SEVEN GABLES ISLAND, MD. — Though I was only four or five years old, I still remember my first charter boat fishing trip on the Chesapeake Bay.
When my Dad told me I was going fishing, I got my toy plastic reel and steel rod that had a rubber hook for snatching up open mouthed plastic goldfish in a dexterity game.
I cut off the rubber hook with safety scissors and tied on a Christmas ornament hook. I was ready to catch a fish.
Capt. Bill Dixon from Town Creek must have been amused as I carried my rig onto his boat with my Dad, his business partner Howard Carpenter, and members of our families.
I insisted on only using my rod. When we got into a school of bluefish, I took a silverside minnow that was spit out from one of the boated blues, hooked it on the ornament hook, and hung it over the side.
Then somewhere during the course of a feeding frenzy, I hooked a bluefish on my little rig. I cranked the few feet of line in with the fish hanging on the hook. I had caught a fish with my rod. That was enough for me.
Years later, I learned that Howard had slipped the fish on my hook when I was distracted.
Regardless, that set in motion a fishing transition from cane poles, to Zebco spin cast reels, a fancy fly rod, open face spinning reels, and deep sea trolling combos.
I saved my quarters for all manner of fishing gear: jitterbugs, Rebel lures, plastic worms, bobbers, snelled hooks, and the annual edition of Fishing in Maryland which I devoured.
Every year, we fished with Capt. Bill. He was our Chesapeake Bay captain. I remember most of the trips and used his rods after my first trip. Always, we brought back a washtub full of bluefish, rockfish, or sea trout.
I was in the seventh or eighth grade attending Leonard Hall Jr. Naval Academy when I last fished with Capt. Bill.
Though spinning combos are part of every charter boats arsenal now, forty five years ago, the Penn boat rods and trolling reels were the order of the day.
Capt. Bill shook his head at the new fangled rig.
The plan for that charter which I knew in advance was to locate and drift for sea trout. I tied on a double hook rig just like he had his rods outfitted.
Capt. Bill could read his old flasher fish recorder like no one else on the Bay. Time after time, he put us on a school of weakfish hungry for our peeler crab baits.
We caught sixty sea trout that day. I had a great time and caught thirty trout myself with my rod and reel. Late in the day, Capt. Bill walked over to me, picked up my rig, and tested the action by bending the tip of the rod. He smiled at me knowing that I had selected the right rig for the right day.
The kid was ready to fish with his own rod.