She plays hooky, returns with fish story

April 23, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

Some mornings when you wake up, the primal lizard part of your brain screams that you simply must go fishing before work.

Otherwise you're liable to act on that fantasy of chasing a co-worker around the office with a nail gun. (Come on, admit it.)

But after reading the paper and drinking coffee, you get dressed and head for the office, anyway.

Not me. Not Friday.

With the weekend forecast predicting nastiness, my little car turned off Route 29 in Howard County and drove straight to the parking lot at Centennial Lake. You gotta love a car that knows best.

Just beyond the bait shop and boat rental pavilion, Hugh Spafford of Ellicott City bobbed in his 10-foot boat, The Gizmo. Like me, he decided the day just couldn't begin without wetting a line.

Spafford, 46, took a personal leave day and was rewarded by catching his first-ever trout, four bass and a number of panfish.

"What's annual leave if you don't take it?" he said, smiling, before turning on his trolling motor and inching down the shoreline.

My kind of guy.

Joggers puffed by and guys in bass boats worked the dock and rocky edges along the cove. Nearby, teens played Frisbee.

The sky was a color that promised rain was on the way, but the grayness didn't stand a chance against the light pink and white of blooming dogwoods and distinguished-looking red-winged blackbirds dive-bombing the bushes.

Just then, I saw two young girls and two women rigging rods lakeside. The youngsters introduced themselves as Morgan and Payton Tibbo, and volunteered that this was their first fishing trip.

The woman putting night crawlers on hooks was their aunt, Michele Scheinker, a nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center. The woman in charge of snacks and drinks was "Grammy" Linda Tibbo.

The girls, students at St. Agnes School in Baltimore, got their first taste of fishing on Holy Thursday, a half-day of classes, when a family friend asked them along on his trip to Centennial Lake. Although they didn't catch anything during the short time they held rods, they were hooked.

On Easter, each got a fishing rod as a present, but they had to wait until Scheinker got a day off to go on their own fishing trip.

Morgan, 8, went first. And as anyone who has fished knows, you have to hook something other than a fish in the early going: a thumb, a fishing partner, a tree limb.

To her horror, Morgan accidentally hooked a goose that was stealing her bait. Gander, worm and bobber all took off across the water as Morgan's reel and Morgan both screamed.

A set of snippers around my neck quickly separated the living from the dread, and the goose swam off - a perfect example of catch and release.

"I feel so guilty," Morgan said.

But the goose soon returned, none the worse for wear, with an eye toward pilfering something from the picnic basket.

Payton, 6, took her turn and soon got the hang of the push-button reel.

With the weather changing, the fish weren't particularly cooperative. The natives got restless.

"You need patience," Scheinker counseled. "Don't you think it's fun? Isn't it the anticipation of catching something?"

Switching spots from the bank to the dock, the girls perked up when they could see panfish swimming just 3 feet down and following their worms.

It wasn't too long before one little 5-inch fish decided to tempt fate and made a dash for the bait. The bobber disappeared below the surface and popped up.

The girls squealed for joy as their aunt helped bring the fish in.

After a quick photo, Payton loudly demanded that we do with the fish what we did with the goose.

With a splash, the fish was on its way. And as rain closed in, two new fishermen joined the ranks.

It was worth missing work.

Nautical gridlock

On most spring weekends, the Chesapeake Bay fills up with boats of all kinds: stink pots, blow boats, personal watercraft, tankers and the military.

But the next two weekends are likely to be nuttier than most and probably frustrating for anglers chasing striped bass.

On Saturday, the 70-foot-long Volvo Ocean Race yachts will be having their in-port race in the waters between the Magothy and Patapsco rivers. Organizers believe as many as 2,000 spectator boats will line the race course.

That same weekend, the National Offshore One Design regatta will sail out of Annapolis, using several courses south of the Bay Bridge. That, too, will attract a crowd, albeit a smaller one.

For the Volvo, the Coast Guard will be setting up an exclusionary zone for that morning and afternoon and will run off anyone trying to fish inside the box. No such federal restrictions have been planned for the NOOD race courses, but common sense says it's not a good idea to set up shop there, either, especially if you're trolling with planer boards.

The next Sunday, May 7, has the potential to be worse, with the restart of the Volvo race and two popular fishing tournaments sharing the same small space.

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