- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2007

LEXINGTON PARK, Md.

It was a strange sight, as rare as lunar eclipses and something to recall in years to come. A major holiday was just around the corner. The fish were supposed to be biting without the bait casters having to work hard at it. But not a soul was on the massive Point Lookout State Park fishing pier. It is unheard of, particularly this time of year.

When a fireball sun finally rose over the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore, Bobby Sims showed up. He stood at the entrance of the pier and shook his head.

“I can’t believe this,” he said. “Yesterday, this place was jam-packed with fishermen. What happened?”

Sims knows about the goings-on in St. Mary’s County because he’s a ranger in the popular state park at Maryland’s southernmost tip of the bay’s western side.

Perhaps all the anglers who didn’t show up knew something we didn’t, but sure enough, the croakers and rockfish would not bite. Eventually, I bade Sims farewell as he continued drowning slivers of snow-white squid and small whole shrimp.

There’s no telling why the fish didn’t attack the offered food. Heck, I’d have eaten those baits if pushed to do so.

It was time to put Plan B into effect, which meant making a pit stop at an old friend’s tackle shop on Route 235 in Lexington Park and complaining about the lousy morning I’d had.

Ken Lamb, the proprietor of the locally famous Tackle Box that is the place to visit if you want to know where the fish are biting and what they’re biting on, was incredulous.

“Nothing happening on the Point Lookout pier?” he asked. “That’s unheard of.”

While checking over a fresh supply of fish fillet knives and purchasing a new long-bladed model — as if I needed more knives — I told Lamb, “I went down there because you sent an e-mail saying the pier fishermen were whacking the croakers.”

Lamb listened to my accusing tone and it must have had the proper effect.

“Watch the store,” he told one of his employees. “I’ll be back shortly.”

He practically ordered me into his pickup truck and less than 20 minutes later we climbed aboard a shaky aluminum boat tied to a dock on the shore of a small, tidal Patuxent River feeder creek. Lamb smiled like the Cheshire cat.

“You’ll catch some fish now even if nothing is biting around the Point Lookout pier,” he said, then pushed the little boat away from his dock.

He handed me a light spinning rod, its reel filled with good line that was tied to a 1/8-ounce orange-and-green Beetlespin lure, but before I could cast it toward a series of fallen trees and waterlogged branches, Lamb attached a small, meaty piece cut from a crab’s backfin. He did the same to his lure.

“Fish on!” he said after his second cast and I echoed the battle cry used by all serious anglers a moment later. Both of us were into white perch.

What joy. What relief.

The perch were among the early arrivals inside any of the river’s tributaries and they weren’t the biggest — yet. In the days to come, there’ll be 9- to 12-inch beauties caught and everybody in Southern Maryland and the Northern Neck of Virginia already agrees that there’s nothing better than fried white perch — whole or filleted.

What made my day a total winner was when I needed a friend who could save the day, Lamb did just that. Lamb and I finished our brief outing with a number of frisky white perch and when I drove north toward Charles County and my home, I promised myself that the next time I walk into the Tackle Box I’ll buy two fillet knives. Lamb just might decide to launch a bigger boat and take me flounder or striper fishing.

What a guy!

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

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