As summer winds down, tales show up



September 09, 2001|By CANDUS THOMSON

Welcome to the CliffsNotes version of Everybody Had More Fun Than Me This Summer.

Or at least that's how it feels as folks drift back to work carrying tales of their fishing adventures.

Not that I have anything to complain about, but it's never stopped me before. Besides, there's nothing like a little white whine with fish.

The best adventure this summer might belong to Angel Bolinger and Mike Luisi, two biologists from the Department of Natural Resources who paddled and fished their way 125 miles from the beginnings of the Potomac River to Williamsport. All in the name of science, of course.

So you don't get too envious of their trip, let's note that they broke two rods, almost drowned running whitewater, lost a camera, shared their campsite with a bear, learned the hard way that they had a leaky tent, and ran out of liquid refreshments on one of the summer's hottest days.

"We sweated from the day we started to the day we ended," Luisi said.

Nevertheless, the two enjoyed great fishing, sunsets, wildlife (bald eagle, fawns and a band of love-crazed bovines that invaded their campsite), and proved that hungry smallmouths don't care that you're casting a 99-cent Wal-Mart in-line spinner.

They even survived a first-day mishap, in which Bolinger's line got hung up and she yanked it free only to watch the arcing treble hook lodge firmly in one of Luisi's knuckles.

"It was a small hook," Bolinger said in her defense.

Like most folks starting out on an adventure, the two packed all the comforts of home - but only for one day.

"We ripped everything out of our boats and gave it to Jody and then decided to have the best time of our lives," Luisi said.

Jody is Jody Johnson, another DNR biologist and one of the mission's two patron saints. An accomplished whitewater paddler, he accompanied his two colleagues on the first leg of the journey.

The other patron saint was Keith Lockhart, a DNR man who acted as ground support and became a rock, both literally and figuratively.

Lockhart restocked their larder and their spirits on several occasions as he shadowed them. And when he skipped out for a few days in the middle of the 12-day odyssey to tend to state business, Luisi and Bolinger attempted to replace him.

"If you saw Castaway, you know how Tom Hanks turned a soccer ball into his companion, Wilson," explained Bolinger. "Well, we painted a rock with a face and called it Keith. `Keith' fished with us, he stayed in the tent with us, he cooked with us - he even wore sunblock."

Luckily, the flesh-and-blood Lockwood showed up on the final day to take them home.

The two biologists had a fishing derby every day to determine who would get to use the one inflatable mattress that night (putting a hook in your fishing partner counted a minus 10 points). The loser also had to set up the tent, make dinner, and clean up.

While chowing down on huge breakfasts at the Double-T Diner in Annapolis recently, Luisi and Bolinger told one story after another about rainbow trout, smallies, catfish and sunfish.

Would they recommend their trip to others?

"Absolutely," said Luisi. "But I would suggest setting conservative daily mileage goals - maybe 10 miles a day - and deciding whether you're going to fish or canoe, because you can't do both well."

Both of them said the National Park Service needs to improve the signs at the campsites along the river to make them more visible to paddlers.

"If you didn't see the trails coming down from the woods, you'd miss them. The [Global Positioning System] unit was the saving grace," says Luisi. "When we got within a quarter mile of the campsite, we knew to start looking."

Next year, they hope to polish off another segment of the 383-mile Potomac. To read more about their adventure and see more pictures, go to

The big one

Howard Wode at The Fisherman's Edge in Catonsville passed along this summer vacation story about his boss, Joe Bruce.

Seems Bruce and angling legend Bob Clouser were fishing the upper Susquehanna River recently, when the smallmouth action turned off.

Without missing a beat, the two switched targets and went after the feared "Suskie bonefish," using a crawfish imitation.

Sure enough, Bruce nailed one, and after a protracted struggle he reeled in the 22-pounder.

Never heard of a Suskie bonefish? Would you believe a carp?

To hear Bruce tell it, when that big old carp realized it was hooked, "it took off just like a bonefish."

I remember my grandfather talking about the Susquehanna salmon (that's a walleye), but the Suskie bonefish was a new one on me.

One wahoo. Priceless.

Here's one summer story you won't see on any MasterCard commercial. Towson's Jeff Mariner e-mailed this account of his family's vacation in Bermuda:

"Both of my sons like to fish, so I splurged and hired the top charter captain on the island to take the three of us out on his 43-foot, custom-made Sport Fisherman boat.

"We were going to go out about 17 miles and get some marlin, or at least some kind of billfish. Well worth the $850 for the 3/4 -day excursion, right?

"Five minutes into the ride, my 13-year-old excuses himself and goes below to [lie] down. It seems the waves are a bit choppy for his belly. After five more minutes, the 15-year-old can't take it, either, and let's just say we had to find a bucket for him to keep by his side.

"To make a long story short - one wahoo in seven hours, two kids on couches the whole time, me watching the bait jump the waves for the whole trip.

"Then, of course, we had to mount the stupid wahoo for another 500 bucks, which takes another five months to get mailed home. Tips for the mate, box lunches (never eaten), cab to and from the hotel: one $1,500 fish (and an ugly one at that, 45 inches and 17 pounds of ugly fish).

"My advice? Go to the aquarium and save the money."

Well, Jeff, thanks for sharing.

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