted."

So Toepher brought his masters license with an offshore endorsement into Chesapeake Bay. And he brought the long-term dream of affordable offshore fishing with him.

Working with New Jersey naval architect David Martin, Toepher said he has come up with a design for a 30-footer that combines a fishing cockpit with a livable cabin with 6-foot, 2-inch headroom.

"And it doesn't look odd either," said Toepher, who is building the cold-molded prototype in a barn on his Prince Frederick property and hopes to sell later models. "By moving the engines -- Yanmar diesels, which are very light -- well back in the boat, we created adequate living space forward.

"I think that when it is finished it will be a boat to suit many needs."

And if the construction, guide and boat building businesses all click, what then?

"If they do, then I am going to be one very busy man," Toepher said.

Saltwater fly guides

The following guides are among those who take parties fly fishing on Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay:

* Capt. Norm Bartlett, Joppa, 410-679-8790

* Capt. Brady Bounds, Lexington Park, 301-862-3166

* Capt. Bruce Foster, Grasonville, 410-827-6933

* Rob Jepson, Annapolis, 410-757-3442

* Capt. Kevin Josenhans, Crisfield, 410-968-3579

* Capt. Mike Murphy, Easton, 410-822-3474

D8 * Capt. Bo Toepher, Prince Frederick, 1-800-303-4950

Pub Date: 06/23/96

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