- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003


There’s no sure way of knowing how a 48-foot-long boat with a 16-foot beam can be coaxed from a marina berth that appears to be half that size, but charter captain Levin “Buddy” Harrison Jr. can do it with his eyes closed. Such things are possible when you’re the scion of a long line of Harrisons — people born and bred to the water, the Chesapeake Bay in particular.

Little Buddy, so called because his father, Levin “Buddy” Harrison Sr. had first dibs on the nickname, brought the broad charter vessel Brooks Hooks about in a narrow marina alley, then shoved the accelerator levers forward and twin Caterpillar diesel engines sounded off with a mighty roar. The Brooks Hooks was heading west from the tightly knit little community of Tilghman, destination Summer Gooses.

OK, so you’re new in town and don’t know what the Summer Gooses are (or is) — it’s no crime. I can’t recall if the Gooses, a particular geographical location that of late has been home to scads of striped bass, was/were mentioned in James Michener’s novel “Chesapeake.” I read it long ago, and my memory doesn’t serve me as well as it once did, but chances are the author couldn’t pass up a chance to repeat such a fabulously screwy sounding name in print.

Little Buddy’s sparkling clean charter vessel was a special place to be the day we left the harbor. His son, Brooks, for whom the boat was named, sat high on the captain’s seat with his dad, surveying a little empire that one day he will help manage.

At 8, Brooks already is an accomplished angler and deck mate and destined to become a charter fishing captain just like his grandfather and father. One day he will be one of the happy bosses at Harrison’s Chesapeake House, a country inn and hotel/motel complex, complete with a 16-boat charter fishing fleet to serve overnight guests and day trippers.

As I watched the tough youngster jump from the captain’s chair and run to the stern section of the boat to offer a hand to Kyle Sawyer, 18, the regular mate on the Brooks Hooks, it quickly became apparent that the 8-year-old already was an expert with rods and reels, doing chores that boys twice his age only dream about. Brooks, who was named in honor of beloved former Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, nonchalantly helped prepare the day’s bait: fresh menhaden that needed to be filleted and the slices cut into inch-square pieces.

Sawyer eventually lifted a 5-gallon bucket filled with a melange of previously ground menhaden baitfish, and Brooks was chosen to ladle the juicy mash into the Bay’s waters as soon as his father arrived on the Gooses.

Buddy Jr., who also is the president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, released a large anchor that quickly found a firm hold in the Bay’s bottom. The fishing could begin. We sat in 26 feet of water on the fabled spot, and the scent of the menhaden chum began to drift smoothly through the water column.

It wasn’t long before a 22-inch rockfish followed the aromatic chum line, found a thumb-sized piece of fresh bait drifting aimlessly among the loose chum fragments and inhaled it. Little did he know the inviting morsel enveloped a sharp hook.

It was the first fish of the day, soon followed by another and yet another. The action came fast and furious, then slowed only to renew the moment young Brooks or the teenage mate ladled more of the chum into the water.

All hands aboard the Brooks Hooks used medium-action spinning rods whose reels were loaded with 12- to 17-pound test monofilament line. Such line strength doesn’t matter much when a 4-pound rockfish strikes, but strong mono can make a whale of a difference should a trophy striper, a large sea trout or bluefish attack.

Our day was a complete success. The five anglers aboard the charter vessel easily found rockfish in the 20- to 22-inch class — typical for the summer months. There would be tasty dinners back home in days to come.

What wasn’t typical, however, was the spread of food that awaited us later that afternoon when the Harrisons presented a seafood buffet for their dining room guests. It consisted of unlimited quantities of flavorful soft-shelled crabs, spiced shrimp, oysters on the half-shell, broiled fish, crab cakes, clams and, for diners who longed for red meat, a wonderful prime rib roast that was sliced to order and placed on your plate.

Have you done the Harrison eat-sleep-fish-and-eat-again thing yet? Call 410/886-2121 and ask about the Harrison’s Buddy Plan and other deals that are family oriented and loads of fun. It’s an Eastern Shore tradition that you should acquaint yourself with.

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

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