We generally don't do this. Something about the old warning, "If you do it once, you've got to do it for everyone."
But sometimes a letter comes in and it hits home. This one, from Michael Marlow, did just that. It needs no embellishment. It speaks for itself. I'd like to make it hard for anyone — that's you, punks — to get any pleasure out of stolen gains. And I'm hoping you, readers, will email the rightful owner, Michael Marlow (email@example.com), or call the Baltimore City Watershed Rangers (410-396-9863) with tips.
My 34-year-old, 16-foot Lincoln canoe — a Waldeboro, Maine, classic and the only canoe I have ever owned — was stolen sometime in the past few weeks from the boat launch at Prettyboy Reservoir, where it was chained to the communal fence with all the other canoes and a hodge-podge of jon boats. The villain, or I suspect villains, used a bolt cutter to commit the crime.
I should have known better. But I decided to keep the canoe at Prettyboy, rather than secured in my garage, to let many of my canoeing and fishing friends have access to this old war horse whenever the mood struck. About a handful had the lock's combination, and now we are all in mourning.
This was more than just a canoe. My father and I bought this gleaming dark green beauty from the Spring River Corp. in Ellicott City on Aug. 14, 1976 for $321. A pair of beaver-tail paddles cost us $29.70. My dad, then 58, wanted to be reminded of his days as a boy in the Adirondacks. He also wanted adventure with me. Sadly, he died only four years later. But the canoe was just beginning its adventures.
Over the next 30 years, that Lincoln, with its name "Leviathan" emblazoned on the bow, helped me catch bass in Maine's Third Machias Lake and brook trout in ponds at the base of Mount Katahdin. It spent a few years in Montana, leading me to rainbows in the treacherous Missouri River. When I lived in Austin, Texas, we fished the Highland Lakes over and over again, and back home in Maryland, we explored the rivers of the Eastern Shore for pickerel and bass. Then, too, there were all those wonderful sunrises and sunsets that only fishermen in canoes can understand. I owe them all to my Lincoln.
That scarred-up and faded canoe, with its patchwork of Prettyboy permit stickers smeared all over its bow, was my trustworthy fishing buddy for most of my adult life, and now it's gone. It wouldn't be so bad if it had suddenly filled with water and drifted peacefully to the bottom of some bay. But it's now in the hands of someone who has no knowledge of its journeys or appreciation of its spirit, and that is maddening.
The attached photo shows my neighbor Chris Wilk's 5-year-old son, Riley, holding the last fish ever caught— under my watch — in Leviathan. That's me in the background.
I'm going to miss that canoe. I'm going to miss it a lot.
New derby honors Burton
In what may someday rival the annual Annapolis-Eastport tug-of-war across Spa Creek, Maryland's two largest fishing and conservation groups will gather on the Choptank River on Oct. 2 for the inaugural Bill Burton Fishing Pier Youth Derby.
The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and Coastal Conservation Association Maryland will provide the gear, muscle and mentorship as young anglers from Dorchester and Talbot counties and beyond battle it out to see who can catch the most fish.
"Hopefully, we can continue and fulfill Bill Burton's legacy and his commitment to taking young people fishing," says Dave Smith, MSSA executive director.
Other youngsters and adults of all ages are invited to wet a line to honor the late newspaperman, who chronicled the activities of the Maryland outdoors community for more than a half century until his death last year at 82.
"We're looking forward to this youth derby," said Heather Boughey, Burton's daughter. "This pier held a special place in Dad's heart, and getting young people involved in fishing was something he felt strongly about. So, this event combines two things that Dad really believed in.
"He always believed that if you got them involved in fishing and the outdoors when they were young, they'd grow up loving the Chesapeake, and they would fight hard to protect her."
Burton used his outdoors column in the Evening Sun to lobby for saving two portions of the old bridge across U.S. 50 at Cambridge for use as fishing piers. The Maryland Board of Public Works voted last year to name the structures and surrounding land Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. The park was dedicated in July.
Billy O'Brien of Shore Tackle and Custom Roads and Keith Frazier of All Tackle are helping to sponsor the event.
"We're laying the groundwork this year," says Tony Friedrich, CCA Maryland's executive director. "Next year, we'll have an awesome event."
Registration will take place from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on the Talbot side of the river, followed by two hours of fishing. After rods up at 11 a.m., organizers will have an awards ceremony.