By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
CAMBRIDGE, MD. — In spite of all the great destinations along the Delmarva shore, some folks decide that poking around Pocomoke City, taking an island cruise from either Point Lookout or Crisfield to Tangier and Smith Islands or fishing from a pier jutting out over the Choptank is for them.
One such fellow is Tony Averella, of Baltimore. Tony had been working his assortment of crab traps from his post along the two-mile long fishing pier at the Choptank River on July 21st until deciding to pack up about noon following a close encounter with a turtle.
This particular turtle came very close to being in Tony’s soup pot at the worst, or simply being measured and photographed at the very least, but in any event, this turtle was well fed as he is a prime suspect in the larceny of all the bait from several crab traps.
Tony relates that he was pulling up one trap loaded with the turtle when he got it nearly to the pier and the line snapped. Down went trap and turtle and all.
The day was slow for crabbing with two prime keepers on ice and many small crabs and females tossed back.
The pier is the old U. S. 50 drawbridge over the Choptank at Cambridge and was retained as a mecca for fisherfolks due to the hard work and leadership of the famed late Baltimore Sun fishing writer Bill Burton.
The State was prepared to remove the entire bridge structure and demolish it, when Burton lead the effort to keep the bridge and simply remove the draw span.
The remainder, in two sections, now serves the public as a state park entirely over water, one of the few in the region, and allows fisherfolks to gain access to prime fishing without having to own a boat.
It is necessary for adults to have Maryland fishing licenses for fish and for crabbing. It helps to have kids to haul stuff for the family on the long trek out on the bridge, and due to the paved surface, the bridge is an ideal place for the disabled to scoot out for a day of fishing, providing one can use a porta potty.
There are several picnic tables with covers and those fishing can always bring their own umbrellas along with coolers on wheels. No booze is allowed at the Bill Burton State Park.
The only traffic on the pier is that created by people while the new bridge nearby carries autos and trucks and commercial fishing boats provide plenty to look at while waiting for the fish to bite.
Tony has been fishing the pier for a long time, and was there many times over the years when it was still carrying traffic across the river.
“We often caught various those old blowfish and horseshoe crabs which were hard to get off your lines but a slight backhand of the rod brought the end of the line into the line of traffic and by the end of the day there were a lot of fish along the curb,” said Tony.
Nowadays, those fishing from the pier will have to deal with unwanted catches in a different way.
The pier reaching out over the river from the Cambridge side is much shorter than from the Talbot County side of the pier.
Tony recalls that everyone on the eastern shore side of the Chesapeake Bay knew Bill Burton and had met him at one fishing spot or another.
He said that Burton got his best tips in bars when liquored up fishermen revealed their best fishing holes and strategies.
“You would open the paper and there it was right in his column,” said Averella.
The 1992 legislation authorizing for the first time, the creation of a saltwater fishing license for recreational fishing, was designated to have the funds used for establishing fish reefs and fishing piers in Maryland.
The people of the State of Maryland got a great bargain in keeping the Choptank River Bridge and reusing the resource for moving traffic into recreation, mainly due to the efforts of Bill Burton.
Maryland seldom names anything for anyone other than a politician. In this case, the name fits the legacy.