- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

RIDGE, Md.

Visit Buzz’s Marina on the scenic St. Jerome’s Creek in St. Mary’s County and you’ll immediately notice an anomaly. While every boat in Buzz’s neat system of docks rests in its slip with the bow pointed toward the open water, there will be one that prefers it the opposite way.

“For me, it’s bad luck to leave the marina with the boat’s bow pointed in a direction that most people would prefer,” said Charles Stewart, the skipper of a well-appointed 26-footer. “I need to back the boat out into the creek stern first, then comes the rest. I’ve had bad fishing luck doing it the other way.

“You don’t have any bananas in that bag, do you?” he asked. “I won’t allow even one banana on the boat. They’re bad luck, too. Either the fish won’t bite, or some terrible thing will happen if there’s a banana aboard.”

Satisfied that I was free of the tropical curse, the Stewarts - Charles and brother Robert - shook my hand and then quickly unlashed the dock lines.

Minutes later, Stewart’s powerful outboard motor pushed the sparkling clean craft through the sandbar-surrounded creek mouth and entered the Chesapeake Bay. In the distance, a bit to the left, loomed the Point No Point Lighthouse, but Charles headed south, steering his roofed fiberglass boat toward Point Lookout.

Although the weather people had forecast gentle southeast winds, we encountered stiff breezes straight from the south. The Bay began to get “lumpy,” as water-loving St. Mary’s County residents say.

The Stewarts soon rounded the southernmost tip of Maryland’s western shore, carefully skirting the lengthy sandbar that pokes out from Point Lookout, and headed into the broad mouth of the Potomac River - destination Cornfield Harbor.

The water-filled area on the Maryland side of the river is neither a cornfield nor a harbor. What it is, however, is one of the richest flounder fishing spots anywhere in Maryland - and that includes the Atlantic Ocean bays that require a three-hour drive by car and plenty of drifting with minnow baits in rental skiffs or private craft.

In the Potomac’s Cornfield Harbor stretch, some boaters do the same, using lightly weighted bottom rigs in water depths of 10 to 14 feet, most of it not far from shore, letting the wind or tide push them along to find the flat delicacies. But that’s not for the Stewart brothers.

The two southern Marylanders troll for their flounder in deep river water.

By studying the screen of a fine color-screen depth locator, they find river channel ledges that slide from 20 feet into depths of 30 feet or more. Once located, they release hooks on at least 18 to 20 inches of leader that is tied to a swivel. One end of the swivel contains a snap to which 10- or 12-ounce in-line sinkers are attached. The hooks carry either 6- to 8-inch-long, finger-thick strips of bluefish fillet or large bull minnows.

Five minutes after we released our lines, the boat moving along at less than 2 mph, Robert’s rod doubled over.

Just like that, the smiling fisherman reeled in a 23-inch-long, thick-bodied flounder. Charles netted it, and the three of us smiled like the Cheshire cat.

Twenty-five flounder later, with the wind kicking up a fuss, Charles said: “Mind you, some folks will say that we actually were not in the Cornfield Harbor waters, but we are. This place is big, and we’re on the outer edges of it.”

We caught flounder with abandon. Now and then a youthful bluefish would sample the baits, but most of our catches were flatties, and most missed the minimum required size. They measured more than 15 inches, sometimes less, yet all three of us also hooked legal specimens.

The Stewarts are convinced that being there without bananas did it.

The Maryland recreational summer flounder season ends Sept. 13. In the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, you can keep only one a day of 16 1/2 inches long. In the Atlantic and its bays, you may keep three flounder daily, but they must at least be 18 inches long.

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. Also check out Mueller’s weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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