Monday, May 30, 2011

From Maryland to Florida --- the fishing is, oh, so fine

Bill Flynn (left) had a 40-pound goliath grouper.

Our friend Carl Brown went fishing at Islamorada Key, Florida, along with his pal, Bill Flynn. The two hired guide Vinny Biondoletti and the pro surely didn't disappoint, putting the Virginia visitors on fish. Carl said, "We targeted tarpon and hooked and released eight of them, all between 80 and 120 pounds. I can't count how many sharks we caught on pinfish baits. What a blast."

Bill Flynn, latched onto a 40-pound goliath grouper (a.k.a. jewfish). On top of that, the two also hooked  bluefish, sea trout and snappers. Can't ask for any more than that.

What a photo! It had to be Bill Flynn who snapped a shot of Carl Brown's "tail-walking" tarpon in the beautiful Florida waters.

Dexter McClendon and Kenny Audson stopped by the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park, Md., to show off the tasty rockfish they had caught and the store staff was pleased to snap their photo.

Ashley MacDonald, of Upper Marlboro, Md., and Katie Arnold, of Welcome, Md., are all smiles with the rockfish they caught while trolling near the Chesapeake Bay's Buoy 72.

Photo by Christy Henderson, Buzz's Marina (St. Jerome's Creek)

Buzz's Marina said Steve Helmrich brought in the first bluefish they have seen so far this year. The size of blue Steve is holding is probably the best tasting of all the bluefish sizes.
The bluefish was hooked near Buoy 72 in a huge school of others like it. But they sounded before he could hook another one.

Lake Gaston, Va., resident Dez Rubesch shows off a fine largemouth bass that slammed a rattle bait on one of the lake's flats. Dez is on the water fishing for bass probably a lot more than most anglers (except for his fishing partner, Marty Magone).

That's Dez's pal, Marty Magone, who caught this 17-pound catfish in 3 to 5 feet of water on a Lake Gaston, Va., flat. The "cat" struck a rattle bait, such as a Rat-L-Trap or a Strike King "Red Eye." Some of Marty's friends in Southern Maryland are wondering if he cut up the catfish and turned it into sushi. I wouldn't put it past him.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fishing news from all over starts with the Chowan

Marty Magone and a Chowan bass
Our friends, Marty Magone and Dez Rubesch, two fellows who live on the shores of Virginia's beautiful Lake Gaston, occasionally visit other fishing locales. Recently, the dynamic duo drove to eastern North Carolina to fish in the Chowan River, a waterway that many years ago delivered a 9-pound bass for my brother-in-law, Ted Livesay. I'll never forget that day.

Marty and Dez took a chance on the weather, but let's have Marty tell us what happened.

"We had two days of great weather, even though Friday morning produced a frog strangler rain," he said, but apparently the two fishermen did just fine. "We totaled 57 bass, 2 bowfin, yellow perch, crappie, gar, pickerel and warmouth," Magone added. "Our normal fishing areas in Conaby Creek did not pan out, but we found active fish in the black-water feeder creeks, such as Grennel Creek. Water temps were in the 70s. Most of our fish were caught on Paca Craws or on Rico topwater baits. What a beautiful and desolate area."

Magone mentioned that in two days of fishing, they saw only two boats. Try that on our local Potomac River, or for that matter, even their home lake, Gaston. It's not going to happen.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

One of the best fishing lines yet – and waterproof matches

You need this fishing line from Stren

Those of us who were fans of the clear/blue fluorescent Stren fishing lines as far back as the 1970s should be delighted to learn that the world’s largest tackle company, Pure Fishing, is offering a new kind of Stren that from here on will be known as Stren Brute Strength. They’re not kidding about the name.

I’ve taken two of my baitasting reels, filled them  with 12-pound Stren Brute Strength and in a month of fishing have yet to see it snap in two, have a fish bust it, or have it get hung up on an underwater object only to break eventually. No way. The line has held up in every instance. It is a pleasure to cast, can be easily seen (important when a bass picks up a worm and tries to slowly sneak away with it), and, because it is produced with a proprietary new co-polymer formula, the line provides exemplary extra strength while remaining nice and flexible.

Stren Brute Strength is available in pound tests from 6 to 40, in clear/blue fluorescent and lo-vis green. Suggested retail prices for a 330-yard filler spool of 6 to 8 pound test is $7.95; 10-17 pound test, $8.95; 20-30 pound test, $10.95. Quarter-pound spools run from $12.95 to $15.95, depending on the test poundage.

Go to for more information.

How about a match that works even when it’s wet?

When you least expect it -- whether you are caught in an unpredicted rain storm, tip a canoe or leave the flow valve unlocked on your hydration bladder and lay your pack on top of it -- your gear often is exposed to wetness in the outdoors. Unlike your traditional waterproof matches that can be difficult to light and burn out quickly, Industrial Revolution’s new Stormproof Match Kit contains their Stormproof Matches that are easy to light, have a 15 second burn time and have a longer length for added safety. The Stormproof Matches are so water resistant they even remain lit after being submerged in water. The kit contains 25 matches, 3 strikers and a less than 1-oz. waterproof container.

Individual boxes of the Stormproof Matches are available at Gander Mountain, EMS, Cabela’s, and with a suggested retail price of $3.99 (single pack – 25 matches) and $5.99 (double pack – 50 matches). The Stormproof Match Kit is also available at REI for $5.99.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flyfishing for bluegills -- more fun than a barrel of monkeys

Every year, my friend Andy Andrzejewski and I spend at least one day ignoring bass, stripers, crappies or even nasty Chinese snakeheads. One day a year is dedicated to fishing for bluegills.

Andy Andrzejewski with a fat flyrod bluegill
Yes, bluegills; sunfish of all types, little fish that normally are thought of as being the exclusive quarry of children who'll sit by the edge of a farm pond with a rod (or cane pole), a bobber several feet above a small, worm- or cricket-baited hook. And so it should be. Sunfish and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But there are those of us grownups who also enjoy fishing for "bream," as Southerners refer to the sunnies. However, Andy and I want to do it with light flyrods and small popping bugs or tiny sinking flies that may be known as Black Gnats or Bumblebees. (I prefer the sinking flies.)

The day came this week because we knew that in all of our tidal feeder creeks to the Potomac, the sunfish are sitting on their spawning beds, close to shore, easily identified as you can spot dinner plate-sized depressions in the shallow water that usually are light in color because of the recent removal of older, decaying matter on the creek bottoms.

Gene Mueller and a red-breasted sunfish caught on a Black Gnat
Andy, who in his regular life is a licensed fishing guide who normally goes after largemouth bass, is forever the stickler when it comes to using proper equipment. He showed up with his 22-foot Triton bass boat and an 8-foot flyrod and a small manual fly reel -- all of it in the two-weight class. We're talking really light stuff here, folks. "That's all you need for bluegills," said Andy, frowning at my gear.

I use a five-weight rod, reel, No. 5 floating forward-weight line and 4+ feet of 
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regular monofilament line (maybe 6-pound test) to act as my leader/tippet that the little bugs are tied to. It works well with sunfish, smallmouth bass, trout, and once in a while even a keeper largemouth bass of the type that hang out in the same waters the sunfish do.

Andy had a bass suck in a popping bug
Andy proved as much as he hooked a tidal water bass only 10 minutes after we started working the shorelines of the Chicamuxen Creek in Charles County. The bass sucked in a white, rubber-legged, round-bodied popping bug and wouldn't let go. I was fortunate enough to hook the first sunfish, a fat red-breasted sunny that fairly bent the rod and made me believe it might be another fish species. But that's the way bluegills are. Drop a bug of some kind over or near their spawning beds and they'll attack with a ferocity we wished certain larger fish species could display.

An assortment of sunfish bugs, flies and home-made spiders
In the long run, Andy "whupped up" on me. He easily caught 3 or 4 bluegills for every one I set the hook to, his white No. 10 popping bug outfishing my black No. 12 sinking fly. But in the end, we both were very satisfied with our catches. Although we released all of our sunfish, we are aware that they can make for some wonderful eating. This day, however, would strictly be for fun and grown men acting like kids.

Isn't that what recreational fishing should be all about?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The big stripers are still biting; so are the black drum

Even though the time of year for the big rockfish is slowly winding down and many of the Chesapeake Bay's trophy stripers are heading south and back to the Atlantic Ocean, quite a few of the big fish are still in the Bay. Here's Amy Trail, of Leonardtown, Md., with a 42-inch, 25-pounder that she trolled up just south of Buoy 72 in roughly 50 feet of water. Good show, Amy, and let me tell you here and now, you're a whole lot better looking than most of the men who are seen on this website, holding up their trophy-sized stripers. It's a joy to see increasing numbers of ladies fishing.                      
                                    Photo by Christy Henderson, Buzz's Marina
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The fishing dentist, Dr. Ken Neill, sent this photo of the Cape Charles charter vessel, Miss Jennifer, as a black drum is netted in the buoys 10 to 13 area of the Chesapeake Bay, not far from Virginia's Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Dr. Neill was in his own boat with friends and they landed a good number of black drum as well.

The drumfish, as the locals normally refer to these tasty critters, will be around through May, and they will slowly make their way up the Chesapeake into Maryland waters where the Sharps Island Light and Stone Rock areas can become the scene of many boats congregating, drifting back and forth with soft crab-baited hooks bouncing across the bottom.

Look what happened when Jen Nicholson, of Gambrills, Md., went fishing with her dad, Jeff. She caught this gorgeous striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. It was 39 inches long. Way to go, Jen! The photo was taken by Christy Henderson of Buzz's Marina in Ridge, Md.

Edwin Tanks, who lives in Hollywood, Md., went surf fishing at Point Lookout State Park and tied into this 20-inch rockfish, which now is legal to keep. I'm sure he enjoyed it later on when it graced his dinner table. The fish was photographed by the Tackle Box staff in Lexington Park.

Steve Helmrich, of Lexington Park, Md., left St. Jerome's Creek for a little fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Look what he came home with: A 40-inch-long striper.

News from around the region, including hunting and oysters

Maryland Receives $39,000 Grant from NSSF to Promote Hunting 

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been awarded a grant for $39,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) to expand opportunities for hunters.

The state is one of nine to receive funding from NSSF through its Hunting Heritage Partnership program. NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry, has provided more than $4.3 million in grants to 38 state agencies over the past nine years to support programs that promote hunting and target shooting.

The agency's project will focus on offering regional mentored youth hunts that will provide a positive hunting experience and allow youth to learn from wildlife managers and conservation officers. Additionally, parents, relatives and guardians will learn about the importance of mentoring. The goal is to increase the number of youth who annually purchase a hunting license and to develop lifelong hunters.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Maryland to continue our successful programs designed to keep young people interested and engaged in the outdoors, especially hunting and the shooting sports. No other organization provides us this level of support, and we remain thankful to the great team at NSSF for their continued commitment to our efforts," said Paul Peditto, director of the Wildlife & Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.


HAMPTON ROADS, VA - The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and its partners are now recruiting volunteers to clean up shoreline litter for the 23rd Annual Clean the Bay Day, Saturday, June 4, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon.

Clean the Bay Day is a hands-on opportunity for individuals, families, businesses, and groups to join CBF, municipalities, concerned organizations, and businesses in one of the largest volunteer cleanup efforts in Virginia. The annual project, managed by CBF, involves thousands of Virginia citizens working on foot and by boat to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, and streams. The event also raises public awareness about pollution issues beneath the surface. Last year, 7,430 volunteers removed 217,641 lbs of debris at 245 sites along 419 miles of Chesapeake Bay watershed shorelines. 

Cleanup sites are available throughout Hampton Roads, Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Northern, and Central Virginia. To register, visit, send an e-mail to, or call 1-800/SAVEBAY.

Maryland Gov. O'Malley signs law to protect shellfish

Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation to protect Maryland’s fisheries and encourage shellfish aquaculture. The legislation, supported by scientists, watermen, fishing and environmental organizations, is designed to deter harmful fishing activity by increasing penalties for oyster, blue crab, and striped bass poachers; authorizing Natural Resources Police (NRP) officers to inspect commercial fishing business’s storage areas; and streamlining penalty imposition processes.
“Through this legislation, we are sending a strong message in the fight to protect some of our most valued natural resources,” said Governor O’Malley. “By expanding aquaculture opportunities we are taking an innovative approach towards reviving our native oyster population, while at the same time, protecting oysters and our other fragile resources by punishing those who would wantonly disregard the law.”
Senate Bill 159, sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh, and House Bill 273 require the revocation (through an administrative hearing) of an individual’s commercial fishing license within 60 days of oyster poaching violations. 
“These bills will help Maryland’s premier fisheries and the folks who depend on them for their livelihoods.  They’re a win for everyone—except poachers,” said Senator Frosh, a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
Similarly, Senate Bill 635, sponsored by Senator Frosh and House Bill 1154, introduced by Delegate Jim Gilchrist, require the revocation of an individual’s commercial fishing license if they are found by an Administrative Law Judge to have knowingly committed an egregious or repeat violation against striped bass or blue crabs including: using illegal gear; harvesting during closed seasons; harvesting from a closed area; violating established harvest, catch or size limits; or violating tagging and reporting requirements.
Senate Bill 655, along with House Bill 1225, increase the penalty for engaging in commercial fishing with a suspended license, a revoked license or without a license, by establishing a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.  A higher fine and possible imprisonment will deter future violations resulting from fishing on a suspended commercial license.  

Pennsylvania now allows all-day turkey hunting

Like so many states that insist the hunting of wild turkeys be done only between dawn and noon, Pennsylvania followed the tradition for decades. But now, the Keystone State has ended the practice and will permit the hunting of the large wild birds from just before sunup until sundown.

How about it, Maryland, and all others who still want to end the hunt at noon?

By the way, did you know that one of the founders of our nation, Ben Franklin, didn't want the bald eagle to become the national bird. He wanted the wild turkey to represent what we stand for (so to speak). The bald eagle is a veritable dunce when compared to the wild turkey, thought Franklin. Although both have exceptional eyesight, the wild turkey can run as fast as many four-legged creatures, fly with ease, hear the dropping of an acorn 100 yards away, and it has a survival and sense of suspicion and caution that is unmatched by most other wildlife.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The happy fishing parade continues on the Bay

Julius Parran, of Prince Frederick, Md., used a white umbrella rig off Point No Point, in the Chesapeake Bay, to catch this fine 45-inch striper.

Colleen Sheridan came down from Washington, D.C., to hook a 37-inch rockfish.

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Here's Mike Henderson, who operates Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek. Mike caught this flounder in the mouth of his creek -- on a Bass Kandy lure yet.

Justin Piper, of Hampstead, Md., poses with a nice rockfish that he caught while fishing with Capt. Steve Fore on the "Miss Suzanne."

That's Patrick Truby, of Bethesda, Md., with a 40-inch striped bass caught in the Chesapeake Bay, near the Target Ship.

 J.C. Walther, who lives in Golden Beach, Md., was fishing with Charlie Stewart (the handsome guy with the hat) when J.C. hooked this 31-pound rockfish.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Former director of Maryland Freshwater Fisheries goes fishing

Ask Bob Lunsford what he does these days now that he has retired from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where in years gone by he served as the department's director of Freshwater Fisheries, which also included looking after the tidal river largemouth bass in the state.

Bob Lunsford with a nice crappie
"I try to go fishing as often as possible," says the smiling Lunsford, who, during his years as the freshwater boss, became a well-known face among local anglers of all stripes. If there was a plan to deposit hatchery trout into a small Southern Maryland lake that never before had been stocked with the coldwater species, Lunsford helped make it happen -- and sometimes he'd be there to watch the proceedings.

If bass fishermen worried about the state of their favorite species, he'd hold meetings in various locales to hear complaints, maybe a compliment  or a suggestion; and being aware that not everybody in the state was in favor of large bass fishing tournaments being held on local rivers -- particularly the tidal Potomac between Washington and western Charles County -- Lunsford would often be on hand to see that the fish were handled properly and released in a timely manner.

Bass guide Andrzejewski caught plenty of "specks"
The years passed; Lunsford served in various functions for the DNR and more than one fresh- or tidal-water bass angler hoped that he might become the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. It seemed to many of the bass boaters and shoreline casters that the affable native Virginian would be more on their side when situations arose that called for a fisherman's friend. That, however, never happened. To be in the position of complete leadership in the massive DNR headquarters in Annapolis, you had to be part politician, lobbyist, wheeler-dealer and accountant. You needed to be a welcome visitor for certain members of the state legislature and, most of all, be looked upon kindly by the Governor's office.

Long story short: Lunsford did his job, ignored the politicking, served his time, and eventually retired.

When bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski recently invited me and Lunsford to meet him for a little multi-species tidal river fishing in a Prince George's County creek, not far from the Marshall Hall boat ramp, Lunsford showed up carrying bunches of soft drinks, while I agreed to bring the sandwiches.

Once in a while you have to free a lure from a snag, dont you?
We no sooner dropped or cast small green/red or all-white grubs into shallow creek shorelines and all three of us were into fish. Lunsford had a crappie, Andy latched onto a bass, and I hooked a feisty, well-fed redbreasted sunfish. The parade continued with all three of us catching spawning crappies that were scattered out along seemingly open shoreline flats. We hooked the fish the Cajuns call sac au lait (crappies) and also caught and released more yellow perch and bluegills, while Andy jokingly referred to the largemouth bass he stuck a hook to as "nuisances." Of course, he was joking about that because all of us enjoyed seeing the "green" fish.

"I could get used to doing this more often," said a happy Lunsford, dropping a not too subtle hint to his companions who live within easy driving distance of the rich Potomac waters. In this day of $4-plus-per-gallon of gasoline that means a lot because even if the clueless President who currently sits in the White House suggests that we all buy little electric cars to save energy, no one has yet to explain to us how we can tow our boats with an electric vehicle that couldn't pull a roll of toilet paper from a store shelf without straining.

Some of the better catches earlier this week

Andre Briscoe, of California, Md., shows off the fine 19-inch croaker he caught from the boat ramp at Piney Point (Potomac River). Andre now leads the Lexington Park Tackle Box's May contest for "Big Croaker."

That's the Bartz family, Jimmy, Sonny and Kevin posing with the trophy rockfish they caught in the lower Potomac River, just a hop outside of Smith Creek.

Local Potomac River fishing guide, Andy Andrzejewski, enjoys not only the largemouth bass found in this bountiful river, he also loves going after springtime crappies. This one (and many others) came out of a Prince George's County tributary to the Potomac.

Johnny Meyers, of Carney, Md., caught this 39-inch-long striper while fishing with Capt. Jeff Popp on the Vista Lady, out of Solomons. The rockfish struck near Buoy 77 in 45 feet of water.

Charles and Hunter Southall, of Poquoson, Va., hoist two of the black drum they caught this week in the area of Buoy 13 in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Sea clams were used as bait.
Photo by Dr. Ken Neill

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Were the bass trying to upstage our crappie outing?

On a gorgeous spring day, two of us came out of the tidal Potomac's Marshall Hall boat ramp, headed upriver in a powerful 22-foot bass boat, past President George Washington's Mount Vernon home, and soon made a right turn into one of the fine creeks that belong to Maryland's Prince George's County.

Andy Andrzejewski admires a crappie
The object of our outing this day was America's public panfish No. 1, the crappie. (I know, some people believe this honor belongs to the bluegill, but in the states below the Mason-Dixon line, it's the crappie -- a fish that is alternately known to Southerners as a crappie-bass, speckled bass, croppy, speck, papermouth and probably a few other names we haven't heard of yet.)

During the month of May, populations of tidal water crappies are busy spawning, which means you do not necessarily have to drop your minnow bait or small lures into a sunken brush pile, or the waters around a beaver hut, maybe a fallen tree whose branches are surrounded by creek water -- all of them typical hangouts for the species when they're not spawning. No, when the speckled beauties enter their reproduction cycle you can find them spread out along shallow, seemingly obstacle-free shorelines, in water from 2 to 4 feet deep and widely scattered even over small protected flats near shade-giving stands of trees.

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The bass wouldn't leave Andy alone
So why is it that when my boat partner, the well-know bass fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski, flicked a white 1/8-ounce marabou-feathered jig toward a gravel-lined shore, closed the bail on his light spinning reel, and began a stop-and-go retrieve, the lure hopping along enticingly, a largemouth bass snatched it up and did everything possible to snap Andy's 6-pound-test monofilament line. But the professional guide knows a thing or two about the antics that a bass will go through. He allowed the fish to go hither and yon and back again, yet in the end a respectacle largemouth was brought into boat.

Meanwhile, I cast a pink-green-and-white plastic grub (the color is known as the electric chicken) toward a tiny stump poking from the surface of otherwise open water and, instantly, the grub was hammered by a beautifully-marked crappie that easily weighed more than a pound. It was deposited into an aerated livewell, later to be part of a delectable dinner.

Gene Mueller and a bass that snatched up a tiny grub
After Andy set his bass free and resumed casting, both of us stuck grub and jig hooks to one crappie after another, the boat's electric trolling motor pulling us quietly along and we were careful not to overfish any part of the creek cove's shoreline. We'd pull a crappie from the water in one spot, then move along, only to repeat it a little farther down. We didn't have to stay in one spot to hook all the crappies that were present because even though some folks believe crappies to be so prolific that they can't be overfished, it is pure folly to think that way. Any targeted fish species can be decimated, even totally removed. End of discussion.

Check out the small lures the crappies liked
Andy and I wanted enough of the well-fed crappies for dinner, so we kept 15 of them between the two of us. We'd split them up later. But the largemouth bass in the creek wouldn't leave us be. Every so often a good-sized bass would beat the crappies to the punch, easily illustrating that the big panfish and the bass got along, although I'm not sure their relationship will be as cordial when the first brood of young crappies is hatched and the bass begin to gobble up the little ones. However, turnabout is fair play. I'm certain a large crappie will do the same to any baby bass it sees.

This day, what mattered most was that the fish cooperated, and the wind -- for once -- was kind enough to let us fish in peace. 

If you are interested in hiring a bass guide (who might even be talked into doing a crappie outing), get in touch with Andy Andrzejewski at 301/932-1509.

Life is good!

Friday, May 6, 2011

And the fishing photos keep rolling in

Our friend Dale Knupp knows a thing or two about bass fishing. Here he's holding up a 6-pound largemouth that he caught on a soft plastic bait inside the Piscataway Creek, in Prince George's County, Md. (He's wearing sunglasses so nobody can recognize him.)

Dale's wife, Nancy, loves to fish with finesse worms and here she shows what happened when a 5-pound largemouth bass inhaled the bait. Nancy and Dale had been fishing in the Chicamuxen Creek, a Charles County tributary of the tidal Potomac River.

Nancy Knupp found this well-fed crappie recently  in the Piscataway Creek while fishing with her husband, Dale.

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If you've heard that Chinese snakeheads will not live in saltwater environs, then what was this snakehead doing down in St. Jerome's Creek in St. Mary's County? Mike Henderson, proprietor of Buzz's Marine (right) shows off a snakehead caught in his salty waters.
Photo by Christy Henderson

That's 15-year-old Levi Willett hoisting the 44-inch-long  Chesapeake Bay rockfish he caught while fishing aboard his uncle Capt. Wayne Willett's boat. They came out of Solomons, in Calvert County, Md.

Tom Martin came down from Martinsburg, W.Va., to fish for stripers in the Chesapeake Bay. As you can see, he did very well while trolling aboard the charter fishing boat "Bounty Hunter," out of the Rod'n'Reel dock in Chesapeake Beach.

During that same "Bounty Hunter" charter trip on the Bay, Matt Martin, of Leesburg, Va., nailed this rockfish. I guess it's all in the family.

Yank Strube, of Jefferson, Md., latched onto this beautiful 46-inch, 33-pound rockfish out in the Chesapeake Bay.
Photo by Christy Henderson, Buzz's Marina, St. Jerome's Creek

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Will Maryland officials have the courage to stop gill netting?

I have long been of the opinion that the states of Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina have had a far too cozy relationship with commercial fish netters. Ignoring the fact that sport fishermen generate many more dollars for state tax offices and business cash registers, the states more often than not show a decided bias for a relatively small (when compared to sport anglers) number of netters who for some odd reason are able to hold sway over legislators. Recreational fishermen quite often are an easily discarded after-thought, while the watermen receive red carpet treatment.

All this in spite of an apparent willingness by a certain segment of the commercial industry to totally ignore state netting laws, never mind good rules of conservation. However, it appears that when one of the scofflaws is caught, the resulting punishment reeks more of the treatment that miscreant children receive, rather than being dealt with harshly. Has any law-breaking waterman in Maryland (or Virginia and North Carolina) ever been sentenced to prison and lost his commercial license for the rest of his life? I don't believe so.

And here we go again:

The Coastal Conservation Association/Maryland does a good job keeping tabs on the many violators of rockfish (striped bass) laws. In its Tight Lines newsletter the CCA/MD reports that yet another illegal gill net was discovered recently near Tilghman Island. The Maryland DNR removed a 1,400-yard net with almost 7,000 pounds of striped bass. CCA Maryland was on hand to shoot photos and videos.

According to the CCA/MD the net was originally discovered by CCA member Chris Jacobs while fishing last Sunday. Natural Resources Police (NRP) officials estimated it contained approximately 450 striped bass with an average weight of 15 pounds.

A second illegal gill net was discovered yesterday afternoon approximately 1.5 miles south of the one found Sunday. The NPR has marked it, and recovery efforts are scheduled for this week.

“The amount of rotting and dead fish in the net recovered yesterday raises a number of questions about the commercial gill net fishery,” said Tony Friedrich, CCA/MD executive director. “The first question is what this continued illegal commercial activity will do to the fishery. These ghost nets clearly continue killing after being abandoned. The end of the legal season coincides with the start of the spawning run. Can we afford to have these abandoned ghost nets in the bay?"

Friedrich also said, “Secondly, is the cost of the managing the gill net industry. It’s not right to expect Maryland taxpayers to foot this bill because the commercial industry cannot respect the law. Finally, we are seeing that when gill nets are deployed illegally, it’s not a clean fishery. The net found this week, in addition to the 6,750 pounds of striped bass, captured a sturgeon and an earlier illegal net contained sea ducks both of which are federally protected. So, these nets are not just catching their intended target.

“What is especially troubling is the blatant disregard for the resource these individuals are showing. Many of the fish in the net recovered yesterday were rotting while others appeared to be freshly caught. Additionally, the sturgeon was alive and released. It’s reasonable to believe that the net was set early in the year, and when the illegal netting was discovered by NPR, the owner of this net chose not to recover his gear. He simply left the net in place to kill more fish, rather than risk being caught while removing it.”

Friedrich again commended the NRP and DNR for their “determined commitment” to stop this illegal activity. These discoveries highlight the importance of the study of the commercial gill net fishery’s management structure and viability announced in February by DNR Secretary John Griffin.  The Secretary also said that if the commercial industry didn’t help police itself, the state would need to consider whether or not to phase out gill nets in the bay. Those responsible for these nets and those who may have known about them could have anonymously reported their location to the NRP long ago.  Regrettably, they decided not to do that, allowing these nets to catch and kill for months.

Friedrich urges anyone with information of illegal gill nets to contact the DNR. There is now a reward of $30,500 being offered for leads that result in finding the perpetrators. The poacher hotline is 1.800.635.6124

Sunday, May 1, 2011

An assortment of last week's fish catches from around the area

Check out a few of last week's fishing successes from around the Maryland and Virginia area. Remember, if you have a photo of you or a friend with a good catch (no matter what species), send it to Here are a few tips for a printable picture: Don't wear sunglasses; push your cap back so your face won't be too shaded; try to keep the sun behind you when snapping a photo; don't have a cigarette in your lips, and please don't hold the fish in one hand a can of Bud in the other. Cigarettes and beer cans are a downer for photographers.
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That's Charlie Stewart, of Mechanicsville, Md., with a 44-inch striped bass caught in the Chesapeake Bay. Charlie always comes out of Buzz's Marina on St. Jerome's Creek (St. Mary's County) and Christy Henderson, of the marina management, shot the photo.

Our friend Dick Fox, who lives within a stone's throw of the Shenandoah River near Front Royal, Va., proves that even after a lot of recent rain and storms, the river cleared enough and the smallmouth bass jumped on grubs, jigs, or spinnerbaits.

Dez Rubesch shows off a fine largemouth bass, caught last week in south-central Virginia's Lake Gaston. His frequent fishing partner, Marty Magone, shot the photo. The bass fishing in Gaston currently is outstanding.

Marty Magone told us that this snapping turtle snatched up an artificial worm intended for the bass in Lake Gaston. The turtle wasn't very happy with those kinds of developments, but Marty and his fishing pal, Dez, managed to set it free. Haven't those two ever heard of tasty turtle soup or fried turtle chunks?

Andrew Rice, of Lexington Park, with a beautiful 46-inch trophy striper caught near Buoy 7 in the Potomac River. He's posing his catch in front of the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park.

Hugh Conway, of Owings, Md., with a 44-inch rockfish caught near the Calvert Cliffs and the Tackle Box crew made sure his photo was snapped.

Mike Banner, of Tucson, Ariz., Charlie Palmer, of Delmar, Md., and Charles Palmer, of Mechanicsville, Md., had a fine day fishing for trophy stripers. They weighed their catches at the Lexington Park Tackle Box.

Jim Stephens came down from Annapolis to catch this post-spawn fish in the Triangle area of the Chesapeake Bay. It measured 50 inches and weighed 40.9 lbs.
Christy Henderson photo/Buzz's Marina (St. Jerome's Creek)

How about this bass caught by David Hamilton of Waldorf. David fished in the Mallows Bay area of the tidal Potomac River with Mike Willett. Mike snapped the photo of the big bass.

Parker Cummings is only eight years old, but he had no trouble showing off the huge rockfish he caught while fishing out on the Chesapeake Bay. The Tackle Box sent us this photo. Next time, Parker, remove your shades. You'll look even better without them.