Special day with dad has big rainbow

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

April 20, 2003|By CANDUS THOMSON

It makes you smile when a really nice person catches a really big fish. The smile gets wider when the angler is just 11 years old. Wider still when it's caught during a father-daughter outing.

My ear-to-ear is just about grinned out after talking with Elizabeth Mutchler, who Monday reeled in the fish of a lifetime: a 26 1/2 -inch monster rainbow trout that weighed a rod-bending 8 pounds, 11 ounces.

And get this - Elizabeth, who stands 4 feet 2 and weighs 62 pounds soaking wet, hauled in that bad boy on an ultra-light rod rigged with 4-pound test.

Such a little girl. Such a big fish.

Elizabeth was participating in the spring fishing tournament sponsored by the Montgomery County Parks Department at Olney Manor Recreational Park.

She was playing hooky from Monocacy Middle School in Frederick. Guilty with an explanation.

Elizabeth and her dad, Guy Mutchler, always fish this tournament, which until last week, always fell during spring break. When the harsh winter put the kibosh to school spring vacations, the father and daughter had a decision to make.

"It's the one thing that's really special for us," she says. "I would have been disappointed if we hadn't gone."

So Elizabeth, a straight-A student, decided a little field trip was in order.

Monday morning, father and daughter joined about 160 others at the park's lower pond. Volunteers from the Seneca Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited and Chesapeake Women Anglers were there to lend a hand to novices. Department of Natural Resources biologists had done the stocking and were ready to document catches.

Elizabeth, who began fishing with a Donald Duck rod when she was 2, tied on a Mepps Thunderbug and began casting.

"I thought my line was snagged because it wasn't moving," Elizabeth says. "Then it started to move and I said, `Dad, DAD!!!' "

The Mutchlers watched the fish flip in the water and concluded it was a catfish, a very large one bent on shaking loose and making a getaway.

"She was holding on for dear life," Guy Mutchler says.

Elizabeth fought the fish for almost five minutes, scared all the time that it would snap her line. Nearby anglers reeled in their lines to give her room.

At the last moment, her dad waded in, shoes and all, to bring what turned out to be a trout the final few feet to shore.

"You know you're doing OK as a dad when you can stand back and watch her do everything you taught her. I had tears in my eyes," he says. "I'm just as proud as I can be."

Anglers around the pond dropped their rods and came running. Parents pulled out cameras, turning the tournament into a media event.

"I was walking around, freaking out," Elizabeth says. "I was numb for about 20 minutes. I couldn't feel a thing."

One problem. Guy Mutchler brought only a six-pack sized cooler, so the trout looked like Yao Ming on a rollaway bed. Larger accommodations were located.

State biologists pegged the fish, which came out of the Albert Powell Hatchery in Hagerstown, at 3 1/2 years old.

Elizabeth's trout is in her dad's refrigerator. It has a date with a taxidermist.

The state record for rainbow trout, by the way, was set in 1987 by Dave Schroyer on the Savage River Reservoir: 14 pounds, 3 ounces.

Elizabeth, who studies ballet, says she delights in confounding adults who try to pigeon-hole her.

"People tell me I'm weird. My dancing is a girly thing and my fishing is my outdoorsy thing. You can do both," she says.

Elizabeth, who has the family nickname, "Bluegill Princess," is lobbying for a new one.

How about "Trout Queen?"

Beginner's luck

Daniel Wells had never been freshwater fishing before Wednesday. His uncle, Martin Prinz, promised to take him when he turned 10, but figured 9 11/12ths was close enough.

The young angler from Lutherville broke the state record for white perch, when he caught a 1-pound, 7-ounce hoss on the Gunpowder River near Phoenix. The fish was 14 inches long and had a girth of 11 inches.

The perch met its demise after a close encounter with a worm.

Daniel, a student at Hampton Elementary School, had his catch weighed at Sets Sports Shop in Towson. His fish, too, has a date at the taxidermist.

The previous mark was set by Josh Hudgins, who was 16 when he landed a 1-pound, 5-ounce perch at Liberty Reservoir on Aug. 15, 2000.

Sunday waiting game

No one knows whether Gov. Robert Ehrlich will sign or veto the bill authorizing two Sundays of deer hunting this fall on private land.

A spokeswoman says three dates have been scheduled for signing ceremonies: Tuesday, May 13 and May 22. A total of 629 pieces of legislation require his signature and Ehrlich has dealt with 54 so far.

Fingers crossed.

Rock rivalry

The rockfish tournament may be sponsored by Eastport's Boatyard Bar and Grill, but the bragging rights belong to the co-owner and chef of O'Leary's Seafood Restaurant just down the street.

Charlie Bauer caught a 42-inch striper off Calvert Cliffs last year to win the inaugural running of the charity event. The outline of the fish is on a beam at the Boatyard.

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