Anglers overjoyed with oversized fish

April 30, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON

Two days, two men, two fish, two stories.

David Wilder's is a northern snakehead - at 7 pounds, 14 ounces, the largest caught so far.

Wayne Miller's is a striped bass that, at 47.55 pounds, 46 1/2 inches long and 30 inches around, is a trophy in every sense of the word.

Needless to say, both men are thrilled with their prizes.

The sky was black and streaked with lightning last Sunday afternoon as Wilder, a Baltimore painting contractor and avid bass angler, was fishing at the mouth of Dogue Creek on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.

At the end of his line was a rubbery creature bait in search of a largemouth bass. All of a sudden, his reel screamed. (Shades of a cheap horror film, eh?)

Since he and his brother Greg were practicing for a bass tournament this weekend, big fish were just what they were looking for.

Just not this particular type.

"It came right at the boat. It was trying to spit the hook," says David, 32. "Then it just took off like a catfish. ... It came to the top and we saw it."

The snakehead looked just like the ones on TV. Torpedo-shaped, camouflaged markings and "crusher teeth all the way around," he says.

"The fight getting him to the boat was just like wrestling an alligator," adds Greg, 37.

David was grateful the 14-pound test line held.

"We got it in the net and we didn't know what to do with it. It was a mass of muscle," says Greg, who lives in Brooklyn Park.

"It was going ballistic," David continues. "We looked at each other and said, `What do we do now?'"

Indeed.

Knowing that the Department of Natural Resources wants snakeheads dead, not alive, the brothers complied, then called the agency.

Biologist Bob Lunsford picked up the fish Monday for a trip to the Cedarville laboratory so that its age can be determined.

"It's a stout animal. Short and heavy, clearly a spawning animal," says Lunsford, a snakehead veteran from the crazy days at that Crofton pond nearly four years ago. "It had a 10-inch American eel in its gullet."

The northern snakehead spawning season is about to begin, so I'm expecting to hear more tales. But Wilder's fish is the mark to beat.

Miller also is a tough act to follow.

Although he has fished long and hard, he had never experienced Maryland's trophy season before stepping onto Capt. Jerry Lastfogel's boat, Belinda Gail III, on April 21 as part of a charter by co-workers.

After two colleagues caught and released two undersized fish, it was Miller's turn to crank the reel on the next hit.

Trolling just north of the Old Gas Buoy in 38 feet of water, the anglers and Lastfogel watched the rod bend toward the water.

"I think we all knew it was a big fish," says Miller, 45, a consumer safety officer for the Food and Drug Administration. "This fish never broke the water until we got it to the boat."

Lastfogel, 76, who has been fishing the bay for more than four decades, was astonished.

"That fish wouldn't give up. It took 18 minutes to slow that fish," he says.

The weight of the massive striper bent the rim of the net as it was hoisted into the boat.

"I had no idea they came that big," Miller says. "When that big boy came out, I wasn't sure if it was unusual or par for the course.

Word traveled quickly. A crowd gathered at the dock at Happy Harbor in Deale as Lastfogel motored in.

The fish was hauled to the scales and people gasped as the number rose past 30, 35, 40 before finally settling on 47.55.

Anglers and captains shook his hand and high-fived Miller, who says, "I was pretty much overwhelmed the rest of the day."

And Lastfogel, not given to overstatement, says simply: "I was shocked. It was an amazing fish to look at. It had a head like a cow."

Miller isn't done fishing this season, but he's not sure how the rest of the year will shake out.

"I'm going bottom-fishing for spot and perch in June and I'll fill my cooler," he says. "But I'm not going to forget this anytime soon."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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