Camping at Bunky’s
One of the best things about living in Southern Maryland is that you’re never too far from the water. That couldn’t be any truer for where my family lives. The Potomac and Patuxent rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are all within a short car ride, and the journey is usually fairly picturesque.
Last week we had the pleasure of a beautiful drive across the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge twice a day. As long as traffic cooperates, that drive can be relaxing. You might spot an osprey overhead, or if you are really lucky as we have been on a few occasions, a bald eagle. Not a lot of boats were out last week, which probably had something to do with the fact that it was as hot as blazes, but we always enjoy the view from the top and scoping out the boating activity.
The hot weather didn’t stop my kids and about a dozen other campers from having a fun and memorable week at the kids camp at Bunky’s Charter Boats in Solomons. They slathered on the sunscreen and packed their water bottles with crushed ice and spent a few hours each morning enjoying more than just your regular run-of-the-mill camp activities. Fishing, boating and safe fun on the water are what this camp is all about.
The campers learned how to tie their lines for bottom rigs and cast their rods. They got comfortable cutting worms, baiting hooks, and landing fish. Their boating excursions were wide-ranging, from the “Marchelle,” which really impressed the kids (it’s about 50 feet long, and has its own bathroom, which they thought was grand), to the “Eliza Renee,” a smaller boat that afforded them the opportunity to net crabs. Spot, croaker, short stripers and even sea robins were all part of the daily catch.
This was the kind of camp where the kids learned a lot and then went right out and applied it in the real world. One day the kids used their new skills to net themselves a small haul of crabs, which we brought home and steamed for lunch. I doubt there are many camps that send such a tasty lunch home with the campers.
My kids especially enjoyed kayaking in the creek behind the island. My younger daughter had never been out on a kayak before so her sister took her in a tandem until she had enough experience to go solo. Some campers even had the chance to fish from their kayaks. After that success they both want to try paddleboarding.
One of the things that really stood out and made me confident that my kids were in good hands was the quality of the staff. They had plenty of mates assisting with the camp, many of them older teenagers who had worked at Bunky’s during previous summers. Some were still in college, and one of the mates had just graduated from American University with a degree in international business and was looking for her
first job. All were mature and knowledgeable.
And the fact that about half the mates were female didn’t escape my attention. Strong, smart, capable women are good role models for little girls. My parents raised my sister and I to believe that women can do anything they put their minds to, and I want to do the same for my girls.
The staff at Bunky’s didn’t seem like just coworkers, they were more like a family. We got ice cream each day from the stand at the front of Bunky’s shop, which does a brisk business and, as it turns out, the girl who helped us is family. I thought she seemed a little young for her first job, but it all made sense when she said she’s the 10-year-old daughter of the owner. It was her first day on the job and she was polite and helpful, a testament that Bunky’s is a place where hard work is valued.
Bunky’s has a good thing going with this fishing camp. Not only are kids engaged in outdoor activities and learning practical skills, but with fishing comes an appreciation for our natural resources and a desire to protect them. This new generation of anglers is the future of conser vation.
You’d think that after spending a few hours fishing and crabbing, my kids would be tuckered out and ready to go home and relax in the air conditioning. When I’d pick them up each day at noon, it was slow-going getting them out to the car, a sure sign they were having a good time and weren’t ready to leave just yet. I wasn’t the only mom or dad waiting patiently for the kids to stow their rods and get their tackle box “just-so” before they were ready to go.
In fact, they’ve asked to go fishing even more than normal. Luckily we have a little neighborhood pond just a mile up the road from our house where we can catch bluegill anytime. After spending a few days fishing at Bunky’s, my oldest daughter decided she was ready to graduate from the bobber and mealworm we usually outfit her rod with to a topwater lure for the very first time (which she tied on by herself).
A lively bass struck that popper on the first cast and did some aerial acrobatics that even got the attention of her sisters from across the pond. She didn’t catch anymore bass that day, but the excitement of that one bass was the icing on the cake for an outstanding week of fishing. I heard a chorus of “just one more cast” from all my daughters as we left the pond to head home for suppertime.