`The Legends' crank it up on opening day

ON THE OUTDOORS

Outdoors

April 22, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

HAPPY HARBOR - Of this I am certain: The opening day of trophy rockfish season Friday beat anything at Camden Yards this month, including the Orioles' debut.

Camden Yards may have Cal, but the Chesapeake Bay has "The Legends," an angling bunch that has been going out with Capt. Jim Brincefield since 1992.

The reverence these guys have for the start of the season is personified by Dennis "Ed" Greenway, 72, who shuffles up to the dock just past 5 a.m. and just one month after two triple heart bypass operations.

"I thought I was a goner," he tells his fishing buddies as he boards the "Jil Carrie."

Owner of a gas station in Oxon Hill for 40 years before his retirement, Greenway confides that he's given up alcohol and smoking since his health scare. "But," he says, leaning forward, "I wouldn't have missed this, not at all."

Brincefield sets up shop one mile south of the Old Gas Buoy, and he and first mate Al Jones air out nine rods, some with big umbrella rigs and some with tandems.

We settle in, watch the sliver of moon disappear and the sun lighten the sky. Then we wait some more as Brincefield trolls at 2 knots in 60 to 88 feet of water.

"All the groceries he's got out there, you'd think we'd hit something," jokes Greenway, pointing at the fishing gear strung along the sides and top of the boat.

The thrumming of the twin John Deere turbos and the gentle rocking puts me to sleep.

At 7:30, Brincefield wakes several of us, yelling, "Fish on!" Just that quickly, the striper is gone.

If the huge yellow-and-white lures aren't working, the captain is ready to try something else. "Break out the yard bird," he orders.

Angler Ed Mechlinski of Stewartstown, Pa., opens a gigantic white cardboard box lined with foil and filled with fried chicken. As the anglers munch, Brincefield heads for more shallow water.

The combination of chicken and shallow water changes our luck. At 8 o'clock on the nose, one rod bends toward the water. My fellow anglers - gentlemen all - allow me to crank in the first rockfish. It's 33 inches and weighs 13 pounds.

The next two hours are like a production line: eat some chicken, crank in the fish.

Jesse King, a Department of Natural Resources computer fixer, records all the numbers. Walt Hughes, Brincefield's father-in-law, lands a 30 3/4 -inch, 13 1/2 -pound fish. Charlie Bryant of Temple Hills, Mechlinski and King all haul in fish about the same size.

I am not going to win the pool for biggest fish. Joe Sullivan out of Fawn Grove, Pa., cranks in a 36 3/4 - inch, 20-pound striper.

"I've never caught fish in early spring this shallow," says Brincefield, noting that the temperature in 35 feet of water is one degree warmer than our starting depth.

Greenway gets his rockfish - a 29 1/2 -incher - with cranking assistance from Bobby Pervis, a Prince Frederick angler who gets a 28 1/2 -inch fish himself.

At 10:44, we reach our limit when Jim Boland of Sterling, Va., hauls in a 32 1/2 -inch, 14 1/2 -pound striper.

"We're going home," Brincefield yells.

At the dock back in Deale we are met by Brincefield's wife (the original Jil Carrie) and their two youngsters, Jimmy and Sarah, who are more excited by the line of rockfish on the deck than we are.

Well, that's not true.

Greenway proves he's still a kid at heart, albeit a recently repaired one, asking about everyone's catch, posing for pictures and making plans for another "Legends" outing. Camden Yards' boys of summer have nothing on Greenway.

Duck, duck, goose

Will Maryland hunters have a Canada goose season this year?

"Maybe," says Department of Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers.

A lot hinges on the results of a breeding-ground survey in Quebec by DNR game population specialist William Harvey. Those numbers are expected in late June.

"It's sounding like there's a good opportunity for a limited season this year," Taylor-Rogers says. "Things seem to be improving and we've begun talking to staff about ways to implement a season."

The federal government and Canada imposed an emergency hunting ban in 1995 after tracking a 75 percent drop since 1988 in the number of Atlantic geese nesting in Quebec each spring. The decline was blamed on low reproduction, probably because of poor conditions in the birds' breeding grounds, and on hunting pressures.

The population rebounded sufficiently that in 1999 a limited hunt was permitted for states in the Atlantic Flyway migratory path; Maryland's share would have been 12,200 geese. The state Wildlife Advisory Commission recommended a hunt, but state officials opted to wait until they could offer a less restrictive season.

The just-released 2001 mid-winter waterfowl survey shows the number of Canada geese in Maryland increased to 448,300 from 396,400 last year. Those numbers include migratory birds in addition to our pesky resident "golf course" geese.

DNR officials attribute some of the increase to geese from New York and southern Canada being pushed farther south by heavy December snows.

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