Stink Bait

By Cap’n Larry Jarboe
THE CHESAPEAKE

  Carl Stewart was one of my favorite fishing buddies who has moved on to that great fishing hole in the sky.  He was my father-in-law as well.  I thought his daughter also harbored the same passion for fishing, but it only lasted till we got married.  That is another story.

   Sometime in the mid-80’s, Carl drove from Springfield, Ohio to our home in Patuxent Knolls for a visit and vacation.  It was early spring about this time of year.   I had just launched my 25′ KenCraft that I kept at the community dock in Golden Beach.

   We decided to run up the river on Easter Sunday as most everybody should be in church and we would have the whole Chalk Point power plant canal for our own private use.

   The day before, we had gone to Paulie Thompson’s fish house to pick up some herring for bait.  There were no herring left.  I noticed that high up in the fish case were three black mullet.  I had never seen a fresh black mullet in Maryland, but I knew the fish catching potential of these oily bait fish.  So, I was happy to purchase all three mullet.

   Upon arriving home, I cut the mullet into bait strips.  Put the strips in a quart jar.  Poured menhaden oil inside. And, placed the capped mix in the fridge.

   On Easter morn, Carl and I took our rods, cooler, and chilled congealed stink bait to the boat and headed upriver.  When we got to the discharge channel of the power plant, there were at least a dozen other boats who had also figured the same strategy.

   Humbly, we eased into the swarm and anchored trying to keep a respecful distance from the multitude of fishing neighbors who had also avoided Easter service.  We baited up four rods with the pungent slick baits and cast out around the boat.

   There was an ultra-light rod of mine that had a very short handle.  It was equipped with a small Gold Penn spinning reel.  I asked Carl to place it in the flush mount rod holder carefully as it could easily pop out.  A few minutes later,  the rod flew out of the holder and into the water as the first catfish struck.

   Carl felt pretty bad but I learned a good, albeit expensive, lesson about stubby rod handles.  Neither one of us had much time to morn the lost rig as the cats started biting like crazy.

   Out of the three rods left, one rod was always occupied with a fish on.  Most times, we were both cranking in catfish.  No one on any of the other boats had caught a fish and we were throwing catfish in the cooler by the dozen.

   About a half hour into the feeding frenzy, Carl had a fish on amidships in the stern.  I had just hooked a channel cat on the port side and the starboard rod bent over hard.  I reached across and set the hook.  Now, I had a rod in each hand on either side of the boat and no hand free to crank.

   Undaunted, I alternately stuck the handle of each reel in my mouth and cranked a few turns by spinning my head.  When both fish had come to the surface beside the boat, I made a sweeping fluid motion with the two rods and dropped both fish simulaneously into the cooler.

   One of the nearby skiffs then putt-putted over.  The fisherman said to us, “I’ve been watching you guys catch fish for the past half hour and none of us have gotten a bite.  That last move was the last straw.  What are you using for bait?”

   I told him, “I’m going to tell you, but you will not believe me.  We are using cut black mullet soaked in menhaden oil.”

   I might have just as well said that we were using pickled squid lips.  He looked at me, sniffed the smelly jar, and motored away shaking his head.

   Sometimes, the truth stinks.

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