Four cast as finalists in state fishing tourney

Selected from pool of 102, they eye possible $1M


July 21, 2005|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Brian Nurmi is a self-proclaimed chicken-necker, so the fishing rod in his boat last month was definitely an afterthought.

But his afterthought - and the small white perch he caught with it - may be worth big bucks in Saturday's final of Maryland's "$1 Million Fishing Challenge."

"I don't go fishing," said Nurmi, 33, of Annapolis, who hands-down prefers crabbing. "This is totally unreal."

Nurmi was one of four finalists selected yesterday after the state's first fishing competition in two decades. The men were selected from a pool, quite literally, of 102 anglers who caught a fish with a neon-green tag in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries over the past six weeks.

Drew Ehrlich, the son of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., waded into a kiddie pool filled with numbered rubber ducks that corresponded with an angler's name. The other finalists are Edward Dailey of Baltimore, Robert Porohnavi of Selbyville, Del., and Larry Taylor of Seaford, Del.

"Last year, I was catching fish left and right. This year, I have not been catching anything, except for that one day," said Dailey, 44, a Baltimore County firefighter who caught his striped bass at the mouth of the Patapsco River on June 27. "But I guess that's all that matters. I'm just thrilled."

The same could be said of Nurmi and two friends, who could only laugh as they recounted a crabbing trip north of the Severn River bridge on June 11 that resulted in the big catch.

The men were at Acme Bar and Grill in Annapolis the night before, working up plans, when one of them mentioned the fishing challenge. Nurmi went home, bought a fishing license online and threw a rod in his 17-foot boat the next morning.

However, when Nurmi and Greg Stephens of Annapolis got to Chase Creek, they realized they forgot a tackle box. They improvised a fish bait, putting on the hook a piece of skin from one of the chicken necks they were using as crab bait. A hunk of metal twisted on the fishing line acted as a makeshift sinker.

It didn't take long before a 9-inch white perch took the bait. After they realized the piece of neon-green plastic was a state tag and not a piece of line tangled on the fish's belly, they began fantasizing.

"In about 15 minutes, we bought all the waterfront houses up there," Nurmi said.

Of the 2,000 fish tagged by the Department of Natural Resources, 55 largemouth bass, 37 striped bass, nine croaker and one white perch were caught. Joel Hayden, 17, of Hooper's Island, caught two fish - both striped bass - including the final fish of the tournament.

On Saturday morning at City Dock in Annapolis, each man will be given a bag holding 40 envelopes. Inside each envelope is a piece of paper representing a prize level: $1 million, $50,000, $10,000 and a $1,250 Boater's World gift card. The men will open their envelopes until they have five prize levels that match. It is possible that more than one finalist will win the same prize.

The governor will be honorary game show host, and spectators can play along on a giant game board to be erected at City Dock.

Dailey, who missed yesterday's drawing because of a medical appointment, said his 11-year-old twins can't wait for the big game.

"Taylor has already put in an order for a PlayStation," he said, laughing.

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