- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

Outdoors

RIDGE, Md. —The Edith Rose left her dock before sunrise, creeping along, her diesel engines growling as if they disliked moving so slow in the pre-dawn hour. Then, with brilliant daylight finally arriving, the immaculate 46-footer showed how much power she could deliver and quickly rounded Smith Creek's southeastern corner to enter the Potomac River.
"Let's see," shouted the Edith Rose's captain, Eddie Davis, "I think we'll start the day with a few sea trout, then move on to find a couple of rockfish for everybody, and we'll end the morning with breaking blues by the dozen. Those bluefish are like lawnmowers; they'll chew up anything they see, including topwater lures, and if that doesn't work we'll catch 'em chumming. One way or another we'll be back home before it gets too hot out there."
What nerve.
Who would actually predict the day's fish catches, knowing full well that such braggadocio could make someone look awfully foolish if the fish didn't cooperate?
However, the threat of failure never causes Eddie Davis even a moment's concern. This St. Mary's County native, who speaks disparagingly of any charter boat operator who is not a full-time captain he prefers it if his peers breathed salt air since the day they were born has been so singularly successful over the years that whenever our little group needs Chesapeake Bay fishing action in a brief span of time, he and his charter captain son, Steve, are among the few Bay professionals we'll depend on to deliver the action. The Davis clan's fish-finding skills are the stuff legends are made of.
For example, after announcing that we would start the day with sea trout, the elder Davis ran through a slightly choppy lower Potomac and, within sight of the Point Lookout lighthouse, slowed the boat to a crawl, then suddenly shut off the engines and hollered, "They're under us. Put 'em over the side." The command meant that the three spinning rods that already had been rigged with small silvery jigs or soft plastic, fringed tubes should be dropped into the 25-foot-deep water and allowed to sink. Then they should be lifted straight up slowly a couple of feet and let fall back down, ever mindful for quirky movements in the line that can be interpreted as a sea trout snatching up one of the wobbling, descending artificials.
On the first drift along the edges of a place known as Cornfield Harbor, Robbie McKay and Bob Rice put two fat trout into the boat, and I hooked one only moments later.
"There you go," Davis said. "I told you, didn't I?" And just as quick as the trout were put on ice, the charter fishing operator said, "Let's look for breaking fish. Rockfish, especially."
He fired up the engines and charged into the Chesapeake Bay, steering the snow-white Edith Rose in an easterly direction. In an instant, Davis picked up a pair of binoculars that sat on a broad shelf above what car owners would call a dashboard and said, "There they are, over there. I'm sure they're rockfish."
Indeed, they were striped bass, and we hooked a couple on topwater poppers and propeller lures, but the stripers disappeared as quickly as they had surfaced, chasing a school of baitfish. The lull in the action didn't last more than five minutes because the Edith Rose's three anglers soon were up to their elbows in 2- to 2—pound snapper bluefish thousands of them, chewing up schools of minnows or shiners, slamming into spoons and surface lures in a tremendous feeding frenzy.
When our arms began to ache from reeling in fish, keeping a few, letting many others go, we accepted Davis' offer to do a little chumming. "Heck," he said, "you watched me buy a bushel of menhaden. We might as well use them. One of the other captains told me over the radio that he was into a bunch of blues. Let's grind up some bait and go chumming."
He came alongside his friend's charter boat, released a heavy anchor from an electric winch, filleted a couple of menhaden, cut finger-long bait pieces from them, quickly ground up the oily baitfish and began ladling dollops of the fragrant melange into the bay's green water.
We snapped small bait hooks to short metal leaders, which in turn were tied to the monofilament that was spooled onto the spinning reels, then added a small piece of menhaden fillet and soon let it drift into the quickly spreading chum.
Yes, we caught more bluefish, some beautiful striped bass and even a fat croaker, and soon we shook our heads when the skipper suggested running to another hot spot to try for of all things redfish. "I can probably find a couple," he said, but we told him that would have to wait for another day because our muscles ached. Not only that, the wind picked up speed, and distant thunderheads began to gather. It was time to go.
One thing is certain: If you're looking for a superbly skilled captain who now and then allows salty language to underscore a point, Eddie Davis is your man. Call him at 301/872-5871.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail:[email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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