Big day com­ing up for an­glers

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamie drake out­doors @out­look.com

A big day for lo­cal an­glers is com­ing up soon. Tro­phy rock­fish sea­son kicks off next month on April 15.

That date usu­ally elic­its a col­lec­tive groan. But this year, we get a lit­tle ex­tra time un­til the fol­low­ing Tues­day to square up with the tax man, so every­one can en­joy the week­end and worry about crunch­ing num­bers later.

The only num­bers lo­cal an­glers should be con­cerned about that week­end is the min­i­mum length for a keeper. The same rules are in ef­fect as last year. To re­cap: You may only keep one fish per day, and that fish must be 35 inches or larger, mea­sured from the snout to tail.

The sea­son opens at 5 a.m. April 15 and runs un­til mid­night May 15. This is truly the “big fish” month for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. Catch-an­drelease is al­ways a good idea, but there’s noth­ing wrong with eat­ing your catch once in a while or pass­ing on some work to your lo­cal taxi­der­mist.

Last week, I had the plea­sure of catch­ing up with Capt. “Wall­eye” Pete Dal­h­berg and hear his pre­sen­ta­tion to the Coastal Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion Patux­ent River chap­ter. The up­stairs of Stoney’s in Solomons was packed, and I’m sure many of the an­glers who were in at­ten­dance that night will be out bright and early on April 15.

Dal­h­berg gave an en­gag­ing pre­sen­ta­tion about the 2016 sea­son and shared his pre­dic­tions for 2017.

I can’t give away all the se­crets he shared with the room, but he’s been out guid­ing on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay for nearly 20 years now and knows where the fish are.

A cou­ple of his fa­vorite fish­ing spots he men­tioned are Bar­ren, Blood­sworth, and South Marsh is­lands in the bay.

“Bar­ren Is­land was a smoker last year,” he said, “in April, May, Septe­me­ber, Oc­to­ber, and even Novem­ber.”

Dal­h­berg cov­ers a lot of wa­ter when he’s look­ing for fish, and told the crowd “I don’t stay in any place long. If they’re not here to­day, I’m mov­ing on.”

When the wa­ter is 55 de­grees in the morn­ing, he said, It’ll be 60 by noon or 1 o’clock. That’s the time to start think­ing about fish­ing the shal­low wa­ter of the is­lands. He looks for birds along the shore­line be­cause “those birds tell me bait­fish are in there.” And that means big fish are lurk­ing, too.

The room was all ears when he went over a wide va­ri­ety of baits he likes.

Dal­h­berg rec­om­mends wind cheaters, storm shads and walk-the-dog lures. And when it comes to color (which is al­ways a big ques­tion when striper sea­son gets un­der­way), he un­equiv­o­cally pro­claimed char­treuse for sunny days and pur­ple glit­ter for when it’s cloudy and early in the morn­ing.

Judg­ing from the pho­tos of the fish his clients caught last year, and the smiles on every­one’s faces, you’re bound to

en­joy a char­ter out with Dal­h­berg. To book a fish­ing trip for 2017, give him a call at Four Sea­sons Guide Ser­vice and Light Tackle Char­ter at 703-395-9955.

Re­mem­ber­ing old times

It’s too early yet for the an­nual Oys­ter Fes­ti­val or the county fair, but I’ll be head­ing to the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds for one of my fa­vorite events next week­end.

This event doesn’t have much to do with hunt­ing or fish­ing, but I guar­an­tee if you go, you’ll spend at least an hour on your feet, get­ting some ex­er­cise walk­ing around and bend­ing over, and you’ll leave with a smile on your face and plenty of books to keep you en­ter­tained in­side if the cold weather sticks around a lit­tle longer.

When I was grow­ing up, I had the dis­tinct ad­van­tage (or dis­ad­van­tage, de­pend­ing on your point of view) of hav­ing two par­ents who were fifth-grade band teach­ers.

Yes, they knew ex­actly what I was do­ing in school at all times and had a di­rect line to my teach­ers that they weren’t afraid to use (that would be the dis­ad­van­tage), but within the 10 schools be­tween them, they had a lot of good friends in the right places.

If I ever needed a pH me­ter for a sci­ence fair project or a tim­pani drum to prac­tice on for All-County band try­outs, chances were my par­ents knew some­one who could help. All those years of ex­po­sure to bur­geon­ing trum­pet and trom­bone “mu­sic” left my par­ents with some hear­ing loss also and, as you can imag­ine, that came in pretty handy for get­ting back into the house after cur­few when I was in high school.

Look­ing back at my child­hood, it’s easy to see which teach­ers had the most in­flu­ence on me. But the one per­son who sticks out in my mind wasn’t my teacher. She didn’t even work at the school I went to. Her name is Becky Ben­ton and she was the li­brar­ian at Mid­dle­ton Ele­men­tary School in Wal­dorf.

I bet some of you are nod­ding your head right now. I can’t be the only per­son with whom she shared the power of books. My mom would go into Mid­dle­ton twice a week (it was one of those open-plan schools, if you re­call, and the li­brary was right smack dab in the mid­dle) and Becky would al­ways have some­thing for me.

Those books trans­formed me into a reader, kept me up late at night read­ing un­der my cov­ers long after I should have been asleep, and are the same ones, 30 years later, that I’ve shared with my own daugh­ters, so they could know and love the very char­ac­ters and sto­ries that molded me when I was their age.

An­other ad­van­tage of hav­ing par­ents who worked with kids was that they were of­ten asked for ad­vice by their stu­dents, so they were adept at giv­ing my sis­ter and me ad­vice, too. My dad was so good at giv­ing ad­vice that, when I was in high school, there was as good a chance that my friends were call­ing the house to talk to my dad as to me.

As an adult, I still asked him for ad­vice reg­u­larly. I’ll never for­get the time I called him when my three older kids had friends over, eight girls in all, and the bick­er­ing amongst them was mak­ing the af­ter­noon un­bear­able for every­one.

Sev­eral of the girls were cry­ing and I was al­most in tears my­self. When I called my dad to ask what I should do, he quipped, “Why are you call­ing me? I only had two daugh­ters. You’re the ex­pert.”

We laughed, and then he gave me some sound ad­vice that has got­ten me out of a jam with a gag­gle of emo­tional girls a cou­ple of times since, and which I’m happy to pass along — al­ways keep your freezer stocked with pop­si­cles.

When I was grow­ing up, he’d of­ten share lit­tle tid­bits he’d picked up over the years with me.

“The smartest kids sit in the back of the class­room,” he’d tell me.

Now I’m not sure that fact has sci­en­tific ba­sis or is just some per­sonal knowl­edge he gained from the ex­pe­ri­ence of teach­ing all those years, but there’s prob­a­bly some truth to it. I never did like sit­ting in the back, though, and when­ever I’d pick my seat, even in col­lege, I would feel a lit­tle like I was let­ting him down when I’d choose a seat near the front.

An­other one he shared with me quite of­ten was that the num­ber of books in a house di­rectly cor­re­lates to the aca­demic achieve­ment of the kids who live there. And yes, that one is ac­tual sta­tis­ti­cal fact. We re­ally are what we read. It’s ad­vice I took to heart when rais­ing my own kids, and it’s paid big div­i­dends. My older two daugh­ters are both read­ers, and the younger ones are shap­ing up to fol­low in their big sis­ters’ foot­steps.

I ran into Becky Ben­ton at my kids’ school last year. As luck would have it, her grand­daugh­ter and my daugh­ter are in the same class. She told me about the Friends of the Li­brary book sale, and on a lark, the kids and I stopped by on our way home from school that day. We brought sev­eral bags of books home that evening, and then headed back the next day for more be­cause there were just so many books we couldn’t look through them all in one af­ter­noon.

This year, I’m pick­ing my kids up early from school so we can be the first ones in line for the sale. Some­times there are things in life that are just more im­por­tant than school, like go­ing fish­ing the day after the lo­cal ponds are stocked with trout or get­ting the last two orig­i­nal Nancy Drew hard­cov­ers you need to com­plete your col­lec­tion.

Thank you, Becky, for send­ing those books home with my mom. If only ev­ery child could have some­one like you to open their eyes to the won­der of a good book.

The book sale takes place March 24 to 26. Only mem­bers of the Friends of the Li­brary can shop the sale on Fri­day, and you can pur­chase a mem­ber­ship for $15 at the door. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. March 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 25 and noon to 4 p.m. on Sun­day.

If you live in Charles County, the Spring 2017 Used Book Bazaar starts April 22 at the li­brary in La Plata. For those re­sid­ing in Calvert County, the Spring Side­walk Book Sale is May 20th at the Prince Fred­er­ick lo­ca­tion.

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