Record Spanish mackerel caught

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

October 06, 2002|By CANDUS THOMSON

George Hemlet started catching fish with a cane pole when he was just a little lad.

That itty-bitty pole wouldn't have helped him much on Wednesday, when the 70-year-old retired machinist from Bel Air caught a Spanish mackerel that broke the state record.

Hemlet and six friends were chumming for rockfish aboard Capt. Frank Carver's Loosen Up, out of Deale. It took them just 45 minutes to reach their limit, so they turned their attention to other targets.

They landed 50 blues and 39 Spanish mackerel and were idling by Buoy 83 when lightning struck.

"We were just about to wind up the day and we hooked up," Hemlet says. "It took me about five minutes to reel it in."

The fish weighed 10.99 pounds, was 32 1/2 inches long and had a girth of 16 inches. It was certified by state biologist Angel Bolinger. The old mark of 9 pounds, 6.4 ounces was set in 1999 by Joseph Haller at Kenwood Beach.

Hemlet, a member of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfisherman's Association, said mate Joe Hawk immediately suspected that the fish might be a record-beater.

"I had only caught one Spanish mackerel before, so I didn't know what to expect," he says.

It was the second Chesapeake Bay state record to fall this year. On April 4, Lawrence Rush caught a 2-pound, 10-ounce crappie in Swann Creek near Fort Washington in Prince George's County. Rush's fish bested a 23-year-old record.

Two Atlantic records tumbled last month. John Slike of Towson caught a 7-pound, 14-ounce spadefish on the African Queen wreck, and Mark Bennett of Salem, N.J., caught a 236.5-pound yellowfin tuna at the Washington Canyon.

So far this year, none of the freshwater records has been challenged.

Hemlet says that after Carver has the fish mounted, "I'll look around for a place to hang it."

Making the grade

In all the talk of report cards during this gubernatorial race, one set of grades was issued without much fanfare.

Based on answers to 14 statements, the Maryland Sportsmen's Association gave Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend an A-minus and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. a B.

"I was surprised," says Steve Huettner, president of the MSA, which has 16,000 members.

So were both candidates. Townsend, pleasantly so; Ehrlich, well, let's let his spokesman do the honors.

"That's truly absurd," Paul Schurick says. "I thought they wanted truthful, thoughtful answers. I reject the rating. It has no credibility."

Now, e-mails from sportsmen -- many out west -- tell me there are plenty of others in that camp who believe Townsend couldn't have gotten that grade without fibbing.

Why so? Isn't it possible that she spends more time in the outdoors than he does? Wouldn't it be a stereotype to assume that the big, rugged former jock with the "R" after his name is more in tune with his inner Davy Crockett than some rich, Ivy League matron with the famous name followed by a "D"?

I'm not saying that's true. As a matter of fact, hunters and anglers would have trouble looking back on the bulk of the Glendening administration with anything other than disgust.

The governor ditched Department of Natural Resources secretaries like George Steinbrenner, fired managers, dissed the staff and wasted their time with PETA suck-up projects such as the "nonlethal task force."

But do his hostile actions guarantee a repeat performance by Townsend?

Again, Schurick: "She gave them the answers they wanted to hear, but that may not be how she feels. And they [MSA officers] didn't challenge her answers. There's no way they could give her even a passing mark, let alone an A-minus."

Townsend says the reasons for her shining grade are simple. First, she says, she really does respect sportsmen.

"I don't want to take a hunter's guns away; why would I?" Townsend says. "It's a part of Maryland's heritage -- from deer hunting in Garrett County to duck hunting on the Eastern Shore -- and part of my blueprint."

Then there's her advocacy for acquiring open space.

"You can't hunt if you don't have a place to do it," she says.

Schurick isn't convinced. "She's part of the most anti-fishing, anti-hunting administration in the history of Maryland," he says.

The facts, according to Huettner, are these. The statements posed to the candidates were approved by the MSA board. Townsend and Ehrlich were allowed to choose whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with each statement. The candidates also could opt to have no opinion, something each of them did once.

"We wanted to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible," Huettner says. "Our members are liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat. They just want the basic facts so they can make up their own minds."

In fact, the MSA doesn't endorse candidates, and the accompanying message on the group's Web site reinforces that.

Townsend had no opinion on whether landowners should be allowed to hunt on their property on any day, including Sunday. Ehrlich opposed Sunday hunting on private property.

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