Nearly down, Jil Carrie rallies, leaving everyone but fish happy

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

September 18, 2005|By CANDUS THOMSON

"I feel lucky, oh oh oh, I feel lucky, yeah

No tropical depression gonna steal my sun away

Mmmmm, I feel lucky today"

THE LYRICS TO that Mary Chapin Carpenter song danced in my head Thursday as the Jil Carrie parted from the dock at Happy Harbor, bow pointed toward the Chesapeake Bay.

Overhead was a thoroughfare of gray clouds running south to north with tiny potholes of blue sky poking through. Ophelia was doing her drunken dance about 300 miles down the coast, lurching to shore, then veering away, but pretty much in the same spot.

By the looks of the dock and the middle bay, a lot of charter groups checked the forecast and canceled their tips. But not the Jil Carrie party of seven, a group of friends and business buddies from the D.C. area.

Except for three, maybe four, drops of rain as we motored out of the harbor, the threatening clouds remained just that. And by the time Capt. Jim Brincefield steered us to the calm waters near Taylors Island, the sun was out.

Immediately, there were encouraging signs. The folks on Capt. Bill Fish's boat were busy hauling in stripers as we settled nearby. It wasn't two minutes before a rod on the Jil Carrie bent, quickly followed by two more.

Throwbacks and keepers came at a rapid pace. Lucky us.

And the fact that we were fishing from the deck of this particular charter boat was a stroke of luck, as well.

Back on July 7, the deck beneath our feet was a chaotic scene after a 53-foot cabin cruiser rammed the stern of the Jil Carrie at 25 knots. The impact pushed the back of the charter boat underwater as the cabin cruiser rode up the back and rolled off the starboard side of the roof.

A boat builder who surveyed the damage said that had the point of impact been two feet more to the center of the charter boat, the Jil Carrie almost certainly would have sunk.

As it was, one passenger was ejected and almost drowned while another passenger suffered back and hip injuries.

The driver of the cabin cruiser has been charged by Natural Resources Police with negligence and unsafe boating.

"I never thought I'd be out here fishing again," says Brincefield of the anxious moments after the crash. "But Bill [Fish] and his customers and the people on my boat did exactly what they were supposed to do."

Lucky, again.

This day, we not only feel lucky, but safe. Two of the anglers in this party work the security detail aboard Air Force One and look the part.

But it's definitely not a safety zone for the rockfish swimming near the boat. Master Sgt. Rick Balfour and Staff Sgt. David Jefferson make sure of it, hauling fish after fish to the surface.

Several of us switch from light tackle to "the buggy whips," as Brincefield calls the ultra-light rods with the tiny reels.

"The buggy whip takes a little more finesse," Brincefield says as he coaches James Martinette, the man who chartered the trip. "You'll pick it up with a little practice."

Martinette, a building contractor, looks dubious. "Today?" he asks, provoking hoots and good-natured insults from his friends.

But sure enough, he does.

We get our limit in two hours, and then go jigging for weakfish and blues lurking beneath massive schools of breaking rockfish.

The charter ends back at the dock, now awash in sunlight, after a day of laughs and picture-taking.

"No tropical depression gonna steal my sun away

Mmmmm, I feel lucky today."

Helping hand

Capt. Dale Griffith is a little down on his luck right now, and a group of his fishing friends are hoping to turn that around.

Back on July 15, Griffith fractured both ankles when an early morning explosion on his boat, Jeanne Marie, catapulted him into the air and slammed him into his cabin door.

Since then, it's been multiple surgeries and therapy for Griffith, 58, who kept his boat at the Mayo Ridge Marina and was known by the fishing and crabbing community along the South River.

"He's a great guy and everyone who knows him knows that," says Jerry Bratkowski of Bel Air. "He's on the road to recovery, but it's going to be months before he can go back to back."

Griffith's friends put together a fundraising crab feast - which is nearly sold out - and an online, sealed-bid auction on the Tidalfish.com Web site. Auction items include charter fishing trips, crabbing outings and an use of an Ocean City condo.

Check out the items on www.tidalfish.com. All of the proceeds will go to Griffith.

Moving to Thursdays

This, my readers, is a change-of-address card to you.

Beginning this week, the column will switch from its decades-old home in the back of the Sunday sports section to new digs on Thursday.

Why? Several reasons.

First, because the column will have several sidekicks. The Outdoors Journal listing of things to do is returning on a regular basis. Next spring, the fishing report will rejoin the mix, providing a fresh listing of where they're biting.

Added to the mix will be "The Gear Box," to tell you about the latest gadgets and stuff you simply can't live without, even if your credit card can.

The expanded outdoors coverage also will include news about proposed changes to the hunting and fishing laws that govern our behavior.

The second reason to move this package to the day before the weekend is to give you a more timely heads-up on activities that involve the weather or are last-minute changes. Example: "Forget Hart-Miller Island. The white perch are jumping into the boats at Kent Narrows" or "Pete Jensen resigns from DNR. No, wait, he's back."

Finally, by moving the expanded outdoors coverage from the Sunday paper (price: $1.50) to Thursday ($50 cents), you pocket $1. Not that a George Washington buys much these days.

See you in four days.

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