- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

RIDGE, Md. On a hazy Monday afternoon, Bill Park climbed aboard the Ellen S the way you would expect an octogenarian to board a charter fishing boat carefully, mindful of every step. But the moment Park got comfortable in a deck chair, he was raring to go.
"I've been coming down here for 35 years. I love to fish," he said. The "down here" is Scheible's Fishing Center, on the shores of Smith Creek, only a hop from one of the richest areas for fish in the Chesapeake Bay, Point Lookout and vicinity.
When Park was asked why he had come to Scheible's for so many years, he laughed as if the questioner suffered from a lack of knowledge concerning the local piscatorial scene. "That's an easy one to answer," he said. "I catch plenty of fish, and the people here are so nice. What else can a man ask for?"
What indeed?
The Scheible clan is one of a number of fishing family dynasties in Chesapeake Bay country; others include the Abners in Chesapeake Beach, the Harrisons on Tilghman Island and the Gootees of Church Creek, near Hooper Island. When you visit Scheible's Fishing Center it's a kind of happening. You come for the fishing but also might spend a night in the family motel or eat in its restaurant. It's the complete package for people like Dave Turner, who drove the long distance to the lowest parts of St. Mary's County from his home in Pasadena, which is not far from Baltimore.
Under a light breeze, the Ellen S left its berth, destination Point Lookout, and once around the point, then across the ship channel to the eastern side of the bay. That's when things became interesting.
The captain of the charter vessel, Bruce Scheible, who has been a licensed skipper for 42 years, nonchalantly said, "We'll drift over an area I know and catch bluefish and stripers. I'll grind up a bunch of chum, and everybody aboard will use a piece of menhaden on their spinning outfits. When we have enough of that, we'll go to another place and catch ourselves croakers, maybe a few sea trout."
Just like that?
"Piece of cake," Scheible added as he smiled from ear to ear.
But the lower the sun dropped in the west, the more the wind blew. "It's a southeaster," said Scheible, wallowing through considerable swells in an area of the Chesapeake that is wide open and miles wide. There simply aren't any places to hide behind and get shelter from the wind. However, as long as Scheible smiled so confidently, who had time to worry?
Bait needed to be prepared, which meant first mate Jim Swisher and the boat's summertime second mate, Swisher's daughter Megan, started cutting fillets from the backs of oily menhaden, tearing out fish "gizzards," which look like thumb tip-sized kidneys but are a veritable fish magnet for hungry blues and whatever else swims about.
The two boat mates handed spinning rods to Park, who lives in Silver Spring, and a number of his friends from the District, including Raymond Mitchell and Ronald Brown.
No sooner had the chum grinder provided a batch of the oily fish food when the men aboard the Ellen S attached a sliver of menhaden and a fish gizzard to a 1/0 hook that was attached to a short metal leader. The line from the reels generally consisted of 12-pound monofilament.
The boat drifted along, and the baits slowly sank in the rolling Chesapeake's water.
Bang! The first bluefish was landed by 14-year-old Megan, who snatched up one of the unattended rods in a tube holder on the stern of the boat. It was a "snapper" blue a youngster weighing no more than 1 or 2 pounds, perfect for fried, battered fillets. Shortly after that, everybody aboard dragged, reeled, fought, huffed and puffed with various bluefish, even a fat few sea trout and rockfish.
Night fell as the waves rose evermore, but the fish catches increased along with the roiled water. It wasn't long before our gang of anglers was satisfied, and now we wanted croakers and anything else that might look at a weighted bottom rig that was baited with strips of squid.
The Ellen S moved less than a mile and soon was up to its fish box into croakers. It was astonishing how one minute it seemed like there wasn't a fish in the Chesapeake, and the next everybody aboard was cranking in croakers, sometimes two at a time.
Around 10 p.m., we called it a night. Scheible warned us that the ride home would be a little bumpy but we would be fine. He dropped the storm flaps on the port side of his boat, the side that would feel the brunt of the wind and resulting water spray, and soon the dead-rise Bay boat rolled and swayed toward the Potomac River.
When we touched the pier at Scheible's home port all aboard happy with the night's catch Scheible looked at me and said, "What'd I tell you? Piece of cake."
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]

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