Story by Danita Boonchaisri
Every once in a while, a special day comes along…With the Chesapeake Bay as a backdrop, a charter boat adventure can be just such a day.
Far from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and farther still from their hospital beds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a group of soldiers spent a day last fall aboard the Miss Regina II fishing and telling stories. That's the gift a trio of fishing veterans gave to four recovering soldiers. ??Jim Mayer, of the Wounded Warrior Project, John Tierno of American Legion Post 274 in Lusby, Maryland, and Captain Robbie Robinson of Solomons took the men out to catch fish and rejuvenate their spirits.
Mayer said, "As soon as we got on the water, each man began telling stories about what happened to him on the battlefield and how he was recovering from his injuries. They were making plans for the future and talking about their hopes and dreams. It was just regular guys going fishing for the day," he said. "It was incredible."
On the water, some say a sense of calm comes over you. "You're in a small contained unit on a boat," says Mayer. "You can't go anywhere so it's easy to let down your guard a bit. These men had gone through trauma, wounds and recovery and they learned to talk about it with each other. We caught fish, brought them back and cooked them at the Post. The boys didn't want to leave and I was honored to be able to do this for them." As one soldier put it, "No matter what the weather is like or what I catch, it's one day that I won't have to be the hospital."
For some, the joy of fishing comes from seeing it through someone else's eyes. Kevin Bissell could think of no better way to share a beautiful day with his sister-in-law, Lucie, than to take her on a charter excursion. "She has been fighting cancer off and on for several years," said Bissell. "She just needed a pick-me-up. It was a beautiful day when we went out. It was just Lucie, my dad and me out on the water and not an hour after we went out we dropped our lines and started catching fish. She loved it; you could tell by the smile on her face that she was having a great time."
Both Bissell and Lucie love fishing. "It gets in your blood," he says. "There's nothing like being on the bay fighting a monster fish, bringing it in, filleting it and throwing it on the grill. You smell that rockfish frying with butter, lemon pepper and dill- that's a perfect day. It doesn't get any better."
For others, charter boat fishing is all about a wacky day of letting down your hair with the girls. Each summer for the past several years, nearly 30 fun-loving ladies from Southern Maryland have come together for a day of laughter, sunshine and camaraderie. They usually meet on a Friday morning after kids and husbands are shuttled off for the day and gather at a special spot- the stern end of a boat that promises to haul them into the Chesapeake Bay for a sun-filled day of fun.
Edie Hoover of Port Republic is one who has enjoyed this annual ritual for years. She admits that the first couple times the group ventured out, they made the first mate earn his money. "We just sat there giggling the whole time," she said. While many of the ladies, including Hoover, love the sport of fishing, she admits there are some who couldn't care less about it. "I actually like reeling in fish and taking home what I catch but for some it's like a cruise; they just enjoy the food and being outdoors with friends."
Hoover jokes that "what happens on the boat stays on the boat" and the only rule is that no men are allowed except for the captain and the first mate. Each year different friends unite and some bring along new recruits so the group is constantly forging friendships, drawn together for a few hours as they enjoy the action of Chesapeake Bay fishing. "A day on the bay is a special treat that takes us away from our responsibilities for a few hours," says Hoover. "It's beautiful and it's so close and easy for us to enjoy here in Southern Maryland."
Whether for an outing with family, friends or business colleagues or for celebrating a birthday or romantic anniversary, a charter excursion can be just the adventure to make an occasion special. And, from housewives and professional working women to soldiers or longtime buddies, there's rarely a person who doesn't have a good time reeling in a day's catch.
The joy of charter fishing wouldn't be possible without the experience and dedication of the captains and their crew - all of whom enjoy nothing more than sharing their love of the water with customers.
Margie Dove, along with her husband, Bernie, captains the Margie D of Solomons. She has been fishing the bay for 20 years and also has a fondness for the open water and thrill of catching feisty fish. Her earliest memories are from when she was a little girl, going out with her grandparents on the South River.
As one of the first female charter boat captains on the bay, Janet Rupp has been at it for 36 years. Working from Herrington Harbour in Friendship, Maryland with her husband Joe, aboard the Lucky Duck, Rupp's perfect day is simple: "There is nothing better than going out when the wind is calm, the sun is bright and the fish are biting."
Russ Mogel, a charter boat captain from Chesapeake Beach, has seen quite a bit of the bay in his 38 years of fishing. He admits there's a lot of work keeping the Mary Lou Too running and ensuring his customers have a great time - no matter whether they are novices or experienced fishermen or women. "I maintain a safe and clean boat," he says, "that's important. But I also work with people. I enjoy giving them an experience, getting them exposed to the bay, pointing out landmarks, talking about equipment and fishing techniques and showing them a good time."
"People come out fishing to have a good time and clown around," agrees Stan Harris of St. Mary's County. He has taken out men in their eighties and little boys fishing with their fathers for the first time. "Some people come back two or three times a year and I've even had three generations of customers who've fished with me," he says. Many of his customers are construction workers, electricians, plumbers and mechanics- "everyday men," he calls them. On a boat that he built and named after his wife, Harris is a waterman to the bone. He has been a charter captain since 1975 and has skippered the 45-foot Miss Bea since 2000. "She took me two years and 13 days to build by hand," he said
As captain of Killin' Time, Chuck Howes loves the work he does. "You get to pick where you want to go, you're outside dealing with Mother Nature and every day is a new adventure." Howes has been a captain since 1995; he grew up on his family's farm on the banks of the Patuxent River.
There is no question that the Chesapeake Bay is a unique and bountiful body of water. It has an allure that many people have difficulty explaining. Perhaps Kevin Bissell says it best: "It's peaceful, it's relaxing and it's tranquil. Sometimes I can feel closer to God out on the water than I can sitting in church. The Chesapeake Bay is nature at its greatest."
Charter Boat Fishing
To schedule your own adventure, contact a charter boat captain:
Margie D: Captains Margie and Bernie Dove
443-532-0930 or http://www.margied01.com
Mary Lou Too: Russ Mogel
301-855-0784 or http://www.maryloutoocharters.com
Lucky Duck: Captains Janet and Joe Rupp
410-257-2927 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Miss Bea: Captain Stan Harris
301-872-5884 or e-mail email@example.com
Killin' Time: Captain Chuck Howes
301-855-3462 or www.killintime.net
Or contact a regional charter boat fishing association:
St. Mary's County: http://www.visitstmarysmd.com/charters.asp
Calvert County: http://www.ecalvert.com/content/tourism/visitorsguide/boating/
Charles County: http://www.marylandcharterboats.com
Herrington Harbour: http://www.herringtonharbour.com/fishing.html
Upper Bay Charter Captains Association: www.baycaptains.com
Breezy Point Charter Boat Association: http://www.breezypointmarina.com/charterboats.htm
Chesapeake Beach Fishing Charters: http://www.chesapeakefishingcharters.com
Rod & Reel Charter Fishing Association: http://www.chesapeakebeachresortspa.com/charter-fishing.htm
Solomons Charter Captains Association: www.fishsolomon.com
Scheibles Charter Boat Fishing: scheibles.homestead.com/CharterBoat.html
Southern Maryland Fishing: http://www.southernmarylandfishing.com
Charter fishing excursions are available in St. Mary's, Anne Arundel, Charles and Calvert counties. Costs range from about $500 to $750. (Also, be prepared to tip your first mate.) Fish cleaning services are an extra charge. Trips aboard a head boat costs about $40 to $60 per person. A fishing license is not needed for charter boat fishing or to fish Maryland's coastal bays and the Atlantic. However, a Chesapeake Bay Sport Fishing license is required to fish the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Please note: this list is limited to our research. It is great place to begin your search. We apologize for anyone we may have missed.