On water, spring kicks off in big way

March 19, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

Big fish? We got 'em this spring in a big way.

Already the state freshwater yellow perch record has tumbled and it looks like a Broadneck Peninsula native may have hauled in a world-record blueline tilefish.

Patrick Hirsch, who grew up fishing and crabbing on the Magothy River, went to sea last Sunday with another son of Anne Arundel County, Capt. Jim Brincefield. There, 60 miles offshore, Hirsch caught a 15-pound, 4-ounce tilefish.

The current all-tackle record is 15 pounds even.

"I just happened to be a lucky person that day," says Hirsch, 43, a software developer at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime day."

Actually, it was thrice in a lifetime as Hirsch hit for a fishing trifecta: the tilefish, a citation-size bluefish and a rare snowy grouper.

Not bad for a walk-on customer with Brincefield, who much of the year fishes out of Deale, but slides south to Virginia when the weather turns cold.

On trifecta day, says Hirsch, the temperature on land was in the 80s, but way offshore, the icy winds cut like a knife.

"It was an extreme fishing trip. It was cold to the point where you couldn't expose your fingers for too long," he says.

Brincefield's boat, the Jil Carrie, was in about 300 feet of water over a shipwreck. Everyone baited up with cut squid and mackerel and tied on 20-ounce weights.

First, Hirsch landed a 36 1/2 -inch bluefish, big enough to earn a Virginia citation. He baited up again and hit again - the tilefish. For an encore, he landed a snowy grouper, a fish native to the tropical Atlantic.

There's a lot of paperwork to do to get the fish certified by the International Game Fish Association, but the pencils are moving. Final word may not come for several months.

"That's the beauty of deep sea fishing," says Brincefield. "You never know what you're going to pull up."

The same could be said for a small pond in Harford County.

Phillip Deere IV is a bass fisherman who thought he caught a carp last Saturday and ended up with the state-record yellow perch.

Not that he's complaining.

"I feel like a little kid. I'm so excited," he says of his 3-pound, 5-ounce monster. His fish beat the old mark of 2 pounds, 6 3/4 ounces set three years ago at Deep Creek Lake.

Deere's catch tied catches in three other states (Wisconsin, South Carolina and Minnesota) for the fourth-largest yellow perch on the books.

Deere was out with his 9-year-old daughter, Ambriel, her best friend and his best friend, just wetting some lines and soaking up the year's first warm days.

He doesn't want to give away the location of the spot - not even to his wife, Robin - but it's a one-acre farm pond in Street, about five miles south of the Pennsylvania line.

Deere has a deal with the farmer: he clears out the big bass every year to save the goslings and ducklings from being consumed; the farmer gets to watch the little ones grow unmolested.

"I usually get three or four 5-pound fish every year," he says. "I love doing it."

Just after lunch, Deere's crew settled in on the pond's bank. Because he likes to devote his time to helping his daughter, Deere baited up with a lead head with a whole nightcrawler tied on, tossed it in and set it aside.

It wasn't 20 minutes before his line started moving. He dashed to his rod, set the hook and began hossing the fish to shore.

"I saw a yellow fin and I thought I had a carp. It rolled over on its side and I saw the stripes," he recalls. "I've been fishing there 10 years and I've never seen a single perch.

"I knew it would be a [state citation] patch, but I didn't know it would be a record," says Deere, 29, of Delta, Pa.

He kept it alive on a stringer for two hours and then went home and put the fish on ice while he looked around unsuccessfully for an open citation center.

When the Department of Natural Resources heard about the fish Monday morning, it sent out biologist Bret Coakley to confirm it.

Coakley says, "It was like a walleye that swallowed a football. It was an odd catch because they typically don't do well in small ponds."

Makes you wonder how much it weighed before sitting around all weekend.

Anyway, Deere doesn't think there's another yellow perch in that pond, and Coakley agrees.

"The yellow perch was probably bucket-stocked by an angler years ago, and this female yellow perch was the only yellow perch in that pond," he says. "If there had been a male yellow perch in that pond, the pond would have been full of stunted yellow perch due to the confined area and lack of sufficient food."

Deere, although clearly thrilled, downplays his skill.

"I've drowned thousands of worms over the years," he says. "I've spent 28 years fishing, and if you do it that long, you're bound to catch something."

Out of options

Another mom-and-pop fishing shop is calling it quits.

After 12 years of taking care of folks who fish the Susquehanna River around the Conowingo Dam, Stemple Brothers Bait and Tackle in Rising Sun will close at the end of the month.

Robert Stemple says Homeland Security codes yo-yoing between yellow and orange and construction around the dam doomed the business he ran with his father, David.

"Sixty to seventy percent of our business has disappeared since 9/11," Stemple says. "Just before then, business was booming. We had 10, 11 employees. Last year, we had one employee who saw one customer every six hours. You can't even pay the light bill with that."

Comments at dinner

Never do I comment negatively on the writings of another newspaper.

So after a front-page story in last Saturday's Washington Post - an apparent regurgitation of a four-year-old study of disease in Chesapeake Bay rockfish - I went out that night and found another way to make a statement.

At my favorite Italian restaurant, I ordered a broiled rockfish filet dressed in garlic, olive oil, white wine and arugula. With a side order of homemade pasta, a green salad and a bottle of red, it was a terrific meal.

I highly recommend it.


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