Father and son add a new tradition to their fishing — winning

Pasadena pair catches 51.6-pound striped bass and take home nearly $22,000 first-place check

November 26, 2011|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Mike Dodson will be following a family tradition when he enlists next month in the U.S. Navy. His grandfather, James Dodson, served in the Navy during World War II. His uncle, James Jr., was on a Navy ship that was part of the blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Last weekend, Dodson and his father, Steve, carried on another tradition — fishing together in the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association's Chesapeake Bay Fall Classic. Steve Dodson, 52, figured it would be the last time they fished in a tournament together before his 21-year-old son left to pursue a military career.

"This was just going to be a fun weekend for us. I didn't really want to take it all serious," the elder Dodson, an engineering consultant who lives in Pasadena, recalled last week. "I felt like the $175 entry fee was going to be a donation to the MSSA, because they're a good outfit."

They had planned to fish near Sandy Point State Park but found the park closed when they arrived around 6 a.m. Nov. 19. So they drove down to Cambridge and took Steve Dodson's boat out near the mouth of the Choptank River.

"I have no idea why the park was closed, maybe because of the Christmas lights that they have going on right now," Dodson said. "I guess fate had a little bit of play into it."

Though they had some success in the five years they had fished in tournaments, what happened as they were trolling around 11 a.m. was something neither will ever forget. Using a reel that once belonged to his brother — "that had some sentimental value to me also" — Steve Dodson heard the reel "start to scream."

With Steve Dodson acting as the angler and his son at the wheel, they pulled a 51.6-pound rockfish into the boat and headed straight for the weigh station at the Taylors Island Family Campground.

"We knew it was a big fish as soon as the rod went over," Dodson said. "I kind of had a feeling as soon as we brought the fish on the boat that it was going to be a winner. We ran into the checking station and as soon as we carried it up to the table to be weighed, the guy said, 'I think you've got the winner.' "

They did, by a whopping 9 pounds.

It was the biggest fish either Dodson or his son had caught, and it also carried a first-prize check for nearly $22,000, by far the largest check Dodson had earned in the countless tournaments he had entered over the years.

Mike Dodson said they had caught a fish that was weighed at 50 pounds during another tournament three years ago but ended up being disqualified because the boat's owner "didn't have all the credentials on the boat or something."

Steve Dodson said he normally releases fish after he catches them, but "she just wasn't going to make it, she was bleeding out of her gills."

More than the money or the filets he planned to cook to bring to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner, Steve Dodson said he will have a fishing memory that will supplant even the one of fishing with his late father on a Memorial Day weekend more than 25 years ago.

"I also caught a large fish that day. It was a flounder that was over 10 pounds," Dodson recalled. "Just him and I fishing, spending father-and-son time, like I was doing now."

The last time Dodson spoke to his father was three years ago, the day before the White Marlin Open in Ocean City.

"Michael was fishing with me and we actually caught our first blue marlin that day," said Steve Dodson, who has been taking his son fishing since he was 2 years old.

Steve Dodson will have to enlist friends to join him in some future tournaments, but he doesn't seem to mind. Since graduating from North East three years ago, the younger Dodson has spent time working and going to college, but for now will try to make the Navy his career.

"I'm proud of him and I'm glad he made that decision for himself," Steve Dodson said. "My family has been part of the military for one generation after the next," said Steve Dodson, who served in the Army National Guard for 12 years. "We feel that you should serve your country — you can't depend on everyone else to do it for you."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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