- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

It’s gratifying to note the numbers of readers who are familiar with our annual New Year’s Day outings and how they want to know what transpired.

We’re here to report that this year’s was sensational and a lot like the Fourth of July — warm and festive.

For starters, the originator of the New Year’s fishing trips, local bass guide Andy Andrzejewski, realized at the last moment that a planned visit to the tidal Patuxent River’s Jug Bay area had to be scrapped because the Maryland Capital Park and Planning Commission, which runs the park where the popular Jackson Landing is located, decided to shut down the park Jan.1. Why? We don’t know.

Plan “B” was put into effect and called for launching the boat in the tidal Potomac River. We met a little after 8a.m. at Charles County’s free public ramp in Marshall Hall, where despite “warm” weather reports, it was still chilly.

Remember, when you run a fast boat over a placid river that has a surface water temperature of 37 degrees, that means you’ll have 37-degree air smacking you in the face. Remember you’re skitting across the river’s surface and it instantly relays the cold water temperature.

There was Bob Lunsford, the man in charge of fish hatcheries for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Andrzejewski and me.

Dressed for the cold morning air, we comfortably ran up toward Alexandria and stopped inside the Belle Haven Marina cove, where Andrzejewski caught a small yellow perch on the plastic grubs that all of us had tied to our lines. But that was the only fish that was hooked. We soon charged across the river toward the Maryland shore and entered Spoils Cove, where 17 other bass boats already had congregated.

As we watched some of the other fellows — all of them fishing quietly and some waving in friendly fashion now and then — we noticed an increase in the air temperature and soon shed gloves, knit toboggans and at least one heavy outer shell jacket.

Then Andrzejewski felt a nudge on his Sting Ray grub and set the hook. Just like that, a 4-pound-plus largemouth bass was brought to the boat.

“Hello,” Andrzejewski said with a broad smile. “Would you look at that — it’s the only bass I’ve caught so far this year.” And what a fish it was.

But Lunsford and I soon brought up the rear. Andrzejewski wasn’t the only one to connect on some fishing action. We soon got into feisty crappies and smaller bass that obviously believed the dark green beaver-tailed grubs to be bull minnows.

We laughed, shed some more clothes as it warmed into the 60s, ate French roll sandwiches packed with deli meat and pickled pepper rings, drank coffee or soda, and continued to hook a fish now and then in one narrow area of the cove that wasn’t any longer than 200 feet.

Other boaters took up pretty much all of the usual fish-producing waters inside the Spoils, but not an ill word was spoken by anybody. The place took on a holiday atmosphere — only this holiday was a lot like the Fourth of July. This wasn’t a winter day, it was more like summer. Heck, I started wondering where I’d put the sunblocker lotion.

Our day was completed with the arrival of a small-boat crew from the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Shearwater, anchored over on the Alexandria waterfront. The three sailors introduced themselves (all of them packing heat, so it was a cinch no one would argue with them), then proceeded to check various boats, including ours.

They politely asked who the operator was, looked at his driver’s license, looked to see if a fire extinguisher, signaling device and all the necessary life preservers were aboard. These Coast Guardsmen were totally professional and courteous. We almost hated to see them leave.

Fishing on New Year’s Day 2005 was an unqualified success.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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