A birth­day gift to remember

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

Some­times the weather gods smile upon us. South­ern Mary­land squeaked by this past hol­i­day week­end with mostly de­cent skies and tem­per­a­tures that made for good weather for spend­ing time out­doors.

I know we spent quite a bit of time grilling and pic­nick­ing out­side on Sun­day and Mon­day, and lots of our friends and neigh­bors did the same. Even the folks in Florida made out all right against the odds — over the last 11 years no hur­ri­canes have made land­fall in that state, a trend I bet most Florid­i­ans hope will re­peat it­self.

On Fri­day, my fam­ily and I had the op­por­tu­nity to take a char­ter fish­ing trip out of Solomons with Capt. Don Lay­ton on his boat Jea­nies Catch. I have a birth­day com­ing up, and hon­estly, I don’t need an­other bracelet or bot­tle of per­fume or even a new vac­uum cleaner. So I asked my hus­band for the gift of an evening with the fam­ily on the beau­ti­ful Patux­ent River.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of this trip, I had been watch­ing the weather all week and prayed that the clouds and wind in the fore­cast wouldn’t be enough to shut down our fish­ing trip. My heart was set on this trip hap­pen­ing as a last hur­rah be­fore sum­mer’s un­of­fi­cial end.

I hadn’t been out with Capt. Lay­ton be­fore, but my dad and he had been good friends and en­joyed floun­der fish­ing to­gether a few years ago. We loaded up the Jea­nies Catch with our rods and the kids put on their life pre­servers. We headed out to the mouth of the Patux­ent.

Al­though I had prayed hard, the wind was up, the tide against us, and things be­gan to get choppy. By the time we got close to the Three-Legged Marker the smiles on my kids’ faces had faded as we bounced up and down on the rough wa­ter.

So the cap­tain headed us up the river and we stopped north of Point Pa­tience. The wa­ter was much calmer and we got our rods baited up right away. Fish­bites and blood­worms were on the menu for some bot­tom-fish­ing. I tried to keep track of which bait caught more fish, but we were hav­ing fun shout­ing, “Fish on” so of­ten it was hard to keep count. Even my youngest got the hang of hook­ing the fish and reeling ‘em in. There were smiles all around.

We drifted in that area for al­most two hours and there was hardly a minute that went by with­out some­one bring­ing in a fish, some­times even two at a time. We filled up the live well with spot and threw back just as many toad­fish which liked the Fish­bites and blood­worms just fine, too.

A croaker was part of the evening’s catch, per­haps the pret­ti­est fish I had ever seen. It was too small to keep, but I might have thrown it back for good luck any­way be­cause its am­ber sheen was un­like any

croaker I had seen be­fore.

The fish­ing was good, and see­ing my young­sters en­joy­ing new ex­pe­ri­ences and grow­ing be­fore my eyes was just the kind of fam­ily time I had hoped for. Be­lieve me, watch­ing your sweet daugh­ter cut blood­worms and put them on a hook is a heart­warm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence if you come from a long line of fish­er­men.

But the best part of the evening was the ride back in. Ear­lier I had cursed the weather gods, as we were orig­i­nally sup­posed to fish the mouth of the Patux­ent, but it turns out that I just didn’t know the bless­ing they were plan­ning on send­ing my way. The ride back to Solomons filled my heart with all the rea­sons I love fish­ing.

The sky was full of lay­ers of fast-mov­ing clouds. Some were bil­lowy white and shin­ing bright in the sky, oth­ers dark purple and im­pen­e­tra­ble to the last rays of light. As the sun set, the sky turned or­ange and then a deep pink, a post­card-per­fect sun­set ex­pe­ri­ence more glo­ri­ous than any sun­set I’ve wit­nessed from land.

The river glowed, my kids took turns driv­ing the boat, and I sat back and en­joyed it all. Later, when we were walk­ing to our car, my daugh­ter squeezed my hand and said, “That was a great night.” Na­ture’s bounty was ap­pre­ci­ated, and a fam­ily grew closer. Who could ask for more?

Capt. Lay­ton of Jea­nies Catch Char­ters spe­cial­izes in small groups and fam­i­lies. He has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence on the Patux­ent and Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and knows where the fish are and how to catch them, whether trolling, with light tackle or bot­tom fish­ing. For more in­for­ma­tion or to sched­ule your next fish­ing trip, call 301-751-9114.

Pad­dle board­ing be­com­ing pop­u­lar

One of our fam­ily’s fa­vorite Sun­day af­ter­noon des­ti­na­tions is Stoney’s King­fisher on Solomons Is­land. It’s the restau­rant we al­ways take out-oftown­ers to when they want a taste of the best crab­cakes in South­ern Mary­land or some good, old-fash­ioned oys­ters on the half shell.

Part of the fun of go­ing to Stoney’s King­fisher is the great view onto Back Creek. Just this past year, I’ve no­ticed a big in­crease in the num­ber of pad­dle board­ers en­joy­ing the river. There have al­ways been kayak­ers, but pad­dle board­ing is quickly be­com­ing a pop­u­lar recre­ational ac­tiv­ity on our beau­ti­ful wa­ter ways.

The Mary­land De­part­ment of Natural Re­sources has started an out­reach pro­gram called “Pad­dle Smart from the Start” and has teamed up with Odyssea Water­sports to give away a stand-up pad­dle board. All you have to do to en­ter is take a short quiz on pad­dling safety.

The quiz only takes a few minutes, but much more im­por­tant, it’s a good re­fresher on wa­ter

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