- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

MARSHALL HALL, Md.

For us, New Year’s Day 2006 was no different than many others that passed before it. As has been our custom, the local fishing guide Andy Andrzejewski and I greeted the first day of the year with rod and reel in hand. However, last Sunday a small twist was added. It turned out to be a fun handicap. Nothing serious, but responsible for lots of laughs. Let me explain.

Andrzejewski invited an old friend, Donald Satterfield, to come and celebrate the new year with us. Satterfield, a bass tournament angler who lives in Woodford, near Ladysmith, Va., is a happy fellow and skilled in every facet of our sport. However, he doesn’t speak English. When he opens his mouth you hear an odd type of Virginia dialect that even Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary never explains.

For example, when Satterfield notices a fish splashing on the surface behind a partner, he might suddenly erupt in a guttural, “Bind’ya, bind’ya.” When he hooks a fish — any species — all you’re likely to hear is, “Bassbustinwater’yond’r, dam’sitedid.” The words kind of swim together as they bubble from Satterfield’s smiling face.

We launched Andrzejewski’s 22-foot bass boat at the Marshall Hall ramp in Charles County and ran up the Potomac River in the frosty morning air, fully aware that there’d be other boaters around the Wilson Bridge area. The day’s weather forecast called for 45-degree temperatures, and that’s all our local fishermen need to hear. If the wind is absent and temperatures are climbing, they’ll be out in the slightly warmer waters that are found below the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant.

We weren’t disappointed. As we idled under new and old bridge structures and slowly entered the Spoils Cove on the Maryland side of the river, we counted 16 boats, their occupants busily casting lures or live minnows in a search for crappies or bass.

Satterfield looked at the collection of watercraft and promptly said something that sounded like, “Dang guy o’yond’r hunga croppie jess’now.” Andrzejewski, who somehow understands every grunt uttered by his friend, translated for me. “He said that darned guy over yonder hung a crappie just now.”

So started our New Year’s outing.

We started fishing around the huge cement slab islands found inside the cove, looking for bass and crappies while jigging various Power Bait and Sting Ray grubs. Satterfield and Andrzejewski actually hooked the first fish of 2006. Both men simultaneously snatched up young crappies, which they released, then resumed the slow jigging and hopping of the lures across the snag-filled cove’s bottom.

It wasn’t long and the three of us had well more than a dozen crappies. A bit of a wind began to blow and I felt the winter chill. Andrzejewski sipped hot coffee from his thermos bottle. Satterfield was casting a Sting Ray grub and speaking in his native tongue, bewildering me while the fishing guide grinned from ear to ear. I suddenly felt a soft tap on my line and instinctively set the hook with a quick upward swing of the rod. It turned out to be my first bass of 2006 — a fat, sassy specimen that already displayed the pale green color found on these fish during the winter months.

By 2 p.m., the three of us had caught and released more than 20 crappies and three bass. We kept eight of the speckled crappies for dinner.

It was a perfect beginning to 2006. Even Satterfield was happy and he said something about how good the fishing was in this Virginia river.

We didn’t have the heart to tell him the Potomac belonged to Maryland.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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